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A Message From Jim Mawdsley: Behind the Scenes at Digital Union

As ever, there has been a lot going on over the last 2 months or so and we certainly feel that all of it has been raising the profile of Digital Union both nationally and regionally.

As many of you are aware, we published the One Region, One Sector, One Statement piece at the launch of the North East Digital Festival in mid-May. This document was the culmination of 10 months of work by all the organisations working to support the Creative Digital and Tech sectors in the entire North East of England. Lead and driven by us at DU, the idea was for us to pull everyone together to produce one definitive document that said, ‘this is what the North East Sector looks like’.

We knew that this wouldn’t work unless everyone was on board and we are pleased that for the first time, everyone came together and contributed in some way, shape or form.

Since the release, we have had a huge amount of positive responses from those that have seen it including the NE LEP, regional and Northern media and most importantly, the business community themselves. Pushing the document is obviously as important as producing it as we need to make sure it is picked up by all parties that we intended it for. We were therefore delighted that I was asked to present it to the Digital Economy Advisory Group, Chaired by Margot James, the Minister for Digital and Creative Industries, at their meeting at Proto a couple of weeks ago. It was great that policy advisors at DCMS has picked up on it and following the presentation Margot James praised the work and the fantastic depth and diversity of businesses we have in the region.

If you haven’t seen it yet you can here.

Representing DU to policy advisors and Government didn’t stop there last month as many of you might have picked up on Twitter. As one of 2 North East representatives on the UK Tech Cluster Group, I was at 10 Downing Street at the start of the month discussing ways in which the Government can assist with growth of the sector around the regions.

This group was originally convened a year ago by DCMS and has since met regularly in various locations to compare notes and deliver regional perspectives to Government advisors on what needs to be done to grow the Digital and Tech Economy. When it first started, meetings took place for around 2 – 3 hours with packed agendas. Following DCMS staff informing other departments of the group, we are receiving more requests to help comment and discuss policy in a wide range of departments including Education, BAIS, the Treasury and as above the Prime Minister’s office.

This culminated before the visit to Number 10 in DCMS asking to see a brief Grass Roots report to central Government on issues and opportunities within our regions. You can see this here.

It is becoming a really strong and effective group and its fantastic that Digital Union are at the table representing the businesses of the region.

Coming back to the region and the launch of the NE Digital Festival, we were also pleased to see the NE LEP’s Digital Lead, Laura Partridge, discussing the initial outlines of a Digital Strategy for the North of the Region. Again, this has been a culmination of many discussions with the sector followed by guidance from a small group of us who work directly with businesses or have a strong holistic view of the North East and how it sits with the rest of the UK. I am really pleased to say that one of the best things about the strategy is that it is all inclusive. By that I mean it covers the whole of the spectrum from Creative Digital right through to Deep Tech. There have been many times where people have wanted to separate and divide the sector into chunks, so I’m pleased that the message we champion of One Sector is coming through in regional policy.

Finally, we’ve also been looking to make some tweaks to the Digital Union Manifesto we published last year to cover year 19&20. In doing this we have been looking at how we can deliver some specific tangible projects that will help the community in the areas of talent and skills, profile, finance and funding and business support. Over the Summer months we will be refreshing the approach we have to how we deliver on some of the pledges we made last year and refreshed this. In doing this, we want and need more of you to get involved to make sure everything we do is as strong as possible. So please watch this space and the frequent newsletters we put out and remember…

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