Dynamo’s March Advisory Board Meeting

Sophie Mazrekaj, 24th March 2020

This month, England’s No. 1 college Gateshead College kindly hosted the Dynamo Advisory Board meeting.

First, we heard from Dawn Dunn, Dynamo’s Fintech Cluster Manager. Dawn has been working to establish a steering group for the cluster which continues to go from strength to strength, with a whole host of new contacts joining in the last month.

Dawn also updated us on the Professional Services cluster, which is gaining traction with more and more businesses understanding the need to engage with the tech sector.

We moved on to discuss Service Delivery Centres, one of the clusters led by Laura Kemp. Laura recently launched an online SDC community with a newsletter that went out to 65 subscribers, if you’d like to sign up to receive the newsletter you can do so here.

Laura is working on the creation of an automation bootcamp to help SMEs on their automation journeys. These smaller companies can learn from the large corporates who have already been through their automation journeys and are aware of the pitfalls. In addition to the bootcamp, the cluster is planning another big event, this time around tech to deliver service excellence – watch this space!

Finally, Laura updated us on a pilot project she is working on with Proto, whereby students will be given the opportunity to work on real projects from SMEs in the north east tech sector. There are three universities involved in this digital hub which promises to deliver invaluable experience for students, as well as some fresh eyes and ideas for local businesses.

This month’s board discussion point was ‘How can we align with other tech and digital networks in the north east to achieve more for the region?’. As ever, there was a lively debate which was kicked off by an informal presentation given by Charlie Hoult, outlining the opportunities presented by the NoT £10m fund.

In order to utilise the fund and devise a unified strategy for the region, there are many questions that first need to be answered, including:

  • Should we build on our capacity for sectors that aren’t yet represented in the region? Or shall we work with sectors that are already embedded here?
  • What is unique to the North East? What do we have that no one else has?
  • Where are we already strong?
  • Why are we good at what we do?
  • What impact will the investment have?
  • Do any other regions have examples for us to learn from?

Laura Partridge of the NE LEP suggested that a global perspective is important. Successful plans will likely fit into local, regional, national and global agendas. If a proposition only fits into one category it will probably be viewed as weak, ‘micro’ and inward-looking.

It is important to look at the bigger picture, the money should not be divided too much and spread too thinly into sub-sectors, let’s look instead to win big and seed long-term, tangible impacts for the region. A cross-cutting, broad sector like data would be an ideal focus as it would have an impact on multiple industries.

The overall objective of the fund is to increase employment generally, with a thread of digital as digital adoption and digital transformation are high on the government agenda. This means that the tech sector can drive the strategy and in turn, Dynamo has the ability to lead on North East opportunities.

Giselle Stewart of Ubisoft suggested we take forward the ‘online harms’ theme; she has been working with Alastair Irons; Academic Dean for the Faculty of Technology at Sunderland University to develop a new programme alongside the national crime agency and local police. Could this be a good place to start?

Matt Oakley of Capgemini raised the point of PR and media – we’re not good at shouting about how great we are as a region at present, which means that companies don’t necessarily consider the North East when considering where to relocate or do business. To that end, should there be media investment into telling the story of the tech sector in the north east? Can we generate a narrative to create a buzz about the region?

Becky Strachan of Northumbria University stressed that diversity is still an issue, to improve this the environments of businesses need to be inclusive. Dawn Dunn interjected that if we attract inward investment, we will create jobs and will therefore attract a more diverse range of employees.

Last but by no means least, Jon Ridley of Newcastle College stressed the importance of keeping the seven local authorities working together, we must not create divisions. Everyone agreed on that!

Next month’s Advisory Board meeting is likely to be held virtually rather than at the NHSBSA offices as originally planned.


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