Dynamo conference 2020
Pannellists discuss how to improve diversity in the region's tech sector

Dynamo's online conference was 'biggest and best'

DYNAMO’S first online conference was also its ‘biggest and best.’

Hundreds of people attended the free virtual conference that had a busy programme of speakers, panels, discussions and exhibitions.

“It’s certainly not what we had planned at the beginning of the year, but we had 600 delegates registered and the feedback we’ve had has been excellent. It was informative, challenging and our biggest and best conference to date,” said Dynamo Chair Charlie Hoult.

Dynamo, the voice of the region’s growing tech sector, announced in April that its annual conference would go ahead in a digital format because of the spread of COVID-19.

The conference was titled ‘Collaborating for Success’ and featured two keynote speakers. Professor Nic Palmarini, the Director of the National Innovation Centre for Ageing (NICA), based at Newcastle University, spoke of how the pandemic crisis had highlighted the issue of ageism.

He went on to describe how the older generation could continue to make vital contributions to society and should never be seen as an expense or burden.

The other keynote speaker was Aaron Harris, Sage’s CTO, who joined the conference from the USA. Aaron informed delegates about Sage’s latest work around Cloud services.

The threats and opportunities posed by the COVID-19 pandemic featured heavily in the conference programme. The first panel session explored how the health sector and society generally had responded to the crisis.

Other sessions examined resilience in the tech sector; looked at the future of tech education in the wake of the pandemic; discussed embracing the post COVID-19 world and examined how to move staff to homeworking.

“It was important we highlighted how the regional tech sector is playing a key role in COVID-19 recovery, and we also wanted to explore the wider response, the challenges and
opportunities,” said Charlie.

Meanwhile, an online expo gave innovative SMEs the opportunity to promote their services and products to larger companies and organisations.

Another panel looked at diversifying tech workforces, with panellists including Prof Sue Black from Durham University and Fareeha Usman, Founder of Being Woman. Prof Aad van Moorsel, Director of the IOC at Newcastle University, led the discussion.

“Diversity is a topic we’ve identified as a priority for Dynamo and the important session gave us some clear direction for the coming months,” said Charlie.

“Our overarching theme was collaboration, a USP of the region’s tech sector and one of the reasons why it is so successful. We wanted to celebrate the collaborative nature of the region’s tech companies and how well we work together,” he added.

Dr Mhairi Aitken, Senior Research Associate at Newcastle University, helped close the conference with her light-hearted Blame in on the Algorithm session, which she has performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Companies involved in the delivery of panel discussions or sessions included: Sage, Waterstons, NELEP, Newcastle University, University of Sunderland, Northumbria University, Teesside University, NHSBSA, DWP, CGI, Edward Reed Recruitment, Amazon Web Services, PNE Group, Jumping Rivers, Capita Consulting, WordNerds and Innovation Supernetwork.

“Obviously it was always going to be difficult to replicate the vibrancy and buzz of a conference online, but we’re delighted at how well this year’s conference went. The online chat was busy with good craic all day and the networking opportunities were popular. Huge thanks to our partners Sage, Newcastle University and Innovation Supernetwork , to our host Charlie Charlton from the BBC – and to BeaconHouse, our event organisers who pulled off a remarkable event in difficult circumstances,” said Charlie.

This was the seventh Dynamo conference, which annually attract delegates from the region’s tech and IT companies, as well as representatives from local public sector organisations, professional services, colleges and universities.

Dynamo North East is a business-led organisation with the core mission of ‘Growing the North East tech economy through collaboration, innovation, skills and noise.’ With more than 160 members, it is made up of IT organisations, large corporate employers in the region, consultants, technology hubs, education providers, local government and suppliers to the industry.

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