Collaborations help Middlesbrough’s tech sector thrive

Middlesbrough’s digital sector continues to be one of the star performers of the UK’s hi-tech economy.

And the influential Tech Nation 2019 report points to the growing stature of the wider region through collaborative working.

The sector’s strength, depth and breadth were key features of last year’s report, which highlighted its faster growth rate than the wider economy.

Tech Nation provides an annual snapshot of the UK’s tech sector, with recommendations for tech businesses, policymakers and corporates looking to accelerate growth.

This year’s report reveals more than 30,000 highly skilled jobs across the North-East’s digital tech industries.

The number of digital tech businesses grew by 8.8% in the North-East during 2018, with the highest growth of 11% in the Tees Valley, and turnover similar to last year at just under £1.3 billion.

And ambitious plans are in place to maintain momentum, including the Boho Next Generation high-level masterplan to expand Middlesbrough’s digital and creative quarter, The Boho Zone, to create a 21st Century digital campus.

A £20m investment has been secured from Tees Valley Combined Authority for the first phase of the masterplan, which will deliver 80,000 sq ft of office space, seeing The Zone grow to ten physically clustered buildings dedicated specifically to digital tech companies.

Dan Watson, Middlesbrough Council’s Digital Middlesbrough manager, said the availability of business accommodation fit for purpose for digital tech businesses had been identified as a key barrier to growth.

He said: “It’s essential that we are prepared for the growth of indigenous digital tech companies while also ensuring we are well placed to capitalise on further inward investment opportunities.

“That’s the focus of the Next Generation masterplan – by working very closely with local property developers, we will provide a secure future for the sector.

“There’s also a big focus on digital transformation in wider priority sectors, and given our industrial heritage this is unlocking a number of key opportunities for businesses in both digital and non-digital sectors, but it’s vital that we continue to provide support and break down barriers for our growing core digital tech industries.

“The digital sector is very strong and we’re seeing more and more product spinouts coming out of these companies, many of which are in the area of e-commerce tech.”

It’s an environment that is welcomed by the companies shaping the future, not just in Middlesbrough but across the Tees Valley and beyond.

Mabo Media marketing director James Lees summed up a buoyant mood following a year which saw Mabo named Best Small PPC Agency at the 2018 European Search Awards: “Middlesbrough is our home. Our business was born in Teesside and will always remain in Teesside.

“All five directors of Mabo are born and bred in Teesside and we are driven to build the biggest and best PPC management agency in the UK – and we’re going to do that from Middlesbrough.

“People from Middlesbrough are responsible, passionate, approachable and honest. These key personality traits are what our company ethics are built upon, so why wouldn’t we want to be based in Middlesbrough?”

Kraken IM build software tools for the engineering and construction sector. CEO Ian Cornwell added: “There’s a small but vibrant tech scene in Boro, plus, for what we do specifically there’s a cluster of world leaders right here in Teesside.

“There’s a will locally to build our tech scene and the support is fantastic, from the awesome Teesside Uni Launchpad team, the council, all the way up to the mayor and combined authority.”

Teesside University recently staged the 20th Animex Festival, the UK’s largest annual festival of animation and computer games.

The popular event played host to industry-leading firms including Sony London Studio, Santa Monica Studios, MPC and Insomniac Game, whilst providing a chance to meet those who work behind the scenes in the animation industry, a niche sector-specialism for the area. Teesside University was also recently named as one of the world’s leading animation schools by Animation Career Review And digital innovation driver DigitalCity is expanding its start-up support offering by this year launching a new investment readiness programme.

Eighteen Tees Valley-based founders will be helped in demystifying the investment process and bolstered with insight on what makes a business truly investment ready.

Professor Jane Turner OBE, the university’s pro vice-chancellor (enterprise and business engagement), said: “The university is playing a leading role in driving forward the digital tech industry in the region.

“We play a substantial role in the creation of graduate talent for digital businesses, and through our incubator facility, Launchpad, support a significant number of graduate start-up businesses to thrive.

“It is therefore particularly reassuring to see the flourishing digital sector recognised, once again, in the Tech Nation report.

“As an anchor institution for the region, the university will continue its work to ensure that businesses receive the support and growth opportunities that enable them to prosper, through access to digital innovation and graduate talent and academic research.”

Kevin Parkes, Middlesbrough Council’s executive director of growth and place, said: “This year, Tech Nation has taken a regional view to collectively showcase the breadth of the North-East’s digital industries.

“As a region, we’re stronger as a collective working together, and this report really does highlight the contribution that the North-East’s digital tech industries make to the economy.

“Having said that, the spotlight on Middlesbrough is obviously very much welcomed, and again it shows the real strengths of our thriving digital tech industries.”

To view the Tech Nation 2019 report, visit:


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