Bonnie Dean OBE- Chief Executive Bristol and Bath Science Park
How would you define the purpose of Bristol and Bath Science Park?
“Its purpose is to bring together industry, academia and entrepreneurs – and create an eco-system to grow innovation and science businesses; and accelerate their commercialisation.
“Its aim is also to create an eco-system where tech and science businesses work in tandem with intellectual property experts and venture capitalists.
“This region has a wealth of brilliant and talented executives – here is place where they can come together to build and grow ideas.”
What have been the standout success stories?
“On average companies here have seen 125% per cent growth in employment numbers and there have been lots of commercial success stories.
“This is an environment conducive to growth and removing any barriers to growth.
“The majority of companies scale very quickly but like to do it in stealth mode, and often avoid publicity in the early stages.”
Do you feel the science and technology sector receives enough investment and support?
“If you look along the funding spectrum £4.6 billion is pumped into universities for research and the early stage of science and innovation.
“But a lot less funding support is given at the development and commercialisation phase.
“Universities focus on the early stages of science and innovation whereas industry focuses on the later stages.
“It’s at the middle stage – when the idea or innovation is being taken to market that is the most risky; and more funding and expertise would be helpful at this juncture.
“Ultimately we need to spend more on getting ideas to market.
“Here at the park we are creating an independent stage where this commercialisation process can happen; where companies can come and collaborate and help each other to grow. “
Why is it important for competitors and companies to collaborate?
“It’s important because large companies struggle with innovation and groundbreaking research, whereas SME’s tend to be good at this – at disrupting markets.
“Large corporate have a desire to be more flexible and to take more risk which is why as well as funding, collaboration and exchanging ideas is important.”
How important are the regions to the future of science and technology in the UK?
“Very. Let’s not see London as a competitor but see it as a portal.
“Joanna Shields is doing some excellent work regarding Tech City – which supports the tech cluster in East London –and is communicating the benefits of reaching out to the regions.”
What are Bristol and the surrounding region’s key strengths, do you feel?
“The city’s key strengths is that is the diversity of its business base which include strong and established industries who invest heavily in applied research and development such as advanced engineering.
“It also has a powerful cluster of top performing universities in the region – that have a STEM academic strength.
“Lifestyle and culture is also strong here and there is a good mix of urban and rural.
“It’s also just one hour from London and not far from major international airports.
“And let’s not forget that commerce and business is well established here; with strong senior executive and management teams.”
In your opinion what needs to improve?
“The region doesn’t always market itself as well as it could.
“The messaging could be better and we could do with coming up with some killer facts for the region – that give people a quick overview of all the opportunities and successes here.
“San Diego and Cambridge are good examples of places that have done this – we just need to agree the facts and publish them.”
Have the creation of the enterprise zones helped?
“I would say it’s too early to tell.”
The South West lags behind regarding exports in comparison to other part of the UK such as the Midlands, how can it improve this position?
“I have seen the statistics for this and I guess the Midlands, which performs well is being driven by the automotive sector.
“But I am surprised by the figures for the South West; as a lot of awareness raising has been done and we have very specialist exports such as aircraft components.
“So I am surprised by these findings – as my experience is that we have a good number of businesses exporting.”
What are your personal views on membership of the EU, would Bristol businesses and innovators be better if the UK were to fully exit?
“The whole discussion around ‘are we in or are we out’ is destabilising and not helpful to businesses.
“If the UK is on its own how will it negotiate favourable global trading deals in completion with the North American trading bloc and the EU and Asia – it is difficult to see how it would do well.
“Of course we need less regulation and red-tape that comes from Brussels; but the government is working with the EU to achieve this so it is strategically advantageous.”