Digital sector drives growth

Chris Muscroft, commercial director of Highlander IT & Telecoms Solutions
Chris Muscroft, commercial director of Highlander IT & Telecoms Solutions
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Top digital industries companies in Sheffield have come up with an eight-point plan to enable the city region to seize what they describe as the ‘vast’ opportunities to grow and benefit from Information and Communications Technology.

The plan has been drawn up by Sheffield Chamber of Commerce’s new Digital Industries Forum and is being submitted to the region’s Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) as a blueprint for developing the digital sector.

Sheffield's Digital Campus

Sheffield's Digital Campus

“The digital sector is seen as a great vehicle for growth and wealth creation into the future,” said Digital Industries Forum chairman, Chris Muscroft, commercial director of Shepcote Office Village-based Highlander IT & Telecoms Solutions.

“It can be both a support sector helping every other industry perform better, and on the other hand a wealth creator in its own right.

“This window of opportunity is unlikely to last forever and so one of the forum’s responsibilities is to get the message out and help companies to exploit the benefits available. The forum is actively looking at the potential for growth so it can feed value added ideas into the LEP.”

According to the forum, digital industries employ 48,000 people in the Sheffield City Region – more than seven per cent of the workforce – but the total could be higher.

The forum says opportunities exist to stimulate investment in technologies being developed in the city region and create jobs by using ICT to boost economic activity and job creation.

It sees a need to encourage the entrepreneurial capabilities of the digital sector and stimulate the creation of intellectual property.

Key development areas that should be encouraged by the LEP include cloud computing, data centres, infrastructure support, software development and green technology.

The Forum says Cloud Computing – the provision of shared software and services to users over the internet, instead of installing programs on individual PCs – would benefit businesses of all sizes.

Although major developments of data centres are already taking place in the region and all of them have capacity for growth, the forum says hosting large data warehouses, improving connectivity and competitive pricing for data storage would give a boost for inward investment in the region.

The forum wants to see the development of skilled rapid response teams to support clients ranging from large corporates to SMEs, the public and the voluntary sector and the creation of a digital incubator or development hub for new software businesses.

Last, but not least, it is calling for the deployment of technologies across the region to reduce power consumption and consolidate the region’s digital infrastructure.

Sheffield Chamber’s Richard Wright praised the Digital Forum for recognising its biggest contribution would be to help other businesses compete in world markets.