Strengths of North East digital technology cluster highlighted in new report to woo investors and policy makers

Machine-to-machine communications and software-as-a-service (Saas) were noted among the region's top areas of expertise

Paul Smith of Ignite 100
Paul Smith of Ignite 100

The strengths of the North East digital technology cluster have been identified as part of a major piece of national research designed to inform investors and policy-makers.

Some 2,000 businesses, including many in the region, were surveyed for the “Tech Nation” data report, developed by Tech City UK, the quango charged with accelerating the digital cluster in East London.

The report found some 26,856 people were employed in the digital technology industry in the region and there had been a 24% increase in new digital companies between 2010 and 2013.

Analysis of the region’s perceived strengths highlighted machine-to-machine communications (M2M), cloud computing, software-as-a-service (Saas), web services, systems design and integration as top areas of expertise and prowess.

The North East was noted among the strongest clusters for software development and video games production.

Regional respondents also said access to property and a general positive perception of the region were among the key growth drivers for the cluster here.

Ignite100’s Paul Smith, one of the 43 representatives from various regional clusters interviewed for the project, said the combined support of established digital companies, local academic institutions, sector support organisations such as Sunderland Software City and local government will ensure growth continues in the North East cluster for years to come.

He added: “Tech Nation shows that digital businesses are driving the economic growth of the North East. Our specialisms in M2M communications and cloud computing are developing a reputation for digital excellence that is attracting talent and finance to the area.”

The chief executive officer of Sunderland Software City, David Dunn, was also interviewed to inform the report.

Andrew Robson, founder and director of North East IT solutions provider Perfect Image, added: “We established our business in the North East almost 25 years ago and have chosen to remain in the region and continue to grow our operations here due to the quality of staff and specialties in the local eco-system.

“The North East is now rightly being recognised for the opportunities it offers local digital entrepreneurs and inward investors.

Using national employment data collected by Duedil, and qualitative interviews, the Tech Nation report aims to catalogue digital capabilities across the UK.

The report was based on analysis of “intrinsically digital” companies, rather than technology firms which merely use digital channels for buying, selling or exchanging information.

Tech Nation shows some 1.46 million digital jobs exist across the country, with 74% of digital technology firms operating outside of London.

Commenting on the launch of the report, the Prime Minister said the Government was committed to supporting the growth of the UK’s digital industry and remarked on the “entrepreneurial spirit” the Tech Nation report showcased.

Gerard Grech, CEO Tech City UK, said: “I believe our findings will help inform policy-makers, investors and the wider business community about the sheer breadth and depth of the UK’s digital prowess.

“This is the first time that the UK’s digital clusters have been so thoroughly analysed, revealing their strengths and importance to the digital economy. It shines a powerful spotlight on how far we’ve come in the digital tech sector, and where we are heading.”

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