Silicon Spa is coming! This week the Digital Minister, Jeremy Wright, wrote to me to confirm that months of lobbying have paid off: the Government has financially committed to Cheltenham’s future as an 'internationally recognised centre of cyber security excellence'.
I've been passionate about this issue since 2014 when I launched my vision for Cheltenham as a tech/cyber hub in a speech at local business, Converge. Back then people looked at me blankly. Not anymore. Slowly but surely, the key stakeholders have come on board, as the massive potential of this sector has hit home.
I care about it because cyber is worth £20 billion a year to the British economy, and has the potential to generate incredible, life-changing, opportunities for young people in Cheltenham. This modern sector can help in tackling disadvantage and deprivation, enabling people of all backgrounds to secure a better, well-paid, future.
Cheltenham has already made remarkable progress. After much pressure on the then-Chancellor George Osborne, we secured backing for a Cyber Innovation Centre in Cheltenham in November 2015. Since then, the second cohort of businesses passing through the town’s cyber accelerator has been another huge success. It's estimated that the Cheltenham start-ups nurtured by GCHQ now have a combined value of over £75 million! That's an astonishing figure. The third cohort is being launched this month.
So what's next? The answer is a dedicated, avowed, building near to GCHQ to nurture and support a local cyber security ecosystem.
We've won £22 million of Government funding for the infrastructure improvements needed to open up a suitable site, and this letter shows £1 million more has been secured to fund the business case and outline design of the new building.
Now we need the developers to apply for planning permission and I am continuing to work with our local Councils to make this happen as soon as possible.
I am so grateful to all those who have bought into this vision and are now giving it their backing. Together we can make Cheltenham fit for the modern age.