There has been some controversy around a recent Guardian article which suggested that the North East was on its way to becoming the Detroit of Britain and I wanted to share some of the recent activity that’s taken place in the area that I believe strongly contradicts this.
Recently an event took place in Newcastle which for the very first time saw around 350 people from an array of North East private sector businesses, and the University faculties representing the technology sector and public sector bodies gather together to discuss the IT Economic Growth agenda for the North East Region. The event was called Dynamo 14 and was organised by a group of North East businesses leaders who have come together under the banner of Dynamo North East.
Dynamo North East is comprised of large companies such as Accenture, small and medium sized companies such as Orchard and Opencast, public sector representatives, and the local universities. As the CTO of Sage UKI, I am privileged to be a founder member of Dynamo North East and take great pride in Sage being part of an initiative that supports the regional, and North East businesses in an attempt to create IT jobs and economic growth for the region.
Today, Sage is a global company and the third largest business software vendor in the world. However, only thirty three years ago Sage was itself a North East technology start-up and since that time its growth and success is legendary. As the only FTSE100 Company with its origins and headquarters in the North East and a major employer in the region, on a number of occasions during the event Sage was referenced as the company that most businesses would like to emulate which I was extremely proud of.
The event was opened by Charlie Hoult the Chairman of Dynamo North East, who introduced a plethora of keynote speakers such as the BBC’s Rory Cellan Jones, the TED prize winner Profesor Sugata Mitra, the MP for Newcastle Central Chi Onwurah, the council leader from Newcastle Nick Forbes, Red Hat’s Mark Little, HP’s Lindsay Philips and 40 or so other business speakers from across the region.
The day focused on innovation, collaboration and skills and there were lots of highlights. However, many people, including myself, felt the most inspiring was the presentation from Prof Sugata Mitra and his TED winning story about his “Hole in The Wall” research, whereby he proved that despite some of the harshest environments, people can self learn technology despite all the odds.
Throughout the day there were some fabulous quotes that summed up the transition that the region has made over the past 30 or so years and reflected some of the personal stories and careers of the presenters, i.e. “From Coal Mining to Data Mining”, “From VAT to Virtual Reality” and in the case of Chi who studied computer science at Newcastle University, “From Pascal to Parliament”.
It was clear to see the high level of engagement and collaboration which ultimately resulted in the event being a huge success. Feedback since the event has been hugely positive with both the traditional press and social media channels running many positive follow up stories, e.g. Resurgent Newcastle Mines Data Seams.
Of course this is just the beginning for Dynamo North East and the real measure will be how effective it is at helping the North East Technology sector raise its profile, create IT jobs, and ultimately drive economic growth.