The North East is home to a huge range of digital and tech businesses of different shapes and sizes, ranging from start-ups and micro-businesses to established global leaders. We have successful collaborations between education and industry, and we have a number of established digital hubs and networks which are a huge asset to the sector.
This all adds up to a compelling regional offer – when it is coordinated and presented as greater than the sum of its parts.
That’s why we’ve been working with partners to create a Digital for Growth – a digital strategy for the North East which presents a collaborative, cohesive North East digital economy that is leading the digitalisation of industry and improving the quality of life of the people who live, work, study and visit the North East.
The strategy presents a pipeline of activity which will be reviewed and refined on an ongoing basis to reflect emerging opportunities and respond to challenges.
The North East Strategic Economic Plan, which is the roadmap for creating more and better jobs here in our region, identifies digital as an area of opportunity for the region. The new Digital Strategy takes this further, building on the evidence base in the Strategic Economic Plan and identifying strategic themes where we can add value.
One of these themes is data. The region hosts a rich R&D base in data science and data analytics, potentially giving the North East distinct global advantage. There are opportunities for us to use this expertise to bring market opportunities and growth to our region.
Secondly, we have digital infrastructure and connectivity. It’s important that no business or community in the North East is restricted by lack of connectivity or infrastructure and this is an area we will be addressing through Digital for Growth.
Thirdly, in the area of digital collaboration and enterprise, we have a strong and demonstrable track record in design, innovation and creativity and their successful translation into businesses. We want to see more of this, and to strengthen the relationship between creativity and innovation, encouraging the translation of ideas into new products, solutions and businesses and supporting innovation-led tech start-ups
The final theme is workforce, and the recognition that we must explore and challenge the breadth and complexity of the ‘digital skills gap’. We want to build an inclusive and resilient labour market by addressing skills shortages via education, business and society. We want to broaden understanding and ownership of challenges and make careers in digital attractive and possible for all.
While the North East Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) is leading on the development and delivery of Digital for Growth, shared ownership is key to its success and a steering group and delivery groups, including partners and experts in each of the four key areas, will help to shape delivery.
We undoubtedly have a lot to shout about within our digital sector, but we also have some challenges to face, and we must acknowledge that there is no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to defining the North East digital ecosystem. By its nature, digital cuts across all sectors and touches all our communities.
Digital is also key to growing our economy, ensuring our businesses have a competitive advantage, and bringing new jobs and investment to our region.
Over the coming weeks and months we’ll be working closely with the ambitious, entrepreneurial and innovative people who make up our digital sector to bring together the North East digital offer and take advantage of opportunities to create more and better jobs here in the North East.
You can read the Digital Strategy here, and you can join the conversation on Twitter using #DigitalForGrowth.
Laura Partridge, Digital Programme Lead, North East Local Enterprise Partnership.