Dynamo’s September Advisory Board Meeting

Dawn Dawn, Cluster Manager, 25th September 2020

Following the summer recess, Andrew Besford opened the September Board Meeting with a positive flourish, announcing a total of 85 entries for the Annual Dynamites awards – this record number, confirmed reports that the regions tech sector has remained largely optimistic and bouyant during such a challenging year.

There is also a strong project pipeline for the latter half of the year, with the IC3/Northumbria University engaging Dynamo for support towards its bid for £20m which should be submitted by November this year.

Equality/Diversity and Inclusion champion Fareeha Usman has been appointed to undertake a specific piece of work in her area of expertise, and will begin with a ‘discovery’ exercise to benchmark both the region and the sector so that Dynamo knows where best to focus its attention.

Shaun Allan, of Vector 76 has also joined the retinue of Innovation Managers, and his work will be centered around PROTO where students from the region’s universities will be allocated “real life” industry challenges in the Innovation Hub. Shaun will curate the projects with SMEs and help the students to find new and exciting solutions to help the organisations to innovate.

Verbal updates on the clusters were given by Laura Kemp and Emma Whitenstall. Laura appealed to SMEs to sign up for the Design Thinking Bootcamp (being run by Accenture and CGI).  The programme is predominantly  aimed at Service Delivery Centres who could benefit from more information on automation, she also asked for volunteers to come forward if they had experience of automation, and were in a position to act as mentors.

Laura is also convening a career pathways event.  Career progression is often overlooked in this sector, and the event is still open to those who might want to book exhibition space.  It was noted that the previously postponed event  “Employee Journeys Of The Future” would now go ahead on 30th September. New Healthtech Cluster Manager Emma Whitenstall reported that her baptism of fire had been encouraging – the healthtech sector encompasses a wide and diverse group of companies, but she had already hosted her first cluster meeting and was confident about next steps, thanks to the cluster partnership from CGI.

Andrew Besford reported a real opportunity to link smaller businesses with larger healthcare providers for mutual benefit. He highlighted the opportunities for virtual reality (VR) in training which played to regional expertise. Newcastle College was very keen to play a more active role alongside other academic institutions involved in the clusters.

The meeting of the “working group” for the new Equality, Diversity and Inclusion cluster was held on the 9th September had had a great response from the Board.  Another a very large area, with some work already being carried out by other bodies.  The discovery exercise was endorsed as the way forward to establish an area of focus. The Board approved the principle of a ‘Tech4Good’ offering, and looked forward to receiving applications for the 6 pro bono memberships for not for profit organisations. These would be valid for one year.

The discussion following the update focused on the start of the academic year and the impact that COVID had on Dynamo’s academic members.

Alastair Irons (Sunderland) was confident that adequate infection prevention measures had been put in place, though was a little sceptical as to how practical these would be in winter. He mentioned that Brexit would confound the challenges facing EU students though was pleased that applications from the USA and further overseas had showed an upturn.

Representatives of the other universities echoed this sentiment, and were cautiously optimistic about the start of the new term. The LEP was represented by Alan Welby who spoke of the importance of audacious goals for economic recovery, and also praised the bid for ORCANE in response to the region’s recognition that “resilience” has moved right to the very the top of the busines agenda.

Matt Oakley mentioned his involvement in the Business in the Community initiative and explained the regional impact.

There was an appeal for all members to amplify the messages around the events programme, which has now moved entirely online.  Andrew thanked all attendees for their contributions and closed the meeting.

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