Dynamo’s May 2020 Advisory Board Meeting

Usually the Dynamo advisory board meets monthly on the second Monday, however May’s meeting was moved to a Tuesday to ensure we were available to attend the launch of the second North East Digital Festival and instead invite our board members to join us at Teesside University for the annual games and animation festival, Animex. Unfortunately, both the North East Digital Festival and Animex have been postponed.

Instead on Monday, I was pleased to be involved in a celebration of the region’s tech sector, with the launch of the second publication of the One Region, One Sector, One Statement. This statement, just the tip of a growing iceberg, aim to highlight some of the region’s specialism and amazing success stories. Written as a collaboration with Digital Union, Sunderland Software City and many others, the statement actually represents much more than just the region’s digital sector, with highlights from Space, Clean Energy and Health & Ageing it is truly exciting to read about the digital innovations happening in all sectors, across the region.

You can view the 2020 One Region, One Sector, One Statement document here and watch the launch event here.

We gave some brief updates on our cluster work – still focussing on being useful during these rapidly changing circumstances, both in the form of virtual events and one-to-one support. Cluster managers Phil and Dawn have both been recording 5-minute interviews with members, introducing their businesses, talking about what they’re doing at the moment and what they’re changing.

Past and future fireside chats can be viewed here, and a full list of upcoming webinars is available here.

Phil also updated on the ORCANE business case for a Cyber Security Centre in the region, which would act as an incubator and knowledge hub, connecting with 4 of the region’s universities to link to new business creation. The model is similar to that of LORCA in London. Phil is looking for letters of support from businesses working in cyber related businesses in the region to support the business case to DCMS.

Our final update was for the upcoming Conference, which is going ahead as planned on 25 June using the Hop-In platform, which we hope will allow us to closely replicate our traditional conference format online. Rather than our usual expo area, for the first time smaller Dynamo members are invited to feature in our SME showcase and there will be plenty of time for networking in between the sessions. This year’s plenary sessions include Aaron Harris from Sage’s Boston office and Newcastle University’s Blame it on the Algorithm, previously featured at Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Our discussion topic this month was skills, as one of the focus areas for the North of Tyne funding, asking how can we best support the region? Discussions included graduate retaining programmes, talent attraction nationally and internationally, attracting more experienced people, attracting people from other sectors?

One favourable area of focus is around ‘boomerang’ Geordies and attracting experienced people to the region. Nick O’Reilly from NHS BSA spoke of some success they’ve had in this area, linking into the Armed Forces veteran covenant.

Sunderland University’s Alastair Irons talks about the wealth of upskilling options available at the moment – immediately around etiquette, furloughing, video editing for example, but also projects teaching airline pilots about computer science.

He also talked about the difficulties faced by Universities in current circumstance, with overseas students typically contributing significantly to university income. This is driving the need to explore ways of increasing ‘in country’ education without the need to travel. Not to be forgotten is the knock-on effect of the students’ lack of spend in the local economy.

Challenges faced by our educational institutions will hopefully be explored further at the conference with a future of education panel.

Paul Watson, from Newcastle University raises the question of value is virtual internships which is met with positive response from some members of the board. Many member organisations are pushing on with their graduate schemes as planned, including BT and Sage, though their graduates are not due to start for some a few months.

Remote onboarding is key challenge at this time – many are beginning to recruit and onboard new team members using video conferencing and e-learning tools, but the success of these processes won’t be apparent for some time. Check out our next webinar, Remote Recruitment and & Onboarding.

Sue Ormerod from Nigel Wright reported that the job switching market is currently quite active, in particular with more senior roles and acknowledges that the market is changing week on week.

Finally, Jenn Hartley shared the news that inward investment is starting to pick up again, fintech and corporate services in particular are areas that are still moving. There is definite opportunity around north-shoring, with many businesses assessing whether London bases are necessary. Invest Newcastle plan to use virtual tours to help show the city to people who can’t physically travel here to see what is on offer.


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