06 May 2021

The UK Innovation Corridor is more than just London and Cambridge...

Prior to the pandemic I was used to a daily commute from Slough to Harlow - I know the top lefthand corner of the M25 all too well! As someone that's worked in-and-around data centres for more than 20 years it might seem odd leaving what's often regarded as data centre HQ in Slough, to arrive an hour later in Harlow, but if you're working within the areas of high performance computing (HPC) and AI - the UK Innovation Corridor really is what it says on the tin.

Accentuated by London to the south and Cambridge to the north it’s one of the fastest-growing areas in Britain. Businesses located in the area collectively turn over £121billion annually and there are more patents per capita here than in Silicon Valley. Around one in seven UK jobs are within ten kilometres of the corridor and its workforce is 16% more productive than the national average.

The corridor is also one of the best-connected regions in the country, both physically and digitally. It is served by a good rail and road network and includes one of the UK’s top five airports. Digital connectivity between Cambridge and London comprises some of the most extensive dark fibre infrastructure and Lit services required to support 5G rollouts and IoT at scale and initiatives like Light Blue Fibre provide a blueprint for how dedicated, high-grade fibre can support a technology cluster.

Although some might regard London as an international trading hub and Cambridge to be at the forefront of science, there’s so much more to the UK Innovation Corridor than just these two cities and Stevenage and Harlow are two good examples of where innovation is bubbling below the surface...

Stevenage and Harlow

Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst is certainly giving medical institutions and research facilities in Cambridge a run for their money. The campus is fast becoming a leading location for companies looking to develop and commercialise cutting-edge therapeutics. It’s home to GSK, LifeArc and Cytiva, as well as a growing number of start-ups, which collectively have raised £1.6bn in investment funding since its opening. Stevenage is also the home of ServerChoice and Bullet Proof - two superbly innovative tech companies who are helping support a myriad of international big brands.

A short hop across the A10 and Harlow is a go-to city for high-tech companies, the recent home of the UK's most powerful supercomputer and the city’s recently opened research park is gaining traction for businesses operating in the sci-tech space. Harlow's high-growth nature was supported recently by Public Health England’s (PHE) decision to locate their future, world-leading campus and headquarters in the city (shown below).

Artists impression of PHE Harlow

Harlow is also the hub of the Digital Innovation Zone (DIZ) which has been created jointly by organisations from business, health, education, local authorities and the voluntary and community sector. This is the most joined up, comprehensive and inclusive partnership of its kind in the UK and together partners are working to make it the best connected place of its type in the UK.

5 Stellar Examples of Innovation...

Hundreds of tech companies operate in the corridor’s lesser-known towns. Here are five of them:

Sartorius Stedim Biotech

Based in Royston, this biotech company manufactures and supplies high-end lab instruments and advanced robotic systems to the pharmaceutical industry. Their solutions are deployed at pharmaceutical, biotechnology and academic laboratories globally, supporting bioprocess development and GMP manufacture of biologics and cell therapies and are spearheading stem cell research programmes.


Another stellar example from Stevenage, this company is using deep learning to accelerate the discovery of T-cell-receptor (TCR)-based cancer immunotherapies for solid tumours. In parallel, they’re developing a computational platform to quickly and inexpensively identify new tumour targets shared across cancer patients, as well as safe and effective TCRs against these tumour targets for therapeutic applications.

Ocado Technology

This Hatfield-based e/retailer is on a mission to transform the grocery landscape by enabling forward-thinking brands to move to online business models profitably, sustainably and at scale. Robotics and AI play a key role here and the company is developing an end-to-end eCommerce, fulfilment and logistics platform to optimise the online delivery processes.

Dotmatics Knowledge Solutions

Dotmatics is a scientific informatics software and services company from Bishops Stortford that is driving the automation of laboratory workflows for discovery and innovation research. With a mission to give scientists access to all of their data, all of the time, the company has developed a unique portfolio of tools to fully automate, end-to-end workflows to increase lab efficiency through insightful decision-making processes.

Teva UK

Practically our neighbours, Teva Pharmaceuticals is a global leader in the development of therapeutic medicines to improve health and wellbeing. Around 200 million people around the world take Teva medicines every day. Apart from having an established presence in generic medicines, they’re also expanding their speciality and biopharmaceutical product ranges through extensive investment and research.

Kao Data's Role?

So how do we fit into all of this? Well, companies like those highlighted generate vast amounts of data and are increasingly looking for world class data centre facilities to support their endeavours. As such, we’re rapidly becoming the default provider for all tech companies at the forefront of HPC, AI and the cloud in the corridor.

I'm delighted to be part of a small but entrepreneurial team led by our CEO, Lee Myall that runs at pace and builds to the highest standards to operate a facility that is fully equipped with the latest data centre infrastructure and provides the support for customers big and small.

It's an exciting time to be working in Harlow and the UK Innovation Corridor - I for one, can't wait to get back on that M25...

Faisal Akram

Faisal Akram is responsible for Business Development at Kao Data and works closely with the wider sales and marketing team in recruiting new logos into the data centre. He has a keen focus in the life science, Pharma and AI sectors and has been involved in over 75MW of IT-related projects across EMEA


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