Celebrating Leeds City Region's digital and creative strengths

I’m going to start this month’s column slightly differently with a quiz question.

What do cats eyes, international payments software and the video game Worms all have in common? The answer is all were developed in our region:

  1. Reflective road studs aka Cats Eyes were developed by Percy Shaw from Halifax and patented in 1934

  2. 60% of all international payments take place on software created by Leeds based BJSS

  3. Worms was created by Wakefield based Team 17

I asked that question to simply demonstrate a point, that Leeds City Region has a history of innovation and developing new technology. I felt it right to start with this emphasis as this Spring has seen a series of events take place across the region demonstrating our position as a centre for the digital, creative and technological industries.

It started with the Visual Media Conference and then Leeds Digital Festival, both firmly established in the region’s calendar and continuing to shine a spotlight on the strength of our digital and creative industries. It was fantastic to once again see the FinTech North conference highlighting how our businesses such as Panintelligence, Computershare and Vocalink are leading this high growth industry.

This month also saw the region continue its #4Sparks campaign highlighting the compelling reasons for Channel 4 to select it as the destination for the broadcasters’ new National HQ outside of London. The campaign which is being supported by members of our dynamic creative community including True North, Duck Soup Films, Lord Whitney, Screen Yorkshire and Bradford UNESCO City of Film. Channel 4 coming to Leeds City Region would have a tremendous impact on our already established creative businesses who are working with some of the world’s leading content producers including Amazon and MTV. I was pleased to be at the briefing held by Channel 4 earlier this month to open the bid process and was delighted to see Alex Mahon attending the Creative Cities Convention in Leeds just last week. I hope that during her visit Alex got a feeling for how our culture of innovation, ingenuity and creativity is already delivering results. In fact you need look no further than the ongoing Leeds International Festival which invites the world to discover more about the city and region’s inventiveness and culture which includes a vibrant technology strand.

However, celebrating our digital and creative strengths should not be confined to only one time of the year. That’s why I was delighted to hear that the Yorkshire Gaming Festival will once again return to Bradford with an exciting programme of activity in February 2019. The festival comes here because of our developers such as Revolution Games in York, Red Kite Games in Huddersfield and Rockstar in Leeds, and has a track record of attracting fantastic industry speakers and a wide audience, bringing the gaming industry in the region to life and showcasing our creativity. It will once again take place at the National Science and Media Museum which is currently embracing the latest virtual reality technology to take visitors on a virtual restaging of the world’s first photography exhibition by William Henry Fox Talbot in 1839.

These events aren’t just there to offer people something to do, they play a crucial role in highlighting our strengths in the digital, creative and technology sectors. This profile helps the region to attract new investment. In fact the last few months have seen a number of tech businesses select the region for investment or growth; from Australian FinTech firm Sandstone Technology to global sports tech company Hudl and most recently Reed Smith which launched its Reed Smith Global Solutions office at Platform and Perform Group which is growing its presence further in the region with a new global HQ office at White Rose Office Park.

There is a lot going on in the creative, digital and tech and that there are hundreds of people involved who are unofficial champions of the City Region. So I would like to conclude with a challenge for us all. That in our day to day lives, we try to be ambassadors for our City Region, because together we can show the world that we are innovators, forward thinkers, can doers. By working in partnership, and embracing, adopting and developing new digital technologies we will deliver the economic growth our region and its people deserve.