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The Digital Powerhouse report: Why it’s needed and what’s next
Traditionally, tech startups are fuelled by investment from angels and VCs, often with founders comparing how much they’ve raised rather than how much they’ve sold. The creation of the new co-investment fund will help solve the current difficulties raising finance but we must look wider than that to grow the sector to its full potential.
It was this in mind that we decided to commission research to examine the market opportunities available to tech clusters in the North and how we can develop new ways of accessing these markets.
The report suggests that it is within the gift of the North to grow its own tech sector through better collaboration between the clusters and local markets.
Innovative ways of connecting supply chains to tech companies are important if we’re to maximise the potential of the tech sector. From new thinking around public procurement and sharing data to collaboration between start-ups and large corporates, the reports uses case studies to illustrate the possibilities available.
Corporate accelerators are championed in the report as an effective way of getting tech start-ups to deliver solutions for large clients. Liverpool-based Livinglens profited from the Collider accelerator programme, Carl Wong notes:
“Support from accelerators like Collider and large companies like Unilever is vital for tech startups like ourselves. Still real and live, but like a trapeze with a safety net – if you get it wrong in their safe environment you’ll live to get feedback and try again.
“Having access to large brands and learning to navigate the vastness of their processes is a positive any small business can benefit from.”
The devolution of public sector services is another area that could bring sizeable benefit to Northern tech clusters, because the market opportunity is so big. Liz Whiteley from Methods tells us:
“Northern businesses are well placed to provide much needed digital innovation to the region’s public sector, particularly within the £31 billion health and social care market.”
Tech is already the fastest growing sector in the UK, but it must be encouraged to grow even faster to meet the aspirations of the Northern Powerhouse. The prospects of high growth and new jobs is not just limited to the sector itself; ‘digital’ is an enabler, helping the whole economy become more efficient and productive.
In order to capitalise on the global trend of digitisation, our tech clusters must be supported to take advantage of the local market opportunities. Smart cities are an example of how tech companies, empowered to make products for their local city, can utilise this expertise to deliver similar solutions around the world.
Through roundtables and interviews, the North has enthusiastically shared knowledge of a range of assets and opportunities, offering case studies and best practise. The report is intended as a playbook to inspire partners to undertake new ways of working that can positively impact the Northern economy.
I am arranging further roundtables in June and July, themed on the three chapters: public procurement; corporate supply chains; and data assets. We will consider the actions and discuss ways of taking them forward.
Tech North was established to support the tech sector because it is so important to future economic growth in the North of England. The productivity gap between the North and South of England continues to be a challenging issue. Perhaps the tech community can lead the way in closing it and supporting the economy as it moves towards becoming a Digital Powerhouse.
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Email James Bedford, Head of Investment Strategy at Tech North: firstname.lastname@example.org to share your comments and suggestions.