The North East is a major contributor to the UK’s fast-growing digital sector, with more than 3,000 digital businesses including start-ups, SMEs and global players such as Sage, Accenture and Atom Bank. Together these businesses contribute over £2bn and employ in excess of 32,000 people.
With established tech clusters, support programmes, incubation space and funding, County Durham and its surrounding area has a strong support ecosystem attracting many new entrants into this vibrant industry.
Business Durham is part of the key strategic support mechanisms in the region, we offer bespoke one-to-one assistance as well as key support programmes including Digital Drive, Digital Durham, Finance Durham and the County Durham Growth Fund. Support also comes from Sunderland Software City and the North East and Tees Valley Digital Catapult
In terms of connectivity, we offer excellent ICT infrastructure with the third fastest broadband speed in the UK and the fastest in England. A £38 million project piloted by Digital Durham and BT Openreach is increasing coverage of superfast broadband to local homes and offices, while a partnership between Durham County Council and Gateshead Council is using Building Digital UK (BDUK) funding to supply businesses with high-speed broadband.
We have several exciting new developments in the pipeline in Durham, including a new digital business park at Aykley Heads and some state-of-the-art city centre incubation space at Milburngate. We also have plans in place for a leadership and mentoring programme to help digital businesses scale up, a new Durham Digital Festival and digital business network, and we’re strongly supporting local colleges and universities to develop a continual pipeline of digital talent.
In and around County Durham, several fintech sub-sectors are performing well including software, payments, data analytics, platforms and cybersecurity. There are an estimated 3,100 fintech-related jobs in the region, contributing £171m of GVA. Regional fintech support organisations Dynamo and Fintech North offer excellent opportunities for collaboration, while support is also offered through our five local universities.
Over recent years County Durham has become a well-known location in fintech nationally and internationally due to Atom Bank – one of the highest-profile fintech brands – establishing its HQ here. Durham University Business School is also a major player in this field, renowned worldwide for its pioneering work in blockchain and data analytics for risk pricing.
At Business Durham, we’re involved in several exciting projects to support our growing fintech cluster. We’re working alongside key partners including Durham University, Newcastle University, Fintech North, Dynamo, Tech Nation, Digital Catapult, Software City, New College Durham and the Department for International Trade to develop these projects and a strong support ecosystem for local businesses.
Other skills development programmes and facilities include:
- Skills Bootcamp in Digital
- North East Ambition
- £42m Mathematical Sciences and Computer Science facility at Durham University – https://bit.ly/3sUu5nz
- £30m National Innovation Centre for Data in The Catalyst, Newcastle, co-funded by the government and Newcastle University.
The North East’s five universities also have expertise in the following areas – click here.
We have new premises at Milburngate and, later, at Aykley Heads which would be ideal for future fintech businesses and we’re helping the sector to take advantage of new funding opportunities.
- Labour costs for a software programmer are 40-50% lower than in Berlin, Frankfurt, Paris and Munich, and more than 30% lower than in Greater London.
- Property costs are more than three-quarters cheaper than in London.
- According to the Financial Times Benchmarking Study, a typical 35-person software operation in the North East would save £0.93 million per annum in costs compared to Greater London.
Regional networks and support
- Business Durham
- Digital Catapult North East Tees Valley (NETV)
- Digital Union
- Dynamo North East
- Innovation SuperNetwork
- Sunderland Software City (SSC),
- Sphere Network
- VRTGO Labs
- NOVA: North East Game Collective
Research and innovation
The North East has several centres of excellence that focus on the digital sector including:
- Centre for Software Reliability
- Cloud Innovation Centre
- Centre for Doctoral Training in Cloud Computing for Big Data
- Institute for Data Science (IDAS)
- Centre for Digital Innovation
- Cyber Security Research Group (NCSRG)
- BIM Academy (Northumbria University)
- Salvus House
- Tanfield Business Centre
- Novus Business Centre
- Milburngate Development
See the strategic sites and land section for more information about key sites.
Growth plans for the sector
- Development of the new Aykley Heads Digital Business Park
- Creation of a pioneering fintech accelerator and dedicated digi-tech incubation office space. Mentoring/coaching programme for senior managers involving existing Durham businesses as mentors
- Further development of the local fintech ecosystem
- Creation of a digital hub business directory and marketing support
- Events programme designed to showcase fintech businesses