A Brief History of Technology in Bristol

Bristol has long been at the vanguard of technology in the UK. Perhaps the two most famous Bristolian innovations are the Clifton Suspension Bridge and The Great Western Railway, and Bristol has continued its rich tradition of technological experimentation and disruption. Major companies like Hewlett-Packard have their UK headquarters here in Bristol, drawn by the high quality of life and rich cultural backdrop. Oracle, the second largest software company by revenue, have noticed this, and set up an Accelerator in Bristol. This is a huge vote of faith in Bristol, and an opportunity for many exciting projects, including We Build Bots.  

Bristol and the Industrial Revolution

  Bristol has always been a great place to experiment and innovate; accordingly, in the Industrial Revolution, huge advances in civil engineering and maritime technology were trialled here. It became one of the most important ports for the international trade in sugar, tobacco, and slaves. This provided the city with the wealth it needed to trial big infrastructure projects that continue to have an impact to this day.   Bristol’s most famous engineering project is probably the Clifton Suspension Bridge. No history of Bristol would be complete without mention of the wonderfully-named Isambard Kingdom Brunel, who at the tender age of 23 secured the design contract for the Clifton Bridge. Sadly he would never see it built in his lifetime, but it is still an awesome sight, connecting leafy Clifton suburbs to Leigh Woods across the Bristol Channel gorge. He also oversaw the creation of the Great Western, the first transatlantic steamship. This photo of Brunel next to the chains of its sister ship, the Great Eastern, will give you an idea of the scale of these projects! If you walk around Bristol Docks you’ll see the Great Britain, the world’s first iron hulled ship. Brunel has left an indelible mark on cities like Bristol, as well as our home town of Cardiff, in the design of their docks.   Brunel also helped develop The Great Western Railway, which still connects Bristol to London. This cut the travel time massively and made it cheaper to transport freight across the country. Bristol continued to be a city of firsts, from the first chocolate bars, by Fry and Son, to the first supersonic jet. This tradition of innovation and revolution continues, sometimes in the same places! The Oracle Cloud Accelerator is based in the Temple Meads Stations’ Engine Shed, keeping the spirit of Brunel alive to this day.   Of course Bristol is famous for pushing boundaries in many ways, including in aesthetics and media. Banksy, Massive Attack, and Portishead are just a few of the names that have come out of Bristol. Many Bristol acts are famous for their subversion of existing technology and creating a new style by combining previously existing technology and art. Alongside trip-hop pioneers, cheese-loving Wallace and Gromit’s Aardman Studios are also based in Bristol.  

Bristol’s tech scene now

  Bristol continues to be a place where technology thrives. Whether that be in institutions like the University of Bristol, with its ‘Quantum Engineering Technology Labs’ which train scientists and build quantum computers, or smaller startups that are using technology to break boundaries and push the wheel of innovation onwards to build the technology of the future today. Projects like Bristol Temple Quarter offer an amazing opportunity to create a tech culture in one of Britain’s most exciting cities.   There is also a strong culture of tech solutions – an alliance of different organisations exist to help tech companies grow and expand. Combined with cutting edge city planning, this explains why Bristol has beaten every other city in the country, including London, Birmingham, and Manchester, to be voted Huawei’s Leading Smart City. Huawei pointed to the ‘Bristol Is Open’ project which combines universities, the council, and private sector to create ‘programmable cities’, as an example of Bristol’s unmatched technology solutions.  

How are We Build Bots involved?

With such fertile ground there is plenty of opportunity for companies who can provide real solutions to problems like urban expansion, environmental change, and the new industrial ‘skills’ revolution. Here at We Build Bots we are excited to be working in the Oracle Startup Ecosystem. This gives us unequalled access to world-class infrastructure, meaning we can continue to build the best bots around! Oracle offers testing, on-going help, and roll-out guidance so that the companies in its Accelerator can be given the most useful help that they can. Working in the Engine Shed drives home the history of Bristol as a centre of revolutionary technology, and we are thrilled to be working in such an auspicious site!   One of the keys to Bristol’s success is efficiently using what is already there, and building metaphorical (and literal) bridges, from one place to another, but also from the past to the future. Bristol has always been a city of the future, and at We Build Bots we are excited to be part of this tradition!