In Business growth and finance, Funding, News

The Digital Catapult has today announced intention to appoint a LEP-led consortia in the North East to support national digital economy drive.

Due to open in March 2015, the Digital Catapult Centre North East & Tees Valley will be located in Sunderland and will provide a physical space for start-ups and small businesses in the creative and technology sectors to develop and showcase their digital ideas and products. They will also be able to use it to connect and collaborate with larger businesses, universities and public sector organisations.

With a united aim of generating thousands of new jobs, driving innovation at a local level and creating millions in linked investment and future funding by 2025, the three local centres will support the London King’s Cross Digital Catapult Centre which was opened today by Ed Vaizey MP, Minister for the Digital Economy.

The Digital Catapult Centre North East & Tees Valley will host a high bandwidth connection linking it with two additional centres planned for Brighton and Bradfordand also with the Digital Catapult Centre London.

The North East based consortia led by the North East LEP and Tees Valley LEP was selected following an open call for partners in July 2014 andchosen from 17 LEP and local consortia bids involving more than 50 business, local authority, SME and university partners (1).

The project will be led by Sunderland Software City on behalf the North East LEP and Tees Valley Unlimited. The consortia will focus specifically on the controlled delivery and security of data so as to increase information sharing amongst businesses and organisations and to open up new business models and revenue streams. Other key partners involved include Newcastle University, Durham University, Northumbria University, University of Sunderland and Teesside University.

Ed Vaizey MP, Minister for the Digital Economy said “It is an exciting time to be a tech business in the UK. Our digital economy is already one of the strongest markets in the world, valued at more than £100 billion. Growth areas including the Internet of Things and digital creative industries are opening up a range of new opportunities for companies in the sector.

“The new Digital Catapult Centre will provide a thriving, state-of-the-art hub for some of the country’s most innovative digital companies and entrepreneurs.”

Activity will run until March 2018, and the consortia will also be tasked with

  • Initiating and collaborating with the Digital Catapult on a range of innovative projects, designed to be accessible to start-up and SME businesses to use and learn from.
  • Creating links between universities and the local business community and networks that enable university led R&D in the Digital Catapult challenge areas to be converted into commercial market opportunities which can be prototyped and piloted by start-ups and SMEs.
  • Helping to develop the higher level skills needed to realise and exploit new data and media capabilities.

Paul Woolston, said, “The North East has a growing reputation as a hub for the digital economy in the UK. With almost 2000 businesses in the sector, including some of the most creative in the sector, a host of global brands, and the highest rate of start up outside of London and South East, this is a part of our economy which we know can contribute significantly to our plans to deliver more and better jobs.”

“The decision of the Digital Catapult to locate this centre in the North East and Tees Valley is hugely welcome. It is national acknowledgment of our current strong profile and future potential. And it means that the North East and Tees Valley will be at the forefront of a national project to break down barriers in data sharing between businesses. This will create a unique opportunity for North East businesses to be at the forefront of innovation in this area, with the potential for new business models and sources of growth for the sector as a whole to be led from our region.”

Sandy Anderson, Chairman of Tees Valley Unlimited, the LEP for Tees Valley, said: “Rapid innovation and digital technology have the potential to help diversify and transform the industrial landscape in Tees Valley.It is fantastic and exciting news for Tees Valley and the North East that we have been appointed to help strengthen the reach of this important sector.

“Being selected to help drive the digital revolution in our region will ensure that firms and entrepreneurs are able to capitalise on emerging opportunities with the Digital Catapult empowering us with the means, support and knowledge to bring ideas to fruition more speedily and effectively.”

Chris Thompson, Partnerships Director at the Digital Catapult said: “The North East consortia demonstrated a long-term commitment to supporting business creation, growth and economic impact through data-led innovation. They also clearly presented how the Catapult could add significant value to their broader local initiatives and link in with existing university, EU, national and regional funding sources. We hope to work closely with them in the next three years to encourage some truly disruptive innovations.”

The Digital Catapult initially will support the LEPs with resources and collaborative support of up to £500,000. This includes the cost of setting up the local Digital Catapult centre, costs for developing and delivering projects agreed and aligned with the Catapult’s focus areas and for use of Catapult resources to support engagement and initiatives.

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