Category: Government

Roundtable 3 – Digital Technology as an Enabler

Digital skills and capabilities will be essential in the new normal enabling the UK’s economic recovery. However, digital skills are broad, wide ranging and dispersed. COVID-19 gives an opportunity to reflect and change outmoded structures and ensure the workforce has the chance to have the right skills at the right time through a robust data-driven approach.

Something that we’re touching on is also the impact of having a diverse group with different backgrounds and different experiences. Having a diverse group leads to the most fruitful economy, collaborations and creativity. It brings new ideas to the table. And it’s something that I think we really need to be striving towards as we respond to this crisis.

Georgina Phillipson, Enterprise Support Coordinator, Oxford Brookes University

Watch the roundtable discussion

In the UKTCG’s third roundtable event, a panel of experts explore how digital skills and capabilities will be essential in the new normal enabling the UK’s economic recovery.

Panel speakers

  1. Ben Shorrock, MD TechSPARK, Director UK Tech Cluster Group
  2. Katie Gallagher, Managing Director, Manchester Digital, UKTCG Steering Board
  3. Johnathan Williamson, Director, TechnologyOne
  4. Andy Salmon, PVC, Bath Spa University
  5. Diane Milne, Senior Funding Officer, Dundee City Council
  6. Alastair Irons, Dean of Computing, University of Sunderland
  7. Ben Atha, CEO, The Developer Academy
  8. Michelle Gordon, Corporate Manager, Economy & Business, Babergh & Mid Suffolk District Councils
  9. Mick Westman, Founder at Digital Innovators Ltd & Vice President at the Solihull Chamber of Commerce
  10. Georgina Phillipson, Enterprise Support Coordinator, Oxford Brookes University
  11. Rob Passmore, North Devon UNESCO Biosphere Reserve

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Roundtable 2 – Building New Forms of Collaboration

Connecting start ups and large organisations is nothing new – for many years it has been recognised as something that can be a great way to drive diverse new ideas, projects and ways of thinking. But what are the key facets that make for successful collaboration?

The value of collaboration

Connecting start ups and large organisations is nothing new – for many years it has been recognised as something that can be a great way to drive diverse new ideas, projects and ways of thinking. But what are the key facets that make for successful collaboration?

One size doesn’t fit all

Building successful relationships with organisations is  not something that can be established through the same approach every time. Different organisations and start ups have varied needs, cultures and ways of working, which means successful collaboration requires a level of tailoring to achieve the best results.

Each larger organisation has its own culture, needs, and ways of doing things. And, of course, the SME community, is not a generic community. So, inevitably, you have to bespoke relationships if you want to see something that works.

Nick Sturge, MBE, Adviser – Cyber Central, Cheltenham Borough Council

Watch the roundtable discussion

In the UKTCG’s second roundtable event, speakers with experience in everything from corporate transformation, to world- class accelerators and bleeding-edge start ups discuss practical ways to build systems that allow companies to work together and how COVID-19 has changed their approach.

Panel speakers

  1. Ben Shorrock, Managing Director TechSPARK, UKTCG Steering Board
  2. Mark John, Founder, TramShed Tech, UKTCG Steering Board
  3. Nick Gibson, Industry Director – Education, TechnologyOne
  4. David Henderson, Head of Transformation, Hargreaves Lansdown
  5. Nick Sturge, Adviser – Cyber Central, Cheltenham Borough Council
  6. Penny Day, Innovation Specialist, Sunderland Software City
  7. Matt Cooling, Head of Innovation, Manchester Science Park

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Roundtable 1 – Building Technology Test Beds Across the UK

Testbeds have traditionally been important in driving innovation and allow for risk mitigation in developing new technologies and products. They also serve as a useful connector between corporate, public sector, university and innovative SME organisations.

However, there have been challenges with testbeds in the past. They can suffer from a lack of clear objectives, or unstable funding which can result in ‘Orphaned’ testbeds. To add value they are going to have to develop and adapt to support the tech and digital sector in facing the unique challenges presented by Brexit and COVID-19.

