THIS is an area where the Tees Valley is again leading from the front.
The world wide web is now an essential tool for any business.
Sophisticated website design, secure on-line trading and innovative use of internet technology are all ways to improve business performance and boost competitiveness.
Technology is also opening the door to new ways of working.
Remote working is now a viable option for many companies and benefits include lower overheads, better customer satisfaction, staff retention, more productivity, an easing in congestion and a reduction in carbon emissions as there is less need to commute.
It also offers businesses a greater choice in the market place and the option of flexible hours to accommodate the needs of different staff.
So it’s clear that development of information communication and technology are all vital for the region’s economic success.
At the Evening Gazette on-line expansion has been a key priority.
More than 100,000 unique users a month now log on to the paper’s online site - www.gazettelive.co.uk The website is driven from a new multimedia newsroom in which journalists produce content for both print and digital publication.
Video reports, blogs and picture galleries can all be found on the site and we also now provide hourly news bulletins from 9am to 5pm, allowing us to break news later than ever before.
The Evening Gazette has also launched a series of community microsites, ultra-local sites split into postcode areas for relevant news where you live.
The work has led to the site being named the best in Britain.
Gazettelive.co.uk, triumphed against the likes of The Sun, The Telegraph and the BBC at the UK Association of Online Publishers Awards 2007.
The accolades, widely recognised as the “online oscars”, saw the Gazette named Online Community 2007 and Website 2007.
The achievement came hot on the heels of gazettelive winning the title, Website of the Year in July at the UK Press Gazette Regional Press Awards 2007.
The Tees Valley is nurturing a vibrant digital industry sector.
Digital City’s aim is to realise the Tees Valley’s potential to generate and sustain a fastgrowing, high-level economic base in the digital technologies sector with an international reputation for creativity and innovation.
More than £20m has been spent on the creation of two new buildings at the University of Teesside.
Plus the project is aiming to develop and regenerate the area around Middlesbrough’s railway station.
More than £17m is set to be spent creating the core of the DigitalCity Boho Zone in the area of Queen’s Square, Exchange Square and the railway station in Middlesbrough.
One aim of the project is to halt the “brain drain” of graduates from the University of Teesside.
Traditionally graduates in digital media and technology have left for jobs elsewhere in the country.
The creative quarter will be in Victorian properties and proposed new buildings clustered around the centre of Middlesbrough.
Newcastle’s Xsite Architecture has designed an office building that is proposed to form the centrepiece of the DigitalCity Boho quarter.
The £7.5m Digital Enterprise Centre would provide home for start-up and growing businesses offering the latest technological infrastructure.
DigitalCity - www.thedigitalcity.org - is looking to build on the expertise and reputation the University of Teesside has built up in the field.
The initiative is being spearheaded by a partnership involving Middlesbrough Council, University of Teesside and agencies such as One NorthEast and Tees Valley Partnership.
Boho complements the wider Digital City project which takes in the £12m Institute of Digital Innovation and a £10m Centre for Creative Technologies.
The Athena Centre for Creative Technologies is situated on the corner of Southfield Road and Woodlands Road.
The £10m new building, on the site of the former YMCA, will be shared by more than 1,000 undergraduates studying art, design, media and computing and encourage collaboration across different academic disciplines.
Exciting new courses are in the pipeline to combine the university’s academic strengths in areas like digital media with computer games and animation now that many of these students are studying under the same roof.
Among the first to benefit are BA (Hons) Multimedia Journalism Professional Practice students who have their own high-tech multimedia convergent news rooms.
This will enable them to learn traditional journalistic skills alongside audio and video editing using an editorial system networked to the Evening Gazette’s.
The course content has been developed in cooperation with the Gazette and is accredited by the National Council for the Training of Journalists (NCTJ) and approved by Trinity Mirror, Britain’s biggest regional newspaper publisher.
The £12m Phoenix Building is home to the Institute of Digital Innovation (IDI) which has been built on the former Evening Gazette car park on Stephenson Street in Middlesbrough town centre.
The IDI will house the DigitalCity project team, which aims to create 300 jobs and 130 companies in three years.
The building will create a hub for digital industries companies and ensure the university’s academic excellence can be converted into business creation and growth.
It builds on the university’s success of internationally-recognised work in digital application and content development including animation, computer games, digital film and sound, visualisation and virtual reality.
The top floor will be focussed on supporting the digital industries and companies seeking to develop of strengthen links with research and enterprise in the university can lease high quality office unit of up to 1,000sq ft each.
The second floor will include studio space for 32 DigitalCity Fellows at a time. Postgraduate studios will also be based on this floor.
The first floor will have specialist facilities for research groups and the ground floor will house the DigitalCity offices.
IDI director Jim TerKeurst, said: “The IDI and the whole DigitalCity project are going to demonstrate the potential for innovation in the Tees Valley and the wider region.”
Journalism and other students from the School of Arts and Media will also benefit from other new developments on the expanding campus, including the university’s acquisition of part of the Evening Gazette offices on Borough Road.
Now known as the Cook Building after Captain James Cook, the interior in the university half has been transformed with workshops for wood, metal, plaster, resin and glass on the lower floors and the first and second floors having two large customised design studios and an IT suite for computeraided design.
A smaller convergent newsroom will enable the university to run professional training courses for journalists.
The fourth floor and terraced area will be occupied by the Drawing Centre for Fine Art which relocated from Cleveland College of Art and Design.
Tees Valley’s place at the forefront of digital development is also recognised with the annual Animex event.
Every year Animex delivers an enviable list of speakers and contributors from around the world to create what is one of the best events on the festival calendar.
The event has been a sell out for the last eight years and continues to bring some of the biggest names in the business to town.
Last year renowned international animator Andy Lomas and Wallace and Gromit coproducer David Sproxton were amongst the speakers.
More details from http://animex.tees.ac.uk/