£12m to secure future of tech and digital in North of Tyne

The North of Tyne Combined Authority (NTCA) will invest £12m to boost the digital sector in Newcastle upon Tyne, North Tyneside and Northumberland.

The investment, which includes £7m for a 5G and Future Connectivity fund, will be used to create jobs in a ‘digital ecosystem’ of mutually supportive tech businesses and organisations.

It will help create 600 jobs and safeguard a further 140, while also unlocking support for over 500 enterprises and 450 residents.

It underpins the NTCA’s ambition for the region to be a hub for inclusive innovation and world class research and development.

The government’s recently launched Innovation Strategy said the pace of technological change would make the 2020s a pivotal moment for the UK’s future prosperity.

North of Tyne leaders said the £12m investment would future-proof the region’s economy, laying the foundations for further investment and growth.

It builds on previous multimillion pound investments to improve rural internet connectivity and access to digital expertise that is already unlocking data driven innovation and the adoption of new technologies by local businesses.

Commenting, North of Tyne CA’s Cabinet Member for Clean Energy and Connectivity, Councillor Richard Wearmouth said:

“This will be a game changer for the region.

“It will accelerate investment in infrastructure and connectivity in the North of Tyne, supporting the industry-led innovation of our rapidly growing tech sector.

“And it will give real incentives for mobile networks and infrastructure providers to roll out superfast wireless and fibre across Newcastle, North Tyneside and Northumberland.

“The power of digital solutions can help countless businesses emerge from the crisis.

“From artificial intelligence to data clouds, from Digital Innovation Hubs to ‘deep tech’ start-ups, innovation, growth and productivity, and technology will go hand in hand.”

The NTCA said that the 5G and Future Connectivity investment will increase the pace that game-changing technologies, such as 5G, are made available and adopted by industry.

It will create an ecosystem of experts to ensure the development of ‘investment ready’ pitches for significant future government funding of digital infrastructure, they added.

Also, they believe it will add to the region’s reputation as an attractive place to do business, target investment, create good jobs and will capitalise on existing expertise and emerging strengths, including in health tech and connected construction.

Plans also include providing £5m to support start-ups and unlock the potential of digital and tech businesses by working with partners in the region.

North of Tyne CA Cabinet Member for Jobs, Innovation and Growth, Councillor Nick Forbes added:

“The digital sector is transforming our economy and how services are delivered.

“That’s why we are looking to make this major investment now.

“The North of Tyne has some great assets, cutting edge research at Newcastle Helix, large digital firms like IBM in North Tyneside and hi-tech manufacturers in Northumberland.

“We must ensure we remain at the forefront of the digital revolution.

“But this investment is also about people.

“By showing confidence in our communities, businesses and their ideas, we can create the jobs of the future right here.”

The new funding builds on the NTCA’s existing digital programme.

This has invested in rural connectivity, support to small businesses to adapt and digitise during the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as to make cutting edge data analysis available, in partnership with the National Innovation Centre for Data in Newcastle.

The programme is also tackling digital exclusion by providing laptops and connectivity to schools and to people who were cut off during Covid-19.

It compliments significant private sector investment in broadband infrastructure with North Sea cabling to improve international communications and local full fibre networks, which will connect people and businesses to local, national and international markets.

More than half of all digital jobs in North-East England are in the North of Tyne area.

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