Cyber and Tech
Why we all have reason to be excited about cyber - Hub8 one year on
“There is very good reason for people in the county to be positive” is the message from someone at the heart of the sector which is fast becoming a very visible bedrock of Gloucestershire’s economy.
Bruce Gregory, best known as the founder of Hub8, the Cheltenham town centre business workspace, is talking about the cyber sector and the impact that will have on the county.
Be it from conversations with GFirst LEP or the new start-up tech firms, connections to the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC), interactions with IBM and Microsoft or though helping drive the forthcoming multi-million-pound Minster Innovation Exchange development, his insight is extraordinary.
All of which has been achieved in the 12 months since the launch of Hub8 – 7,000 square foot of “innovative workspace... a focal point for the cyber tech community to connect, collaborate and create”.
Connecting people is what makes it special, transformational even.
“We have already helped played a significant role in getting people together. You have to get people talking. It is amazing what can happen when you get the right people talking to each other – start-ups connecting with global tech giants – that’s what we’ve been working hard to do,” said Mr Gregory.
Those connections are helping enable the growth and development of the flourishing cyber technology ecosystem, more concentrated in Gloucestershire than anywhere else outside of the capital.
Not that Hub8 flung open the doors of its Brewery-headquartered operation to celebrate its first birthday. A certain world-wide pandemic has put a dampener on that, at least.
“It has been a difficult year for everyone. CV19 has had an impact on us. We were closed for quarter two,” he said.
“But during this time, we invested significantly in Hub8 to ensure it’s a safe place to work given the government guidelines that are in place”.
In the meantime, something went very right.
Pictured: A CyNam event staged at Hub8
Whether it was the world-wide shift on-line, which jumped the cyber sector’s growth into overdrive, CyNam spreading the word with its on-line gatherings drawing growing crowds, word has spread about Hub8.
“When we re-opened at the beginning of July the reaction from the community was way above and beyond what we had forecast.
“What we are having to do now is to create additional space,” said Mr Gregory, explaining the space had already been reconfigured to accommodate social distancing measures.
Businesses already little-known outside of the sector surface into mainstream business news with increasing frequency, starting and achieving growth from here in the county. It is breeding confidence and Hub8 is there to fan those flames.
Just last week The Raikes Journal reported on Ripjar “successfully completed Series B $36.8m funding round led by Long Ridge Equity Partners”.
The business is headquartered at Cheltenham’s Eagle Tower.
Despite researching the idea thoroughly, Mr Gregory modestly describes the decision to create Hub8 as “serendipity”, keener to that perhaps the prevailing culture around cyber had stopped many realising what was already apparent to those in the know.
“Perhaps before, no one really talked about it,” he said, referring to the long-shadow cast by the real magnet for all things cyber, GCHQ, and its insistence on discretion at all times.
“But now there is very good reason why people need to realise the significance of the sector, and why people within the sector are incredibly optimistic for the county.”
Times have changed. The Government listening post has had to forge public relationships with the private sector, schools, colleges and universities.
Earlier this month the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) awarded Gloucestershire College and a number of county schools Cyber First status for their work to bring through the next generation of talent.
Gloucestershire College has teamed up with the University of the West of England to provide Cyber Degree Apprenticeships, something that also received Government recognition.
“Cyber is now not just something that government need to consider. It is everyone. It is no longer just there to service banks and huge corporations; everyone needs to consider it in business and everyday life – just look at what NCSC is doing.”
“It has become a critical sector for the UK economy,” said Mr Gregory.
CyNam, the not-for-profit group which works closely with Hub8 is dedicated to championing the sector to the younger generation.
Inspiring the next generation now and developing the pathways into the sector is seen as a key factor that will give business confidence to come to Gloucestershire and stay.
Cheltenham tech firm Bamboo is one of those positioning itself for the future, moving its headquarters into Gloucestershire College’s campus beside GCHQ.
And as the numbers of businesses continue to grow in Gloucestershire, drawn by the energy and expertise radiating from GCHQ, so the supply chain for those businesses grows, connecting not just service-sector firms but all facets of the business community.
“We have a very rich economy here, because of GCHQ, but what we are trying to do is drive that sector and help increase the capacity.”
A key part of this is the £5.2 million Minster Innovation Exchange development, a joint project between Hub8 and Cheltenham Borough Council (including £3.1m funding from the Government’s Getting Building Fund) due to open later next year.
It will be home to the Cheltenham Growth Hub operation – currently one of the few major towns missing one – more workspace and also, crucially, to the Cheltenham Festivals.
It was crucial, said Mr Gregory, that we bring together the strongest sectors of our economy – in Cheltenham that means cyber-tech, digital, creative and culture.
With the Golden Valley Development looking destined to maintain its momentum the Minister development is seen as another very visible statement – like Hub8 – cyber is at the heart of the town, not just down the Golder Valley.