Sarah Thackray, 22nd June 2020
It seems a lifetime ago now when, back in December 2013, I first met Charlie Hoult and he told me about the group he and Bob Paton, previous MD of Accenture’s Newcastle delivery centre, had started. They had grand plans to coalesce the region’s big players in IT. They wanted to find out who considered themselves a part of the north East’s tech sector, and what they did. They wanted my help to bring people together to share their stories, make connections, and talk about how they could create more great things in the region.
It seems appropriate now, the week of Dynamo’s 7th annual conference to reflect a little on all that has passed since that first meeting, and all that Dynamo has – and is still – becoming today.
In that first year we had a handful of contact details between us, a few connections and a good space in which to gather folk. Newcastle’s Civic Centre became centre stage for our first event; Dynamo 14, “Defining the North East’s tech sector”.
I had delivered some recent events in London where I’d got to know the BBC science correspondent Pallab Ghosh. So a quick call later and Pallab had put me in touch with the BBC’s tech journalist Rory Cellan-Jones. I remember that first call with Rory (made from my parents in law spare bedroom where we were temporarily living between house renovations and with a newborn baby – thank goodness it wasn’t a zoom call!) to explain what we were trying to achieve up in the north east, and would he please come up and be our keynote and conference compere for the day. “Of course, I’d be delighted” said Rory. I’m not sure what I said about our yet to be designed conference but whatever it was he seemed happy to give it a shot.
With a full schedule lined up from all corners of the region’s IT crowd, Rory turned up at that first conference, on 1st May 2014, in his Google Glass, perhaps living the tech journalist stereotype. He was a true geek. Brilliantly absorbed by the stories he read, and the tech he consumed. He told the 300 delegates that day that Newcastle should never try to be like Silicon Valley. That we had to find our own DNA. What makes our region’s sector special, what makes our IT community tick? We had also used our powers of persuasion to get Prof Sugata Mitra of Newcastle University to deliver his TED talk on “building a school in the cloud”; an inspirational piece of work around human interaction with IT and tech, and how people self-learn.
That day had set a fire alight in the north east. We had uncovered a thirst for the previously largely hidden sector to come out of hiding and connect, share, be inspired and learn.
That year flew by with the conference quickly followed by the launch of the first Dynamites awards, a celebration of the best of the North East’s tech sector, and support from our community increasing.
Shortly after that, recognising that we needed an infrastructure to support the ongoing work and representation for the sector, we launched a membership scheme in early 2015.
Fast forward 5 years and we have delivered 6 years of conferences, events and awards hosted by our region’s great universities, we have grown a membership to more than 170 member organisations and we have more than 40 senior people on our advisory board from across academia, public sector, corporates, SMEs and suppliers to industry. We have helped bring some big projects and investment to the region and continue to champion the sector to those outside it. Since 2016 we have been delivering a catalysing innovation programme of activity partnered by the Innovation Supernetwork and now have a brilliant cluster team at Dynamo doing great things to support our members. And perhaps most importantly we are continuing to uncover and discover the incredible things about this region’s tech sector. Our ethos hasn’t changed. We exist to help grow the north East’s tech sector.
I am now one of the directors of Dynamo North East CIC and am incredibly proud of this region, and grateful for the many people I’ve met along my Dynamo journey. I am excited about the next phase of Dynamo, and how far we can support our region’s brilliant tech sector to develop.
Our seventh annual conference is poised and ready for the off. This time completely virtual, and completely free, we still have great people, great content and great planning applied. Charlie Charlton will hold the day together once again with her enthusiasm for innovation and regional pride. Keynotes from NICA’s Director Nic Palmarini, Sage’s CTO Aaron Harris and breakout panels and talks that represent all that the north east is doing. Collaborating for success is the theme, and here in the north east, where it is often said you can wrap your arms around the region, collaboration is undeniably present, perhaps more crucially now than ever.
Join us this Thursday, 25th June. It’s completely free to attend and we’d love to see you there. Drop in when you can. Sign up here.
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