Never standing still and constantly adapting has helped the Thames Valley’s tech sector thrive, says Boyes Turner chief executive Andrew Chalkley – just like the specialist tech law firm itself.
One hundred and thirty years is a long time to cover when describing the history of a business. It could take hours.
Andrew Chalkley, chief executive of law firm Boyes Turner, summed it up in a few words: “Moving with the times and adapting to the community around us,” is how he summarises the thirteen decades in which the specialist tech law firm has been in business.
Moving with the times
To be precise, it’s 132 years this year since Boyes Turner first opened its doors. When the firm was founded in Reading, Queen Victoria was celebrating her golden jubilee and Buffalo Bill was on a UK tour. It’s a far cry from the modern Boyes Turner, which has established a niche working with the dynamic tech sector which has grown up alongside the law firm across the Thames Valley.
The past three or four decades in particular have seen the sector, and the law firm advising many of its businesses, having to adapt quickly to the wholesale, rapid change brought about by the explosion of new tech in our personal and business lives. The tech revolution began to really gather pace in the 1980s, with software houses and hardware manufacturers as the prime movers, blazing a trail that hundreds of businesses would follow.
More and more international businesses landed at Heathrow and ‘turned left’ to the Thames Valley for better value rents, new business parks, the growing talent pool and a better quality of life, creating a cluster around Microsoft, Oracle, Verizon, Sage, Cisco and other global players. And many businesses turned to Boyes Turner’s tech sector experts for advice.
Latterly, the early software houses have morphed into app developers and cloud businesses as the Thames Valley continues to demonstrate its ability to regenerate itself and keep up with the ever-increasing pace of tech development.
Working alongside those businesses, Chalkley said, has enabled Boyes Turner to develop its advisory role with clients, as showcased by its recent Tech Be Quick report highlighting the importance of agility in the tech sector and its series of breakfast events bringing local businesses together.
“We’ve never stood still. Partly because that’s not who we are but also, importantly, because the businesses around us weren’t standing still. They needed our advice to help them play their part in the expanding tech sector that was putting down more and more roots in the Thames Valley,” said Chalkley. “Tech has become part of our DNA as much as it’s become a cornerstone of the Thames Valley economy. We’re incredibly proud of the work we’ve done for tech businesses of all sizes and at all stages of their development. And we’ll keep on adapting our business as the tech firms we work with keep on innovating. That’s the great thing about the sector. It’s never dull.”
As major names in the tech world have increasingly moved into the UK’s ‘silicon valley’, drawn by the expertise and infrastructure available, so too has Boyes Turner built a nationally and internationally recognised specialism in the sector, working with clients in the UK and around the world, including North America, Europe, the Middle East and Australasia.
And it’s the international element that Chalkley regards as key to the future success of the sector as a whole – including ensuring the transport links into the UK and onto the Thames Valley continue to make the area attractive to overseas investors and businesses looking for a European or UK base.
Two issues have a key part to play in keeping the Thames Valley competitive for years to come, Chalkley said, both connected with the UK’s biggest and busiest airport through which pass tens of thousands of business personnel into the country and onto the Thames Valley every year.
The long-delayed Western Rail link is one vital development for the region, in Chalkley’s eyes. The proposed 6.5km rail link between the Great Western Main Line and Heathrow would speed up journeys to and from the airport, not only benefiting the greater Thames Valley but the South West, South Wales and West Midlands as well.
“It’s frustrating. It’s been described by the chairman of the Infrastructure Commission as a ‘no brainer’ yet it seems still to be a long way off happening. It should be an easy win and it’s one that we see as vital for our own business and our clients,” he said. “We have to keep the Thames Valley competitive as a business destination and links like this would be a major boost. It can’t happen quickly enough and we need to see progress as soon as possible.”
The development of Heathrow itself is another core infrastructure challenge which the Thames Valley’s business community, including its legal community, will be keeping a close eye on, particularly with the airport’s own consultation launched recently on the long-proposed third runway.
Chalkley said: “We understand the environmental concerns and of course that’s important. However, the aviation industry is making huge strides in relation to reducing its environmental impact and the plans include a number of other green measures. Ultimately, it’s about a balance. Of course we need to develop as sustainably as we can but we have to ensure the UK can both continue to attract investment and jobs from across the globe and access global markets. We’ve seen the benefit of that right here in the Thames Valley and we need to maintain that.”
To the future
So, what next for the Thames Valley and Boyes Turner, as the imminent arrival of 5G heralds yet another tech revolution?
“Keep adapting, keep moving, keep making sure our business helps the UK tech sector stay competitive and carry on innovating,” said Chalkley. “The one thing we know is that the world is going to keep on evolving. We’ll play our part in that with our work with our tech clients.
“You’re never quite sure what’s coming next. It’s exciting. It keeps us on our toes.”