We want to see new, federated testbeds connected through industry verticals within a common infrastructure.

Paul Wilson, Founder, UK5G

Watch the roundtable discussion

In the UKTCG’s first roundtable event, a panel of experts explore how giving tech businesses more opportunities to test, trial and showcase their ideas will provide a gateway to help the public and higher education sector innovate quicker.

Panel speakers

  1. Ben Shorrock, MD TechSPARK, Director UK Tech Cluster Group
  2. David Dunn, CEO Sunderland Software City, Chair UK Tech Cluster Group
  3. Vish Mathur, Global Head of Engagement, Telecoms Infra Project
  4. Nick Sturge MBE, Adviser to Cyber Central, Cheltenham Borough Council
  5. Paul Willson, Co- Founder, UK5G
  6. Martin Reid, CEO, Engine Shed
  7. Anwen Robinson, TechnologyOne

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Accelerating Regional Recovery

As a collective group of individual organisations, the UK Tech Cluster Group (UKTCG) assembled over a year ago to connect, share and grow the communities we serve. While we regularly meet to discuss regional technology issues and share opportunities, the impact of COVID-19 on the UK tech sector has seen us work even more closely together. As the established voice of grassroots tech, we are prioritising efforts to accelerate the rate of regional recovery following widespread economic disruption caused by the pandemic.  

An independent voice 

The UKTCG represents geographical clusters of technology and digital businesses across the UK. Independent from government and self-financing, our member organisations include the entire spectrum of businesses that make up the UK’s tech economy – not just the big players. Despite the prominence of a few large corporations and so called “unicorns”, the UK’s tech economy is in fact largely skewed towards small businesses. This ecosystem naturally revolves around local clusters, usually with one or more universities involved as well. These regional ecosystems need to be understood and nurtured at a regional level.  

UKTCG’s member organisations are focused on the entirety of their local tech ecosystems, not just start-ups, scale-ups or specific vertical sectors. We support regional economic growth in both the tech sector and the wider economy. 

The organisations that make up the UKTCG are all firmly rooted in their communities and are uniquely placed to provide in-depth, granular local and regional intelligence in a way that is impossible (or very time consuming and expensive) to do at a national level. 

The UKTCG member organisations are all run by people who have years of experience of working within their local tech economy – we understand the economic and political landscape of our regions and in turn we are extremely well connected and are trusted as intermediaries. 

The group has grown out of a natural tendency of the existing regional cluster organisations to collaborate and share information and resources. Together, our robust and trusted network has an extensive reach across the UK which we believe can be harnessed to accelerate ecosystem recovery following the disruption caused by COVID-19.  

Regional intelligence and regional response 

Since early March the group has been gathering intelligence in our respective regions to understand how both companies and our regional ecosystems have been affected by COVID-19. As well as consulting with government on how to strategically combat sector pain points at large, we have been working at a grassroots level day in, day out to provide companies with immediate relief to individual problems.  

We are uniquely placed to best solve the challenges the sector faces at regional level, given our unrivalled local knowledge, current business support activity and connections across regional ecosystems.  

We therefore hope we can work with the government as a key delivery partner to quickly bring relief to our UK regions. Only by prioritising regional recovery will we see our much-coveted tech sector bounce back at large from the pandemic.  

The UK Tech Cluster Group is in a unique position to provide the voice of the industry at a truly national level and to advise the Government on providing the right support, at the right time to our industry to both survive and thrive moving forward.  

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How has your tech business been impacted by events in 2020?

Share your insights in the national Digital Skills Audit

The UK Tech Cluster Group is undertaking a national Digital Skills Audit in partnership with the Institute of Coding to understand the effect of the pandemic on the technology sector and employment across the regions of the UK. We are looking for businesses and employees to fill in the survey and share their insights and views. If you are an employer or work in a technology business, please help us to understand what is happening on the ground in your business and how we can support you over the next few years.

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UKTCG urges Government to prioritise grassroots expectations ahead of Digital Strategy

The government has been urged to prioritise the establishment of new product-led tech start-ups across the country ahead of its upcoming Digital Strategy, in a new report released by the UK Tech Cluster Group (UKTCG) today. 

