Region is leading the way in new industrial revolution

As I write this column, officers from the City Region are busy attending meetings as part of London Tech Week 2017 (12-16 June). This is a key part of our ongoing work to profile the strength of our dynamic digital sector, which has in part resulted in Yorkshire and the Humber being named the North’s leading FDI destination in EY’s 2017 UK Attractiveness Survey last month.

Our attendance at this high profile week of activity will showcase the region’s strong technology capabilities and recent investment successes within the sector, which has seen a number of digital businesses locate here.

Over the last 12 months I’ve been pleased to see the growth and expansion of global brands such as Perform Group, Sky and Sky Betting & Gaming, which collectively created in excess of 600 jobs for local people, but also shone a spotlight on our region’s capabilities such as the Digital Health Enterprise Zone and Digital Catapult in Bradford. Alongside these it has been fantastic to see new companies come to the region, such as American owned digital marketing agency Fractl, which launched its first international office in Leeds last August, as a result of work of the city region’s trade and investment team.

The team, led by Director of Inward Investment David Shepherd, was also involved in supporting the expansion of “unified communications” firm Xalient, which selected Leeds as the location for its first office outside London; digital engineering company Caldero and growing FinTech firm Folk2Folk, which choose Harrogate for its first Northern operation. The support provided by the team is varied, with each investor offered a bespoke package which can include business case support and advice on properties and talent.

What these investments have highlighted to me is that the region is widely recognised as a leading location for this fast growing sector which contributes over £6.6bn to the Leeds City Region economy and employs more than 102,000 people. I’m pleased to say that this week we will be showing potential investors our winning combination of the right talent, the right attitude and a track record of success which exists in Leeds City Region.

In addition to the City Region’s work to raise the profile of the sector here, it has been fantastic to see our businesses also waving the flag, with companies such as Hebe Media producing two films – ‘Tech in Leeds’ and ‘Tech in the North’ – to highlight the dynamic sector; and the Yorkshire Post profiling the strength of the digital economy. These initiatives coupled with the ongoing work of the LEP and our public and private sector partners, clearly demonstrates that our industries are evolving and embracing disruptive digital technologies and looking to once again capitalise on an ‘industrial revolution’.

In the 18th and 19th Century our region led the first industrial revolution and two centuries later we are once again seeing technology increase productivity and drive growth. I was delighted to see recently that Tech North’s report on the 100 fastest growing tech companies show that almost a quarter were based in the region, and that the Centre for Cities had recognised both Leeds and York as leading the country’s transformation to a knowledge led economy – the only two northern cities on the list.

Megan Harrison, Director at Fractl, said: "We're thrilled to have launched Fractl here in Leeds, and we’re poised to extend its success this side of the pond! Fractl is a data-driven content marketing agency, founded in 2012 in Florida.

"Over the last four years, Fractl's fusion of data journalism and digital PR generated significant returns for clients including increased organic traffic, press mentions and brand awareness - leading to significant business growth.

“As a result, in 2016 we decided to launch the first international branch in Leeds due to its central position within the country, the ready and sustainable pipeline of creative talent, and the city's entrepreneurial spirit. We’re lucky to work in a cosmopolitan city so close to areas of outstanding natural beauty.”