im Mawdsley (Generator & Digital Union) Dominic Murphy (Geek Talent), Jennifer Barrett (TICE), Pete
Jamie Hardesty

‘Kick the doors down!’, cluster leader wants more from North East tech after record year

North East digital network Digital Union held its yearly review at Wylam Brewery this week, bringing together region-wide talent to look back on a remarkable year for North East tech, whilst discussing future challenges faced by the sector.

“We are smashing it, but there’s more work to be done”, surmised Generator CEO Jim Mawdsley, who led the event.

Business support agency Generator took over the Union’s reigns last year and the ever-vociferous Mawdsley has cemented himself as one of the North East’s most recognised proponents of pushing the region’s digital creative industries further.

Jim explained: “We feel it’s been a great year for all the businesses that make up the sector and we are certainly growing in the North East.

“As we reported recently, the tech sector in the North East grew by 14.9% in 2015 – twice the national average and 4.1% ahead of London.

“22% of our businesses are in the high growth category – second in the UK and 2% more than London and the North East contributed £1.359 Billion in GVA to the UK economy last year.

“Leeds, Sheffield and Liverpool combined only out perform us by £27 million. We are smashing it, but it’s not all good news, and we need to do more.”

Growth barriers

Despite the region’s outstanding Tech Nation Report results of late, tech sector growth inevitably brings about greater challenges.

Speaking as part of a panel at the event, Dominic Murphy of Sunderland-based digital recruitment business Geek Talent was keen to address an ever-present problem faced in the region - the skills gap. A growth barrier which may widen as North East tech companies continue to start and scale up.

“New digital businesses are being created twice as fast as non-digital businesses, reaching 28% between 2010 and 2015,” explained Mr Murphy.

“Existing revenue growth during the same period is over 22% or £30 billion pounds – that’s the same as 19 new Sage’s being created in this period – that is phenomenal.

“Existing non-digital industries are being digitised at an even faster rate – just look at the public sector, manufacturing, banking – these are becoming automated and digitised at an extremely fast pace. We cannot keep pace with existing digital business growth never mind the rise in new technologies and industries.

“The city in third place in the whole of the country with the fastest rise in digital jobs – is Sunderland, yet we have less than 50% of schools with any computer science provision at GCSE level. Also, if your company doesn’t offer entry level roles, you are contributing to the skills gap.”

Closing the evening Jim Mawdsley added: “We want to be huge and we all need to work together. The councils, the entire education sector, and businesses all need to play their part and fight for it. We need strategies and the resource to make sure we can implement these strategies.

“To be huge we have to think big. Everyone has to act big and kick the doors down to get to where we want and can be. We all need a Digital Union and thanks to our members, we have one!”

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