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The North of Tyne Combined authority will invest £12m to boost the digital sector in Newcastle, North Tyneside and Northumberland

July 30, 2021

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The investment, which includes £7m for a 5G and Future Connectivity fund, will be used to create jobs in a ‘digital ecosystem’ of mutually supportive tech businesses and organisations.

It will help create 600 jobs and safeguard a further 140. It will also unlock support for over 500 enterprises and 450 residents, and underpins the Combined Authority’s ambition for Newcastle, North Tyneside and Northumberland to be a hub for inclusive innovation and world class research and development.

The Government’s Innovation strategy launched last week said the pace of technological change would make the 2020s a pivotal moment for the UK’s future prosperity.

North of Tyne leaders said the investment announced today would future proof the region’s economy, laying the foundations for further investment and growth.

It builds on previous multi-million-pound investments to improve rural internet connectivity and access to digital expertise that is already unlocking data-driven innovation and the adoption of new technologies by local businesses.

North of Tyne Cabinet Member for Clean Energy and Connectivity Cllr Richard Wearmouth said the investment was an example of ‘levelling up’ that would build the foundation for tomorrow’s digital economy.

“This will be a game changer for the region.

“It will accelerate investment in infrastructure and connectivity in the North of Tyne, supporting the industry-led innovation of our rapidly growing tech sector. And it will give real incentives for mobile networks and infrastructure providers to roll out super-fast wireless and fibre across Newcastle, North Tyneside and Northumberland.

“The power of digital solutions can help countless businesses emerge from the crisis. From Artificial intelligence to data clouds, from Digital Innovation Hubs to ‘deep tech’ start-ups, innovation, growth and productivity, and technology will go hand in hand.”

The 5G and Future Connectivity investment will increase the pace that game-changing technologies, such as 5G, are made available and adopted by industry.

It will create an eco-system of experts to ensure the development of ‘investment ready’ pitches for significant future government funding of digital infrastructure.

This will add to the region’s reputation as an attractive place to do business, target investment, and create good jobs and will capitalise on existing expertise and emerging strengths, including in health tech and connected construction.

Plans also include providing £5m to support start ups and unlock the potential of digital and tech businesses, working with partners including Dynamo NE, Innovation Super Network, Ignite, Digital Catapult, TEDCO, Northumbria University, NGI and the Academic Health Science Network.

Jennifer Hartley, Director, Invest Newcastle, part of NewcastleGateshead Initiative said:  

“This £5m commitment from North of Tyne comes at a critical time for the economy and our fast-growing digital eco-system. We are building an economy around our strengths and this investment in skills, talent and business growth will accelerate the creation of jobs, innovative ideas, and the national and international profile of our digital cluster.  

“We already support Newcastle ​and Gateshead to create valuable jobs within this sector through inward investment. This funding will allow us to build on the North of Tyne strengths and represent the diversity that collectively we have to offer to digital and tech businesses. By bringing our assets together we can strengthen our position and offer to global investors. We look forward to promoting our complementary strengths and shared narrative to the world, playing our part in the growth of the sector, the creation of highly skilled jobs and reputation as a go to place for a tech career.” 

Sarah Green, Chief Executive of NewcastleGateshead Initiative added:

“NGI are delighted to be a part of this digital investment, which will create hundreds of jobs and support indigenous business growth and innovation.

“Our region’s creative and digital sector is critical to our economic recovery and growth as the world accelerates towards a more digital way of working and living, and it is more important than ever that our people, and business, are equipped with the digital skills and knowledge they need for the road ahead.

“The digital eco-system in the North East already has a wide range of assets, and our inward investment team are looking forward to supporting this investment through attracting more creative and digital businesses to locate in Northumberland, North Tyneside and Newcastle.

“This work will help to combine efforts across North of Tyne, creating a more collaborative approach to growing the sector, and creating highly skilled jobs for now, and the future.”

North of Tyne cabinet member for Jobs, Innovation, and Growth Cllr Nick Forbes said:

“The digital sector is transforming our economy and how services are delivered. That’s why we are looking to make this major investment now.

“The North of Tyne has some great assets: cutting edge research at Newcastle Helix, large digital firms like IBM in North Tyneside and hi-tech manufacturers in Northumberland. We must ensure we remain at the forefront of the digital revolution.

“But this investment is also about people. By showing confidence in our communities, businesses, and their ideas we can create the jobs of the future right here.”

This new funding builds on the combined authorities existing digital programme which has invested in rural connectivity, support to small businesses to adapt and digitise during the Covid pandemic, and to make available cutting edge data analysis, in partnership with the National Innovation Centre for Data in Newcastle.

The programme is also tackling digital exclusion by providing laptops and connectivity to schools and to people who were cut off during the Covid pandemic.

It compliments significant private sector investment in broadband infrastructure with North Sea cabling to improve international communications, and local full-fibre networks which connect people and businesses to local, national and international markets.

A report by Tech Nation in 2018 highlighted Newcastle as the seventh fastest growing tech hub in the UK.

Reports by Tech Nation and the UK Tech Cluster Group in 2021 highlighted Newcastle and the wider region as a major tech hub in the UK.

Both Newcastle and Northumbria universities play a significant regional role in the digital economy by providing graduates and post-graduates with advanced digital skills.

More than half of all digital jobs in the North East are in the North of Tyne area.

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