I’ve given a few lectures to students now. It is nice to be asked and I am always keen to oblige yet they can be a difficult audience, especially early in the morning. My latest attempt to enthuse the next generation was at Northumbria University where I gave a talk on ‘Entrepreneurial opportunities in the North East’s digital ecosystem.’
I wanted to show the students that the opportunity for growing a business within the region is enormous and that a large amount of help and support is available yet we are up against competition from across the globe. The North East is a small region, it is just over quarter size of London or the Southeast regions and it is tiny compared with city states that are driving the global economy.
Whilst the region has many businesses, it lacks the density of head offices and this lead to a discussion about Location Quotients. The North East has a density of 70% of businesses when compared to the England average and only 30% when considering digital firms. It has nothing particularly unique though is a leader in some interesting business areas.
Manufacturing is strong in Gateshead, South Tyneside and Sunderland, which leads to digital opportunities in industry 4.0. Hartlepool, Northumberland, Redcar and Cleveland are leaders in water & sewerage, areas that are ripe for the development of sensor and IoT technologies. Stockton is big in construction and we should think of building information modelling, while Darlington and North Tyneside have a strong IT presence. The public sector looms large in Durham and Newcastle which can give us a focus on digital democratisation while Middlesbrough has a large health and social community, ideal for creating new services around data and prevention.
The region has a choice, try to grow new industries or focus on existing industries and look for disruptive opportunities. It is my opinion that the latter is the most viable option.
I talked about the large amount of wide-ranging support that is available to entrepreneurs and stressed that it was up to them to get involved, build their networks and develop their brand. The world is a very different place from when I was at university and it will be the same for today’s cohort. They will need to think about designing their businesses against a very uncertain future.
I wish them luck and hope that, in some small way, I have been of help.