Will there be a TechCity South, East or West?

Two weeks ago a TechNorth programme which aims to connect six digital clusters in the north was launched by Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg.

The cluster aims to connect Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, Liverpool, Hull and the North-East (Newcastle, Sunderland and the Tees Valley) in a bid to create a technology hub similar to that of Tech City in East London.

But what about the rest of the UK, asked Bonnie Dean, chief executive of Bristol & Bath Science Park? She fired this question at the minister of state for universities, science and cities, Greg Clark MP who took up this new role after the last Cabinet reshuffle.

Speaking at Innovate UK’s conference in London today, Clark dodged the outright question by saying he had a funding pot of £12bn over the next six years called Growth Deal. The idea behind Growth Deal is clusters can pitch for this funding which comes directly out of central government thinking along the lines of ‘if you had control over this money – rather than central government – what would you do with it?’

Clark told delegates how he’d just completed the first Growth Deal in Exeter, for a £97m super computer project which is also funded by the university and local businesses. The super computer will be used by the Met Office due to its data handling excellence, but what Clark called the world’s best super computer will also be located on the Exeter Science Park.

“This is a good example of a national investment, combined with a devolution of local funding which can produce something that can be excellent,” said Clark.

So maybe we won’t be seeing a number of Tech Cities popping up all over the country, but Clark encouraged Dean’s Bristol and Bath Science park to make a pitch to government for a share of £12bn in the second round of funding which is about to begin.