The North of Tyne Combined Authority  (NTCA) will invest £12m to boost the digital sector in Newcastle, North Tyneside and Northumberland.

The investment, which includes £7m for a 5G and Future Connectivity fund, will be used to create jobs in a ‘digital ecosystem’ of mutually supportive tech businesses and organisations. It will help create 600 jobs and safeguard a further 140. It will also unlock support for over 500 enterprises and 450 residents, and underpins the Combined Authority’s ambition for Newcastle, North Tyneside and Northumberland to be a hub for inclusive innovation and world class research and development.

The Government’s Innovation strategy launched last week said the pace of technological change would make the 2020s a pivotal moment for the UK’s future prosperity. North of Tyne leaders said the investment announced today would future proof the region’s economy, laying the foundations for further investment and growth.  It builds on previous multi-million-pound investments to improve rural internet connectivity and access to digital expertise that is already unlocking data-driven innovation and the adoption of new technologies by local businesses.

North of Tyne Cabinet Member for Clean Energy and Connectivity Cllr Richard Wearmouth said the investment was an example of ‘levelling up’ that would build the foundation for tomorrow’s digital economy. “This will be a game changer for the region,” he said. “It will accelerate investment in infrastructure and connectivity in the North of Tyne, supporting the industry-led innovation of our rapidly growing tech sector. And it will give real incentives for mobile networks and infrastructure providers to roll out super-fast wireless and fibre across Newcastle, North Tyneside and Northumberland. The power of digital solutions can help countless businesses emerge from the crisis. From Artificial intelligence to data clouds, from Digital Innovation Hubs to ‘deep tech’ start-ups, innovation, growth and productivity, and technology will go hand in hand.”


Councillor Richard Wearmouth in a suit and tie

Councillor Richard Wearmouth

The 5G and Future Connectivity investment will increase the pace that game-changing technologies, such as 5G, are made available and adopted by industry. It will create an eco-system of experts to ensure the development of ‘investment ready’ pitches for significant future government funding of digital infrastructure. This will add to the region’s reputation as an attractive place to do business, target investment, and create good jobs and will capitalise on existing expertise and emerging strengths, including in health tech and connected construction.

Plans also include providing £5m to support start ups and unlock the potential of digital and tech businesses, working with partners including Dynamo NE, Innovation Super Network, Ignite, Digital Catapult, TEDCO, Northumbria University, NGI and the Academic Health Science Network.

North of Tyne Cabinet Member for Jobs, Innovation, and Growth Cllr Nick Forbes said: “The digital sector is transforming our economy and how services are delivered. That’s why we are looking to make this major investment now. The North of Tyne has some great assets: cutting edge research at Newcastle Helix, large digital firms like IBM in North Tyneside and hi-tech manufacturers in Northumberland. We must ensure we remain at the forefront of the digital revolution. But this investment is also about people. By showing confidence in our communities, businesses, and their ideas we can create the jobs of the future right here.”

Councillor Nick Forbes in a black suit and red tie

Councillor Nick Forbes

This new funding builds on the combined authorities existing digital programme which has invested in rural connectivity, support to small businesses to adapt and digitise during the Covid pandemic, and to make available cutting edge data analysis, in partnership with the National Innovation Centre for Data in Newcastle.

The programme is also tackling digital exclusion by providing laptops and connectivity to schools and to people who were cut off during the Covid pandemic. It compliments significant private sector investment in broadband infrastructure with North Sea cabling to improve international communications, and local full-fibre networks which connect people and businesses to local, national and international markets.

A report by Tech Nation in 2018 highlighted Newcastle as the seventh fastest growing tech hub in the UK. Reports by Tech Nation and the UK Tech Cluster Group in 2021 highlighted Newcastle and the wider region as a major tech hub in the UK. Both Newcastle and Northumbria universities play a significant regional role in the digital economy by providing graduates and post-graduates with advanced digital skills. More than half of all digital jobs in the North East are in the North of Tyne area.

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