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Posted on October 3, 2018 by staff

Leeds needs Channel 4 as catalyst for investment

Leeds being chosen as the location of Channel 4’s new HQ would be a major catalyst in attracting other significant investment into the West Yorkshire city.

That’s the view of Richard Ellis, managing principal consultant and head of digital retail at technology company Answer Digital, who was speaking at BusinessCloud’s event ‘How Leeds can win the tech race’.

Leeds, Manchester and Birmingham are the three final cities shortlisted from more than 30 bids to be the home of Channel 4’s new national headquarters or creative hub – or both. A decision is thought to be imminent.

“I think it would be a real catalyst in terms of attracting other figurehead businesses to come into the city,” Ellis told BusinessCloud.

“It would be a coup for the city from an economic perspective; it would bring jobs and it would form another element why Leeds would become attractive to other investors.”

However he was one of a number of speakers to stress that Leeds’ burgeoning tech sector meant it wasn’t completely reliant on the Channel 4 decision.

Recruiting and retaining talent was a dominating theme at the event, which was sponsored by property developer Bruntwood and hosted at 3 Sovereign Square.

Ellis told the 85-strong audience that retention is one of the company’s biggest challenges.

“The nature of the work we do puts our people – regardless of their skills set – right in the face of working with clients directly,” he said. “You’re expected to go in and hit the ground running.”

Mark Fordyce is managing director of York Data Services, which provides connectivity, telecoms systems and cloud-based managed solutions for businesses, business parks and multi-occupancy buildings.

The company’s last two hires came from Australia and Silicon Valley and Fordyce admits that recruitment is a major challenge.

“It’s one of the biggest hurdles we face at the moment and it’s really hampering our business,” he said.

“We could hire more people if we could just find the right calibre. There are a lot of good people coming out of university in the region and we need to look how we can raise the profile of businesses in the region to get them to stay here.”

Also speaking at the event was Eve Roodhouse, chief officer of economic development at Leeds City Council, prior to which she spent almost 15 years at NHS Digital.

Instead of forming a digital strategy, Roodhouse says the local authority has taken the approach of embedding digital into its overall strategy.

“We think digital is so integral to our future that it needed to be integrated into everything and you need digital leaders embedded into all parts of the organisation,” she said.

“We’ve got a number of initiatives that are contributing to our overall strategy that have a digital focus.

“We’re all concerned with how we can redesign our services and make the most of tech and build skills in the council.”

The other speakers were Anne Dornan, head of Innovation, Bruntwood; Martin Stow, director, Nexus; Adam Hildreth, CEO, Crisp; James Gupta, founder & CEO, Synap; Tina Howell, platform lead, AND Digital; Laura Harper, partner, Shoosmiths; and Zandra Moore, CEO, PanIntelligence.