Digital boost as Sheffield City Council joins industry body as fee paying regional member

Coun Olivia Blake, deputy leader of Sheffield City Council.
Coun Olivia Blake, deputy leader of Sheffield City Council.
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Sheffield City Council has joined industry body Sheffield Digital in a move that aims to boost the economy, skills, diversity and inclusion.

The authority aims to help people in the digital and creative industries share their expertise.

Coun Mazher Iqbal

Coun Mazher Iqbal

It is only the third ‘regional partner’ after the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre and the Digital Media Centre in Barnsley, and involves paying a fee.

It signals the council’s recognition of the increasing importance of the digital sector to the city, according to Coun Olivia Blake, deputy leader of Sheffield City Council.

She added: “We know that digital and creative companies are increasingly choosing to be based here in Sheffield, where they can be surrounded by the expertise, knowledge and support they need to make their businesses grow.

“We also recognise the importance of the digital sector in generating jobs and growth for the city, but also in helping to work with the public sector to enable residents to thrive and make the most of the opportunities that digital innovation presents.

Mel Kanarek of Sheffield Digital at a Star round table.

Mel Kanarek of Sheffield Digital at a Star round table.

“Working with Sheffield Digital will enable us to build a coalition for Sheffield that can take the digital sector in the city to the next level.”

Coun Mazher Iqbal, cabinet member for business and investment, added: “Sheffield is known the world over as a city that makes, and this reputation is as true and important for our creative and digital industries as it is for our advanced manufacturing and engineering capabilities.”

Sheffield Digital was set up two years ago and now has more than 35 tech businesses and individuals who work in the sector.

Mel Kanarek, a Sheffield Digital director, said: “Regional partnerships are a way for other organisations in the region to collaborate with us and explore how working with digital technology can create benefits across the economy.

Mark Gannon

Mark Gannon

“This is an exciting time for the city. A number of initiatives are coming together that will help confirm Sheffield as a place where digital businesses thrive. We’re looking forward to the breadth of opportunities that this will create.”

Sheffield City Council’s has just hired a new chief information officer Mark Gannon.

Part of his remit is to use technology to deliver better services and make efficiencies at a time of funding cuts.

But he also had a tech leadership role.

He said: “My role is to pull together a narrative around what digital Sheffield might mean and maximise our resources as a city. There are lots of things we can do by linking up organisations.

I’ve been very impressed by Sheffield Digital and the stuff they are doing. The council shouldn’t do everything and business shouldn’t do everything. It’s a collaboration.”

The 2017 Tech Nation report showed that more than 18,000 people are employed in digital roles in Sheffield, while research by Sheffield Hallam University found that the top 25 tech companies in Sheffield City Region alone employ more than 12,000 people and bring in more than £2 billion a year.

A report published in June this year, jointly commissioned by the University of Sheffield and Creative Sheffield, stated that Sheffield has the talent potential to continue to grow its digital and creative capabilities and is “on the cusp of something big”.

Digital companies based in Sheffield include:

Zoo Digital – who provide video captioning technology for the biggest brands in global entertainment and media, including the six largest Hollywood Studios.

The Floow – is set to double its workforce after securing a £13m investment that the Prime Minister said showed Sheffield is “open for business.” The firm writes software that tracks driver behaviour and enables insurers to set premiums.

Pimoroni - the second fastest-growing manufacturing company in the UK, and 50th fastest in Europe, who are also Google’s first international partner for the Android Things platform.

Joi Polloi – whose clients include Channel 4 and the BBC and who won two BAFTAs for work on the TV programmes ‘Humans’ and ‘Live From Space’. The company also received an Emmy nomination for its ‘Don’t Stop the Music’ campaign.

Sumo Digital - lead developer for Little Big Planet 3 for Sony and works exclusively with Sega on its All Stars games franchise. Sumo also recently launched their first independent game, Snake Pass.

Ask4 – a specialist broadband provider that recently expanded into Europe and now provides services to over 400 multi-tenanted sites.