Cornwall: A Living History of Innovation

13th February, 2019

Today, Cornwall is home to a huge range of inspired innovators and creators, leading progress across many industries – but for us, that’s nothing new. Innovation is in the region’s DNA, and has been for centuries.

From rail travel to transatlantic communication, world-changing ideas have been born in Cornwall. It’s something we’re immensely proud of, and one of the biggest reasons why we’ve dedicated ourselves to ensuring that the region’s reputation for innovation and creativity survive and thrive for decades to come.

Fuelling the steam travel revolution

Cornwall’s rich mining heritage is certainly no secret. It’s one of the most iconic parts of the region’s identity, and thanks to the unprecedented success of the BBC’s hit show Poldark, it’s now extremely present in the minds of new generations across the UK and the world.

Throughout the 17th, 18th, and 19th century, countless mining innovations were pioneered in Cornwall. From small process improvements, to the development of new excavation techniques, Cornwall became a centre of excellence for mining, with many Cornishmen travelling to remote corners of the globe to lead mining best practice in new and lucrative locations.

Mining brought a great deal of prosperity to Cornwall, but for one of the most influential inventors of all time, it also brought inspiration. Growing up in a mining family and being exposed to the industry at its peak in Cornwall gave Richard Trevithick ideas and inspiration that would change the world forever.

One of Cornwall’s most famous sons, Trevithick pioneered one of the most important innovations in human history – the first steam-powered locomotive. It was an invention that revolutionised industry, trade and travel the world over, and in many ways, shaped our modern lives.

Engine House

From rail travel to international communications

Cornwall’s Goonhilly Earth Station is one of the most recognised and iconic names in the space and satellite communications industry. It was one of three stations involved in the first transatlantic TV transmission in 1962, and played an instrumental role in beaming the moon landings to millions of captivated viewers in 1969.

Goonhilly is the oldest satellite earth station in England, but it’s just as relevant and influential today as it has ever been. To this day, Goonhilly continues to be an extremely important part of the UK’s satellite communications infrastructure, and is the largest ground station for the INMARSAT network.

It’s south-westerly position made it the ideal station to help bridge communications between the USA and Europe during the birth of the internet and international data sharing, heralding the beginning of Cornwall’s hyperconnected future.

Goonhilly Satellite Dish

 Sending the UK into the stratosphere

One of the most exciting chapters in Cornwall’s innovative history is happening right now, and there’s no telling what it could mean for the future of the UK’s space industry, or humanity at large.

The development of Spaceport Cornwall at Cornwall Airport Newquay, conducted in partnership with Virgin Orbit, will put Cornwall at the forefront of the UK’s space travel and exploration industry. Proximity to Goonhilly Earth Station made the site an appealing option for developers and aerospace innovators, especially as the Spaceport will primarily be used to launch new satellites in the early days of its operation.

With Goonhilly, Spaceport Cornwall and Cornwall’s Aerospace Hub, we’re seeing an exciting innovation cluster emerge – one that’s likely to be the source of numerous incredible satellite and space travel advances over the next few years and decades.

An environment that supports and nurtures innovation

Cornwall’s history of innovation is as diverse as it is inspiring. With such a broad range of great ideas being born here, it’s almost impossible to identify what’s going to emerge from the region next.

But, the one thing we can say for sure is that Cornwall is a great environment to bring incredible ideas to life. Here, businesses and thinkers come together with like-minded peers, collaborate and find the space to cultivate and develop great ideas.

It’s the perfect balance between a productive and inclusive business community, and a space and lifestyle that afford you the ability to think clearly and be inspired. It’s a place where highly-connected leaders are able to remove themselves from the basic stresses of urban working life, giving them a little more room to breathe, and do their best work.

If that sounds appealing to you, talk to us at Cornwall Trade & Investment. We exist to help growing businesses find a home that helps them thrive in Cornwall, ensuring that your business achieves its greatest potential, and securing an inspiring future for innovation in Cornwall.

Sea waves




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