Digital Lancashire Chair calls for more investment in UK’s “lost towns”

The UK will never punch its weight on the world’s tech stage without proper investment in the country’s “lost towns”.

That’s the view of Michael Gibson, chair of Digital Lancashire and founder and managing director of Lancaster-based AI specialist Miralis Data.

The tech veteran says that fast-growing start-ups in the regions often have no choice but to relocate to a major city because of a lack of suitable office space.

Gibson said the result was the UK was producing a long line of “lost towns” which were in danger of not meeting their full potential.

“There’s been a lot of talk about the Northern Powerhouse and the region is blessed with big cities like Manchester, Leeds and Sheffield.

“If a property company opened a tech building in Manchester they would probably charge £26 sq ft but the same space would probably cost £10 sq ft in one of the smaller towns so there’s no incentive for developers  to build there.

“What this means is that while there’s no shortage of tech talent in these towns there is a dire shortage of space so scale-ups often have to leave. If we don’t reverse that investment we’re in danger of producing a legacy of lost towns.”

Gibson said  clustering made sense for like-minded tech businesses and highlighted the example of Auto Trader, TalkTalk and AO that all left smaller towns to move to Manchester.

“Smaller cities and towns are seeing high-skilled, high-wage companies leave and are doing very little to understand why and how to retain and grow a local tech cluster,” he said.

Last week Miralis Data was included in BusinessCloud’s list of 51 Artificial Intelligence Innovators.

Gibson said Miralis Data, which employs 10 people and is approaching £1 million turnover,  benefited from its close links to Lancaster University but admitted there was a long waiting list for suitable office space in the town.

“Companies are queuing to get into limited spaces but the existing companies in these spaces have nowhere else to go so you have a blockage,” he said.

Gibson said local councils, universities and local enterprise partnerships could borrow money “phenomenally cheaply” and if that was invested into improving buildings and infrastructure the result would be the creation of tech clusters.

Gibson sold digital marketing company Fat Media for an undisclosed seven figure sum in 2014 and admits its Lancashire location put some potential buyers off.

“We had an amazing portfolio of national clients but if we’d been based in Manchester the deal multiple would have been higher,” he said.

“However a lot of people don’t want to work in a big city and they lose sight of the fact that we’re only two-and-a-half hours away from London.”

His new company, Miralis Data, is now in the process of acquiring a software business in Wales and is working on six different projects.

“The thing with AI is if just one of those projects takes off it’s easier to scale quickly and if that happens we’re going to need some larger office space,” he said.

Via Business Cloud.

Lancaster University win for Wash

Wash has been appointed by Lancaster University to create its 2020 campaign.

The Preston-based agency will be responsible for designing and producing a range of marketing materials, including the prospectus, exhibition, open day and digital.

Wash have truly grasped the essence of Lancaster University and how we can portray this to prospective students – we are excited to see the new campaign come to life,” said Heather Ellis, head of marketing at Lancaster University.

The campaign will be based on the concept of it being the “place for you” and underlining its “University of the Year 2018” status in The Sunday Times.

Via Prolific North.

VC investment in Northern start-ups passes £90M

Venture Capital investors have pumped more than $114 million (£90m) into Northern start-up businesses in the first six months of this year.

That is according to Venture Pulse 2018, a quarterly report on global VC trends published by KPMG Enterprise, with data from PitchBook.

A total of 47 businesses from the region saw investment from global VC investors between January and June, out of 449 deals completed across the UK.

While the first half of 2018 has been steadily busy for VC investment in the North, other parts of the UK have seen activity pick up in the second quarter after a slower start. The surge in activity has propelled the UK back to the top of the European VC market.

“It’s encouraging to see that continued uncertainty in the macropolitical and macroeconomic environment does not appear to be substantially hampering appetite for investment in UK startups, especially in the North, which has had two strong quarters in a row,” said Graham Pearce, KPMG’s head of technology in the North.

Read more at Business Cloud.

Morven Christie to lead cast of new ITV drama set in Morecambe

Written by award-winning, Lancaster-based writer Daragh Carville (Being Human, The Smoke, Cherrybomb), Christie (The A Word, The Replacement) will lead the cast of The Bay as Detective Sergeant Lisa Armstrong, a fierce and hard-working family liaison officer.

Joining Christie are Jonas Armstrong (Troy, Ripper Street), Tracie Bennett (Scott & Bailey, Coronation Street), Lindsey Coulson (Funny Cow, Bullet Proof), Chanel Cresswell (This is England ’90, Murdered For Being Different) and Louis Greatorex (Last Tango in Halifax, Safe).

The Bay will be executive produced by Catherine Oldfield (Trauma, Home Fires) for Tall Story Pictures. Produced by Philip Leach (Wire in the Blood, No Offence) with episodes 1-3 directed by Lee Haven Jones (Shetland, Vera) and episodes 4-6 directed by Robert Quinn (Home Fires, Endeavour, No Offence).

