Torbay’s ‘silent success story’

Dr Philip Mitchell, vice-chairman of the Torbay Hi-Tech Cluster

Dr Philip Mitchell, vice-chairman of the Torbay Hi-Tech Cluster - Credit: Archant

The Hi-Tech Cluster is Torbay's 'silent' success story with pioneering work around the globe

They are Torbay's sometimes hidden and silent success story.

The Torbay Hi-Tech Cluster of companies does world pioneering work – and busines has boomed during the pandemic.

Torbay has a well-established and diverse hi-tech cluster with many international companies with a presence in the resort, all leading the way with advanced technologies and processes to develop world-leading, state of the art products.

The companies use a multitude of technologies and expertise including; micro-electronics, opto-electronics (photonics), micro-positioning, radio, satellite, medical & life sciences, computer software, and internet security consultants.

The Photonics Leadership Group recently reported that the UK hi-tech community, specifically the photonics sector, contributes £5.3 billion of gross added value to the UK economy, and employs 69,000 people at an above average productivity level of £76,400 per employee.

Torbay has been identified as a Westminster parliamentary constituency containing photonics and hi-tech industries.

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However, in spite of this, UK photonics remains a largely hidden economy with little government acknowledgement or media interest.

During the past four months, many companies have implemented tele-working from home, and safe distance practices when in the office.

The crisis along with the global advancement in internet and communications technology (much of it designed in Torbay), has enabled a new way of engaging with the world.

Dr Philip Mitchell, vice-chairman of the Torbay Hi-Tech Cluster, says: 'Tele-working, webinars and tele-conferences are now considered normal practice, which will continue even when the pandemic is finally over, so maybe the need to commute each day or move to another city will come to an end, or at least less often. Certainly good for the environment, quality of life and more career opportunities for those who live in Torbay.'

Since the beginning of the COVID crisis, those involved in the design and development of communications systems have seen demand for products ramping.

The need to ship products to global and domestic internet service providers (inc. BT, Vodafone, Virgin Media, etc.) has increased, fuelled by the need for more bandwidth.

Whether to support home-working or download your favourite movie in an instant, tele-shopping or surfing the web, or live gaming with a challenger anywhere in the world, or maybe just a daily video call to a loved one far away, the demand is there.

Since the crisis started, Vodafone UK internet traffic has increased by 50 per cent.

In addition, there has been the accelerated roll-out of next generation 5G communications networks to enable all those extra applications and functionality implemented into smartphones, which are becoming essential for everyday life, whether at home or on the move - all unbelievable some years ago.

These services and applications use advanced leading-edge technology and telecom products designed in Torbay by established international organisations like Lumentum, II-VI, Gooch & Housego and Spirent, and new innovative organisations built on local talent like Bay Photonics, Davies and Bell and Effect Photonics to mention just a few.

Torbay has a heritage of innovation including Oliver Heaviside, the famous mathematician (1850–1925), the Singer family with their sewing machines in the 1800s, STC in the 50s and Nortel in the 90s.

Dr Mitchell says: 'The Torbay Hi-Tech Cluster provides products and services to a global multi-national community, and even now continues to use its combined powers to evolve and remain a renowned entity for leading-edge innovation and world class products.

'There are many other companies involved in specialist areas of complementary skills such as professional talent acquisition and finance, which tie all these diverse yet amazing specialist areas of technology harmoniously together.

'These companies are also supported by academic partners including South Devon College and regional universities.

'We also have support from local government too, TDA, and the Electronics & Photonics Innovation Centre (EPIC) in Paignton, so altogether we make the Torbay Hi-Tech Cluster.'

If you would like to know more about the Torbay Hi-Tech Cluster, its members and the opportunities that it offers visit: