The North East has been picked as the first region outside of the Capital to launch a Digital Leaders Local campaign in a bid to boost the local supply chain.
Nine regions of the UK are still being considered at the moment, but the North East is the first to get the go-ahead.
The programme is designed to help senior executives representing the academic, business and public sectors in the North East engage and connect better in order to win contracts they may have otherwise not known about.
It will also enable them to network and discuss how to deliver sustainable digital transformation in the region that will ultimately fuel economic growth.
The initiative has been sponsored with a five-figure sum by Escher Group, a global software solutions company based in Dublin which operates in 35 countries.
Escher hopes the programme will grow by 1,000% by the end of 2014 and 3,000% by end of 2015.
Gary Coyle, leader of the North East initiative and also head of operations UK attended the launch in December at Hotel Du Vin, Newcastle, where he invited guests to form a localised steering group to help set the agenda and focus for 2014.
He explained: “We are investing in the North East as we are developing ‘My Digital Biz’ an inclusive digital platform designed to provide SMEs with the capability to trade, transact and communicate with local and central Government, suppliers, banks, and each other using one platform and one sign in. We are working with GO ON UK and the Federation of Small Businesses with a view to a beta launch in March 2014. The Digital Leaders North East steering group will be made up of influential people in the North East representing business, academia and the public sector.
“They will be setting the agenda and topics for monthly meetings. In time, we are expecting new jobs to be developed as a result of improved communication and collaboration. An office will be set up in the North East at some point soon.
Coyle added: “The programme is essentially a platform that enables the three defined sectors to come together to help identify and fix common social and economic problems in the region – two examples, Digital Skills Vacuum and weak local supply chain. Everyone we met has been very positive towards this new initiative, including Chi Onwurah.”
Chi Onwurah, MP for Newcastle Central, attended the launch and welcomed this new initiative. She said it was crucial for the region to assemble great minds from different sectors to help tackle some of the challenges faced.
Marianne Whitfield, owner and MD of Gateshead-based publisher Cobweb Information is also backing the initiative in the North East.
She said: “There needs to be a cross-pollination of ideas across all sectors both public and private that brings individuals together to discuss everything.
“We need a united group of people and communication is the key. We urgently need to boost the local supply chain and make sure both public and private sectors in the region know what opportunities are available to them in order to grow the local economy.”