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Decade of digital development ; Hundreds of businesses developing cutting-edge ideas have been coming out of DigitalCity in the last decade. ROBERT... [Newcastle Journal (England)]
[April 16, 2014]

Decade of digital development ; Hundreds of businesses developing cutting-edge ideas have been coming out of DigitalCity in the last decade. ROBERT... [Newcastle Journal (England)]

(Newcastle Journal (England) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Decade of digital development ; Hundreds of businesses developing cutting-edge ideas have been coming out of DigitalCity in the last decade. ROBERT GIBSON finds out more.

TEN years ago digital in the North East was very much a minor player in the region's business scene with a handful of games companies and web developers leading the way.

Fast-forward 10 years and the region is celebrated for its start- ups, cutting -edge innovators, conferences such as Thinking Digital and Animex and bootcamps and accelerators such as Searchcamp and Ignite 100.

Spearheading this has been DigitalCity, Teesside's digital supercluster which has over the past decade made a massive impact on the regional economy rejuvenating business, buildings and stimulating employment.

The digital economy is now worth Pounds 174m annually to the Tees Valley - and Pounds 62m to Middlesbrough alone driven by DigitalCity and Teesside University's forward-thinking attitude to digital.

Celebrating its 10th anniversary on May 8 the organisation was set up to harness the skills of Teesside University's increasingly exceptional digital graduates and to encourage digital business in the region.

David Jeffries, head of Digital-City, explains: "DigitalCity was created to capitalise on Teesside University's expertise in the technology sector 10 years ago by giving a framework of support for digital start-ups and entrepreneurs.

"Long before boot camps and accelerators were well-known DigitalCity fellowships gave enterprising graduates access to world- class mentors and facilities.

"We've seen over the past 10 years DigitalCity grow from an idea into a project that is making a massive difference to the economy of the Tees Valley and the North East region as a whole." D in DigitalCity's manifesto, set out in 2004 was "to create a vibrant, susu te cr ca successful and self-sustaining supercluster based on the digital technologies, digital media and creative sectors and their enabling capabilities".

Today Middlesbrough and Stockton are ranked at number 16 in a list of the UK's digital hotspots by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research, the only hotspot north of Birmingham and confirmation of the success of that manifesto.

St in by Eth Bth Gha The result of the 'Garages to Global' philosophy of DigitalCity has been the emergence of award-winning companies such as games studios Double Eleven and Coatsink Software and innovative digital companies such as Sound Training for Reading, that can improve a child's reading age by two years in six weeks and Transfer Go, which last year had a Pounds 12m turnover.

Tom Beardsmore director of Coatsink Software, now an awardwinning company with a predicted Pounds 300,000 turnover, said: "We literally wouldn't be in business today without Teesside University and Digital City.

"From the Fellowship Programme to the ongoing mentoring and fantastic office space they have on offer, their support has been priceless." Cutting-edge DigitalCity companies such as Animmersion are making very real differences in the way in which we live our lives - its 'Pain Garden', developed together with Professor Denis Martin at Teesside University, and Arthritis UK, is giving sufferers of severe pain a new way of describing the impact of pain on their physical and emotional wellbeing.

Other companies such as Spearhead Interactive are using gaming technology and virtual reality equipment to help train offshore engineers and even soldiers.

Mr Jeffries explains how DigitalCity has learnt to grow and to adapt with the changing needs of digital businesses and how it is already looking forward.

He said: "In the last ten years digital has gone from being a niche industry to being an enabler for all industry.

"The next focus for DigitalCity is to help none-digital businesses upskill and use digital as part of their processes as well as helping SMEs access more digital assets to move their business forward." "The other more intrinsic skills are looking at how we engage businesses with new technologies, for instance, visualising big data.

"An example is in logistics where you can use big data to analyse when there is congestion and pinch points and what causes them.

"Using that information you can begin to anticipate those spikes and use that to help your logistics firm to operate more effectively.

"In the future we are going to see changes in the speed in which businesses get to market.

"Already things that have previously taken weeks or days will take hours and that will make a big impact on trading abroad and accessing the global market immediately.

"Working for companies in the world-wide market will be so much easier. Previously there have been many issues around cost but bringing digital into a company's working opens up massive possibilities - already services such as Face Time and Skype mean that global collaboration is much easier.

"There's also going to be a continued rise in the use of smartphones and they will continue to perform even more tasks.

"For example I've just bought an app for my house that means I can control the heating by flicking through a message to the boiler - that will save hundreds of pounds and help people to live their lives more effectively and sustainably.

"DigitalCity's role will be to support the exciting innovators in the region, to help them to get started, develop ideas and to spread digital knowledge across the business community, regionally, nationally and globally.

"Digital is an increasingly important part of everyone's life and the fact this region has embraced digital so fully is a great reason to be proud." That sentiment is echoed by Stephen Catchpole of Tees Valley Unlimited who says: "DigitalCity has created a significant number of digital firms in the Tees Valley and supported many more.

"The Digital growth in the Tees Valley has been driven by DigitalCity and Teesside University's digital expertise. The digital business within the region also supports local industry through innovative technology solutions from shutdown and plant simulation software for the process industries to financial modelling for the energy sectors." For more information regarding the DigitalCity Fellowship programme visit, email or call: 01642 738888.

WHAT IS DIGITALCITY? DIGITALCITY began its life in 2004. An ambitious economic develop-ment initiative, its aim was to capitalise on Teesside University's expertise and reputation in digital media and technology by providing a unique environment for the creation of new digital businesses.

Since then DigitalCity has helped 250 graduates to establish 216 companies and create 389 new jobs. DigitalCity has grown to the point where it is a central tenet of the Local Enterprise Partnership's economic development strategy.

Long before boot camps became familiar in the tech world DigitalCity launched its fellowships at Teesside University to support fledgling businesses offering support and access to the best mentors in the business and digital sphere.

Meanwhile the Boho One building in Middlesbrough was established to offer start-ups a social space, affordable rents and a package of support to aid their transition into the successful business world. DigitalCity has a region-wide network of new centres in development.

MOBILEROCKIT MOBILE Rockit, supported by mentorship from DigitalCity, is an app-building platform that means everyone from sole-traders to SMEs can create their own mobile app.

The North East Chamber of Commerce are working with Mobile Rockit to inform their members of this great service and also to offer a discounted price through their members offers. Mobile Rockit was founded by Sam Whisker and Adam Lee to help more companies create their own inexpensive mobile apps.

Sam said: "Mobile Rockit allows businesses and individuals to go online and create a smartphone app. It's a really low-cost way for businesses to get an app on the market. With more and more people using mobile phones to access the internet businesses need an app to communicate with their customers." The team came up with the idea when Sam and Adam's website development company Koodoo Creative kept getting asked to build apps for customers.

Sam said: "What people wanted was completely out of their budget, especially for SMEs.

"We recognised there was a window in the market for a product to help businesses build apps themselves." The team started to develop the app builder in 2011 and the product was finished last year. Since then its popularity has gone sky-high.

Sam said: "It's been really hectic with trade shows, working with the NECC and our Reseller in Nottingham who are specialists in the education field.

"Everyone we have spoken to loves the idea, everyone sees the needs for it in their business.

"Our clients range from a butchers whose customers can order meat through the app through to recruitment agencies where people can apply for jobs.

"We're now in talks about taking the product to Hong Kong.

"It's really exciting and growing every month." We've seen DigitalCity grow from an idea into a project that is making a massive difference to the economyDavid Jeffries (c) 2014 ProQuest Information and Learning Company; All Rights Reserved.

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