Imagine, Start and Grow

Imagine, Start and Grow


Vicky Hunter is entrepreneur engagement manager for the South West at Tech Nation and is part of a wider EEM team distributed across the UK, responsible for connecting, celebrating and supporting scaling tech companies and both the local and national ecosystems.  She joined the team at the beginning of 2019.

What are Tech Nation’s aims and key activities?

Our mission is to make the UK the best place to imagine, build and grow a tech business. We do this through a number of activities including regular insight reports, online courses in our Digital Business Academy, our Rising Stars competition for early stage founders, our sector & growth programs for scaling companies, as well endorsing applications promoting for the Tier 1 exceptional talent visa, and support for larger companies wanting to better understand the tech landscape in the UK.

What are your key findings on Exeter and the SW?

In 2018, the Tech Nation Report evidenced strong tech performance in Exeter and the South West of England. In Exeter, both employment and turnover for digital tech businesses has increased significantly over the past 4 years.




What are our challenges compared to other regions?

There are a lot of similar challenges for the regions across the country which we’ve heard about during our recent Tech Nation Talks events and roundtable meetings which have taken place across the UK. These include support for fast growth scaling tech companies, investment and skills shortages. The conversation of needing to increase ambition and risk taking, and to shout louder about all the amazing things happening here, seems prevalent across the South West, as well as a quieter but fairly constant request for better rail services and transport infrastructure.

What are the SW strengths and opportunities?

>> Fintech investment trends in Exeter mirror those of Dublin, Helsinki, Milan and Tokyo - suggesting that characteristics, and maturity of the ecosystems, with regard to Fintech, may mean that bridge building internationally, could assist with further Fintech development.

>> In the UK as a whole, investments in UK high growth Fintech firms topped the charts, at £4.5bn from 2015-2018. This is followed by E-commerce, Gaming and SaaS.

>> Artificial Intelligence, robotics and agritech are particularly strong in the South West and Milkalyser is a great example of this. (See case study)

Case Study, Milkalyser (CEO, Toby Mottram)

Milkalyser is an automated system based on wirelessly connected IoT sensors to measure hormones in milk during milking. This will revolutionise the fertility management of dairy cows. The product is in Alpha testing this year and will be ready for Beta customers in 2019.

Why Exeter?

Exeter is at the heart of our industry, with a million dairy cows close by.  It has a world class University, the Met Office and Exeter Science Park which provides a fantastic space for start-ups and growing SMEs. It is also an excellent place to live, with beautiful countryside and the best rugby team in England!

National and International focus

Developing our product requires top class research facilities, such as those of the new Agri EPI-Centre. Our collaborators in the region provide the veterinary capability, bio-sensor expertise, and engineering design.

With our established partner company eCow, we have contacts all over the world, and collaboration from our Italian distributors means we have a strong international presence. Thanks to investment from the Mercia Technology Fund and InnovateUK, as well as mentoring from SETsquared Exeter, we have been able to expand our offering and grow the company. We also have a technical advisory group of outside experts who ensure our feet stay on the ground! 

Founded: 2016

Raised: £1.3 m


How do you work with SMEs?

I love meeting founders as, ultimately, they are the ones we are here to support. Equally important are those in the ecosystem working to grow and connect communities; they always have such drive and energy which I find compelling. I aim to build authentic relationships with the network in the South West to spread the word about Tech Nation’s resources with the hope of seeing South West companies on our programmes and highlighted via our blog. I want to shout about how great the South West is and see our companies growing both nationally and internationally. 

What does your average day look like? 

I'm not sure there is such a thing in this role as every day so far has been different. I'm based in Bristol but try to get out and about on a regular basis so I might be on a train to Bath, Swindon or Exeter, or driving down to Plymouth and Falmouth to meet founders and key stakeholders there. I have presented at Universities and meetups, giving an overview of what Tech Nation does and can offer. I regularly meet with Founders to learn about their businesses and see what resources I can suggest for them. I attend a lot of events and conferences to discover new innovations and be a part of conversations concerning regional developments and challenges. Occasionally I'll work from home and try to tackle my inbox, engage on Twitter and pull together interviews with founders for our Tech Nation blog. 

What do you wish other people knew about your work?

I wish everyone knew how great my team is. Everyone at Tech Nation is passionate about tech businesses and the EEM team is lucky enough to be the face of that on the ground. The team come from different backgrounds which means we support each other with different aspects of the job and the fact that we have a great relationship means we’re constantly communicating and able to build much larger, national networks to support our local businesses. 

Why and how would you encourage young people to consider STEMM careers? 

Technology isn’t an industry in as much as it’s a tool used to innovate all industries; and obviously it’s not going away any time soon! STEMM subjects aren’t the antithesis of creativity which too often how it’s portrayed. The more creators we can equip with technical skills the more amazing innovations we can expect to see. We need to ensure access to learning those skills is available to all to develop a diverse workforce, creating new technologies to improve the world and the way in which we live.

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