INNOVATORS in Dorset’s tech and creative sector are helping make the south of England the backbone of the UK’s digital economy, a government-sponsored report has found.

The Science and Innovation Audit defined Innovation South, an area stretching from Dorset to Kent, which was a “powerhouse of world class research and innovation” in the sector.

It found Bournemouth and Poole were among the areas boasting a concentration of high-growth digital firms.

It cited the example of insurer LV=, which has invested more than £80million in digital in the past two years. Its work developing new digital products and improving core systems has already changed the way insurance is marketed, sold, priced and underwritten, as well as the way the friendly society interacts with customers and members.

Also cited was the Orthopaedic Research Institute at Bournemouth University, which has invested heavily in staff and state of the art facilities, including a ‘gait lab’ and a virtual reality surgical training simulator.

The institute is working with the university’s National Centre for Computer Animation and the SciTech Games Technology Group to produce training and diagnostic scenario games using virtual reality.

The cooperation between the orthopaedic and animation centres enables surgeons to achieve expertise before performing ‘live’ treatments, while the gait lab can assess the root of orthopaedic ailments.

The audit, released by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, surveyed an area covering eight counties across southern England, accounting for 13.7 per cent of the UK’s economic output.

Rob Dunford, interim director of Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), coordinated the evidence for Dorset and was a member of the steering group.

He said: “This is great news for both the wider region and for Dorset. It reaffirms our position as being one of the primary areas in the UK for world-leading science and innovation.

“Dorset has major strengths in the creative and digital, financial services and marine sectors, which are further augmented by two leading universities – Arts University Bournemouth and Bournemouth University. This audit shows that together, our private and public sector organisations are leading the way in driving innovation. This is hugely important to the productivity and economic success of our region.”

The report’s recommendations said that further driving innovation-led productivity in the Innovation South area would be critical to the success of the UK’s digital economy.

Dr Mike Short, vice-president of Telefonica Europe and chairman of the Innovation South Strategic Steering Group, said: “Now that our audit is complete, our primary focus is on following up with pragmatic steps to progress our partnership and implement the recommendations of the audit.

“We are confident that with the great support we have had from industry, universities, and local enterprise partnerships, we can build on the audit to maximise opportunities for our region in the future.”