DORSET has a chance to “steal a march” on other parts of the country after a report suggested digital innovation could add almost £9billion to the value of its economy by 2030.

The report, Driving Digital: Innovating Local Economies, says the mass uptake of digital technology during the pandemic has shown the potential of innovation to transform the economy.

In the Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), a “digital level up” could add £8.61bn to economic revenue by the start of the next decade, the study calculates. In Bournemouth alone, the figure is £1.69bn.

Silicon South, the not-for-profit body set up to support the creative and digital sectors, recently held Innovation Driving Growth, a live event to give business leaders an overview of digital innovations which could have the biggest impact.

Anthony Story, director of Silicon South, said: “This research suggests there is plenty of opportunity for Dorset businesses to benefit from digital innovation, but it also shows the high levels of competition all around us.

“Silicon South’s recent Innovation Driving Growth event clearly showed that the adoption of digital innovation is inevitable for any business that wants to stay relevant; however, it’s still early days. There is still an opportunity for Dorset companies to seize the moment.

“By making progress in this area quickly, we can still steal a march on competitors and gain those early mover advantages. We all know digital is growing – no one more than customers looking for a good deal. By adopting innovation now, our businesses make themselves more attractive to the outside world. The sooner we embrace digital ‘levelling up’ opportunities, the better we’ll be place to attract more customers – all of which can trigger a snowball effect to push Dorset into the list of big hitters.”

Silicon South’s event looked at how digital innovation could help in areas such as converting prospect customers, building new products, improving processes and reducing costs.

Held at Centre VR in Bournemouth, it considered how technologies such as the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, VR and robotics could transform traditional businesses rather than just those in the digital sector.

“The main focus was looking at how this stuff is being used at the moment, how some of these things are being applied. We might well know something about the Internet of Things but do you really know about how that’s being applied, or robotics?” said Mr Story.

Examples might include using artificial intelligence to do traditional tasks such as reading legal contracts. “It’s not about replacing people, it’s about making better use of their time,” he said.

“You can start to use those people to do more billable hours and use their time more effectively.

“It’s still quite early for people to try and work out what’s the benefit. Until people start seeing it in place, it’s hard to see how it translates into something practical.”

The authors of the Driving Digital report say that Covid-19 led to “rapid and mass digitisation at an unprecedented scale”.

They add: “This goes beyond Zoom calls, online sharedrives or remote working. Digital innovation has the potential to level up everything from products, services, operations and profits – and to be the step-change needed across every phase of our economy.

“The UK has yet to truly pin down this value, often taking a lacklustre approach to driving digital forward. This report makes clear that, with£1.12trillion worth of potential value to the economy by 2030, this cannot be ignored any longer.”

The report urges local enterprise partnerships to appoint digital “navigators” to encourage innovation.