Forget about the Northern Powerhouse, here comes the Morpeth Powerhouse. For a small market town in the middle of Northumberland there is quite a high number of technology professionals living in it and its environs. I know of nine but there must be many more and every time I think about it another face pops into my head.
Joking aside, three of us met in the Joiners Arms to work (yeah right!) on a presentation we were due to make to a forthcoming North East Combined Authority meeting. It was on the role of connectivity and data in the regional economy as part of the devolution proposal. All exciting stuff!
We wondered though how many other people up and down the country were working on something similar. Isn’t digital connectivity and data the key to the economy of every region in the country if not the world? Are we not all locked in an arms race to have the most connected and most open technology community?
The question is what can we do to differentiate ourselves from all of our competitors? What do we have that is specific to us? What is our Unique Selling Proposition?
Apart from the fact that we are fairly tight in geography and the only UK region to have a positive balance of trade my own opinion is that we have two things to offer that others may not.
The first is to do with our demography. As far as I am aware we have comparatively low movement of people. Most people are born here and die here. Compare this to some London boroughs where more than half the population were born oversees. This makes it a really useful place to host any living lab plans you may have. You can use our population to understand how people operate over time without too much distortion of the data.
The second is the relatively high concentration of public sector employees. I’m including the universities in this. This may seem odd as a differentiator, especially when we are trying to grow the private sector yet we need to play to our strengths. What used to be known as the Ministry in Benton is a huge employer and relies very heavily on technology. Add this to health, local government and other related services and we have a huge opportunity to be a centre of public sector excellence. There must be a data application in there somewhere.
The important thing is that we are talking about these things and planning for the way forward, even if it was over a pint or two.