GFirst LEP… helping to shape the future of Gloucestershire

GFirst LEP
David Owen CEO GFirst LEP

Since the launch of its Strategic Economic Plan in 2014 and, more recently, its draft Local Industrial Strategy in 2019, the cyber and digital sector has been at the forefront of how GFirst LEP wants to shape the future of the county.

David Owen, CEO of GFirst LEP, talks about some of Gloucestershire’s key cyber projects…

Gloucestershire is perfectly placed to nurture and develop the cyber minds of the future. We need more young people to build their lives here in the county to support our existing industrial strengths, such as advanced engineering, and help us exploit new opportunities – in cyber-tech, agri-tech, and green technology, in particular. This builds on our county’s strong tradition of innovation. Our reputation is internationally recognised as the cradle of cyber-tech innovation in the UK.

This is a pivotal time for Gloucestershire, and GFirst LEP is in a strong position to help lead the local economy. The immediate priority is to protect jobs, create opportunities for new employment and upskill workforces, as we move to a more digital, cyber focused and environmentally sustainable Gloucestershire.

Highlights of some of the exciting cyber and digital projects that GFirst LEP has successfully secured funding for…

Funding in excess of £36 million, will support Gloucestershire through the creation of cyber and digital focused projects.

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Cyber Central and the West Cheltenham Transport Improvement Scheme

 The UK Cyber Business Park is a joint public and private sector initiative, aimed at creating the UK’s first dedicated hub, in Cheltenham, to support the growth and development of new cyber security businesses, technology, research and skills. People may know it as Cyber Central, or the Golden Valley Development, but whatever they call it, the Cheltenham Cyber Park is one of the largest and most ambitious projects ever undertaken in Gloucestershire.

GFirst LEP successfully bid for £23.6m from central Government’s Growth Deal funding to get the project up and running. By bringing forward improvements to the highway system, this project has unlocked 45 hectares of employment land, focusing on cyber industries and creating new jobs. The park will be home to the Cyber Central Innovation Zone and potentially up 4,000 new homes, and support over 11,000 jobs.

The funding secured by GFirst LEP has paid for an extensive highways upgrade programme, the West Cheltenham Transport Improvement Scheme, which created the infrastructure and access needed to make the Cheltenham Cyber Park possible:

  • Arle Court Roundabout and Benhall Roundabout remodelling
  • Hatherley Lane and Telstar Way widening
  • B4063 bus priority to Arle Court
  • A40 Park and Ride access
  • Badgeworth Road Bridge extension
  • Arle Court carriageway extension for M5 J11
  • J11 Southbound slip road capacity improvements
  • Cycle and pedestrian infrastructure improvements from Arle Court to Cheltenham Spa railway station

The project was delivered on time and in budget with new shared use infrastructure for pedestrians and cyclists to access the railway station from the town centre.

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The C11 Cyber Security and Digital Innovation Centre with the University of Gloucestershire

The C11 Cyber Security and Digital Innovation Centre in Berkeley is equipped with cutting edge technologies and state-of-the-art digital security, to fire the growth and advancement of specialist firms and specialist skills. Operating an ‘open zone’ and a ‘closed zone’, the centre gives opportunities for tech entrepreneurs to collaborate (with each other and students), but also a government-grade, access-controlled space for discretion and security. The role C11 plays in supporting new cyber businesses, providing high-tech facilities for established businesses and connecting students with industry will foster high growth throughout the sector and help Gloucestershire defend its position. This project received £3 million via GFirst LEP from the Growth Deal Fund.

 Getting Building Fund

 GFirst LEP successfully bid for £11.3 million of funding from Government to kickstart the economy in 2020. The funding is part of the Government’s £900 million nationwide Getting Building Fund. GFirst LEP worked closely with public, private and voluntary sectors to submit bids which were shovel ready, would create jobs, aid recovery and support the green agenda. Many of the ambitions were identified in GFirst LEP’s draft Local Industrial Strategy that was published in late 2019.

There were four cyber infrastructure projects which received funding.

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The Minster Innovation Exchange with Cheltenham Borough Council – allocated £3.114 million

This low carbon modular construction will deliver innovative co-working space in central Cheltenham. It will provide a purpose-built performance, event and community venue and connect to the High Street through upgraded historic linkages from the Cheltenham Minster grounds. It will also act as a pilot for developments at the Cyber Central campus and be home to the new Cheltenham Growth Hub.

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Gloucestershire Applied Digital Skills Centre with Cirencester College – allocated £4.48 million

The centre opened in May 2022, the Gloucestershire Applied Digital Skills Centre at Cirencester College will be a landmark building for learning. Modelled on digital industries rather than traditional classrooms, this inspiring space will provide resources,

equipment and skills needed in both the cyber and digital sectors. Students will be connected to routes into the exciting new cyber industries here in Gloucestershire.

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Cyber Incubation Units with Gloucestershire College – allocated £950,000

 Gloucestershire College has formed a partnership with Hub8 to create new incubation space specifically for high-tech, cyber-based entrepreneurs and innovators. Hub8 GC will provide over 10,000 sq ft of innovation space, complete with offices, shared and dedicated laboratories, workshops and co-working facilities. Hub8 GC a co-location platform for businesses, academic staff and students to interact, facilitating placement and graduate work opportunities for the college’s students, the units opened in 2021.

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The Digital Innovation Farm with Hartpury University and Hartpury College – allocated £1.25 million

 Hartpury’s Digital Innovation Farm is set to further enhance Gloucestershire’s position as a leader in agri-tech. The new innovation and demonstration workspace will be designed for high growth businesses in the growth phase, already operating within the agri-tech sector. The innovation space will allow businesses to explore, test, trial, research and develop products, or enhance existing ones. The farm will be opening in July 2022.

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GFirst LEP also runs the Invest in Gloucestershire project

Invest in Gloucestershire is the county’s leading inward investment programme, helping international businesses to find investment opportunities in the region. The project is run in collaboration with the Department for International Trade (DIT), Gloucestershire County Council and the county’s six district councils. It has received European funding from the European Regional Development Fund.

If you would like to find out more about opportunities with our Inward Investment Team please visit

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DiT selects Gloucestershire as a High Potential Opportunity destination for Foreign Investment

The Invest in Gloucestershire team worked with DIT on a cyber security High Potential Opportunity (HPO) scheme. This scheme will identify the opportunities and capabilities of the emerging cyber sector in Gloucestershire on a global scale. The initiative will focus on helping the region present an investable offer to achieve potential and help drive foreign direct investment into Gloucestershire, ultimately creating new jobs and growth.

The HPO is presented as a marketing portfolio, highlighting the opportunity to design, develop and commercialise cyber business as part of the emerging cluster.

The Golden Valley development in Cheltenham, The Forum in Gloucester and the many other cyber assets now in the county act as the major hook to attract foreign direct investment.

It identifies the opportunity for investors to fill the gaps in the rapidly growing cyber security supply chain, profit from the demand of the multiple sectors that require cyber resilience and highlight the pivotal location with its robust connectivity and supply chains.

In collaboration with the Invest in Gloucestershire team, DIT has identified the unique opportunity there is to be part of Gloucestershire’s thriving and burgeoning cluster and, as a result of selecting Gloucestershire for the HPO, this prospect will be marketed across the globe via the DIT network. The HPO launched in May 2022.

This scheme will provide serious endorsement of the cyber security sector and will significantly raise awareness of Gloucestershire amongst the global sector market.

 If you would like to find out more about how GFirst LEP supports Gloucestershire through sustainable economic growth please visit 

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