Blog: Coastal Communities Fund – how did we do?

Two years ago we were awarded £150,000 to make a difference to our town. See how much progress we’ve made

Kestrel House sign
Sign from Kestrel House, our first HQ in Eastbourne

In January 2015 we were awarded £150,000 from the UK government’s Coastal Communities Fund. It was a huge win, and enabled us to turbocharge our efforts.

The funding was designed to last for two years, which means this work is now complete. We thought it was worth recapping what we set out to achieve, and how far we’ve come:

Coding and making clubs for at least 80 students aged 8-18

We’ve aced this target with around 180 young people passing through our doors at Kestrel House. Around a third are from Devonshire Ward, where we’re based, which we’re really pleased about. The area is one of the most deprived in Sussex, and we really wanted to help our neighbours.

Create 20 new full time local tech and digital jobs, and safeguard 8 existing jobs

We hit this target about a month ago. While not all of these vacancies have been filled due to the lack of certain skills (one of the reasons why TechResort was founded), we’ll keep looking for suitable candidates.

Remove blockers to growth for local tech and digital businesses

We founded a Business Agency, and hired the amazing Amy Solis to run it for us. She regularly met local firms and found out what they needed – typically help with recruitment, funding and space.

Lay the foundations for a local tech and digital ‘growth fund’

We helped local startup Cyclr to find its first backers, and introduced them to Creative England, a leading UK creative industries funder. Cyclr was named last week as a top 50 UK innovative company. We championed all our local firms with Eastbourne Borough Council, East Sussex County Council and the Local Enterprise Partnership. A tech fund is still some way off, and isn’t helped by the uncertainty over Brexit, but we’ll keep ploughing away on this.

Match 10 students with 5 local tech and digital businesses to build useful real world products

Working with Kev Jones and the Innovation Team at Sussex Downs College, we launched ‘TechMatch’ and are seeing the final few students complete their work now. The majority have scored ‘As’ for their projects. TechMatch won a coveted award from the youth charity SPARK. Also we supported the first ever Big Futures careers show, creating a ‘tech zone’ along with some of the best Eastbourne firms.

Hire the equivalent of three full time people to help run this work

We’ve done that, and have helped many of our volunteers develop new skills and open up new opportunities. There’s so much talent in Eastbourne and we’re delighted to help it flourish.

Thanks to so many people!

The last two years have been an amazing journey for us. I wanted to thank my fellow directors for their dedication and hard work – Liz, Aidan, Adam, Mark, Shane and David are an amazing bunch. Liz’s husband Sam has been a huge support too, and an amazing electronics whizz.

Our volunteers – the TechResort Elves – have gone from strength to strength.

We couldn’t have done this without Eastbourne Borough Council’s help, starting almost three years ago. Council leader David Tutt recognised the important work we’re doing to boost skills, grow the creative sector and ultimately provide better futures for our young people. Nicky Woollard, our day to day contact at the council, has been really supportive. Thank you.

There are so many people we could thank here. You all know who you are and we couldn’t have done it without you.

So what next?

Obviously our big pot of funds has been spent now, and new money is increasingly hard to find. We’re scaling back a bit, and have secured a new partnership which we’re thrilled to tell you about – more on that in my next blog post.

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