Prof Jane Turner
Jamie Hardesty

Member Article

Teesside University tells PM to ‘think digital’ with Catalyst for Growth vision

With Theresa May announcing her green paper on the UK’s industrial strategy, Teesside University has published its own blueprint for boosting business and employment in the Tees Valley.

The document challenges the government to ‘think digital’ as it unveils its DigitalCity – Catalyst for Growth vision which sets out a five-point plan for the region to become recognised for “the superior digital capability of its businesses”.

The new report from DigitalCity – a partnership between the University and the Tees Valley Combined Authority which works with both digital and non-digital business to stimulate digital innovation and investment – builds on the recommendations in Lord Heseltine’s Tees Valley: Opportunity Unlimited reportto secure a “strong and sustainable economic future for the Tees Valley”.

Plan of action

Specifically, the University – through its DigitalCity partnership – will focus on five key areas as a catalyst for growth within the Tees Valley:

1. Creating a new generation of digital businesses – nurturing digital start-ups and providing hubs where they can grow.

2. Supporting the growth of businesses through digital – unlocking the growth potential of traditional businesses through digital innovation.

3. Transforming sectors with digital knowledge – providing businesses with research and expertise to improve their competitiveness.

4. Preparing businesses for Industry 4.0 – helping businesses get ready for the influence of automation and digital supply chains.

5. Growing digital skills and talent – giving people and businesses the digital know-how they need for the future.

In launching the strategy, the University’s Pro Vice-Chancellor for Enterprise and Business Engagement Professor Jane Turner said that DigitalCity – Catalyst for Growth provided “an opportunity for the Tees Valley to put real power behind its ambitious plans for the economy”.

This would include directly supporting Tees Valley targets to increase start-ups by 25% and creating 25,000 jobs by 2025, and helping to close the regional and national digital skills gap which costs the UK £63 billion a year in lost GDP.

“Digital defines the way we do business today,” Professor Turner explained. “For traditional industries, the extent to which they adapt to digital change is a major factor in deciding whether they succeed, stall or fail in the future. At the same time, digital is the driving force powering the growth of new businesses and new sectors.”

Reaction

Business leaders within the Tees Valley and wider region praised the University’s approach to redefining the region. “Teesside University is a driving force behind the digital transformation of the Tees Valley’s economy, playing a vital role in connecting our region to new opportunities and networks,” said Andrew Lewis, Managing Director of the Tees Valley Combined Authority.

“It is clear that Teesside University understands the digital challenge facing businesses in the region and, through DigitalCity, the kind of support they need,” concurred James Ramsbotham, Chief Executive of the North East Chamber of Commerce. “It’s important that businesses look to the University as a partner who can help them make the changes they need and build the capability for the future.”

Sarah Glendinning, CBI North East Regional Director, added: “Effective collaboration between the HE sector and business has a crucial contribution to make, not only to individual firms’ competitiveness but also to UK regional and national economic growth. For Tees Valley businesses to thrive it is critical that they tap into the proven skills and expertise at Teesside University so they can prepare for a digital future.”

Professor Turner concluded: “We believe that it is only by working together – with government, partners and businesses – that we can really fulfil the potential we see for the Tees Valley. This must be a team effort.”

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