Deb Hetherington, Head of Innovation, Bruntwood SciTech – Leeds, explains how the region’s tech sector and opportunities in the green economy will be at the heart of its long-term future.
A second national lockdown that followed a tightening of local restrictions have created further turbulence for Yorkshire’s business communities, and it’s hard to imagine a sector that won’t face upheaval as a result.
But Yorkshire’s firms have proven their resilience before. With its mix of entrepreneurial talent, an exciting digital and tech scene and established large corporates, the region is an attractive destination for investment, which has flooded in since the 2008/09 financial crisis. And the region has a history of working together to pull through in the face of adversity.
We’ll need to draw on this strength of collaboration now more than ever as the region plots a path towards recovery. An added dimension unique to the pandemic are the changes it has brought to how we live and work. This includes the acceleration of trends that were already placing some jobs at risk such as the adoption of AI and robotics.
But the pandemic will create new opportunities too. For one thing, it has presented a reset moment that will enable us to plot a course toward a greener regional economy.
Taken together, these factors mean that we cannot develop short-term recovery plans based on the tactics of the past. We need to push our horizons further and enable investment into areas like product innovation and R&D as a way of upskilling employees and generating new high value jobs.
This is what makes the Leeds Economic Recovery Framework so important. Developed by Leeds City Council together with key stakeholders from across the region, it provides a roadmap out of the pandemic and beyond. Underlining the scale of the green opportunity, it predicts that the city will be home to 34,000 low carbon and renewable energy jobs by 2050.
The framework also places huge emphasis on the need for innovation – both in finding new ways of working and to find investment for businesses looking to scale-up – to boost productivity across Yorkshire. Leeds is home to a flourishing ecosystem of innovators, and this hub of talent will play a critical role in fuelling prosperity and helping the government to fulfil its levelling-up commitment.
It’s vital we find new ways to harness collaboration between Yorkshire’s innovators and give them the support they need to access finance, talent, new markets and expertise. This is a big focus of mine. As well as providing workspace at Platform in Leeds, we also provide connections to strategic partners such as the region’s universities and NHS trusts.
Our tech hub at Platform has been designed to both support entrepreneurs and start-up businesses in the digital tech sector and creative industries to grow and foster greater collaboration. Businesses based there have access to expert support services delivered by regional sector specialists and national partners. The incubator is currently home to a range of start-ups, from coding bootcamp provider Northcoders to diabetes management platform DigiBete, and legal tech company, Madar.
Leeds’ digital sector is growing faster than any other city in the UK, and now employs 30,000 people, having picked up a real momentum in the last decade. Start-ups in sub-sectors such as fin-tech, health tech and legal tech have flocked to the city, lured by the digital community’s close ties with the city’s universities. It’s crucial we support this thriving network and drive further investment and job creation to both support the economic recovery from the pandemic and make for a more sustainable future.
Find out more about Bruntwood SciTech and the opportunities available to support your business by visiting bruntwood.co.uk/scitech