Region's digital industry can add billions to the economy

Better collaboration with local industry and public services is 'a must' if the North of England's booming digital tech sector is to go on and thrive, according to a new report.

Leeds has a growing reputation as a digital hub, particularly in the health sector, according to The Digital Powerhouse report.

The leaders of a government-backed initiative aimed at accelerating the growth of the North’s digital tech industry acknowledged how the creation of digital jobs in the region is increasing at ten times the rate of employment opportunities in other sectors, but said that the North’s Digital Powerhouse is still “some way” from fulfilling its potential.

By raising digital productivity to the national average for tech workers, an extra £5.7bn would be fed into the northern economy, the Tech North report found.

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It also documents how increasing the rate of digital self-employment in line with the national average would result in more than 9,700 extra tech founders.

The report’s author, Benedict Dellot, associate director of the Royal Society of Arts, said: “The tech industry conjures up images of billion dollar IPOs (initial public offerings), celebrity founders and cult brand followings. Our report argues that the North’s tech clusters can pioneer a different way of doing tech.

“Rather than be isolated and inward-looking, tech businesses should be woven into the fabric of their local communities.

“Whether it is an EdTech company working with local schools to bring e-learning into the classroom, or a data analytics company helping manufacturers improve machine efficiency on the factory floor, the scope for win-win collaborations in the North is vast.”

The report notes that the North’s digital sector is already fuelling economic growth and that digital workers in the North are paid 60 per cent more than workers in the rest of the economy.

It states that HealthTech has become a “strong suit” for Leeds, while Manchester has a world-class digital marketing cluster and Liverpool has a reputation for expertise in ‘the Internet of Things’.

James Bedford, head of investment strategy at Tech North, added: “We commissioned this report to highlight the many assets and opportunities for collaboration and growth on our doorstep.”

And, Mr Bedford, added: “We hope this report not only reveals opportunities but also inspires tech companies to forge new paths to unlock new marketplaces.”