'Grim up North'…not from where we're sitting
In response to Sun Tech Mission 2009: it’s (still) grim up North
I find the article very disappointing. In the past 10 years that I have been involved in the digital industry and networking across the North East, things have changed dramatically. There’s a tangible buzz across both the public and private sectors about what’s going on here. Its difficult to know where to start.
We have seen organisations driven by the public sector such as Digital City, IDI, Codeworks, and Software City gather momentum and profile on a local, national and international stage helping to turn around such perceptions of the North East.
These organisations are helping to promote digital innovation and playing a key role in supporting enterprise and entrepreneurship. They are encouraging great ideas to become great businesses, while supporting existing digital companies, from animation to web technologies, to expand their networks, develop their skills and access new markets.
We’ve also seen the growth of groups such as Refresh Teesside, Super Mondays, and Thursday Fizz which are proving successful at developing new communities and generating genuinely exciting conversations. These groups, spread across the region, are driven by passionate private sector businesses and individuals to create new industry networks, meet contacts (which often in the North East become friends), share ideas, and promote collaboration.
Other organisations such as the Entrepreneurs Forum with its IfWeCanYouCan Campaign (which i understand is unique to the North East), and the members involved in them, are fully committed to harnessing the buzz by supporting businesses and signposting them to the best advice, mentoring, investment networks and resources. To be honest from what we’ve seen, the results of this have been absolutely unquestionable.
We speak to a number of people regularly (often this is at some of these great events) from digital companies in these networks including Visualsoft, THAP, Mango, AYO Media, Hedgehog Lab, Leighton Group and OrangeBus who are all, amongst others, developing enviable regional, national and in some cases, international reputations.
From both an individual and business point of view, the North East is a great place to be. For students and new graduates i feel that this is also true which seems to be backed up by this video (from Thinking Digital: The Next Generation) – http://www.vimeo.com/3878837 – i watched Paul Callaghan’s (Chairman of Leighton Group) speech at this excellent event, held in the lead up to Thinking Digital 09, and it was truly inspirational. I wish i could find the full video for this as it was first class when it came to fully justifying why the north east is the place to be for digital start up and support. I am also involved in a Codeworks project to increase critical private sector and University engagement to influence how students are prepared for the digital industry and ensure our graduates are some of the most exciting across the UK. Again, this is not a quick fix but a long term plan to build on the Universities growing reputations and continue to reverse the traditional graduate flow out of the North East.
For me, there are clear reasons why any start up or existing digital business would want to base itself in the North East.