A digital game-changer

A £1.7m investment into Lancaster is set to be a game-changer for the city’s economic development and underline its importance as a centre for innovative digital and tech businesses.

Fraser House, which will open its doors in February, will be a cutting-edge hub for tech-based companies.

The hub, which is being developed at the White Cross Business Park by the county council, will offer three floors of high quality, modern working space.

Dan Knowles is leading the community engagement for Fraser House and believes it will play a critical role in Lancaster’s post-Covid recovery.

He says: “The ground floor coworking space has attracted over 100 enquiries already from potential micro and small SMEs who are interested in desks, and a community style workspace. This includes innovative start-ups in VR, data sciences, video production AI and much more.”

He adds: “The space promises to become a central location for a range of digital events. A modern pull out lecture theatre means that every day we should have something going on.

“We’ve already extended the community to engage with information teams in local government and the NHS, and of course Lancaster University is highly engaged in the development.”

Relative Insight, a tech business that has developed an industry-leading language understanding platform, has been confirmed as one of Fraser House’s anchor tenants. A second will be announced soon.

James Walkerdene, chief operating officer of Relative Insight, believes it is the next stage in the development of Lancaster’s tech cluster, bringing businesses in the city together.

His business, like a number of tech operations in the city, grew out of the university. Today it has a 52-strong staff and as well as moving into its new home in Lancaster, the business has just opened an office in  New York. Its platform uses cutting-edge linguistics analytics and helps its clients maximise engagement.

James says: “We have a global client base. At the moment half our revenues come from the US and the New York office is going to be a big thing for us moving forward.”

Quantum Base is another Lancaster University spin out. It has invented, developed and patented a portfolio of unbreakable ‘nanoscale’ quantum security devices, looking to solve the problem of cyber security and counterfeiting.

Co-founder Rob Young believes the global potential for the company’s technology is “absolutely huge”. It is currently working with a number of partners to develop products.

Rob says: “We have just completed a project with one of the largest mobile phone manufacturers. That was a big breakthrough for us.”

Lancaster Quantum Technology Centre (QTC) provides a focus for future quantum technologies, based in the university’s physics department.

Quantum Base is a relative newcomer, but Lancaster is also home to some well established digital and tech businesses, set up by pioneers in the sector. They include digital marketing agency SQ Digital, which is celebrating 20 years in business.

Founded in 2000, the full-service agency was among the first SEO agencies to open in the UK, and has consistently provided highquality digital marketing solutions to SMEs around Europe.

Chief executive Vilayte Essa was 23 when he set up the business with the help of his brother Husen’s student loan. Today the agency has a 30-strong workforce and a £1.3m turnover.

He says: “We started with a computer and a phone. I am really proud that we still continue to service several clients that we took on board at the very beginning of our journey. Our clients range from massive multi-nationals to local companies here in the city.”

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