Transformational Opportunities

Why the Heart of the South West?

The Heart of the South West region, which covers Devon, Somerset, Plymouth and Torbay, offers a fantastic place to develop new and emerging technologies and businesses. The area has industry-leading strengths in marine, data science, aerospace, clean energy, photonics, agriculture, defence and many more.

It’s unique coastal and rural geography offers unrivalled natural assets to develop clean energies, marine technologies, agritech and food and drink products. And with two leading universities and two science parks, the Heart of the South West offers ample opportunity for research and STEM companies.

Future Aviation Test Zone

The Heart of the South West, in partnership with the iAero Centre, the South West Aerospace Cluster and the Heart of the South West Sustainable Aviation Cluster, is well placed to support the testing and development of new aerospace technologies, being host to key industrial players including the only industry prime in the UK with a complete end-to-end capability in rotary technology. The region is positioned to take advantage of the global ambition to decarbonise the aerospace and aviation sector, with strengths in developing new markets in electrical and hydrogen propulsion, and maximising digital innovation.

Plymouth & South Devon Freeport

The Plymouth & South Devon Freeport opens up opportunities to build upon the region’s marine heritage, with a strong business, manufacturing and research community in Plymouth and the Oceansgate innovation centre; a world-class hub for marine industries.
The Freeport and its partners have already been recognised by Government for leading innovation in marine autonomy, connected ocean and clean propulsion solutions. This furthers our partnership with other nations and the opportunity to lead the creation of standards and international regulations in these growth markets.

Gravity Smart Campus

Located over 600 acres in Somerset, Gravity is one of the largest oven-ready sites in the UK. With direct access to the M5, international airports, freight and rail terminals, this Enterprise Zone offers unique flexibility for forward-thinking companies. Gravity is geared to hosting international investment for UK plc, enabling a transformational step change in the transport decarbonisation efforts. Driven by a clean and inclusive growth vision, the Gravity Smart Campus will create up to 7,500 high-value jobs in a future-facing industry, stimulating economic restructuring and supply chain development. A Local Development Order has enabled us to provide both the scale and flexibility to host a gigafactory – one of 5 needed before 2030 to electrify the UK.

iAero Centre

The iAero Centre in Yeovil, led by Somerset Council, is a key facility for supporting the competitiveness and growth of the aerospace and associated high-value design and engineering technology supply chains. The centre features as a key asset in the South West Smart and Sustainable High Potential Opportunity, which sets out the region’s unique capabilities in supporting the growth of this sector to overseas investors. With access to modern offices, workshops, hangars, and runway facilities, the iAero Centre provides an ideal environment for businesses looking to expand or establish their presence in the sector.
iAero Innovation and Collaboration Centre

Smart Sound Plymouth

Smart Sound Plymouth is a fully managed and instrumented testing zone stretching up to 25 miles offshore, available to test and develop technologies for advanced marine autonomy, clean propulsion and digital ocean innovation. Smart Sound provides acoustic testing, research and development, and engineering support for companies looking to develop cutting-edge technologies and products in the marine sector.

Exeter & East Devon Enterprise Zone

The Exeter & East Devon Enterprise Zone covers four major employment sites. The Enterprise Zone is a prime business location, covering an area of 55 hectares, home to a variety of industries, including advanced engineering, clean growth, and digital technologies. It offers a streamlined planning process for new businesses, access to superfast broadband, and a range of support services. The area also benefits from excellent transport links, including the M5 and Exeter Airport, making it easy to connect with customers, suppliers, and partners.

Exeter Science Park

Exeter Science Park is a cutting-edge research and innovation hub, home to a community of innovative businesses, researchers, and entrepreneurs working together to develop new technologies, products, and services. It offers state-of-the-art facilities, including laboratories, workshops, and office spaces, as well as access to a range of business support services, funding opportunities, and expert advice. The Park’s focus on sustainable development, clean growth, and technology innovation makes it an especially attractive location for businesses in these sectors. 
George Parker Bidder building_Exeter Science Park

Smart & Sustainable Aviation HPO

The Department for International Trade recognised the South West as a High Potential Opportunity (HPO) for the development, demonstration, and adoption of new and emerging aviation technologies. As a world leader in Smart and Sustainable Aviation, the South West presents an exceptional opportunity for investors to plug into a leading aviation ecosystem, built upon the region’s rich aerospace heritage.

Marine Autonomy HPO

The South West marine autonomy cluster presents a key opportunity for investors to benefit from the unique capabilities of the UK’s largest maritime cluster. The area offers a range of benefits to potential investors and businesses looking to develop and commercialise marine autonomous systems, including access to world-class research facilities, a skilled workforce, and a supportive business environment.

Microelectronics & Photonics HPO

The Department for International Trade has awarded the Heart of the South West a High Potential Opportunity (HPO) for Photonics and Microelectronics. This highlights the unique strengths offered in the area to integrate the critical light and electronics based solutions demanded by the global connected and autonomous vehicles industry across land, sea and air. Here, businesses can collaborate with world-leading capabilities in photonics and microelectronics at the Universities of Exeter and Plymouth, and access the Electronics & Photonics Innovation Centre (EPIC), to drive forward the commercialisation of technologies.
Epic outside

Hinkley Point C

Hinkley Point C nuclear power station is a major infrastructure project in Somerset, being built by EDF Energy and partners with a total investment of around £22.5 billion. Hinkley Point C will be the first new nuclear power station to be built in the UK for over 20 years, and is expected to generate around 3.2GW of electricity, which is enough to power around 6 million homes. In addition to the economic benefits, Hinkley Point C will play a key role in helping the UK to meet its carbon reduction targets and secure its energy supply for the future. 

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    David Ralph

    Chief Executive

    David Ralph started as Chief Executive of Heart of South West LEP at the beginning of June 2018. Previously, he had spent 5 years as CEO of the Derby, Derbyshire, Nottingham, Nottinghamshire (D2N2) LEP from 2013 where he oversaw the development of the D2N2 Strategic Economic Plan and sector strategies, 3 Growth Deals with HM Government to deliver a £1billion capital investment programme, securing and implementing £200m ESIF programme, the Derby and Nottingham Enterprise Zone, the D2N2 Skills Deal and Time for Innovation programme, community fund and led the executive team to develop the HS2 East Midlands hub. He was also closely involved in the proposed North Midlands Devolution Deal and one of the key architects in establishing the Midlands Engine, chairing the officer steering group. Whilst in this role David was a NED of the Nottingham Enterprise Zone, and Marketing NG, the Outer Estates Foundation and a Governor of Nottingham College and on the advisory Board of Nottingham Business School.

    Before the East Midlands, David was CEO of the Have Gateway Partnership working closely with local stakeholders including the ports of Felixstowe, Harwich and Ipswich and BT Adadastral Park across Suffolk and Essex and prior to that was Chief Exec of the Barton Hill New Deal for Communities programme in Bristol and the Nelm Development Trust in Norwich.

    David is a keen sailor, walker and trail runner.