Torbay’s resilient hi-tech cluster leaves Covid trailing in its wake

MP Anthony Mangnall visited the EPIC CentreMP Anthony Mangnall visited the EPIC Centre

The on-going battle against Covid is highlighting the ever-increasing importance of Torbay’s ‘cluster’ of hi-tech companies.

Brixham and Totnes MP Anthony Mangnall recently visited the EPIC Centre in Paignton where some of the companies are based to see for himself their pioneering work in the field of telecommunications, photonics and electronics.

TDA, the organisation behind EPIC, says: “As the Covid-19 crisis continues, EPIC tenants and the members of the Torbay Hi-Tech Cluster continue to adapt to the new norm in terms of day to day working practices, and the needs of the national and global economy.

“The crisis has highlighted certain industries who are critically important not just to the country’s economy, enabling working from home or from another virtual office to maintain safe working practices for all and continued employment, but also for maintaining the wellbeing of our society, providing a link for communications to our friends and family, and key workers for the more vulnerable of our society.

“Telecommunications is one of those industries critical to maintaining a stable global economic community as well as robust national society, without it the world as we know it today could not exist.”

Telecommunications is a world-wide agenda item both from a political and economic perspective.

In recent years, the US administration has suggested telecommunication products manufactured in the east are a potential threat to national security, and is recommending restrictions be placed on products provided by eastern companies and that internet service providers look to US and European manufacturers for equivalent products.

One of the largest global internet services providers, British Telecom has found itself in the middle of this. BT provides internet services throughout the UK, the US, and another 180 countries. In 2019 it reported revenues in excess of £23 billion.

The Torbay Hi-Tech Cluster is a group of internationally recognised companies with expertise in all aspects of telecommunication system manufacture, not just the physical components based on micro-electronics, including photonics, terrestrial radio and satellite technologies, but also the imbedded adaptive software programming providing the intelligence, versatility and security aspects of commercial systems.

These companies, a mix of established and exciting well-funded start-ups, are highly adept at managing a constantly evolving market place, supported by local partners including South Devon College, other regional university research centres, and TDA at EPIC.

TDA said: “The recent visit of the MP Anthony Mangnall to EPIC acknowledges the importance of the Torbay Hi-Tech Cluster to local and national economies, with Anthony providing a welcomed link to Westminster and government.”

A recent report published by the Photonic Leadership Group highlighted that UK hi-tech companies have been resilient during the Covid-19 crisis.

It’s projected that UK photonics companies, including those in Torbay, will continue to grow by around 10 per cent during the next two years.

The balance of trade shift from eastern to EU and US telecom equipment manufacturers will provide opportunities this side of the Pacific and for the Torbay hi-tech community for years to come.

The importance of the photonics sector has been recognised by Westminster and an All-Party Parliamentary Group has been set up to raise awareness of the photonics industry and recognise the impact it makes on the UK economy and its potential for future economic growth.

Earlier this year, the government published the UK Research and Development Roadmap which was welcomed by the Photonics Leadership Group and the Torbay Hi-Tech Cluster members.

It identifies the importance of investing in technologies to support UK security and prosperity. The resilience of UK hi-tech industry, including the significant contribution of the Torbay Hi-Tech Cluster, was illustrated by 90 per cent of photonics manufacturers safely manufacturing and exporting through the pandemic – with many predicting growth.

TDA says: “This is an ideal time for a school leaver or recent university graduate with an interest in technology to get involved and develop a career in the hi-tech industry. Starting salaries are above the national average and working as part of a team of enthusiastic individuals is rewarding with opportunities to travel worldwide and make a difference to society.”