Region’s tech sector key to rebooting the economy

Yorkshire and Humber’s tech scene could be the key to rebooting the economy after it reported its strongest year yet in 2020 with digital tech businesses across the region raising a total of £159m in investment.

The figure is a new high and beats the previous record level set in 2018 of £142m according to data by Tech Nation, the UK network for ambitious tech entrepreneurs.

Despite the challenging effects of the coronavirus pandemic, tech businesses across the region have continued to flourish with nearly 10% of all the 41,356 open vacancies across the region in IT related roles.

Leeds unsurprisingly remains the biggest centre in the region when it comes to tech jobs with employers including Crisp, the Flutter-owned Sky Bet, and the 333 startups and scale-ups which call the city home.

In fact within Leeds specialist software skills are in particularly high demand according to job search engine Adzuna which means software consultants have enjoyed a 51% salary increase in the past year, with an average salary of £68,878.

However, Leeds is far from the only city that is home to a thriving tech ecosystem in the region. Previous Tech Nation research shows that tech companies in the region turned over nearly £4 billion in 2019 and employ more than 53,000 people. Five Yorkshire-based companies were named in the Sunday Times Tech Track 100 for 2020, including Fleetondemand and Smart Search in West Yorkshire and Giacom in Hull, which was acquired by Digital Wholesale Solutions in November.

It’s not only established businesses that are doing well with many newly-formed startups raising seed investment at the end of 2020 including Leeds-based healthtech and wellbeing company Hero, which raised £830,000, Sheffield AI startup Opteran which raised £2.1m and Ilkley-based fintech banking platform Icuto which raised £1.8 million.

Minister for Digital Caroline Dinenage said: “Yorkshire is becoming one of our strongest tech hubs in the UK and it is great to see the benefits of this dynamic industry expanding across the whole region. We are committed to spreading jobs and opportunities in the digital sector across the country and, with 2020’s investment figures reaching record highs in Yorkshire and the Humber, I look forward to working with local tech entrepreneurs to build on this momentum throughout the next year.”

Dr George Windsor, head of insights at Tech Nation explained that tech had “been integral to keeping people connected and the economy moving” in 2020 but that in 2021 he expected it to play a key role in economic recovery.

Adding:”UK tech businesses will be at the heart of the recovery, providing essential services to millions of people and in doing so creating jobs right across the country.”

Adam Hildreth

Adam Hildreth, founder and CEO of Crisp, said: “Although over 95% of our business comes from overseas, our global HQ and innovation hub is based in Leeds. With a collaborative spirit within the tech community and access to graduates from the many local universities, we’ve been able to continue our fast growth through recruiting some of the best talent in the UK. And not only is Leeds a great place to build a tech firm, it’s also a great place to live so our staff can have a high quality of life.”

Lucy Blackley, founder and director of Bombyx PLM, said: “People don’t necessarily think of Hull as having a tech scene but there’s a brilliant ecosystem bubbling in the city. The C4DI incubator has been integral in helping us to grow Bombyx PLM – the regular, now virtual, meetups help you to build a support network and the investment in the city is essential for new companies starting up. It’s such a welcoming place, I couldn’t imagine anywhere better to launch a tech company.”

The economic opportunities the tech sector can bring to the region will be one of the key topics at the upcoming full day conference Invest North, which will see leaders gather and set the agenda for post-pandemic growth in the North. 

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