Digital Secretary backs UK Tech Cluster Group call for grassroots-led tech recovery

June 24, 2020 @ 13:36 by Chloe Holmes

Oliver Dowden, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, has revealed that the government will be publishing a new digital strategy in Autumn, in an announcement made at the UK Tech Cluster Group (UKTCG) Roadmap to Recovery Summit on June 23.

The Digital Secretary, who closed the virtual conference with a keynote speech, highlighted how Coronavirus has delivered a ‘sucker punch’ to the economy and explained the leading role tech must play in helping the UK get back on its feet.

Mr Dowden acknowledged that we are ‘living in a different world’ following COVID-19’s outbreak and impact on both the economy at large and everyday working practices. Reiterating that ‘tech must play an important part in our recovery’, the Digital Secretary revealed that the upcoming Digital Strategy will seek to build a highly skilled digital workforce, help citizens adopt digital more widely and support businesses in being further enabled and transformed by tech.

Commending the UKTCG’s work on helping tech communities across the country bounce back for from COVID and harnessing tech more broadly to help regional economies recover from the pandemic, Mr Dowden outlined government’s commitment to engage with regional grassroots tech communities to ‘power growth and productivity across the whole of our United Kingdom’.

The UKTCG is a self-assembled group of individuals and organisations which support geographical clusters of technology and digital businesses across the UK. Forming two years ago, the Group exists to connect, share and grow the communities it serves. Through understanding ecosystem needs at grassroots level, the group has real time access to tech companies and communities and shares its expertise across the UK to help regional tech ecosystems grow.

David Dunn (pictured), UKTCG Chair and CEO of Sunderland Software City, said: “This event was designed to arm attendees with the understanding, rationale, stories, connections and evidence needed to help attendees act positively in their local areas.

“This event truly was a first of its kind; we had people from all over the UK connecting and sharing knowledge about tech sector growth and supporting digital adoption across wider sectors in their communities.”

Building on the event, the UKTCG will soon release a report complete with research insights and recommendations, as it looks to work closely with government to ensure grassroots tech companies and communities are being heard in the upcoming Digital Strategy and levelling up agenda.

Mr Dunn added: “We’re tremendously proud of what we’ve achieved with this summit. The breadth of topics we’ve covered and the amount of people who have connected and taken valuable intel back to their regions is fantastic. We’re very excited by what’s to come next.

“I’d like to thank the entire Tech Cluster Group for making it possible and to the Digital Secretary for providing such an inspiring keynote, acknowledging the key role grassroots insights and communities must play in the upcoming Digital Strategy.”

The Roadmap to Recovery event, organised in the last three weeks and attended by over 400+ people, was put together to explore and develop ideas on how to both help the tech sector grow as part of the UK’s economic recovery and to better understand how digital can accelerate the recovery of other sectors too.

Oliver Dowden, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, said: “One of the best things about the Cluster Group is that its members truly reflect the full length and breadth of the United Kingdom’s sprawling tech sector.

“It’s not all about London, so it’s great to see all of our regions represented here today. You’re doing some great work to help tech communities across the country bounce back from COVID, and to use tech more broadly to help your own regional economies recover from the pandemic.

“The grassroots tech communities in all of our regions power growth and productivity across the whole of our United Kingdom. I know that when a lot of people speak about driving growth in tech, they’re thinking only of London and the South-East. I’m determined to change that.

“When it’s published, our new digital strategy will form one of the building blocks of our recovery. A recovery that will be tech-led but will benefit all.”

Speakers on the day included cluster leaders from UK tech hotspots, Cabinet Secretaries, Mayors, policy leaders, leading CEOs and international investors.

The event explored themes ranging from the impact of COVID-19 to insights into how tech clusters can power the reboot of the economy across UK towns and cities. Morning sessions covered an array of hot tech topics including enabling a digital workforce, connectivity, the investment landscape, digital for young people, the future of space and digital adoption.

In the afternoon, sessions explored building effective communities, tech supporting leisure and tourism, tech advancing health and social care, cross-cluster collaboration, tech supporting the food and drink industry, tech to get us to net-zero, incubators, smart manufacturing, connecting corporates and SMEs, tech and the high street and utilising universities for economic growth.

The event was sponsored by global enterprise software giant TechnologyOne and supported by TIP Ecosystem Acceleration Centers (TEACs).

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