Mark Ambler, MD of managed IT services provider, Blue Logic, discusses why the North is the epicentre of the global tech industry
In recent months and years, the North has carved out a reputation for being a technological powerhouse. It is home to some of the most innovative and exciting technology and media companies in the UK and, indeed, the world. I’m talking about the likes of Sky Betting and Gaming, LADBible, Rockstar North and The Hut Group.
While discussions and debates about the North/South divide continue in earnest, it is encouraging to see that the region’s technology industry is growing at an incredible rate, attracting talent from across the country and beyond.
The Tech Nation 2017 report found that tech companies in the eight city clusters that make up the North of England – Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Sheffield, Hull, Sunderland, Newcastle and Middlesbrough – had a combined gross value added (GVA) of £5.8bn, up from £4bn for the year before (2016).
But why has the North emerged as a place of technological and IT excellence?
All eyes on the UK:
The global technology sector has been shifting its focus for some time now. China and the USA have long been considered titans of the industry thanks to companies like Alibaba, Amazon and Facebook, but following the birth of Deliveroo, King and Spotify among others, Europe has emerged as a hotbed for fast-growing tech start-ups.
The UK is very much the epicentre of Europe’s tech revolution; according GP Bullhound, it is home to $50bn worth of $1bn+ tech companies including online retailer ASOS and data centre provider Global Switch.
But it’s not just unicorns that are attracting attention; smaller tech companies are riding impressive waves of growth and are catching the eyes of analysts and investors. In times gone by, investors were generally only interested in companies with a London base, but that is not the case anymore.
Those looking to leverage the success of tech companies are having to take their money North of the capital, and in doing so they have realised the tremendous opportunities that can be found.
This also applies to those launching technology and IT businesses; it is simply cheaper and more cost effective to run companies from cities such as Leeds than it is from London.
Access to top talent:
Of course, the decision to establish a tech company in the North is not just down to streamlining operational costs; without access to top talent, it is impossible to build a sustainable, successful, long-term business. The North, however, has a deep pool of talent for companies to tap into.
This is being fed by graduates from the great Northern Universities – Manchester, Leeds, Liverpool – as well as tech experts from the South and overseas who are migrating north for the better quality of life and standard of living it offers. There has also been an uptick in the number of apprenticeships available, particularly in the IT and tech sectors.
Here at Blue Logic, we have been running an apprentice scheme for several years now. The programme runs for 12 months, with each apprentice gaining qualifications in their area of expertise. They are then offered the option to undertake a further 12 months of study to reach the next level of qualification or to work full time for Blue Logic.
Our apprentice scheme has been hugely popular, and the eagerness of youngsters to work in the technology and IT sector is remarkable. It is this passion that continues to drive the industry forwards, and why we are seeing businesses scale up rapidly and go on to achieve incredible success.
The investment opportunity:
As a result of this success, there is a huge opportunity for businesses to merge with, or acquire, their rivals. There are literally hundreds of tech and IT companies in the North – according to Tech Nation, 168 were born in Leeds in 2016 alone – allowing established organisations to drive growth through M&A activity.
This is certainly Blue Logic’s strategy; we have set our sights on acquisition opportunities across the North as we look to expand our workforce, take on additional clients and add new technologies and services to our proposition. This will not only help us achieve our own business goals, but to also build momentum behind the wider Northern tech sector.
We love the North, and are fiercely proud to be a part of its thriving IT and technology industry.
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