As part of the RSA’s Isle of Wight network we started discussing ideas around opportunities in technology in 2014. We’ve subsequently spent the past couple of years working to develop the Isle of Wight’s identity as a technology economy and create a social movement for change.
The context for this project is that the Island, with a population of just under 140,000, has a low value economy with lower wages, more economically inactive adults, lower qualifications and an older population which is out of step with the rest of the South East and UK. The industrial profile of the island from the NOMIS Report highlights that ICT/Digital industries are way out of kilter with only 1.7% of businesses being technology related compared to 6.3% in the South East.
The Isle of Wight like other island economies faces structural challenges for economic development (Baldacchino 2005). These are small size; high transport costs; inability to achieve economies of scale; limited mix of businesses; lack of skilled labour/expertise and dearth of infrastructure. However, the research evidence on islands suggests that success can come from island based founder-owners; existing firms acting as Incubators; exploiting the power of digital; securing overseas clients; building on island social capital; island branding; targeted external support; seeking & securing international standards and building on a professional & loyal workforce.
The challenge of the Techisland UK project will be to explore how Technology can provide the means and ends to transform the economy of this naturally bounded community.
As part of our Techisland UK project supported by the RSA Fellowship, we bought together over 50 stakeholder organisations from across the public, private, voluntary and educational sectors. Supported by national and local speakers from RSA, Techcity UK, Mooreland &Partners, Coralesce and IFPL this stakeholder Conference established ‘proof of concept’ and identified the key levers for change which build on the strong social capital on the island. See the conference report here.
It was a stimulating, fascinating and impressive conference with a full room of people eager to improve things - a great example of a group of Fellows getting together and making a difference. Oliver Reichardt, RSA Director of Fellowship
Next steps are to create an organisation to take this forward and scale up the project with 8 working groups around:
developing the brand;
creating accelerator space;
engaging the community;
supporting educational change;
developing an island higher education offer;
improving the ‘tech’ infrastructure;
supporting inward investment;
and developing an annual ‘Tech’ Festival.
If you’re interested in getting involved and have any expertise to share, please get in touch with Christina Conroy OBE FRSA:
Tel: 07584 991 219