Filming begins this month in and around the Morecambe area…

Read on at Prolific North.

Lancaster-based Miralis Data nominated as top AI innovator

BusinessCloud has revealed its list of 51 of the UK’s top artificial intelligence innovators, including Lancaster-based Miralis Data:

In the fast-changing world of AI we’re shining a light on 51 of the companies that we feel are doing something especially innovative and disruptive with the technology.

People could nominate companies for possible inclusion in the list but we canvassed the opinion of industry experts before settling on the final line-up.

We’ve published them in alphabetical order but a public vote this week will decide the top company.

To vote just email the name of your winner to with the reason why you think they should win. It’s only one vote per person and/or  email address. The closing date in midday on Thursday 16th August.

Preston-based IT disputes firm acquired

A Preston consultancy which specialises in IT disputes and digital forensics has been snapped up by a global firm.

Blackrock Expert Services has purchased IT Group for an undisclosed sum in a bid to expand its capabilities in the IT sector.

IT Group specialises in technology while Blackrock has extensive experience in the construction industry.

Tony Sykes, the founder and joint managing director of IT Group, said: “IT Group has been involved in some of the world’s largest IT disputes, as well as disputes involving technology in construction projects.

“We are really excited about the opportunity to advise on Blackrock’s projects as well as continuing to offer technology dispute and forensic services to clients across the group.”

Giles Derry, chief executive of Blackrock Expert Services, added: “The shared ethos of quality, integrity and independence meant the two businesses were a natural fit together.

“The ever-increasing importance of technology in construction and the continued growth of technology, IP and data disputes means this will be an area where access to IT experts is essential.  There is a scarcity of experienced IT experts in the market place.”

More via Insider Media.

Becoming a paid membership organisation

Three years ago a group of digital business owners gathered together, with the support of Lancashire County Council, to discuss how the rapidly growing digital, innovation and tech sector in our region could be better supported and represented in the county and beyond.

We realised that we shared many common challenges, such as finding people with the right skills, accessing good training, events and apprenticeships, keeping skills in Lancashire, getting greater recognition for the superb work, achievements and job creation Lancashire digital businesses are making in the sector and, more widely, helping to improve best practice.

As a result, we formed Digital Lancashire, a not-for-profit CIC (Community Interest Company) overseen by a board of volunteer directors, with just one full-time member of staff.

The impact of our work has been considerable. Just over the last year, we have created digital city hubs in Burnley, Lancaster and Preston, run many well-attended meetings and events, hosted the National Infrastructure Commissioner, created a Lancaster Business Property Forum, worked closely with UCLan and Lancaster University on their offer, worked with the Scale Up Institute, seen another cohort of Digital Advantage graduate from our skills programme, written reports and sent regular newsletters, including dedicated jobs and events comms – and that’s just a fraction of what we’ve been up to!

Over the next few months, we’ll be growing our Women in Tech group and launching a Code for Lancaster team, a group of developers, designers, tech geeks and others who use open source technology to solve social problems; we’ll be developing and growing our city hubs; we’ll be working to see The Landmark in Burnley becomes a huge success; we’ll be running another Digital Advantage programme; we’ll be pulling together a whole load of data so that we have an accurate and granular map of the profile of tech in our county; we’ll be running a load of events, meetups and masterclasses; and November will see the first #LancashireDigitalDay…

We’ll also be launching a new website so it becomes the place to find out about jobs and tenders in the region. A directory showcasing our members will be a key part of the build.

To achieve our ambitions and to take Digital Lancashire, we need your help. We have created something beautiful in DL, but now (just like organisations like Manchester Digital, Wired Sussex and Bristol Media) we need to become a paid membership organisation so that we can achieve more of our ambitious plans.

We’ll be rolling out our membership model over the next few weeks, and we really want you to join and support us in the next part of our journey.

If you have got any questions about any of this, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

The Digital Lancashire Team

Digital Lancaster: Summer Lightning Talks (at The Borough)

Serium Summer Masquerade Ball

Seriun’s summer masquerade ball on 7th September is in support of their charity of the year Pendleside Hospice, who deliver round-the-clock care for those with debilitating and life-limiting illnesses, while supporting their families. A critical responsibility they have is sourcing their own fundraising streams to cover daily operating costs, which is why events like these are so important.

As a guest at the ball, you will enjoy exquisite food, live entertainment and dancing into the small hours. There’ll also be a number of fundraising activities, including a balloon raffle and charity auction – with some fantastic prizes on offer!

Seriun look forward to welcoming you to their ball, where you can relax and unwind among some of the area’s finest businesses.


How co-working creates a work culture

There has been a huge drive towards co-working recently with tech start-ups around the country recognising the benefits of shared office space.

But as well as cost-savings, flexible hours and networking opportunities, there is another crucial benefit.

While some companies are in a position to offer employees beer on a Friday and team-building trips abroad, it can leave many without the time or the budget wondering how to create a culture of their own.

Interesting article from Business Cloud on the benefits of co-working…