The Next Episode

When I announced I was leaving my role as ‘Community Engagement & Partnerships Manager’ for Tech North last month, I wasn’t 100% certain what I’d be doing other than ‘starting a business’ on 1st April that would continue the work I’d been doing across the North of England since August 2015 but with more focus on my home city of Newcastle and the wider North East.

Despite my best efforts to remain unbiased and support digital entrepreneurship in the 7 cities of Newcastle, Sunderland, Liverpool, Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield and Hull equally over the past 8 months, it’s become clear that Manchester is edging ahead of the rest. This is a result of strong leadership from Manchester City Council who have embraced the Government’s ‘Northern Powerhouse’, a local media and business community that is largely supportive of the concept and what I have often referred to as the ‘Mancunian Swagger’ – a confidence and cockiness that comes with a proven track record of success and a belief you can take on the world and win!

seven-tech-north-cities

However, in my humble opinion, Newcastle still has a stronger and more developed tech and digital community than Manchester – it’s just not as good at marketing and selling itself to the rest of the UK. The North East has all the ingredients to compete on a national and international stage but it needs more people making the connections and joining the dots to encourage greater collaboration and present a more united and compelling offer to people wanting to startup, scale up or relocate in the region.

This is something I am very good at and with a background in marketing, PR and comms plus an amazing network of entrepreneurs and business leaders across the North, I’ll now be using all my skills and experience to help raise the profile of Newcastle and the North East as a hotbed of entrepreneurial activity that the rest of the UK should take notice of and work with.

Collaboration

As Sir Richard Leese (Leader of Manchester City Council) said in the BBC Radio 4 panel discussion about ‘The Northern Powerhouse’ in November 2015, Newcastle needs Manchester just as much as Manchester needs Newcastle and the other Northern cities in order to be successful. It’s no longer about how our Northern cities fight between themselves for the meagre scraps that are tossed their way from London and more about how they can come together to collaborate and compete on their own terms to grow their local and regional economies.

There are so many exciting businesses and initiatives in the North East that I am planning to work with over the coming months, especially when it comes to digital, so if you’d like to hear what these are please ‘Like’ my new Facebook Page at www.facebook.com/PlanDigitalUK and Follow me on Twitter @lordlancaster and @PlanDigitalUK.

First up, I’m delighted to say that the amazing team behind Campus North (the co-working and event space in Newcastle for tech startups, developers and freelancers where I’m now based full-time) have asked me to help out with their Sponsorships & Partnerships programme and to play a bigger role in the community engagement and business development of their existing tenants and wider business community.

Floppy Super Mario

This makes perfect sense as I’ve been supporting their Ignite100 tech accelerator programme since 2011 as a mentor and by helping them find their first office in The Loft at Adamson House when I worked for Project North East. Then, when I joined Sage I managed to persuade the bosses to come onboard as a founding sponsor of Campus North when it opened in 2014 and to renew their sponsorship for a second year in 2015 which has been great for them and for the tech community too. More recently, in my role at Tech North I provided them with some seed funding for their exciting new ‘Tech For Life’ education and outreach programme which starts this month.

Campus North Sponsors 2015

Support Campus North

Campus North is such a fantastic resource for Newcastle, the North East and the wider Northern tech community so I’ll be working hard to ensure that more people get to experience what goes on here and am actively looking for more sponsors and partners to support them over the coming weeks and months. If you’d like to get involved as an individual or as a business, please download the Sponsors Packs below and then get in touch.

Campus North Sponsors Pack (.PDF)

Tech For Life Sponsors Pack (.PDF)

More updates to follow soon. Get ready for The Next Episode…

The North East really does ‘Get Digital’

Everyone who lives and works in the North East’s creative and digital sectors knows what a great and vibrant place it is to be. However, if you’re not from the area or are still in education, your opinion of the area is likely to be thirty years out of date.

What is Newcastle's city brand?

My experience at Tech North (part of the Govt-backed Tech City UK) and at Sage before that, has proven to me that one of the biggest barriers to success in the North East is a lack of positive media coverage. Yes, there are serious problems in some parts of the region but there are also huge success stories too if you know where to look but which aren’t being highlighted often enough. If all people ever get to see or hear are the negatives, is it any wonder that so many teachers, parents and grandparents tell their kids to move away in search of a brighter future, mistakenly believing there’s nothing for them here?

