Can-do Cornwall

Cornwall often evokes images of eating ice cream on the sandy beaches whilst people surf in the sea. Famous for its Cornish pasties, cider, and its particular way of making cream tea, Cornwall has, for decades, been seen as a place for retirement or a nice staycation. But where most people have it wrong is believing the county is just this slow-paced area to relax.

The part of Cornwall that these stereotypes don’t see is that it is a fantastic place for tech startups to begin their journey. With plenty of support available, there’s no reason you can’t work hard, as well as relax in this picturesque place.

The tech sector

A report conducted by CIoS Digital Skills Partnership found the Cornwall tech sector is set to grow by an estimated 17.9% by 2026. The area has over 1,460 digital organisations that are driving the success of Cornwall’s tech sector, and is creating some of the most sought after tech jobs in the UK. The report found that the region has digital skills demand in the space, marine, and creative technology sectors. As well as this, the top nine most in demand tech jobs in the area include: software developer, network engineer, data analyst, programmer, software tester, and information security specialist.

So, what’s in Cornwall to support and encourage the technology sector to thrive?

In 2012, Software Cornwall was established in order to support the growth of the digital engineering industry. Software Cornwall is an open and collaborative group of tech-based businesses, education providers, and business support organisations that are all connected to Cornwall. The community is completely independent and funded by its members, sponsors, and supporters.

Software Cornwall aims to:

  • Encourage collaboration and networking within the industry
  • Support the growth of company teams, by assisting with recruiting, giving access to the latest CVs received, and vacancy promotion online
  • Provide access to skills and services businesses need by providing discounts on professional-level training courses, conferences, and business services
  • Promote Cornwall as a serious location for hi-tech business, both nationally and internationally
  • Support the creation of workspace and infrastructure to provide an environment to enable digital businesses to grow
  • Inspire people into careers in digital technology, by improving awareness and accessibility of short and long- term ‘recruitment pipelines’ through engagement with schools, colleges, Universities, Job Centres, and other educational and employment organisations

Organisations like Software Cornwall enable the industry to thrive, and are a helping hand to startups that are looking to start and scale a business in the region.

Software Cornwall, as well as other organisations, also run the Festival of Tech. Taking place in February, Cornwall’s Festival of Tech is a two-week-long celebration of all things tech, digital, and software. Featuring everything from tech demos, expos, talks, workshops, code clubs, networking, collaborations and more, the events take place across the county, with activities for both the local and business communities. Within the two-week Festival of Tech is ‘The Big Cornish Tech Showcase’, an exhibition showcasing local tech, digital, software, and creative companies and their skills, inventions, and services they have built. Emphasis is on the ‘show’, with exhibitors encouraged to demo their technology for visitors to interact with, in a fun and exciting environment. As well as this there are a series of talks discussing how business problems could be solved with digital transitioning, a startup pavilion, and a technology track to get on top of the current tech trends in the industry.

Business support

Within the ecosystem, Cornwall is home to multiple business support organisations and networks.

Cornwall Innovation is made up of three centres across Cornwall aimed at inspiring people to grow and build innovative enterprises. The Innovation Centres are focused on supporting all growth, knowledge, and innovation-led businesses, with a particular focus on technology, creative media, environmental, and health and wellbeing sectors.

The Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Growth Hub works with local businesses, as well as self-employed people and not for profit organisations, to help them find the right guidance, support, and grant funding to help their businesses develop and grow. Locally-based business experts work directly with businesses to help identify, and access, support of all kinds, as well as discuss training and skills businesses may need. They also offer advice on the correct grants to apply for.

The help of universities

The two big universities in Cornwall are Falmouth University and Plymouth University (which has a campus in Devon, as well as Cornwall).

Dedicated to driving the growth of Cornwall’s economy, Launchpad is a venture studio embedded within Falmouth University. It gives entrepreneurial candidates an opportunity to work on building the companies of tomorrow with support from experienced coaches, Entrepreneurs in Residence and mentors to help create in-demand, cutting-edge investible companies for positive global impact. Launchpad is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund, Research England, and Cornwall Council.

Falmouth University also has an ‘Immersive Business Team’, which enables SMEs across Cornwall to apply immersive and innovative technologies to improve customer experience and business processes. Its technology hub in Penryn offers a space that houses some of the latest tools and immersive technology. The facility provides an extended reality single, multiuser, remote, and collaborative immersive workspace for people to try first-hand, plus assistance from business consultancy experts.


In a SpaceTech issue, it’s hard not to discuss Cornwall’s link to the space sector and what this has to offer startups.

Driving plenty of space startups to the area is Spaceport Cornwall, the UK’s first licensed spaceport. The spaceport offers a safe, dedicated, and responsible way to access space, capable of supporting small satellite launches and connecting people, businesses, and ideas.

This development has crowned Cornwall the home of space in the UK, and startups are coming to the county to be close to the launch site. In February 2023, spacetech startup Gravtilab Aerospace Services launched an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) from the site, opening up opportunities for other startups to get involved. Spacetech startups, like Exobotics and Aspia Space, have found a home in Cornwall due to the services the area can provide in the space field.

Quality of life

It’s also hard to discuss why Cornwall is a great area for startups without talking about the high quality of life in the area.

Cornwall is renowned for its breathtaking landscapes, gorgeous coastlines and beaches, and scenic countryside. The region’s tranquil environment promotes a healthier work-life balance, especially compared to other areas in the UK like London and Manchester that emphasise a fast-paced lifestyle. The slower paced lifestyle in the area means that entrepreneurs are encouraged to take a bit more time off to take in the gorgeous environment and outdoor activities that Cornwall is famous for.

Another perk is that Cornwall has a much lower cost of living than the big cities in the UK, making running a business a cheaper endeavour than it would be elsewhere!

The tech ecosystem in Cornwall is bustling, and ever-growing. Hopefully stereotypes about the area being one that it’s just good to retire in are replaced with talks of how the county is the new up-and-coming tech hub of the UK.

This article originally appeared in the January/February issue of Startups Magazine. Click here to subscribe