While 2020 was a difficult year for business and the economy, with the challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic creating personal and economic hardship across the globe, the UK tech sector has demonstrated its resilience. Recent data shows the sector is making positive steps to recovery through continued growth and job creation, with job vacancies up 50% by the end of 2020 since the lowest point in July earlier in the year.
The latest report for Tech Nation found that the digital sector is growing nearly six times faster than other industries. The sector contributes £149billion annually to the national economy, employing 2.9million people. The number of tech businesses in the UK worth more than $250million is the highest on record (95) and 45% of these high-value businesses are based outside of London.
Why Tees Valley?
In the Tees Valley there are around 650 digital businesses with more than 8,000 people employed in digital roles. Growth is particularly strong here, with the number of digital businesses up 15% over the past four years, compared to 8% nationally. Employment in region is also up, with a 13% increase over the past four years, compared to 6% nationally. There were more than 1,900 job vacancies in the sector in 2020, representing a 20% increase on the previous year, with the impact of COVID-19 creating a rise in digital opportunities in the region.
The pandemic has caused major shifts in the way we live and work and there has never been a better time to invest in this fast-growing sector.
Middlesbrough’s Boho Zone is the digital, creative and business hub of the Tees Valley. It provides digital companies with their own cluster, supporting the creation of additional jobs with this expanding sector.
Boho One is its flagship building with units from 377sq ft – 20, 450sq ft. It has ultra-high-speed communications and open Wi-Fi in public areas. Boho One is a major hub for the digital sector offering northern businesses the chance to bid, win and work together on large scale media projects.
Construction on Boho 8 got under way last year and was completed in spring 2021. The £2.5million development is the latest element of the hugely successful Boho quarter. The state-of-the-art project has delivered 9,000 sq ft of high-quality office accommodation for the digital and creative sector.
In addition to the Boho Zone, Tees Valley is also home to new purpose-built facilities designed with innovative and ambitious technology companies in mind. Buildings such as Fusion Hive in Stockton (pictured), The Palace Hub in Redcar, Business Central in Darlington and the BIS in Hartlepool provide the ideal environment and facilities to accommodate growing tech companies, with unrivalled access to shared expertise and support networks. All recently refurbished they offer digital and creative businesses high-quality spaces with the benefits of being in a supportive atmosphere with other like-minded people.
Teesside University is a key part of the digital sector within the Tees Valley. It produces more than 1,200 graduates in digital-related courses, ensuring a pipeline of skilled workforce to boost the growing sector.
At the forefront of current practice, the School of Computing, Media and the Arts (SCMA) is one of the best-equipped in the country, with cutting-edge technologies that provide a world-class learning environment. Studios are equipped to industry standard for hardware and software, while specialist facilities include an AR/VR suite, recording studios, green screen and sound stage, motion capture and more than 30 specialised computing studios.
Teesside has a strong heritage in computing: it was the first University to offer the ground-breaking MSc in Computer Aided and Graphical Technology Applications (CAGTA) in 1989, which blazed a digital trail for today’s immersive technologies.
DigitalCity is the driver for the region’s digital sector, connecting people and businesses in the Tees Valley with the knowledge, skills and expertise needed to thrive in a digital future.
The Teesside University-led initiative has supported the growth and transformation of businesses across the Tees Valley since 2001 and has recently adapted and enhanced its online offer in response to Covid-19. With a shift to online delivery of its interactive programmes, bespoke mentoring, expert-led workshops and digital support, DigitalCity has helped hundreds of digital businesses to power through the pandemic as well as supporting wider-sector companies to adopt digital technology and pivot their services.
Animex was founded by Teesside University in 2000 with a view to creating a world-class inclusive festival that would draw some of the games and animation industries’ brightest lights and future stars together to share their knowledge with the next generation. Consisting of a unique blend of talks, workshops, networking events, exhibitions and screenings, Animex promotes an ethos of collaboration and sharing and prides itself on its warm, friendly atmosphere.
Animex brings together industry experts to discuss the state-of-the-art, show behind the scenes of the biggest hits, and to have a great time at one of the premier games and animation events anywhere in the world.
Judging panels from previous awards have included representatives from LAIKA, Toon Boom Animation, Beryl Productions International, Atomhawk Design, Pixar, ILM, Disney, Aardman Animation, Sony Imageworks, DreamWorks and Electronic Arts, to name a few.
Since January 2020 the University has worked with 52 Tees Valley based SMEs in the digital sector on 93 projects. It also leads on DigitalCity, and Animex, a major international festival of animation and games
National Horizons Centre
Led by Teesside University, the National Horizons Centre in Darlington has been established in response to the convergence between life sciences and industrial sciences, assisted by advances in informatics and IT. The National Horizons Centre is a purpose built centre designed to address UK technology sector growth through the provision of world class facilities and equipment for hands-on training in the biosciences, biotechnology, health technology and related sectors. The National Horizons Centre is responding to industry needs by training people with the latest digital skills, across operations and R&D in biologics and other related sectors.
Industrial digitalisation and Industry 4.0
The concept of the fourth industrial revolution (Industry 4.0) is gathering pace as a driver for change, introducing new technologies and techniques that will change products, processes and supply chains.
The Tees Valley is home to a number of businesses, predominately SMEs, with specialist expertise in delivering digital process improvement and automated solutions. These include system integrators, digital visualisation specialists, oil and gas asset management and animation, augmented reality and virtual reality solution providers. The Materials Processing Institute is creating the “Future Steel Factor” a digital demonstrator of Industry 4.0 technologies for the steel and process industries. In oil and gas, Datum360’s asset data management system is being by Maersk to manage, measure and report the engineering information for the Tyra gas field in Denmark.
Industrial Digitalisation Technology Centre
Teesside University has launched the Industrial Digitalisation Technology Centre (IDTC) to support SMEs in the Tees Valley explore the opportunities Industry 4.0 technologies bring, such as the Internet of Things , big data analytics, modelling, simulation and sensor technology – creating an essential competitive edge that generates real value for businesses.
The ITDC provides a way for SMEs to de-risk their investment, offering consultancy and mentoring for digitalisation projects that typically last from six to 12 months. It builds on the work of the University’s DigitalCity initiative, putting digital at the heart of traditional businesses, and its School of Computing, Engineering & Digital Technologies’ expertise and reputation for innovation, academic excellence, world-class research and industrial experience.
You can find out more by downloading our digital brochure