The UKTCG, a self-assembled group of individuals and organisations which support geographical clusters of technology and digital businesses across the UK, has outlined seven key recommendations to unlock the potential of the UK’s tech sector following the economic impact of Covid-19.

Delivering a Recovery Roadmap Summit on June 23rd, the Group brought together hundreds of tech stakeholders, policymakers, investors and entrepreneurs in a one day virtual event to explore and develop ideas on how to both help the tech sector grow as part of the UK’s economic recovery and to better understand how digital can accelerate the recovery of other sectors too. 

The first of its kind event, conducted via a series of interactive workshops, highlighted the disproportionate impact that Covid-19 has had on the UK’s regions and nations. Sessions shared knowledge and best practice, considering ways in which towns and cities can come together to recover and reboot, while exploring how the tech sector can be harnessed to support local communities.  

Today’s report captures the learnings from the day and presents seven policy recommendations to meet the expectations of grassroots communities from across the UK.

Recommendations include a desire to build more early stage programmes to help establish a greater number of product-led tech start-ups across the UK, driving a new flow of innovation into current successful scaleup programmes.

Calls were also made for a specialist programme to help public sector bodies to better utilise digital solutions, while making clear that any schemes must consider the local nuances of the nations and regions to ensure successful engagement and impact across the UK.

The group also advocates greater emphasis on providing “test beds” to facilitate close-to-market digital innovation and stresses any new forms of collaboration between SMEs and corporates at a local level must be encouraged to drive regional and national R&D investment. 

Moreover, the Group asserts technology buyers from traditional sectors need more support with their digital adoption and transformation journeys and that there is a pressing need for programmes to enable tech careers as an option for people who have lost their jobs as a result of COVID-19, regardless of their previous profession, skill level, or age.

David Dunn, UKTCG Chair, said: “The UKTCG exists to connect, share and grow the communities it serves. Through understanding ecosystem needs at grassroots level, we have unrivalled, real time access to tech companies and communities.

“The Recovery Roadmap’s success in bringing together over 400 policy makers, from across the United Kingdom, to share best practice and learn how to practically support our communities, could and should be the start of a movement to uplift tech and digital communities across the country.

“The tech and digital industry’s importance to our economy goes unchallenged. We need to ensure people understand it, can access its knowledge and use it to drive their businesses, whether they’re startups or global giants.

“For us to succeed there is an understanding that the whole of the UK must be supported and help needs to be offered, and available wherever required, on the ground rather than directed centrally.”

Mr Dunn added: “It is our firm belief that the seven key recommendations for policy that can make a sea change in the way tech can enable the UK to the forefront of the global economy. 

“Each recommendation has a comprehensive plan behind it which we would be eager to develop further with key public policy makers for the good of our economy, our country and our local communities. The time is now to act on behalf of the grassroots.”

Anwen Robinson, Operating Officer at TechnologyOne said “Tech and digital hubs around the UK can, and must, play a central role in helping us come out of this crisis stronger. Given the right policy framework with local empowerment and underpinned by enabling technology, our industry can thrive, greatly benefitting the communities, local authorities and educational institutions in cities, towns and villages where we operate.

We fully support UKTCG’s call for a specialist programme to help public sector bodies better utilise digital solutions. By helping senior public sector managers think more digitally, Central and Local Government will become more efficient and much better equipped to support the communities they serve.

Likewise, for the education sector, more courses, training and student services must rapidly move online, to ensure there’s social mobility and opportunity wherever you are in the UK or indeed globally.”

The Recovery Roadmap Report, in association with TechnologyOne, is available for public viewing here

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The Recovery Roadmap Report

The Recovery Roadmap explores the disproportionate impact on the nations & regions in the face of COVID-19 and what we can do together to recover and reboot.

The report considers the key challenges facing  tech ecosystems and how, in turn, they can enable resilience in more traditional sectors. We consider a series of key policy interventions which will support us all to build back better.

