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Norwich pinpointed as ‘vibrant digital technology cluster’ in key national study

18:15 05 February 2015

The winter sun sets over some of Norwich

The winter sun sets over some of Norwich's spires. Picture by SIMON FINLAY.

Archant Norfolk.

Norwich’s emerging reputation as a centre for technology businesses has been underscored by a new report championing the UK’s digital economy.

Ben Taylor of Future50 firm Rainbird.
Photo by Simon Finlay.Ben Taylor of Future50 firm Rainbird. Photo by Simon Finlay.

The findings of the Tech Nation study revealed that the city and the wider county mounted a 21pc growth in new technology companies between 2010 and 2013, with 14,521 people now employed in the digital sector.

The region’s inclusion in the research comes after some city businesses campaigned to have Norwich recognised as a tech cluster in its own right after it was not included on a map compiled by Tech City UK showcasing regions with up-and-coming digital companies.

Tech Nation is the first time the UK’s digital businesses, including employment figures and areas of specialisation, have been comprehensively documented. It was carried out by Tech City, the government-backed organisation based in east London that serves as a nest for technology start-ups.

The report pinpointed Norwich-based tech companies Proxama and Liftshare as key pillars supporting the city’s digital sector, with technology networking groups SyncNorwich, Hot Source and Norfolk Developers also boosting economic growth.

The Sync the City event at the King's Centre. Team Trip Roulette, at work creating last minute travel arrangements where the destination and accommodation are unknown. From front left clockwise, Paul Sparkes, Dan Crowe, Dan Banks, Kevin Smith, Maxine Green, Rebecca Rylott, Jane Botcherby, and Elizabeth Scholefield. Picture: DENISE BRADLEYThe Sync the City event at the King's Centre. Team Trip Roulette, at work creating last minute travel arrangements where the destination and accommodation are unknown. From front left clockwise, Paul Sparkes, Dan Crowe, Dan Banks, Kevin Smith, Maxine Green, Rebecca Rylott, Jane Botcherby, and Elizabeth Scholefield. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

John Fagan of SyncNorwich, said: “Come to Norwich. You will find a passionate and growing startup scene with a lot of grassroots action. Local startup and tech communities such as SyncNorwich and Norfolk Developers are supporting members to form strong bonds with each other, as well as with the University of East Anglia and the local councils.”

Ben Taylor, chief executive of Norwich-based software company Rainbird, said: “The close and vibrant tech community in Norwich is a huge benefit to any company. Being able to share expertise, ideas and contacts is invaluable for growing a digital business. Norwich is rightly being recognised for the opportunities it offers local digital entrepreneurs.”

Among the findings of the Tech Nation project was that digital job growth was predicted to outperform all other occupations by 2020, with 1.46 million people - 7.5pc of the UK workforce - already employed in digital industries.

And it was growth that had occurred at a rapid rate, with 50pc of digital companies in the UK founded since 2008.

Though Tech City may also be the most widely-known technology “cluster”, Tech Nation found that almost three-quarters of digital companies in the UK actually operated outside of London, with the fastest growing areas outside of the capital identified as Liverpool, Belfast, Greater Manchester, Bournemouth, Brighton, South Wales, Bristol and Bath.

Brighton and Hove was the most densely packed cluster; more than 3pc above the national average, and a percent higher than central London.

Gerard Grech, chief executive of Tech City UK, said, “I believe our findings will help inform policy-makers, investors and the wider business community about the sheer breadth and depth of the UK’s digital prowess. This is the first time that the UK’s digital clusters have been so thoroughly analysed, revealing their strengths and importance to the digital economy. It shines a powerful spotlight on how far we’ve come in the digital tech sector, and where we are heading.”

Chris Starkie, managing director of New Anglia LEP, added: “We asked Tech City to come and see what Norwich had to offer, they came, they saw and they were impressed and rightly so. We have some of the most innovative digital and creative companies and institutions in the UK, they drove this campaign, and it is only right we are now included in this list of the top power players in this sector.”

• Do you have a business story for the Eastern Daily Press? Contact business editor Ben Woods on 01603 772 426 or email ben.woods@archant.co.uk

• See next Wednesday’s EDP business supplement for a special report on Norwich emerging digital sector.

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