Mak­ing the town fit for modern age

Gloucestershire Echo - - LETTERS & OPINION - Alex Chalk Con­ser­va­tive MP for Chel­tenham

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.

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.

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.

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