Posted on May 24, 2016 by staff

Digital tech sector ‘key’ to success of Northern Powerhouse


A new report says tech is integral to the success of the Northern Powerhouse and has set out a plan to realise the region’s potential.

‘The Digital Powerhouse’, commissioned by Tech North and published by the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce, revealed how the North’s tech sector currently employs 283,500 staff.

Those people earn on average 60 per cent more than non-digital workers while it is expected that 363,000 will be working in tech by 2020.

“New thinking is required to make best use of the tech cluster expertise, assets and opportunities here in the North, and we hope this report acts as a catalyst for this,” said Tech North executive chair Herb Kim.

“The digital tech sector… is key to the success of the Northern Powerhouse.”

Responsible for 5.2% of the region’s economic output, the region’s digital economy produces £9.9billion GVA, with the potential for another £5.7bn if the so-called powerhouse were to become ‘fully charged’.

The sector is growing four times faster than non-digital industries and creating 10 times as many jobs – but it will not be considered a separate sector for long as tech merges into all areas of business and life.

The report concludes: “Tech businesses have become woven into the fabric of public service delivery, transforming teaching, healthcare and local government in the process.

“Tech clusters have meshed with nearby industries, boosting innovation in sectors ranging from aerospace and media, through to logistics and finance. And universities and corporates have opened their doors to collaboration, channelling information, insights and data to fuel the work of local tech firms.

“Above all, the region has shrugged off any doubts that it has what it takes to compete on the global stage.

“This is not a fantasy scenario. The North’s digital economy already has pockets of brilliance and is increasingly anchored in the surrounding community. But further progress will only be made with concerted effort on all sides – with greater action and fewer words, and with a more robust insight and less reliance on instinct.

“With the right ideas and determination, the region’s tech clusters can harness the full breadth of the world-class assets at its disposal – including its rich network of private and public sector supply chains, universities, science parks, data stores, digital communities and cultural heritage.”

BusinessCloud will host a ‘Tech in the Northern Powerhouse’ early evening event at the 2016 International Festival for Business on Thursday 30th June in Liverpool.

Sky Betting and Gaming Chief Technology Officer Andy Burton has agreed to appear on the panel, which will examine the role the digital and technology sector can play in the North’s industrial rebirth.

Fellow big-hitters Claire Braithwaite – Tech Advisor at Manchester Growth Company and former head of Tech North – magneticNorth CEO Lou Cordwell and Liverpool City Council chief executive Ged Fitzgerald had already confirmed their spots.

‘The Digital Powerhouse’ sets out a detailed plan for realising the North’s potential in digital industries, as follows:

  • Introduce Tech Taster vouchers – allowing businesses to get a taste of what tech could do for their operations
  • Establish a Digital Powerhouse Contract Portal – collating private and public sector contracts in one place
  • Champion the tech co-operative model – helping tech firms band together
  • Kickstart new corporate-backed accelerators and hack days – identifying big firms which would be willing to back accelerators
  • Make the North a testbed for experimental tech – e.g. the use of robotics in social care
  • Establish digital immersion events – public service teams and tech communities sharing knowledge and helping understanding of local needs
  • Open up data on KPIs and procurement results – so tech firms can understand opportunities available
  • Create a ‘Procurement Powerhouse’ social enterprise – linking public sector buyers with tech businesses
  • Encourage the use of open source software – enabling collaborative innovation
  • Organise a ‘600 that Share’ movement – 600 very large businesses could be encouraged to do more to help the tech community
  • Establish a ‘Founder of Founders’ award – for those who do the most to support their fellow entrepreneurs
  • Pool the resources of university outreach teams – to enable the presentation of unified offers to tech businesses
  • Commission a ‘what works’ review of tech business support – to better understand how this might be improved