LEPs secure bid to bring Digital Catapult to the North East

Sunderland will host one of just three centres in the UK designed to grow digital sector prowess

Paul Woolston
Paul Woolston

The North East has been chosen to host one of just three UK Digital Catapult Centres, tasked with generating thousands of jobs and encouraging investment by 2025.

The Government-backed Digital Catapult, a national centre which aims to develop the UK’s digital prowess, is expected to appoint a group led by the North East LEP and Tees Valley Unlimited to establish a centre in the region.

Sunderland Software City will lead the project following the two LEP’s successful bid, ahead of 17 LEP and local consortia applications across the country.

The Sunderland-based centre, due to open in March next year, will provide space for start-ups and small businesses in the creative and technology sectors to develop and showcase their digital ideas and products.

Armed with £500,000 of funding, the North East consortia will focus specifically on the controlled delivery and security of data so as to increase information sharing amongst businesses and organisations and to open up new business models and revenue streams.

The LEPs will match the funding from Digital Catapult using streams from the Higher Education Funding Council for England, the Research Council, other university funds, EU and ESI funds, local growth funds and in-kind contributions from local businesses and networks.

Other key partners involved in the project include Newcastle University, Durham University, University of Sunderland and Teesside University.

The centre will host a high bandwidth connection linking it with two additional centres planned for Brighton and Bradford and also with the Kings Cross-based Digital Catapult Centre London.

Ed Vaizey MP, Minister for the Digital Economy said “It is an exciting time to be a tech business in the UK. Our digital economy is already one of the strongest markets in the world, valued at more than £100 billion.

“The new Digital Catapult Centre will provide a thriving, state-of-the-art hub for some of the country’s most innovative digital companies and entrepreneurs.”

The Digital Catapult Centre North East and Tees Valley will be tasked with creating links between universities and the local business community to commercialise ideas.

Neil Crockett, chief executive officer of the Digital Catapult said: “The truth is the most exciting digital innovation is happening in local communities, like those across the North East and Tees Valley, who are bringing together new ideas, businesses, universities and the public sector.

“As a national centre, it is important we support and collaborate with these local innovation communities who are doing amazing things in our focus areas.

“The open call has only reinforced our view that there are many brilliant digital innovation communities across the UK, and we hope it is the start to building a whole range of exciting future relationships.”

Paul Woolston, chairman of the North East Local Enterprise Partnership, said, “The North East has a growing reputation as a hub for the digital economy in the UK. With almost 2,000 businesses in the sector, including some of the most creative in the sector, a host of global brands, and the highest rate of start up outside of London and South East, this is a part of our economy which we know can contribute significantly to our plans to deliver more and better jobs.”

“The decision of the Digital Catapult to locate this centre in the North East and Tees Valley is hugely welcome. It is national acknowledgement of our current strong profile and future potential. And it means that the North East and Tees Valley will be at the forefront of a national project to break down barriers in data sharing between businesses.

“This will create a unique opportunity for North East businesses to be at the forefront of innovation in this area, with the potential for new business models and sources of growth for the sector as a whole to be led from our region”

Chris Thompson, partnerships director at the Digital Catapult said: “The North East consortia demonstrated a long-term commitment to supporting business creation, growth and economic impact through data-led innovation.

“They also clearly presented how the Catapult could add significant value to their broader local initiatives and link in with existing university, EU, national and regional funding sources. We hope to work closely with them in the next three years to encourage some truly disruptive innovations.”


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