One of the most influential voices in the North has said the region’s tech sector isn’t growing as quickly as it could.
Roger Marsh, OBE, is the chairman of Leeds City Region Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) and NP11, which is a collaboration of each of the 11 LEPs across the North to support the Government’s ambitions for a Northern Powerhouse.
Marsh is also the chairman of the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund (NPIF) Strategic Oversight Board and played a major role in Channel 4’s decision to base their national headquarters in the city.
Marsh said the broadcaster’s decision was “an absolute game-changer for both Channel 4 and us” but said the overall tech sector wasn’t growing as quickly as it could in the North.
Speaking at an event last night to mark NPIF’s second anniversary, he told BusinessCloud: “I think the tech sector is developing but not at the rate it could develop and there’s huge opportunities.
“The important thing is not just the sector but some of the opportunities for our young people who are digitally enabled compared to people like me.
“I think we are starting to recognise (in the North) that we can do something extraordinarily different in tech and not just tech for its own sake.
“Tech is across every business and understanding the cross worlds between those that are truly digital businesses and those businesses that need digital to enable them to grow.
“I think things like NPIF are recognising that there is some risk in there but we can risk and get reward accordingly across a portfolio investment.”
The £400m Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund (NPIF) was launched in 2017 to boost the North of England’s economy and help the region’s businesses realise their growth potential. It has now invested £105m, across 487 investments in 411 different businesses.
Marsh said the economy in the North of England was worth £350bn – the equivalent of the 21st largest economy in the world.
He said: “I think the North has probably allowed others to create unhealthy competition and thereby limited collaboration for probably decades whereas in the last decade we are probably turning the dials on that and saying ‘actually we can healthily compete, we can support each other and we can meaningfully collaborate’ rather than just choose either.
“That’s part of my personal narrative. To explain to UK plc we are part of a solution for generations to come. We have a huge offer but we also have some asks because to deliver that offer we need 21st Century infrastructure, we need a well educated workforce, we need the right places for people to live and enjoy their lives and that does not come for free.”
The NPIF event heard from a number of companies which have received investment from the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund, including Michael Howard, managing director, urbanbubble; John Whelan, chief executive, My Digital Accounts; Christina Colmer-McHugh, co-founder and director, Moodbeam; and Claire Budden, founder, Midwater Luggage
The event took place at Stoller Hall in Manchester and also heard from Keith Morgan, CEO of the British Business Bank.