Nick Clegg launches northern tech hub plan in Sheffield

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg launching Tech North at The Electric Works in Sheffield with Baroness Joanna Shields.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg launching Tech North at The Electric Works in Sheffield with Baroness Joanna Shields.

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Nick Clegg has launched a plan to unite digital companies across the North, to compete with Silicon Valley, Shanghai, Berlin - and TechCity in London.

TechNorth aims to double the number of workers in the sector from 200,000 to 400,000 by emulating the success of the capital’s digital hub.

The scheme has £2m-a-year Government funding and will be established by a handful of key people from TechCity.

Their job will include turning TechNorth into a globally-renowned name, creating a one-stop-shop for finance for members and organising pitch days in northern cities for investors from London,

The Sheffield Hallam MP launched TechNorth - part of his Northern Futures project - at the Electric Works in Sheffield city centre with Baroness Joanna Shields, who helped build Facebook outside the US before being hired by Government.

He said: “We have to learn somehow to be greater than the sum of our parts, otherwise we be unable to compete with the mega-cities around the world.

“In the tech sector there’s a feeling that the bright lights and big ideas seem to constantly happen in London.”

Speaking directly to the audience he added: “I hope that in the future you won’t feel the route to success is down there.”

Baroness Shields said: “TechCity in London is the fastest growing cluster in the world and it happened with a little bit of care and attention from Government. “TechNorth gives you power in numbers to organise pitch days and bring investors to you.”

The plans also involve ‘up-skilling and inspiring a tech-savvy workforce’ and pooling ideas and resources.

The TechNorth team would choose a chief executive and a location for a headquarters, although much of its work could be done remotely, Mr Clegg added.

In Sheffield, digital industries provide two-fifths of employment in the city. The Electric Works is home to 33 firms, while Sumo Digital, an independent game development studio, employs more than 170 development staff.

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