Digital Innovation Showcase celebrates the successes and future of Digital Clusters North of Tyne

15 May 2024

‘Innovation occurs in ecosystems in which companies, public research institutions, further education providers, financial institutions, charities, government bodies and many other players interact through the exchange of skills, knowledge, and ideas.’ 

Digital Cluster North of Tyne began in January 2022, with the mission to establish the North of Tyne’s long term capacity as the centre of Digital & Tech innovation. Through the programme we looked to improve the readiness of digital businesses, helping them access new markets and realise growth opportunities.  

Alongside this, we also looked to cultivate the digital ecosystem in the region, bringing together stakeholders, partners, and businesses to successfully support digital innovation, and provide the key skills, access and collaboration needed to grow. 

As this programme ends, we wanted to take the time to reflect on the huge achievements we have made within the region and celebrate the many fantastic businesses we have worked with over the course of this project.  

Our Innovation Showcase, which took place on May 8th 2024, gave us the opportunity to bring together businesses, partners and support providers to explore our journey over the past two years and enjoy the successes we have had along the way. Over 150 attendees joined us for an afternoon of food, reflection, and celebration of the digital & tech community. 

Growing the regions Digital & Tech clusters 

We kicked off our afternoon of celebrations with a panel discussion exploring the growth key sectors across the region have achieved.  

Through the programme, we recognised several key digital sub clusters that were showing huge potential in the region. Over the past two years, they have developed, growing from loose clusters of organisations operating in shared areas of priority, to active communities of businesses, developing their innovation capacity, and increasing their collaborative efforts. 

It was also crucial that we recognised that importance of supporting digital businesses within the context of the wider North East innovation ecosystem. Thanks to input from stakeholders including Dynamo, Health Network North and Health Innovation North East and North Cumbria, we were able to make sure the cluster we worked with were able to connect beyond the digital sector and bring their innovation to the wider region, creating strong cross-sector connections. 

Digital Cluster Programme Manager, Wayne Bryant and Innovation Challenge Programme Lead, Sarah Cox were joined by a panel of experts who gave us insights into HealthTech, EdTech and Data & AI clusters. Panel members included Jody Nichols (Health Innovation North East and North Cumbria) Abi Durrant (Northern Health Futures Hub) Dean Blewitt (NCFE) and Richie Ramsden (National Innovation Centre for Data). 

Throughout the panel, it became clear that the future for these clusters was bright, with all three offering lots of potential in the region. For these clusters, in particular EdTech, Innovation SuperNetwork’s input has brought businesses and organisations together, and through the curation of regular meet ups and workshops, provided the opportunity to create supportive innovation communities. 

However, the discussion also made it clear that the work within each cluster cannot stop here. It is vital that the connections made across the past two years continue to grow and evolve to tackle future challenges, such as the impact of AI developments, the fast-paced innovations needed in HealthTech and the challenges of an evolving EdTech market. 

Celebrating our businesses 

A key part of the Digital Cluster programme was providing support to digital SMEs in the region to help nurture their business growth. Delivered through a series of events, workshops and one-to-one support, the programme provided the skills, capacity, and readiness they needed to access new markets and realise growth opportunities. 

To celebrate the achievements of several of the businesses we have worked with, we invited 12 businesses to pitch to the audience, and show off how far they have come. 

The pitching was compéred by Charlotte Scott, Senior Investor Relations Manager, whose work connects entrepreneurs seeking funding with the investment ecosystem across the North and with our investor network, the Northern Investor Hub. Many of these businesses have been involved with our team for several years, and we have been fortunate to support them through their journey. Each business brought passion and enthusiasm to the stage and acted as the perfect representation of the energy that has accumulated throughout the programme.  

To really celebrate the varying digital and tech clusters we have supported, these businesses covered a wide number of clusters, showing a true representation of the diversity in business, innovation, and founders across the region. 

These businesses were: 

FinTech 

Net Zero 

Cyber Security 

EdTech 

Digital and AI  

HealthTech 

We then rounded off our event in style with some delicious street food and a ‘mini mingle,’ courtesy of our friends at Silicon Mingle, the growing North East grassroots community for tech entrepreneurs & startups. This provided our audience with the opportunity to take the cluster connections beyond our programme, and our team and businesses the chance to celebrate all the hard work they have done. 

Looking to the future 

We are very proud of what has been achieved across the past two years. With the support of our partners and funders, we have been able to help turn exciting innovations into world-changing impact and grow an ecosystem that will continue to provide knowledge, understanding and support to those within it. 

The Innovation Showcase was a great example of the successes we have achieved through the support being delivered both to businesses and across the recognised sub clusters. By bringing together businesses, partners, and stakeholders, we were able to witness first-hand the ecosystem we have brought together to not only celebrate but continue to make connections and realise opportunities for the future. 

Despite this heading towards the end of the Digital Clusters North of Tyne programme, Innovation SuperNetwork will continue to provide business support and ecosystem engaging activity across the North East. In particular, the Digital Launchpad, a new programme we are delivering on behalf of InnovateUK where UK registered micro and small businesses can apply for a share of up to £1.5 million for projects that grow their innovation activities in the digital technology cluster in North East England.

We look forward to seeing the businesses we’ve worked with in this programme continue to thrive and grow, and the clusters we have supported continue to provide the vital innovation needed for the future of digital & tech in the North of Tyne region. 

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