Tech Nation 2016: A South East Perspective – Raising our standard

Written by James Fintain Lawler, CEO, Digital Alchemist Consulting Services Ltd. and Regional Partner, Digital Leaders South East

The recent Tech Nation report showed that the Digital Tech Economy is growing 2.8 times faster than the rest of the UK economy. This is great news for the South East, where we have Reading & Bracknell, Brighton, Oxford and Southampton leading the way.

We need to ensure that we are taking time out to recognise and be proud of what we are achieving in the South East by nominating organisations, projects, teams and individuals for the Digital Leaders 100 Awards. Nominations for these awards close in this month of February. To nominate for the Digital Leaders 100 awards, please click here. 

Reading & Bracknell

The Tech Nation report shows that Reading & Bracknell generated £10bn in Digital Turnover, which is only second in the nation to London. Reading’s progress is fuelled by large corporations, such as Cisco, Huawei and Microsoft, as well as key SME growth, including the Grow@GreenPark community. This community encourages young people to place digital at the core of their growth, which is achieved by mentoring young adults from an early age and enabled by the Green Meets Grey programme. Another Green Park initiative is the Festival of Digital Disruption (FODD), which is scheduled to take place once again this June.

Digital Leaders South East will hold a Salon during FODD week to help increase and support the buzz around digital and the community.

This passion for digital can be best summed up by Louize Clark, Founder of ConnectTVT, who said: “I think there hasn’t been very much in terms of getting the digital community together. We’re setting up digital collectives which will be for like-minded people that want to work together and drive change.”


The Tech Nation report shows that Southampton has the greatest digital turnover growth in the nation at a whopping 180%, with over 80% of these digital tech businesses trading overseas. This growth will continue to be fuelled by monthly Start-up Weekends and the recently opened Venture Co-working start-up initiative. The report states that a valuable asset in Southampton’s’ growth is the University of Southampton with its Science Park, which provides support to digital tech, science businesses and budding entrepreneurs.


The report views Brighton as a digital creative leader, with the success stories of Brandwatch, Brilliant Noise and Crunch Accountancy leading the way, and cites community sprit as one of the key attributes pertaining to Brighton’s growth that has fired up industry events, such as Develop, dConstruct and the Brighton Digital Festival. Wired Sussex is called out as being pivotal in establishing a cooperative data centre that enables high-speed broadband access across the cluster.

Brighton’s mindset is best summed up by Phil Jones, CEO of Wired Sussex, who said: “Someone once said that collaboration is one of Brighton’s biggest competitive advantages and I think they are absolutely right.”


The Tech Nation report cites Oxford as a major research hub with a profound historical expertise in Healthtech and Edtech, as well as the largest MeetUp groups in these sectors in the UK. This expertise is underpinned by the reputational strength of its universities, Oxford, Brookes and the Said Business School. The importance of local networks is another strength highlighted by the report, with Oxford Start-ups, MeetUp, Oxford Lauchpad, Said’s co-working space and ISIS Innovation leading the way.

South East Summary

The South East is in an ideal position to continue the growth of its Digital Tech Economy, which is enabled by its cross-sector capabilities. These include App & Software Development, Cyber Security, Data Management & Analytics, Digital Advertising & Marketing, Digital Media & Entertainment, Edtech, Healthtech, Cloud, Gaming & Gambling, Devices & Open Source Software, Social Media and Networking & Telecommunications.

However, there is no room for complacency. We need to raise our standards further by continuing to support the excellent initiatives that are being undertaken in the South East, as well as overcoming the weak infrastructure found in some areas, the challenges created by high property prices that are having a negative impact on the talent supply, improved sector awareness and limited access to funding.

What can we do as Digital Leaders South East?

Paul Whiston and I are both Regional Partners of the Digital Leaders South East and our key take-aways from the report are that we need to:

  1. Integrate and leverage the key networking practices and events into our Digital Leaders Salons.
  2. Develop Digital Life Cycle Management with the key organisational bodies (Companies, LEP, Councils, Universities and SMEs etc.). For example, how do we enable our communities to digitally manage all their life events, so that digital becomes the very core of our being?
  3. Proactively share best practices across our Digital Leaders community so that we can optimise growth in the UK.
  4. Support a digitally vibrant community that includes rural areas.
  5. Ensure that we align the value of our Salons to meet the needs of our communities in the South East.
  6. Ensure that our Salons rise to the challenges cited in the Tech Nation Report for the South East community, including:
    1. Weak infrastructure in some communities
    2. Talent growth and supply
    3. Access to funding
    4. Improved sector awareness
  7. Leverage the Digital Leaders network to meet the needs of the South East.

My Final Thought is this: if we are to raise our standards in the South East, we need to take to heart this quote taken from the Tech Nation Report:

“Great Discoveries and improvements invariably involve the cooperation of many minds.”

Alexander Graham Bell.

So let’s cooperate and collaborate to raise our game. If you believe that you can significantly contribute to the development of Digital leaders South East, please contact Paul or myself.

I look forward to seeing you all at the next Digital Leaders Salon. Register here:

 To find out more about the South East Programme please click here.

James Fintain Lawler
CEO, Digital Alchemist Consulting Services Ltd.
Regional Partner, Digital Leaders South East

[email protected]
[email protected]                 

Paul Whiston
Managing Director, Whiston Solutions
Regional Partner, Digital Leaders South East

[email protected]
[email protected]

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