To download the full report, please submit your details below

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Mockups Design

The Recovery Roadmap Summit

On 23rd June 2020 the UKTCG will host the Recovery Roadmap Summit to plan how tech communities across the UK can emerge from this crisis even stronger.

The Summit will explore the disproportionate impact on the UK’s nations & regions in the face of Covid-19 and what we can do together to recover and reboot. The day will consider the different draft recovery plans that areas have and share learning across clusters to answer the question, ‘What solutions have people come up with which could be replicated in different areas?’ This is particularly focused on the impact on the tech sector and how the tech sector can support its local communities.

The Roadmap to Recovery event is designed to be action orientated, with political leaders setting the scene followed by a series workshops to practically share knowledge and best practice including

Strategic Insight

  • Keynote & panels on the strategic approach to our response to COVID-19 with Ministers, Local Authority Leaders and Mayors

Practical Responses

A series of practical workshops and sessions focussed on:

  • the new skills we need to develop in the talent pool and how it can be done
  • business support that helps transform our business base for a digital future
  • building the physical infrastructure to ensure our future resilience

Geographical Focus

Ensuring our plans are globally competitive we will have sessions considering:

  • International approaches and best practice
  • the unique needs of our nations and regions
  • using wider geographies (such as the Northern Powerhouse) can give us an international platform


This will be an invite-only event for key policymakers and ecosystem leaders in our communities across the UK.  The sessions are action orientated and are for the people formulating our response to this crisis., We expect to have 200-400 attendees from across the UK.


Following the conversations, we would use the data and market intelligence gathered to create a  report and policy document on areas of best practice & knowledge sharing which we can then feed into our localities. This would act as a call to action and maintain ongoing conversations.

The Draft Agenda is

If you’d like to know more about the Summit or how to get involved please email

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Help build the future of Scotland as a Digital Nation

Scottish-based tech firms are being asked to help build the future of Scotland as a digital nation.

The ScotlandIS Challenge, launched today by ScotlandIS in partnership with The Scottish Government, is calling on companies of all sizes to submit ideas, by Tuesday 16th June, that will help increase the pace of Scotland’s digital progress and develop the critical national digital and data infrastructure the country needs.

The resulting projects will be taken forward as part of The Scottish Government’s CivTech process, which has an established track record of bringing the public and private sectors together to deliver innovative solutions and create new commercial opportunities, from making more essential public services available online, to improving how financial transactions are carried out.

Jane Morrison-Ross, chief executive of ScotlandIS, said:

“Through this challenge, Scotland has the opportunity to become a Digital Nation, a true digital democracy. Digital underpins everything and is critical to our economy. The rapid digital transformation of business and society would not have been possible without the infrastructure, products and services created by our digital ecosystem. 

“But we can do more. And we can do it better. We want to harness technology and innovation to evolve current business models, drive efficiencies and productivity gains across the economy.  To create a country known for innovation, for an ethical approach to data and an integrated approach to public services.  By building the right transformational infrastructure and working collaboratively, we can create a Digital Scotland that is good for the people, the economy, the environment and the government.”

Ben Macpherson MSP, Minister for Public Finance and Migration said:

ScotlandIS and The Scottish Government are looking for ground-breaking ideas and potential solutions to challenges that display technical expertise and results-based thinking. The ScotlandIS Challenge is open and inclusive, and encourages firms to consider the following:

  • What are the key components of a new digital and data infrastructure and why they are a priority?
  • How can the national digital and data assets of Scotland be protected?
  • What are the technical solutions to build these components and how can they be applied?
  • How could more essential public services be delivered online – be that healthcare, education, or the way we carry out financial transactions?
  • How could The Scottish Government work more closely with the private sector to speed delivery, innovate and maximise benefits and investment to the Scottish economy?

Once ideas have been submitted, an expert multi-disciplinary team formed from Scottish Government and ScotlandIS will review the results, identify common themes, make the results available across Government, agree the priority actions to take and communicate back the findings and recommendations to the sector.

More information can be found on  Digital Nation and responses should be submitted by email to by Tuesday 16th June 2020.

