Tech North boss Richard Gregory has already hit the road in his new role, outlining a three-point plan for boosting the tech scene in the North of England.
Gregory and his colleagues held a series of ‘summit and social’ events across the North last week.
After listening to entrepreneurs and tech companies on his fact-finding mission, he emphasised the need for a “joined-up offering” across cities and clusters.
“There’s more need than ever for Tech North. Businesses naturally have concerns over trade with Europe and bringing the best talent from the continent to work in the UK,” he said of the Brexit referendum decision.
“However, entrepreneurs tend to thrive in a changing and challenging environment. For example, there’s an opportunity for exporters to thrive right now, and it’s an encouraging sign that key investors still have an appetite for UK companies.
“The UK digital economy is growing 32 percent faster than the wider economy and is creating jobs 2.8 times faster.
“I joined Tech North because there’s a huge opportunity in bringing the North of England together as a joined-up offering that’s stronger together.”
Many reports have found that the digital sector is key to the success of the Northern Powerhouse project.
Gregory, who replaces Claire Braithwaite – which was formed by the former Coalition Government to drive the growth of the North of England’s digital economy – said the urgent need was for “prioritisation”.
“We know the three areas we have to focus on,” he said. “Solving the skills and talent shortage; making funding available for tech start-ups; and raising the profile of those businesses and the regions in which they are based.
“We don’t think about any individual city – we think about the North as a whole.”
He recently told BusinessCloud that Tech North’s relationship with parent organisation Tech City UK is “good”.
Tech North’s trade and investment activity is led by Jennifer Hartley.
“It’s about profiling the North of England on a global stage. We want to attract companies to establish bases here from tech hotspots across the globe,” she said.
“Whether it’s R&D, their European HQ, an entrepreneur or a global giant like Ubisoft, HP or Accenture, we want to bring high quality jobs to the North of England because it is the best place to be.”
Braithwaite (pictured) unexpectedly quit her role last January just six months after launch, with media reports claiming differences with London-based Tech City UK over its increasing control over Tech North’s activities.
Herb Kim, chair of Tech North’s advisory board, took interim control – and has now handed over the reins.
Gregory knows the Northern tech scene inside-out.
He spent 12 years building up North West-based Latitude Digital Marketing into one of the UK’s largest agencies and co-founded the Search, Analytics and Social Conference (SAScon) at Manchester Metropolitan University.
He was elected to the Manchester Digital Council in 2015 and is chairman of Liverpool-based tech start-up Ruler Analytics.
Braithwaite has since gone on to take the role of tech advisor at the Manchester Growth Company.