How the technology sector will drive Yorkshire's economic recovery, a Platform perspective
Updated: Nov 11, 2020
The UK has long held an international reputation for it’s science and technology sector; employing over 2m people and generating £149bn GVA for the economy each year. Yorkshire’s tech sector continues to grow having seen £100m VC investment in 2019 with data science, fintech, legaltech, AI, and gaming being recognised as key strengths for the region. As the UK Government looks to increase its spending commitment to the science and tech sector with ambitious plans to invest up to 2.4% of GDP on R&D by 2027 and lays down plans for its R&D roadmap, it’s clear Yorkshire has a key role to play in driving the country’s economic recovery.
We’ve all experienced the positive impact that digital and tech businesses have had on our own lives and that of our economy during the Covid-19 pandemic, which has led to the triple-digit growth in usage of video conferencing software to facilitate homeworking, streaming platforms, and gaming apps. We saw many Leeds-based companies rapidly evolve and pivot their businesses at scale and pace, responding and adapting to the ‘new normal’. Platform alumnus Kwizzbit saw a surge in growth, providing online, interactive quiz solutions for personal and business use, whilst current customer Jublo is busier than ever with exceptional growth - now working across 39 countries, and earlier this year appointed 110 new translators to work on a world leading e-retailer’s project, resulting in them translating over 4 million words a month. We also saw angel group NorthInvest quickly pivot to offer online virtual pitch events which helped IP-rich start-ups based in the North of England raise almost £2m. It is the agility of these tech-focussed businesses to innovate and adapt rapidly that will help steer and drive our region’s economic recovery.
Having recently joined the UKs largest science and tech property provider, in order to deliver innovation services to those residing in our buildings, I have to ask what is it that tech companies need from their workspaces that’s different from any other business? Everyone is looking for affordability and flexibility and they are no different in that regard as they grow and contract in line with market forces. Super fast, super resilient broadband has long been expected as standard but with more and more companies producing or analysing terabytes of data, we’re seeing increasing demand for access to multi-gig connectivity, close association with data centres, and fully anticipate 5G and WIFI 6 will become the expected norm. We’re also seeing increased importance placed on health and wellbeing and sustainability with demand for low carbon workplaces.
Platform’s Tech Hub coworking space
But it’s the specialist infrastructure and community dynamics that I have discovered companies need most, and that’s why for many tech businesses it’s not the end of the workplace, but it’s what is very much at the epicentre of their growth plans. Working from home can restrict their ability to innovate, collaborate, get the creative juices flowing, and as we recover from the pandemic these benefits will help to refocus where the value of the workplace lies. As the leading property provider to the science and technology sector, it is this specialist infrastructure which we believe acts as a magnet for our sector-specialist communities. It is as much about how we support these clusters and communities to grow; creating places and spaces that present and encourage opportunities for collaboration and the sharing of ideas. The workplace provides those physical spaces for physical interactions that one cannot generally get from behind a computer screen.
The workplace is also where a company’s culture is created; where you onboard, train, develop and shape your people. Humans are social animals and we’ve all seen the adverse impact that prolonged periods of working from home can have on mental and physical wellbeing and how quickly this can be countered by a return to the workplace, particularly those that also offer gyms, cafes and health and wellbeing initiatives, like many co-working and office providers now do.
Equally it’s as much about the power of place. For example, at Platform, which is located in the heart of Leeds city centre, Bruntwood SciTech helps to support tech start ups, and connect scale ups and large tech businesses to help drive collaboration and new opportunities. We don’t just provide space, but also access to talent, finance and new markets via our unrivalled partner network and it is this, we believe, that will help to drive the region’s economic growth and recovery.
Find out more about Bruntwood SciTech and the businesses located within their network by visiting bruntwood.co.uk/scitech