Plans have been announced for the creation of a North West digital tech cluster that aims to create 1,000 high-value jobs over the next 10 years.
The Daresbury Digital Tech Cluster will be managed by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) and will be centred at Sci-Tech Daresbury.
It wants to grow a critical mass of 100 digital tech companies at Sci-Tech Daresbury and a wider network of 300 companies over the next 10 years.
The sold-out launch event for Daresbury Digital Tech Cluster took place on November 23rd, where speakers included Dr Barbara Ghinelli, director of clusters and Harwell Campus development; Mark Basnett, MD of the Growth Platform in Liverpool City Region; and Alison Kennedy, director of the Hartree Centre.
Dr Ghinelli said: “The new Digital Tech Cluster will draw on the strengths and assets of Daresbury and wider regional capabilities to create jobs and prosperity, utilising the power of digital technology to drive growth and productivity across key sectors.
“The Science and Technology Facilities Council is looking forward to working with all its partners across industry, academia and public sector to deliver on the Digital Tech Cluster strategy.”
John Leake, business growth director at Sci-Tech Daresbury, said: “Sci-Tech Daresbury offers a great home for life for digital tech companies from start-up businesses to scaling companies.
“We are delighted to be supporting the Digital Tech Cluster strategy and look forward to working with the cluster team to make it a success.”
Paul Vernon, executive director of business and innovation and head of Daresbury Laboratory said: “The cluster will harness the power of Daresbury’s digital technology assets and expertise to drive our campus expansion plans and support the wider economy.”
Digital Tech Cluster’s development manager James Bedford, who was previously the head of investment strategy at Tech North, has overseen a year-long consultation.
He said the Digital Tech Cluster would unlock the potential for starts-ups and scale-ups from across the UK.
Companies in the cluster will be able to tap into a peer-to-peer support networks, including workshops, investor advice and access to cutting-edge facilities, skills and training.
The programme will focus on start-ups and scale-ups needing support to meet their growth ambitions to enable them to scale rapidly and take their software to market.
They’ll be housed within an ecosystem that includes the Hartree National Centre for Digital Innovation, a collaboration with IBM, which helps businesses unlock the power of supercomputing, data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI).
Bedford said the Digital Tech Cluster would build on the success of existing clusters in health, energy and space at Harwell Science and Innovation Campus and Sci-Tech Daresbury.
He said: “The critical mass of companies will be based in Daresbury but others will be dotted around the country and will be able to take advantage of our virtual ecosystem.
“These clusters help create jobs, drive growth and productivity in local areas and enable economic growth and job creation in all parts of the UK.
“The Digital Tech Cluster will be a major piece of the jigsaw in the levelling-up agenda and will look to create partnerships with academia, industry and the public sector.
“They will drive collaborative R&D and innovation and support the adoption of digital technologies, products and services.”
Community meet-ups will be delivered online and in-person, ensuring that the benefits of peer-to-peer learning are not restricted by geography.
The digital tech sector is worth an estimated £151bn to the UK economy and Bedford predicted the cluster would act as an enabler of digital transformation.
“Digital transformation begins with enhancements and efficiencies but ultimately leads to disruptive technologies and new business models taking a large share of markets,” he said.
“Cost savings made through the increased use of cloud and digital automation will increase profits but will also drive spending in other digital technologies such as AI, immersive tech and blockchain.
“We want the Digital Tech Cluster to become a central hub of digital activity, supporting the growth of companies and sharing the advantages of Sci-Tech Daresbury’s and North West partners’ assets with the wider community.
“We believe the Digital Tech Cluster will support the growth of 400 digital tech companies over the next 10 years and it will also lead to the creation of 1,000 high-value jobs over the same period. It will be a game-changer.”
Other speakers at the event included Naomi Timperley, co-founder of Growth Strategy Innovation and Tech North Advocates; and Carl Wong, co-founder of DCW Ventures and co-founder of LivingLens.