The Deputy Prime Minister is today (23 October) visiting a tech hub in Sheffield to announce the creation of TechNorth – a major new Northern Futures project bringing the pockets of excellence in tech industries from across the North together to form an internationally renowned virtual hub.
TechNorth will be part of Tech City UK, set up to co-ordinate the existing digital technology expertise of Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, Liverpool and the North East tech cluster (Newcastle, Sunderland and the Tees Valley) building on the work of Baroness Shields and the Tech City UK Cluster Alliance. It will do what Tech City UK has done for East London - put TechNorth on the international map.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said:
We’ve listened to local business leaders and there is a clear need for us to seize an opportunity to capitalise on existing tech talent by creating a northern tech hub to rival Berlin, New York, or Shanghai.
My ambition, over time, is to double the number of tech jobs in the North, creating a stronger economy. To put this in context, it is estimated there are about 200,000 ICT jobs in the region currently.
Time is of the essence, so I’m in Sheffield today to bring creative minds from across the North together so that we can grow this from an idea into reality.
As a first step, I am announcing the creation of TechNorth, an extension of Tech City UK, tasked with promoting a world-class tech cluster spanning 5 cities in the North.
TechNorth will co-ordinate the many pockets of excellence dotted around the region – including the existing digital technology expertise of Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, Liverpool and the North East tech cluster. It will do what Tech City UK has done for East London – put it on the international map.
TechNorth will, working through UK Trade and Investment (UKTI), help to attract inward investors in the tech industry to the North and support existing tech businesses to grow by pooling ideas and resources across local boundaries. Together we can position the North as a place where the digital tech industry thrives.
Plans will involve inspiring a tech-savvy workforce and working with start-ups to help them source the funding capital they need.
It is estimated that collectively, Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, Liverpool and the North East tech cluster have over 20,000 businesses in the tech, media and telecoms industries. There’s a growing body of evidence which suggests that, to compete with San Francisco, Shanghai, Bangalore, Berlin and London, a cluster needs to reach a point of critical mass. This could be reached by attracting large inward investors which would have a magnetising effect to attract spin off businesses and support supply chains.
Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg continued:
Today I’m proposing we press ahead with an idea that’s been submitted to Northern Futures – to create a world-class tech cluster in the North.
As a first step, I can confirm government will be investing in an organisation that promotes TechNorth internationally to encourage global businesses to invest here.
Alongside this, TechNorth will look at the case for investment in digital skills to ensure these companies have a local pool of talented people and have access to the finance they need to grow.
Baroness Shields, Chair of Tech City UK said:
Tech businesses are driving economic growth and tapping into the unique strengths and talents of our great cities like Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, Liverpool and the North East. This initiative builds on the phenomenal success of Tech City UK in London, helping extend this success into the North with the Tech Cluster Alliance, and will help us power the global success story for the whole of the UK.
TechNorth will work through UKTI to harmonise the existing clusters of industry in the 5 leading cities and build the brand of a northern tech hub.
East London has become one of the world’s foremost digital technology centres through the growth of digital business and the maturing of support ecosystem.
Alongside this, the work of government, Tech City UK, and Baroness Shields as well as a national pro-business environment such as generous tax breaks for seed investors, reduced corporation tax and a regulatory reform agenda, have helped to drive the growth of the East London cluster and the sector overall.
TechNorth will attract, support and retain tech talent across the North and to create a tech-savvy workforce. Firms will be able to access the capital they need to start up and grow quickly due to a lack of angel networks, early tech investors in the North. TechNorth will play the role of a ‘superconnector’, linking start-ups to potential investors through events and pitch sessions.