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Business & Economy

Region’s tech stars recognised at Dynamites 21 Awards

The superstars and rising stars of the region’s growing tech sector were celebrated at a glittering awards night.

Almost 400 people attended the Dynamites 21 Awards, which were hosted by North East actor Daymon Britton and organised by Dynamo, the industry-led network focused on growing’s the region’s tech sector.

The eighth annual awards were held in Newcastle Civic Centre’s Banqueting Hall, and sponsored by North of Tyne Combined Authority (NTCA) Digital, NTCA Good Work Pledge and Invest Newcastle.

There were 11 award categories in total, including the popular People’s Choice Award.

Cate Kalson, director of Dynamo, and this year’s chair of judges welcomed guests.

She said: “The past 12 months has been challenging: the novelty and excitement of our first grapples with managing the pandemic in 2020 has shifted to a longer-term set of challenges and a new normal to adjust to.

“We all deserve this opportunity to take a step back from the day-to-day, recognise the achievements of our Dynamo colleagues and have fun too.”

Other speakers included Robin Pembrooke, director of BBC Digital, who outlined the increased investment in digital and talent in the region; and North of Tyne Mayor Jamie Driscoll, who talked about the importance of skills, leadership and tech for good.

He praised the Digital Talent Engine that Dynamo is developing with NCTA, saying it will provide an important pipeline of talent for the region’s tech sector.

He added: “The Government talks of ‘levelling-up’, but I don’t believe in ‘levelling-up’; I want to see more than just ‘levelling-up’.

“I want to show the world what a powerhouse the North East is.”

There was a wide spread of winners, with tech companies large and small scooping awards, as well as organisations with IT departments.

One of the first winners of the night was Elena Lanzarini, a data scientist working for Wordnerds, who won the Rising Star Award in memory of a previous winner of the same award, Nate Sterling.


Elena Lanzarini, second right, is presented with her award by Professor Alastair Irons, Matthew Sterling and Daymon Britton


Elena said: “I was so proud to have been nominated for the award and didn’t expect to win. I graduated with my Master’s degree from Newcastle University this morning and then tonight I’ve won this award – it’s one of the best days of my life.”

Elena, originally from Italy, has been with Wordnerds for less than a year.

Professor Alastair Irons, from University of Sunderland, presented her with her award, and invited Nate’s brother Matthew on stage to help present the accolade to Elena.

Another winner was Notify Technologies, which won the Tech for Good Award for helping improve worker safety through safety management software.


The Notify team is presented with its award by Adam Gill, left, of Tombola, and Daymon Britton, right


Gareth Cram, chief revenue officer, said: “I’m incredibly proud of our team and what we’ve achieved.

“So many people have lived and breathed this software for the past four years – they’ve given blood, sweat and tears and I’m delighted that this award gives them the recognition they deserve.”

Innovator of the Year was OPPORTUNI, whose platform has been dubbed ‘Tinder for Tenders’ and which has enjoyed growth of nearly 600 per cent growth over the last six months.

Tim Ward, OPPORTUNI’s chief executive and co-founder, said: “Six months ago we were a team of six; now we’re a team of 35.


Tim Ward, centre, of OPPORTUNI, is presented with his award by Laura Rush, IP director at Sage, and Daymon Britton


“We’re based in Stockton, but have a truly global presence. I’d like to thank the team for their incredible hard work, but also our families who’ve given us so much support.”

Award winners were:

  • Best Use of Data, sponsored by BJSS:

Connect Health

  • Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, sponsored by Fueled:


  • Growth Explosion, sponsored by LDC:

So Post

Opencast was highly commended

  • Innovator of the Year, sponsored by Sage:


Durham University was highly commended

  • Project of the Year (Corporate), sponsored by Saggezza:

Iamproperty – movebutler

  • Project of the Year (Public Sector/Not for Profit), sponsored by Red Hat:

DWP Digital – Passport Benefit Checker

  • Rising Star in Memory of Nate Sterling, sponsored by University of Sunderland:

Elena Lanzarini – Wordnerds

  • Skills Developer, sponsored by Gateshead College:

Baltic Apprenticeships

Nicole Robson, of Saggezza, was highly commended

  • Tech for Good, sponsored by tombola:

Notify Technology LTD

Nebula Labs was highly commended

  • Tech Champion, sponsored by Invest Newcastle, NTCA Good Work Pledge:

Dylan McKee – Nebula Labs – pictured below, with Dylan Britton



  • People’s Choice Award

Peter Bakare – Nutri Troops


This year’s judging panel comprised: Cate Kalson, Dynamo director; Karen Elliott, senior lecturer/associate professor, Newcastle University; Andrew Gill, Northern regional head, Waterstons; Nigel Moralee, diversity, equity and inclusion programme manager, Sage; Rachel Murphy, chief executive, Difrent; Nick O’Reilly, chief technology officer, NHS Business Services Authority; Simon Parker, IS director, Home Group; Paul Swaddle, head of technical solutions, NBS; and Fareeha Usman, founder, Being Woman and EDI innovation manager at Dynamo North East.

Dynamo is part funded by the ERDF as part of the Catalysing Innovation 2021-23 in North East Clusters project, delivered by the Innovation SuperNetwork.