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Norwich technology sector can speed up growth by breaking down barriers to other industries

PUBLISHED: 00:01 17 May 2018 | UPDATED: 17:18 17 May 2018

Sync the City 2017 was one of the many tech events in the region which has helped businesses to flourish. Picture: Tim Stephenson Photography

Sync the City 2017 was one of the many tech events in the region which has helped businesses to flourish. Picture: Tim Stephenson Photography

Tim Stephenson Photography

Norwich’s technology sector is performing strongly, say leaders, but needs to break down barriers to other industries to reach the next level.

The view from the city’s thriving digital community was in response to the release of the Tech Nation Report 2018, which shines a light on the scale of the tech hub.

Digital companies employ 3,027 people in Norwich, up from 2,863 last year, with a further 13,411 tech jobs, such as IT departments, employed by other companies.

Tech turnover has also increased to £211m from £199m and gross value added (GVA) has more than doubled to £395m from £165m the year before.

The city is home to a variety of technology businesses from start-ups such as payments firm Thyngs to scale-ups such as AI specialists Rainbird Technologies and chatbot-maker Ubisend as well as giants such as Aviva.

Huw Sayer, who organises digital meet-up Hot Source, said the community was the region’s strong point but the tech sector needed to reach out to other industries too.

He said: “I think the redistribution of ideas is a good thing but we need to do more of it.

“The question is how do we extend to King’s Lynn and Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft and the energy businesses there? We need to get more of that conversation going. That is where you get innovation when different industries come together and share ideas.”

Tim Robinson, chief operating officer of TechEast, said: “The next wave of opportunity will be the practical applications of artificial intelligence in sectors like agriculture, manufacturing and life sciences and we have strong links between the tech sector and those industries here.”

Callum Coombes, founder of SafePoint, said the region’s strength was the openness of its community. His firm, which provides a platform for companies whose workers are out alone on jobs, was born out of Norwich tech event Sync the City.

He said: “Everybody in the community is willing to help a start-up so if you go around asking they will give you advice or know who to send you to.”

Mr Coombes said the introduction of business growth programme TechVelocity would help, but scale-up support was needed to ensure growing companies stayed in the region.

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