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Why Demand Led Recovery is the key to our future success

COVID-19 has created unprecedented challenges for digital and non-digital companies alike; demand led recovery will be how we best move our economy forward across all sectors. 

As we move to the next phase of the Covid-19 pandemic plan I think it’s appropriate I share some observations and thoughts about how the digital sector has fared and what recovery might look like. 

I’m writing based on a myriad of experience of the impact of Covid-19 on the digital sector, and wider digital adoption. I’ve garnered this as CEO of Sunderland Software City, the Chair of the UK Tech Cluster Group and trustee of Citizens Advice Scotland

The digital sector, in the majority, has coped perhaps better than any other sector. I’m not belittling any struggles digital companies have faced; to own and run a business during this situation has been unprecedented, throwing forward economic and moral challenges we are probably never likely to see again in this generation. 

However, many companies I’ve spoken to or heard stories of have either maintained customer numbers or gained new ones. This is of course, not uniform. Those companies which can support digital adoption in other sectors have seen an acceleration of demand that, I believe, might have taken them 3 to 4 years of hard messaging and sales visits. Others in the digital sector that, for example have a software-as-a-service offering to increase sales or provide market intelligence, have seen a stagnation in their orderbook. 

The current government initiatives to support businesses through this period are openly acknowledged as largely generic, there to help the widest range of businesses across all sectors. Some I’ve seen put to use with digital sector businesses. I’ve seen staff furloughed, although in the digital sector this tends to be either administrative staff or a cost-saving exercise by microbusinesses to ensure at least some revenue income. 

At the time of writing this, the Future Fund still has unclear criteria which until sorted could make it incredibly useful or utterly pointless. InnovateUK funds have the ambition to maintain an upward curve of R&D spend but unless they can overcome the challenge of processing capacity and outreach to those that don’t normally access their funds, I feel a big amount of funding could have only a small positive effect across the UK. 

It’s on this point, i.e. how we recover, I’d like to posit some thoughts. We entered this pandemic with a few points on the Government’s agenda but perhaps most significantly the ambition of “levelling-up”. We must not forget this ambition as we move into an economic, social and environmental recovery phase. 

Whilst immensely important, the purpose of this blog isn’t to highlight the relationship between deprived UK areas and the health outcomes of those who’ve had CoronaVirus. Just looking at CoronaVirus Dashboard should be enough to instigate another incredibly essential conversation on this. Nor is this blog an advocacy on the effects of lockdown on our natural environment and the lessons we can take forward towards a net-zero carbon future. This blog is about our economic recovery. 

I believe taking a demand led recovery stance will provide an immensely positive outcome, not only for the digital sector, but for all sectors across the whole of the UK. Importantly, this demand led recovery can be nuanced in different areas to meet local demand and thus underpin the levelling-up ambition that we must not cast aside. 

Demand Led Recovery 

Demand led recovery is about supporting all sectors to understand the new challenges they face as we adjust to the much mentioned ‘new-normal’.  Some of these new challenges will be truly new, never before seen as challenges.  Some will be existing challenges transformed by this new paradigm in which we now live. Importantly – and perhaps obviously given how I started this blog – there should be a huge emphasis on, and support for, how these challenges can be overcome through digital adoption and innovation. 

Let me be clear, digital adoption is not a panacea for every challenge faced by every sector but in many cases, well planned and well executed digital adoption will help. We have an opportunity to maintain a vastly accelerated rate of digital adoption in this country if we provide ongoing support. This should include support to all industries to help them clarify and articulate their challenges. It should include funding to allow businesses to pilot and normalise digital adoption. 

In doing this we will support digital demand sectors to become more productive and efficient whilst helping them innovate new products and services. This approach will also support the digital sector to refill its orderbook and develop new innovative offerings thus providing growth and employment. 

Ultimately, I wholeheartedly believe this approach will advance the recovery of the UK economy at an expedited pace. I also imagine, if done right – with appropriate government support – this demand led digital adoption will truly underpin the levelling-up agenda. 

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