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2018: Leeds Tech Highlights

Wednesday 28th November 2018

2018 has been quite a year for Leeds in terms of digital innovation and activity in the digital tech sector!

We’ve put together some of the digital milestones and events that have occurred in Leeds over the last 12 months, that have solidified our city's rightful place in the global tech race.


Leeds Digital Festival - The North's Largest Digital Festival!

In April, The Leeds Digital Festival made waves across the local tech sector for two whole weeks.

The Festival showcased some of the innovative and exciting activity taking place in digital, in Leeds.

This year’s event saw 160 events which involved 400 companies, 600 speakers and a whopping 20,000 attendees! A far cry from the festival’s debut just two years ago in 2016, which saw 56 events with around 5,000 attendees.

A new addition to this year’s festival were the ‘Leeds Digital Festival Awards’. The awards were put together as a way to celebrate and recognise just some of the people driving innovation in the local tech community.

Awards included Entrepreneur of the year, Facilitator of the year, Tech innovation of the year, One to watch 2018 and start-up of the year.

Catch footage here ...

The second week of the festival hosted more tech events in that week than tech capital of the world – San Francisco! 

A key takeaway each year from Leeds Digital Festival is just how collaborative and passionate the local tech community is and how much it’s growing. 

Plans for 2019’s festival is already underway with festival founder  (and Leeds ‘Godfather of Tech’) Stuart Clarke keen to smash 2018’s success.

The festival will be held from 23rd April 2019 – 3rd May 2019. It’s an open platform festival which means any individual or company can take part. If you have an idea, click here!

Unicorn Hub

‘Unicorns’ are privately owned start-up technology companies with a valuation over $1 billion and this year Leeds based tech hubs Sky Betting & Gaming and Call Credit reached Unicorn status!

Sky Betting and Gaming was sold for £3.4 billion to The Stars group this year and Callcredit was sold to TransUnion for £1 billion.

Mike Gordon, CEO of TransUnion (formerly Callcredit), said: “Over the past decade, Leeds has affirmed its place as a digital hub, and we’re proud to be a part of that. We’ve been fortunate to benefit from a great local pool of talent as we’ve grown, with our innovation and expertise attracting international investment. Now, as TransUnion, we’re part of a global network, with access to a broader range of products and technology to enable our continued expansion.”

UK tech clusters like Leeds are now competing head-to-head with European capitals, and is also a sign that the success of the UK tech sector is pushing far beyond London!

Start-up magnet!

Did you know that on average Leeds is birthing 84 start-ups per year?

According to data compiled by Tech Nation, there has been 168 start-up births since 2016.

What do start-ups like about being based in Leeds?

Melissa Hendry is Operations Director at ZiMovi and VST Enterprises (both growing start-ups in the North). In a recent Q&A with us she said “Leeds has an incredibly thriving tech scene and most importantly community. There is an amazing number of inspiring and educational, free events held each week in the city, which is incredible. Assisting people to widen their connections, learn from their peers and trailblazing companies and offer environments to forge collaborations is vital. 

You only need to look at the incredible work of the Leeds Digital Festival, where the city came together for two weeks to put on over 150 events covering a multitude of topics, demonstrations of ground-breaking technology and showcasing diversity!”

Omair Vaiyani, CTO and Co-founder of Leeds based start-up, Synap, says “Leeds has a thriving digital tech scene - being based here gives us great access to the universities, and to thousands of talented graduates looking to work in an innovative start-up.”

A big year for big tech moves to Leeds...

Outside of start-ups, other tech focussed businesses including Digital agency Cyber-Duck have chosen Leeds as a base. 

Historically the agency had always been based in London, however having a growing number of clients across the North they decided Leeds was the best location to open their third office. 

Siji Onabanjo, Growth Director at Cyber-Duck said Leeds was the obvious choice. Enamoured by its fantastic digital buzz, active Fintech scene, and great pool of talent, we felt Leeds has a lot to offer Cyber-Duck, and Cyber-Duck has a lot to offer Leeds. We have transformed the digital presences of high-calibre clients like the Bank of England and Thomas Cook, and now we are keen to use our expertise to help more businesses excel with their digital ambitions.”

Reed Smith Global Solutions also launched in Leeds this year. Tamara Box Managing Partner at Reed Smith said on the move “With its strong talent pool, high quality real estate, growing technology offering and 2-hour connection with London; Leeds is the perfect location from which to launch our billion dollar start-up. “

Perform group, the world’s leading digital sports content and media company also opened up in Leeds in 2018 creating over 100 new jobs in the city!

Broadcasting hub!

UKTV is a commercial, award-winning broadcaster reaching nearly 40m viewers every month, accounting for 10% of the British commercial tv market!

Earlier this month UKTV went public with their plans to make Leeds the base for their growing tech hub. 

Sinead Greenway, CTO of UKTV says “Over the past three years we’ve completely redesigned our technology infrastructure to ensure we can react quickly to the evolving broadcast landscape and increased complexity of our distribution platforms,” 

“Opening a regional technology innovation hub marks the next step in UKTV’s long-term growth strategy, enabling us to harness the skills and expertise of talent outside of London and support the creative industries in the regions.”

The Leeds team will focus on adopting new technologies, including exploring data analytics and the cloud, with a view to helping viewers watch more programmes across different devices.

We’re proud at Amsource Technology to be instrumental in helping UKTV grow their development team by working exclusively in partnership with them, connecting them to some of the best tech talent in the sector.

UKTV cited accessibility to other cities, superb transport links, and it is fast emerging as a creative hub (with over 1350 tech companies) as some of the major factors in their Leeds move.

Alongside UKTV was the monumental decision by Channel 4 to move their national HQ to Leeds!

Leeds beat stiff competition from Manchester and Birmingham to become the new base for Channel 4’s regional headquarters.

Channel 4 Chief Executive Alex Mahon said, “Leeds put forward a compelling and ambitious strategy for how they could work alongside Channel 4 to further build the strong independent production sector in the city and develop new diverse talent from across the region.”

The move to Leeds is set to create an initial 300 new jobs in the city and then a further 3,000 production jobs as part of the new content it will create.

Billion £ tech sector!

Tech Nation revealed earlier this year that the digital tech sector in Leeds is worth £1BILLION!

Tech Nation said that 34,742 people are employed in digital tech jobs in Leeds, with local workers having a “digital tech turnover” of £83,000 per employee.

The local tech community is booming with a vast number of successful growing digital teams inspiring and recruiting tech talent such as Sky Betting and Gaming, Sky, NHS Digital, Hitachi and Call Credit to name a few!
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