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In recent years North East England has seen more new technology company start-ups than any area of the UK outside London.
The area is rapidly emerging as a hotbed of creative talent, with extensive linkages between innovation centres, business support networks, universities, top quality incubator facilities and an excellent range of high-tech business parks.
The North East has emerged as one of the world’s leading centres for digital games development and start-ups, with a dynamic cluster of firms and university courses acting as a magnet for entrepreneurs and students.
Digital City at Teesside University, and the Boho Zone established in Middlesbrough, is a major hub for innovative games across new platforms such as mobile and is home to innovative start-up digital businesses.
Sunderland Software City is a focus for business software development and enterprise growth. Northern Film and Media acts in a similar capacity in the creative digital industry.
Codeworks, established with the backing of One North East, is the centre of excellence for digital innovation in the North East. It offers business support and helps attract R&D funding.
Its collaborative network Codeworks Connect links enterprises ranging from software development firms to animation studios. GameHorizon connects videogames businesses, and its Digital Placement Programme brings together North East graduates and potential employers.
The North East is well supported by venture capital investors, and the One North East backed JEREMIE super fund which has come on stream in 2010.
Areas of Expertise
The most prominent software company in North East England is Sage. This financial management systems giant, with its global HQ in Newcastle, is the only digital company listed in the FTSE 100.
Sunderland Software City is a focal point for business-to-business related software development. Its partners include Sunderland University and it brings together expertise from across the North East, including leading software companies such as Leighton Group.
The Sunderland Software City Hatchery offers facilities to students and graduates to develop software business ideas, and the Jupiter Centre provides premises with a world-class infrastructure to new and growing firms.
Indian company 5th Generation Technologies (5G), which produces business intelligence tools for manufacturing and retail firms, chose North East England for its European base. It cited the area’s infrastructure, engineering schools and relative low cost of operations as reasons for its choice.
Sunderland Software City is supporting the setting up of more than 60 new businesses by March 2011 and is helping up to 400 firms to develop.
Codeworks has established the Digital Evaluation Vehicle, a major software development programme. This offers an application prototyping service, to stimulate the creation of high growth companies by lowering the barriers to innovation.
The acceleration in internet use has stimulated a rapid growth of web design, development, application creation and other new media activities in North East England.
The area has one of the most comprehensive broadband infrastructures in the country, and all the North East’s universities have world-class research activities and teaching strengths in web technologies and internet use.
On the multimedia front there is a great deal of convergence between the games and animation sector and web applications in the North East, as more activities become internet based.
Digital City’s Boho Zone in Middlesbrough, for example, with the new £10 million Boho One building as its centrepiece, has become a prime location for innovative businesses operating across the digital media industry.
Newcastle, too, has a thriving cluster of web-related companies. One of the fastest growing in the city is TH_NK, which provides services ranging from online marketing to website design. It also has a technology development arm.
Multimedia has been put to innovative educational and training purposes by ‘serious games’ pioneer Caspian Learning, based in Sunderland. This fast-expanding company has developed ‘Thinking Worlds’ technology that seeks to build a more engaging and motivating experience than is offered by some kinds of e-learning systems.
Games and Animation
The electronic games market in North East England is one of the most vibrant in the UK. It has a growing variety of innovative companies, with Digital City and the Institute of Digital Innovation based at Teesside University offering expertise and support for developing companies.
A critical mass of games and animation firms – both locally grown and those attracted to the North East – is forming, helped by public grants and private equity investors keen to back innovative businesses.
Peer group support and encouragement is provided through the GameHorizon network established by Codeworks.
The expertise and support at Digital City, and the availability of incubator premises such as those in Middlesbrough’s BoHo Zone, attract international students and entrepreneurs.
Among the most successful companies in the North East is Eutechnyx, founded in Gateshead in 1987, which enjoys global sales of its motor racing and sports video games.
Another leading business is Ubisoft Reflections. This evolved from Reflections Interactive, formed in Newcastle in 1984, and is now part of one of the world’s largest games developers and publishers.
On the animation front are firms like Qurios Entertainment in Newcastle. It has built a particularly strong reputation in the TV comedy sector providing industry standard animation services.
Key Facts & Figures
- Sage Group, based in Newcastle, is the only digital company in the FTSE 100 and has 5.8 million customers worldwide.
- The North East has one of the strongest clusters of electronic games development companies in the UK outside of London and the South East.
- Games developer Eutechnyx has been creating E-Racing, an online ‘gaming experience’ that enables groups of players to simultaneously race through architecturally detailed representations of American cities.
- The Jobs in Digital fair staged by Codeworks in Newcastle in March 2009 attracted over 750 graduates and experienced professionals.
- Indian company 5th Generation Technologies (5G) is locating its European base in Sunderland.
- Sunderland Software City aims to help create more than 60 new business software firms and support the development of up to 400 others by March 2011.
- The £10 million BoHo One building in Middlesbrough, created by Digital City at Teesside University, is a hub for innovative digital media businesses.
- For the past three years Newcastle based web development and services company TH_NK has been ranked among the fastest growing technology companies in the UK in the Deloitte Technology Fast 50 awards.
- The North East has one of the best venture capital environments for digital start-ups in the UK.
- Northern Film and Media has a £1 million North East Content Fund to support investment in the development and production of film, TV, games, interactive media and music within the area.
Benefiting from £10m of support from One North East, Codeworks, The Centre of Excellence in Digital Technology and the Media, supports the creation and development of digital companies.
Codeworks Connect provides extensive and bespoke business support for both new and established digital businesses in the North East, with sustained input from successful digital entrepreneurs. Bespoke services in business development, networking and promotion ensure success for entrepreneurs and investors across the sector. Businesses using the service also benefit from its Digital Placement Programme, a successful scheme to place the cream of the region’s digital sector graduates in leading-edge companies within the sector.
D|Lab is a multi-disciplinary team of designers, researchers and digital specialists located within the Institute of Digital Innovation (IDI).
Which, in addition to developing product and service innovations for a range of industry clients, works extensively with business partners wishing to explore the potential of virtual worlds on the internet.
DigitalCity is creating the most vibrant digital hub in the UK – a successful and self-sustaining digital media, digital technology and creative supercluster based in the North East.
Along the way, developing a worldwide reputation for creativity, imagination and daring
Sunderland Software City is a new initiative, based in the North East of England, designed to inspire and encourage the growth of the Software Industry in the region, and to make the area an attractive location of choice for software businesses.
Working with and support a range of software businesses, from pre-start stage up to established organisations looking to expand into new markets. In addition, Sunderland Software City also work with companies from outside the UK who are looking to locate to the region, helping them to establish relationships and collaborative partnerships with existing regional businesses.
Companies also have access to a wide range of cutting-edge research and development facilities for the digital sector.
The new Institute of Digital Innovation, based at Teesside University, fosters collaboration between academic research and digital sector business. As a major digital R&D environment, IDI is creating a business-friendly powerhouse ready to help develop exciting new products and services for the market.
Game developers have direct access to GameHorizon, the leading network for games developers, publishers and middleware firms in the UK, which provides a vast range of business services that provide unparalleled commercial and networking opportunities for the games industry on the global stage.
GameHorizon is a business network for UK games companies. It's aim is to support UK game development and make sure the industry stays competitive.
Working with international games companies and organisations to provide a range of benefits and services to our membership and run a programme of events to bring the latest industry knowledge to the UK games industry.
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