Look North for IT innovation

Yorkshire's Digital Dales are joining the Thames valley and Silicon Fen as a hothouse for entrepreneurial IT


Forget London, Yorkshire is the UK’s new hotbed of technology companies, investment and growth.

The region’s economy is worth over £80 billion and has grown at five times the average for the rest of Europe during the last five years running. Yorkshire’s Gross Value Added (GVA) figure is expected to grow by 10% up to 2010 and it has attracted more than £340million in research investment.

Research spending in Yorkshire’s three 'White Rose’ Universities ' (Leeds, Sheffield and York), is comparable to Oxford or Cambridge. As well as creating a supply of 52,000 graduates and postgraduates, the Universities also created 14 spin-out companies during 2006-7, all in the technology sector. In Sheffield, the region also boasts one of only two national e-learning centres, proving that skills development is a priority.

Electronics, mobile, games and Information Communications and Technology (ICT) companies are all well represented, with 13,000 organisations employing over 100,000 staff and producing Gross Domestic Product in excess of £17million.

In terms of our creative and digital industries, the area has a head start on other areas of the country because of its digital infrastructure. It was the first region of the UK to achieve 100% broadband coverage and as a result 62% of Yorkshire’s businesses are connected to the internet. One third of the UK’s internet traffic now goes through Leeds.

The Digital Region Project in Yorkshire has already gained national recognition with organisations benefiting from a regional digital network with the ability to connect to fibre optic and Integrated Services Digital Networks (ISDN). This provides unparalleled capacity and international access to voice, video, and data services. This is an attractive proposition both for companies setting up and those that want to relocate.

It’s no secret that Tomb Raider was one of this country’s greatest selling exports and the electronic games industry continues to go from strength to strength in Yorkshire. There are 28 games companies in the region providing jobs for more than 500 people.

Electronics companies generate annual sales of £3.8billion and contribute £1.7billion towards regional Gross Value Added (GVA) while employing almost 25,000 people across the region.

Some 5,789 ICT companies, employing 24,995 people contribute £2billion to Yorkshire’s economy and with Orange & O2 based in the region, its mobile communications credentials are well established.

Investing in innovation

But what of the companies of tomorrow who will contribute to the 10% growth in GVA over the next two years and is Yorkshire riding the crest of the current investment wave in new technology companies?

South Yorkshire appears to be the most attractive part of the region to foreign investors with 40% choosing to invest here. 22 investors were attracted to the area during the last year, creating or safeguarding over 770 jobs, most skilled, highly paid and in the knowledge economy.

As well as international investment in the area, there are numerous ways to access local funding in Yorkshire from Regional Development Grants to local and regional venture capital funds who are pouring money into technology businesses here.

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