But it doesn’t need to be this way and thankfully there are many brilliant people working hard to re-educate and inspire people, shifting their focus from the failures of the past towards the opportunities of the future.

It’s for this reason that I was so pleased that we (Tech North) could sponsor Creative North’s ‘Get Digital North East’ event in Newcastle on 17th March. This event is all about shining a light on some of the fantastic digital and creative businesses and membership organisations we already have in the North East, whilst encouraging greater collaboration between them and providing an opportunity for people looking to start a career in the sector.

Newcastle has one of the strongest and most vibrant tech startup scenes in the UK which can be witnessed first hand at the free events, workshops and developer meetups that take place almost every night of the week at the Campus North co-working and event space where I am based, plus the amazingly talented people that work there during the day.

The recent ‘Tech Nation 2016’ report from my colleagues at Tech City UK revealed that when it comes to ‘digital tech economy jobs’, Newcastle had the second highest salary growth of any in the UK last year at 26.6% with an average salary of £44,068. Obviously not everyone is earning that much money but when you take the lower cost of living and arguably higher quality of life up here, Newcastle compares rather favourably with London’s average digital salary of £58,978. Sunderland has also seen significant growth in its digital economy in recent years with 17% growth in employment and 44% increase in turnover, largely thanks to the great work of organisations like Sunderland Software City helping to support and grow businesses in the city.

But there’s still much more to be done. If we want the North East digital and creative economy to grow and compete on a national and international level we have to all get better at shouting about our successes, collaborate more and do everything we can to upskill or retrain our existing workforce whilst providing relevant, useful and practical skills and training for our next generation of employees.

So let’s come together to show that the North East really does ‘Get Digital’, starting with the event at CastleGate on 17th March. I hope to see you there!

Sage extends Campus North / Ignite sponsorship for 2nd year!

One of the things I’m most proud of from my time at Sage is securing sponsorship for the Campus North co-working and event space for startups in Newcastle. Thank you Geoff Phillips (Head of Marketing) and Paul Cairney (Head of Brand) for agreeing to pay for this for the 2nd year in a row!

“Leading business software company Sage has renewed its sponsorship of Campus North and Ignite (‘the UK’s top pre-seed accelerator programme’) in a move that helps support Newcastle’s growing reputation as one of the UK’s premier hubs for tech startups.

Based in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, over 4,000 people have visited the 10,000 sq. ft. Campus North co-working and events space since opening in May 2014. Since then, Campus North has established itself as a key component of the North East’s vibrant startup scene, becoming the premier destination for tech startups, developer meetups and networking events.

Sage was one of the founding sponsors of Campus North when it opened its doors in 2014, providing a £10,000 cash injection for events and business community development. Sage staff have also provided ongoing marketing support and mentoring at Campus North and Stephen Kelly (CEO, Sage Group plc) even gave his first public talk and Q&A there in March 2015 to an audience of students, entrepreneurs, investors, enterprise professionals and academics.

The extended sponsorship sees the UK’s only FTSE 100 software company strengthen its ties with Ignite and Campus North with a further £12,000 cash injection. Sage will also make more of their in-house experts and developers available for mentoring, masterclasses and to share the knowledge gained from supporting millions of small businesses around the world.

Comments on the announcement

Lee Perkins (EVP & Managing Director of Sage UK & Ireland) said: “Without doubt the North East is one of the best places in the UK to start a business. We have world-class Universities, people and ideas and we’ve seen first-hand how those ingredients can create amazing businesses with the right support.”

“Campus North is a fantastic initiative that is not just inspiring the next wave of entrepreneurs, it is a focus for the thriving entrepreneurial community and a place where people can come together to share expertise, insights and ideas. That open collaborative mind-set is one of the things that sets the North East startup scene apart and is one of its greatest strengths. Supporting and enabling that cross-pollination of thinking is something that everyone at Sage is immensely proud of.”

Paul Smith (Campus North / Ignite100 Co-founder & Director) said: “Sage has been a true partner of Campus North since the beginning and I’m excited about the opportunity this extension creates for the entrepreneurial community. Together, Sage and Ignite100 are helping to build a true Northern Powerhouse on the UK start up stage.”