Dynamo 17 Conference – North East IT companies challenged to get in ‘real world’

Dynamo’s fourth annual conference in Durham challenged tech companies in the region to think about new areas for growth

The North East’s burgeoning IT sector has been challenged to be more in tune with the ‘real world’ around them – including doing more to include older people.

The challenge to the region’s digital companies came from innovation expert Prof James Woudhuysen, who was speaking at the annual Dynamo conference in Durham .

More than 350 delegates from around the region attended the event, held by the body set up to grow the region’s IT and digital economy.

Prof Woudhuysen, a visiting professor at London South Bank University, listed 16 areas he believed the region’s tech sector should explore in order to grow, including mass-manufactured buildings; shale gas and oil; subsea technologies; service robots for old people; electric cars and robot commercial vehicles; quantum technologies and virtual reality technology.

But he also said the region’s technology companies “need to know the world around you – understand what is really happening – in order to identify the opportunities for the sector.”

He added: “The North East has an interest in a lot of these areas and could further exploit them. I’m not flattering the North East, it’s happening, as long as it doesn’t concentrate too much on it start-ups.

“The other thing I want to say is that the future of work is the future of older workers and it’s time we stopped indulging tech-savvy millenials and appreciated older people are going to be a vital part of the workforce. Youth should respect older people and older people should listen to youth.

“Lastly, the North East needs to get its act together, not against the North West or London, or against anyone. Your competitive strength will come from your excellence – make a bigger cake and everyone will come to your door.”

The Dynamo conference, now in its fourth year, featured sessions on ‘The Next Big Thing’ and on ‘How to Build a Successful Tech Business in the North East’.

There were also a number of targeted workshops, with one of the best attended led by Alison Shaw, principal at Northern Futures UTC, and Dynamo co-founder Bob Paton, former managing director at Accenture, which explored what needed to be done to fill the estimated 2,000 to 3,000 vacant roles that currently exist in the regional sector.

Dynamo chairman Charlie Hoult said the event had provided a chance to bring the IT sector together but also to challenge some of its thinking.

He said: “Our speakers were great fun, but also challenged the region’s IT sector to be better and do better. Dynamo 17 was also a fantastic networking opportunity – it has become a must-attend event in the regional calendar and there is no better occasion for those working in the 35,000-strong regional tech sector to catch-up – and also to learn and think.

“The conference was further confirmation that tech in the North East is alive and busy.”

Dynamo was set up in 2013 by Mr Hoult and Mr Paton and is made up of IT organisations and employers, technology hubs, universities, colleges and local government.

The year’s conference was sponsored by Newcastle technology firm Sage with support from Durham County Council, Durham University, the North East LEP, Accenture, Newcastle University, Newcastle College, North East Futures UTC, Forfusion and Business Durham.

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