Category: Talent and Skills

Meeting Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State to discuss the growth of tech across the UK

The UK Tech Cluster Group (UKTCG) welcomed the Shadow Secretary of State Lucy Powell to Manchester Technology Centre for a meeting on the future of digital tech across the UK. 

Lucy, who is also the MP for Manchester Central, talked about Labour’s upcoming plans for the digital economy. Katie Gallagher, MD of Manchester Digital and chair of the UKTCG, and group members provided insights from their work with businesses about what is needed to unlock the full potential of the tech economy right across the UK.    

Lucy Powell outlined that as the official opposition, the Labour Party are keen to support all parts of the UK and ensure that digital regulation, data and AI policies nationally underpin the work of local and regional leadership and businesses across the UK in delivering a world-leading tech economy which works for all communities. 

Lucy explained, “We are keen to work with the tech industry in all parts of the UK. With proper devolution, local leaders could design their own programmes and decide how funding is allocated without the expense and time of bidding to multiple fundings pots held in Whitehall.” 

Phil Jones, director of innovation at Wired Sussex, said: “The ‘connective tissue’ of our local and regional ecosystems are crucial to driving innovation – both for high productivity businesses, and in the foundational economies. Through our work at the grassroots, we see practical ways to support more people and companies to benefit from the opportunities which the digital economy creates. 

“As a sector, we are keen to help young people really understand the wide variety of career pathways within the industry with huge scope for progression. We also need a more supportive environment for the Angel sector, and a better way to connect early-stage start-ups with Angel investors. All of this would create a wider ‘connective tissue’ to support the growth of the tech industry.”

David Dunn, CEO at Sunderland Software City, agreed, “It’s really important that we reach into schools to help develop the tech pipeline. So we need to create more talent, from school age to ensure we have a growing pathway into the tech industry.” 

Katie outlined some current limitations of the Apprenticeship Levy. “We would like to see the opportunities for smaller employers, who often don’t take on apprentices for fear of the unknown. It would be great to see an awareness campaign as well as some level of reform around how businesses can use the Levy.

“The funding that goes into Business Growth Hubs, for example, is for generic businesses, not specifically tech or startups. Devolution can help the tech sector as local leadership and their business community know where they need specific funding.”

Katie reiterated how important it was to include smaller tech clusters in wider programmes, otherwise they frequently miss out. 

Phil added, “Engaging with partners on the ground who collectively understand industry needs and barriers to growth and inclusion, is crucial to ensuring all parts of the UK are able to share in the success of our tech sector.”

Yiannis Maos, CEO of Birmingham Tech, expanded on this, “We need to support our tech SMEs to reach their potential  because that’s where growth happens. This also creates jobs in our communities and drives innovation across the economy.”

The UK Tech Cluster Group works with Government and Parliamentarians as well as local leadership, industry and partners within our clusters. Members are represented on the Government’s Digital Economy Council and Digital Skills Council and collaborate nationally to support the smart, sustainable and inclusive growth of the UK’s tech ecosystems.

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New Government Digital Skills Council to boost the regions

Despite the current leadership contest within the Government, high inflation and a possible recession, the UK is still in a great place to continue developing the tech industry across the regions. 

There has never been a more critical time to focus on creating more high value jobs and high productivity, or to focus on developing the regional tech eco-systems.

As chair of the UK Tech Cluster Group, I have recently been appointed onto the Government’s Digital Skills Council, along with a number of other ministers, academics, tech organisations and tech entrepreneurs to work together to address current and future needs for digital skills and to develop more digital jobs. 

The council has been set up to: 

  • promote routes into digital careers and opportunities for the labour market to re-skill and up-skill to meet current and future employer needs
  • increase awareness of resources that enable pathways into digital and digitally enabled jobs for workers in non-digital roles
  • promote mechanisms to provide increasingly diverse access to digital roles and digitally enabled roles

A changing society 

During the Covid-19 pandemic, many businesses had to undergo speedy digital transformation to keep up with demand and are still seeing increased sales due to ongoing changing consumer habits. 

The future is digital – this has been known for a long-time, but we need to ensure that we have a workforce with the right tech skills to develop the whole of the UK as a global tech powerhouse. The Government has ambitious aims to transform the UK into a digital economy – but there is still an enormous job to do closing the growing tech skills gap, in upskilling the workforce, and developing more tech-focused talent pathways right from early school-age. 

Driving forward the tech agenda 

We are looking forward to working together as a group of tech leaders, ministers and organisations to develop the UK regional tech industry and help it thrive and flourish. Bringing experts together with in-depth knowledge of the regional ecosystem is the best way to develop a strong tech-based future across the whole of the UK. 

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Apply for the world-class Sunderland based IoT accelerator programme

Applications are now open for world-class Sunderland based IoT accelerator programme

Sunderland City Council has partnered with global communications network provider, BAI, and leading tech sector support organisation, Sunderland Software City. Together they are launching an exciting new IoT and 5G accelerator programme. This is a unique opportunity for businesses and startups to join a programme that combines leading-edge infrastructure with IoT domain expertise and guidance from internationally renowned organisations.

