Dynamo 18 Blog by Stu Lynn, Vice Chair of Dynamo

Wolf Bones to 5G Phones

A few musings from yesterdays Dynamo 18 conference held at Newcastle University’s brilliant new Computer Science building (which was opened by the Rt Hon Matt Hancock MP after his Dynamo 18 keynote).

The excellent host for the day was Timandra Harkness to whom the title of this post is a tribute. Wolf bones were allegedly used as a form of counting technology, and 5G is the latest and greatest through the air networking tech.

The day comprised a number of very highly engaging and informative keynotes from Timandra, Matt Hancock, Nick Forbes, Charlie Hoult, Lindsay Phillips, and Caroline Carruthers. There were also numerous excellent debates in the form of interactive break out sessions, and there was a technology hackathon running in parallel.

While this event was held in Newcastle, what was great to see from the start was the diversity of businesses attending the event and also the geographical footprint represented. Effectively an army of small, medium and large Public and Private sector businesses, universities, government agencies, investment funds, investment agencies from Northumberland to Teeside.

There was more than one reference to the North East having the accolade of having the fastest growing tech sector outside of London. A great and proud statistic, which comes with a backstory that makes it even more impressive, in that this has been achieved despite any real incremental investment in the tech sector from government and local authorities. This has been driven by self funded organic growth from resourceful and innovative businesses across our region.

There was recognition around the fabulous resources that we have on our doorstep in Education, Facilities, Workforce, Quality of life, and of course the deep rooted Culture to continually reinvent the region, that makes the North East a very special place to live and conduct business.

It was also clear to see the increased levels of collaboration and strong evidence that the walls that previously existed between education and business are being torn down and replaced with highly beneficial bridges. However, the same cannot yet be said around leveraging the combined strengths of public and private sectors, fully supported by local authorities and government. The North East authorities have been slow to extend their focus from traditional industry segments to see and appreciate the massive opportunity the tech sector presents for the next chapter of regional reinvention, which will deliver regional jobs, wealth creation and a long term sustainable ecosystem, albeit small shoots are beginning to ‘very slowly’ grow.

Looking ahead we have Brexit on the horizon and the prospect of devolution (for Newcastle, North Tyneside and Northumberland at least) how this pans out is still anyone’s guess, but we shouldn’t stop and wait to see what happens. Instead we should consider that the tech sector is still in its infancy in terms of growth opportunities and growth will be inevitable in areas such as Skills, Cyber Security, Construction, Shared Services, FinTech, GovTech, Digital Entertainment & Gaming, as well as Ageing, Data Science and Artificial Intelligence.

However, opportunity is often easier to see leaving rather than arriving and as a region, and in the words of Matt Hancock we need to “crack on” and stop wasting time and public money by endlessly debating, or waiting for hand-outs from Westminster, which history to date suggests, haven’t been readily forthcoming.

Thanks to everyone involved in making Dynamo 18 such a fantastic day!


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