Move over Silicon Valley, here comes the Thames Valley

05 July 2016

Technology orientated organisation are finding the Thames Valley a lucrative hub in the UK, but why has this region taken off compared to the rest of the UK?

In this article MHA MacIntyre Hudson explores some of the benefits the Thames Valley (TV) has to offer.

By road, by air and by rail – the Thames Valley has it covered

By road: At the heart of the Thames Valley is the M4 corridor. With companies ranging from Intel to Microsoft and HTC to Vodafone this stretch of motorway is a hub for the UK homesteads of major global high-tech organisations. Organisations based along this high-tech lifeline can reach a plethora of customers, partners and potential prospects, making this stretch of motorway the key artery in the UK tech ecosystem. 

By air: Heathrow – this global, premier league airport has some impressive statistics. In 2014 over 470,695 air transport movements served over 185 (in 84 countries). Over 73.4 million passengers arrived and departed, of which 93% (68.1 million) were international passengers and 30% (22.2 million) were business travellers.*

Heathrow is the regions international lifeline and is in high demand. There are now more high quality business clusters in the Thames Valley than any UK region outside London. Combined with the M4/M40 corridor, the Thames Valley boasts over 200 of the UK’s top 300 companies – all of which are based within 25 miles of Heathrow.

By rail: Improved rail connections are vital. More and more professionals regard travel time by car as a waste of our most valuable resource – time. With increased rail capacity professionals can use their travel time more efficiently. 

Fortunately, the Thames Valley community and Network Rail understand this mantra. The improvements to Reading rail links, including: 

  • Five new platforms and a new passenger footbridge at Reading station providing improved access to all platforms
  • A viaduct to the west of Reading to take the fast mainlines over freight and relief lines
  • The new track layout to accommodate six extra freight trains each day - which could take around 200 lorries a day off the roads.**
  • Green Park Railway: The new two-platform stop at Green Park Business Park is set to be open by 2017. As well as the station itself the plans include a 242 space car park and roads linking the development to the rest of Green Park. 

Add this to Crossrail, which is among the most significant infrastructure projects ever undertaken in the UK, and the Thames Valley has an impressive future. Crossrail will:

  • Increase London rail transport capacity by 10%
  • Cover a route which will run over 100km from Reading and Heathrow in the west
  • Deliver 40 Crossrail stations including 10 new stations at Paddington, Bond Street, Tottenham Court Road, Farringdon, Liverpool Street, Whitechapel, Canary Wharf, Custom House, Woolwich and Abbey Wood
  • Bringing an extra 1.5 million people to within 45 minutes of central London and will link London’s key employment, leisure and business districts – Heathrow, West End, the City, Docklands – enabling further economic development.***

The flexibility of the M4, Heathrow and Cross Rail / National Rail Services means that tech companies based in the Thames Valley benefit from huge bonus for business critical functions, such as marketing, finance and HR services as people are drawn towards London but choose to reside in the greener pastures of the surrounding areas. 

The Future: Investment - £107M agreed for the Thames Valley, Berkshire 

Former Deputy Prime Minister, The Rt Hon. the Lord Heseltine and Steve Lamb, Chairman of Thames Valley Berkshire LEP, recently signed a deal securing additional investment for the Thames Valley. Over the lifetime of the Deal (2015-2021) the Local Enterprise Partnership estimates that up to 20,000 new jobs could be created, 12,000 new homes built and that it has the potential to generate £40m public and private investment.

Projects funded by the Growth Deal include: 

  • Delivery of an unprecedented series of major infrastructure investments in the national road and rail network serving the sub region’s economy – together worth approximately £5 billion. These include Great Western Electrification; Western Rail Access to Heathrow and a Smart Motorway for M4 J3-12.
  • Delivery of a new railway station at Green Park in Reading, as well as improvements at Maidenhead station. Delivery of Rapid Transit schemes in Slough and Reading, and Park and Ride in East Reading.
  • Delivery of Superfast Broadband within the sub region – 95% coverage by 2017.
  • Delivery of three new ‘Solutions Labs’, which will equip our young people with Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths skills needed to support our tech-focused business base and the new Thames Valley Science Park. It will also bring businesses, FE Colleges and students together to shape curricula so that they are aligned with the needs of tech-based businesses.
  • Continuation of a Thames Valley Berkshire Business Growth Hub, which has already engaged with 115 businesses and committed grants of £340k to 19 businesses, as well as a Funding Escalator of £7.3m consisting of commercialisation & expansion loan schemes – already c.£2m of funding approved across 30 companies.
  • A further £10.2 million of Government funding was announced on 29 January, in addition to the £96.9 million originally announced in July 2014.****

Conclusion

The Thames Valley Technology Hub is an ever evolving region. Its geography is comprised of companies delivering everything from innovative research and development opportunities to high tech software and hardware specialists. The Thames Valley has to be one of the most lucrative and attractive areas for new or existing technology organisations.  

With continued support and investment from both public and private entities, transport links are now seen as more important than simply being close to London. If this pattern continues, then we can expect the Thames Valley to continue leading the tech revolution in the UK.

If you would like to discuss how MHA MacIntyre Hudson can help your organisation grow or diversify through accountancy based practices and practical industry expertise then please contact Jason Mitchel.

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