Sunderland is at the forefront of the UK’s drive to create smart cities and the latest council led initiative is looking for businesses and startups to take part in the 6-week, Sunderland based accelerator. Successful applications will form a 10-team cohort that will each receive up to £10,000 grant funding.

Sandbox environments will be made available for the city wide 5G and LoRaWAN networks where applications can develop, test and deploy their solutions.

The programme will be delivered by a team of experienced practitioners at Sunderland Software City. The accelerator is at no cost to the teams, and unlike many accelerators, no equity will be taken in return for participation, whilst the IP remains in full control of the teams involved.

The teams will take part in a structured series of workshops, mentoring sessions, pitch development and training, and introductions to influential and valuable networking opportunities. The programme culminates in a showcase event to demonstrate their progress. Project themes are broad, but a focus on IoT challenges affecting smart homes, skills and education, and manufacturing will be considered favourably.


ProgrammeSunderland Our Smart City IoT & 5G Accelerator
Dates6 weeks from 12th September 2022
Programme ContactStephen Fenwick

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New Government digital strategy launched

By Katie Gallagher, chair of the UK Tech Cluster Group and MD of Manchester Digital

The Government announced its new Digital Strategy today, coinciding with London Tech Week, which is a little bit ironic, given all its talk of levelling up to the regions over the past year. However, it is heartening to see that there is acknowledgment of the growing importance of regional tech ecosystems with the government predicting that regional ecosystems could contribute an additional £41.4bn to GVA by 2025.

The document is an update to its predecessor from 2017 – which seems far more than five years ago, given everything that has happened in the UK since then. 

As the UK economy falters after the pandemic spending spree, the Government is placing its hope for the future in tech, digital and innovation. The report states that the UK saw £27.4 billion private capital invested in tech last year, more than any other European country. Cisco predicts that a more inclusive digital strategy could add £168 billion to the UK economy by 2030. The updated vision from DCMS is that the UK will be the best place in the world to start and grow a tech business.  

The newly released paper covers six areas that the Government will focus on to achieve their aims: 

New digital regulations – creating a digital infrastructure to protect citizens and ensure that tech and digital security and intellectual property is defended. 

Ideas and intellectual property – Government investment into research and development as well as R&D tax incentives, as well as growing AI, next-generation semi-conductors, digital twins, autonomous systems and quantum computing. 

Digital skills and talent – working with schools, universities and further education to develop tech and digital skills, as well as continuing to invest in apprenticeships, T-Levels and other digital training – and opening up new visa routes. 

Financing digital growth – continuing to support innovation and growth financing, as well as continuing to promote the London Stock Exchange. 

Levelling up and public services – creating better access to digital technologies across the whole of the UK. 

Enhancing the UK’s place as a global tech power – promoting better global trade, which is also linked to a forthcoming International Tech Strategy. 

I have recently been appointed to the Government’s Digital Skills Council which is currently looking at how we can combine the levelling up agenda with digital skills and tech growth. If this Government is going to create an enviable global tech hub, then it must work quickly to include the whole of the UK, and not just London. 

As chair of the UK Tech Cluster Group, I work hard with colleagues from the other regions and nations to raise the  profile of regional tech ecosystems and help national and regional governments understand the best ways to support and grow them.

Across the UK, regional tech ecosystems have many of the same core issues but they are also at different stages of their development, with different specialisms and differing levels of provision, whether that is access to funding, the right skills supply or scale up support.

The only way that levelling up the tech industry will work is if it happens at a grass roots level and any intervention from the Government is flexible enough to meet the nuanced needs of the regions and nations. 

In addition to this, the regional tech eco-systems have a huge role to play in developing R&D capacity, in terms of outgoings and cost, so I would love to see these assets developed. While they have less capital outgoings on rent, salaries etc, there is more budget available to go into equipment and research. A relatively small number of highly innovative and fast-growing businesses, stemming from this localised innovation, can make a huge difference to the prosperity of smaller towns and cities.

Overall, we welcome the new Digital Strategy and its ambitions. However, it is absolutely vital for the Government to realise what already exists in the regions. Grassroots tech organisations work incredibly hard to support start-ups, create role model programmes for youngsters and developing tech apprenticeships – all without huge amounts of investment. 

Imagine what we could achieve with significant amounts of investment…

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Manchester Digital and Princes Trust join forces on digital skills.

Manchester Digital will be working in partnership with The Prince’s Trust to deliver an innovative digital skills project as part of the Sustainable Futures Fund.

They will be working with Wigan Council and employer partners such as Auto Trader, BJSS and Zuhlke to design and deliver an exciting new digital skills training programme that will provide mentoring and training in some of the future-focused, non-coding related job roles and skillsets that businesses report as growing in importance for them in the next 3-5 years within the industry.

Young people taking part will learn about a variety of roles such as Digital Project Management, User Experience Design and Research, and Digital Marketing for business, and will be able to put their learning into practice through a live project brief from employers whilst gaining vital work experience.

The strength of this programme lies within its integrated collaboration model, ensuring the young people are holistically supported through the programme and beyond.

The leader of Wigan Council, Councillor David Molyneux said: “Equipping our young people with the skill they need to grow as future leaders is a key priority for the council.

