The creative and digital sector employs around 18,000 people in the Haven Gateway (about 5% of all employment). Around 10,000 work in the digital industries, and around 8,000 in other cultural activities. Overall, the sector accounts for around 4,000 businesses.
The sector has seen very rapid employment growth in recent years. In 2009-15, the number employed in the creative and digital sector in the Haven Gateway grew by 21%, much faster than the general employment growth of 6.4%. This growth was mostly accounted for by the very substantial (48%) expansion of the digital part of the sector.
Adastral Park is a substantial R&D hub for the IT sector, linked fundamentally to the activities of BT. In 2004 its potential to provide the catalyst for a wider cluster was recognised and BT itself has gradually sought to encourage open innovation and parts of the site have been made available to other businesses. Inward investment from the likes of Cisco Systems, Fujitsu, Nokia Siemens Networks and Huawei Technologies provides some indication of the scale of the asset – and the interest it has attracted from around the world. This process has been accelerated latterly by Innovation Martlesham which has sought to accelerate the cluster’s growth, principally through the provision of incubator facilities, managed workspace and networking support. The number of companies on site has risen significantly over the last couple of years: it is now estimated to be close to 100, and BT’s substantial continued presence at Adastral Park is an important factor in attracting new businesses to the site.
Plans for the development of a centre focused on knowledge-based economic growth at Colchester are long-standing. The University of Essex Knowledge Gateway is an 11.8 ha site on the university campus which will provide 37,160 sq m commercial accommodation. The Knowledge Gateway incorporates Parkside Office Village (which includes starter units and a Games Hub) and Essex Business School with work underway to build a 38,000 sq ft £10 million Innovation Centre which will open in spring 2019.
Colchester is also an important hub for the sector and the Borough is home to over 3,000 companies with a 10% annual growth rate, in excess of the national average, and over half of these are digital, technical and computing companies.