“This programme will provide vital expertise and advice to the next generation, helping them to grow in confidence and excel in their careers. It will also complement the opportunities we created in 2019 through the Apprenticeships for Young People scheme, which helped our young people get onto the career ladder in specific fields, including digital.

“The importance of this sector has risen in recent years but we have seen the value of digital capabilities even more-so throughout the pandemic. We look forward to working with Manchester Digital and The Princes Trust to watch more of our young people flourish and we can’t wait to see their creativity come to the fore.”

Employer partners said: “This project will really start to create pathways for a more diverse group of young people to access opportunities within our industry. We strongly believe that training programmes co-designed and delivered by expertise from within the industry have the most impact. We’re looking forward to helping to elevate awareness of and connection to diverse real role models for young people in Wigan to be inspired. “

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Expansion plans for Digital Her

Manchester Digital has announced its plans for the next 12 months of the ground-breaking Digital Her programme.

Since its inception, Digital Her has aimed to encourage more women into the digital and tech industry by offering support, guidance and opportunities. Despite the challenges of the pandemic, the programme reached over 2000 young women in the past year.

To coincide with International Women in Engineering Day, Manchester Digital announced their supporters for the year ahead, including returning sponsor Auto Trader, new sponsors BAE Systems Applied Intelligence, Bruntwood SciTech and KPMG.

Their plans for the next 12 months include more interactive employer designed and delivered digital skills and career insights workshops, real role model engagement, as well as Women Talk events and meetups. They will also be introducing the Digital Her mentor programme (Mentor Her).

Read more about Digital Her.

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West Midlands bootcamps to create opportunities for Black women to get into tech.

The Founders of Niyo Enterprise are empowering black women through technology by kick starting the ‘Black Disruptor’ Accelerator. Sponsored by the West Midlands Combined Authority, Niyo Network has secured a contract to facilitate Accelerator Bootcamps that are uniquely designed for the benefit of Black female business founders and Black females changing to careers in tech within the West Midlands. The first of these bootcamp accelerators will be launching in May 2021.

Black women are still heavily under-represented in IT & Tech roles; in comparison, across other occupations, their level of representation is 2.5 times higher (according to BCS chartered Institute for IT). The Black Disruptor Accelerator programme has been designed to specifically target this issue head on by taking on women who would not be able to afford learning to help them develop skills in AR & VR by offering training and providing job readiness for the tech industry for free.

Find out more about the ‘Black Disruptor’ Accelerator.

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Roundtable 8 – Women in technology

In our eighth roundtable session as part of the national Recovery Roadmap program, the group discussed how Women are underrepresented in tech — a recent poll said only 8% of women hold tech roles as software engineers. A diverse workforce makes better businesses; how do we work better to support marginalised talent to step up and lead in the public & private sector? What role does technology play in improving our businesses and organisations?

We are significantly pushing women out. We are already falling behind in terms of skills and making progress in this space. If you look at the data around women in STEM, the progress we’ve been making on getting young women into STEM is 0.25% each year, for the past four years. So in four years, we’ve increased the number of women in STEM by 1%.

Zara Nanu, Global Future Council at World Economic Forum, CEO at Gapsquare

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.

  1. Ben Shorrock, Managing Director TechSPARK, UKTCG Steering Board
  2. Sarah Fry, Research & Development, TechnologyOne
  3. Zara Nanu, Global Future Council at World Economic Forum, CEO at Gapsquare
  4. Marina Traversari, Global Head of Startup Ecosystem, Telecom Infra Project
  5. Katie Gallagher, MD, Manchester Director, Director Digital Her
  6. Lucy Paine, Director, Tech Swindon
  7. Jess Philips, Enterprise Innovation Manager, Tramshed Tech

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Roundtable 7 – Reskilling to drive technology employment

In our seventh  roundtable session as part of the national Recovery Roadmap program, the group discussed how stakeholders from across government, local authorities, and enterprise partnerships help us to create awareness of the jobs available in the tech sector and to undertake positive action to reskill people to fill these roles.

We  do lots of research, but also,  part of the purpose of our pilots will be gathering further information about skills need. These projects are quite short, a year or 18 months, so we’ll have good needs information from business and better be  able to identify the plans for bigger programmes. Alongside this we have skills boards made up of industry leaders in different sectors advising us.

Jane Vivian People and Skills Programme Manager, West of England Combined Authority

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.

  1. Ben Shorrock, Managing Director TechSPARK, UKTCG Steering Board 
  2. Jonathan Williamson, SaaS Platform Director, TechnologyOne 
  3.  Scott Murphy, Managing Director, HdE TALENT 
  4. Robert Walker, Strategic Project Manager Digital Skills for Employability, Sheffield City Council 
  5. Rob Dawson, Enterprise Officer, Bath & North East Somerset Council 
  6. Caitlin Davies  Senior Manager Economy Skills and Natural Resources, Welsh Government 
  7. Jane Vivian, People and Skills Programme Manager, West of England Combined Authority

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The 2021 Skills Audit

Find out about the results of our 2021 skills audit of more than 800 tech businesses and professionals.

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