I seem to be reading on an increasingly frequent basis that Fintech is consolidating London’s reputation as a leading global location for tech companies.
However, of equal regularity– and usually from the same sources – I read the Northern Powerhouse is realigning the UK’s economy.
Last month Tech North published the Digital Powerhouse report outlining how the North of England can grow its economy by an additional £5.7 billion by connecting the region’s tech companies to new market opportunities.
However, the North doesn’t have a large Fintech sector. Obviously there is a fintech presence in the region- Atom Bank have established and are growing in the North East, and Leeds is home to an aspiring fintech cluster- but the North is not going to rival London in terms of size or value any time soon.
So what can the North hang its hat on? What can Ministers proudly announce at foreign summits that the Northern Digital Powerhouse leads the way on? I’d place my cross in the box of Edtech.
Edtech is technology that helps people progress and learn in any context, whether a student in a classroom or a candidate applying for a job, so in this context also includes HR-tech and recruit-tech.
Let’s look at the evidence: the Digital Powerhouse report acknowledges that the majority of Northern cities already have major Edtech activity, and Tech City UK’s Tech Nation 2016 report identified that out of the 5 main edtech clusters in the UK, 3 are based in the North of England. Recent research placed edtech as one of the fastest growing sectors globally, set to reach a global market size of $252bn by 2020.
Technology is already changing the face of education. Companies such as Liverpool-based LearnerVerse, visual learning specialists VEO and awarding organisation NCFE are already founding members of Edtech UK – a new organisation set up to accelerate the growth of the edtech sector in the North and across Britain- and with a new surge of innovative edtech companies emerging and attracting recognition, such as Sunderland-based Tungl and home learning portal specialists Parent Hub, the North is moving towards consolidating its reputation for global edtech innovation.
Another significant benefit of Edtech is its potential impact on digital skills development. The tech sector is inhibited by a major skills shortage.
The Northern tech sector has the potential to utilise its own edtech to teach more people technical skills in more efficient and productive ways; from embedding technical skills across all curriculum subjects to enabling better digital learning across business, e-learning and even home settings.
The result would be an increased pool of technical talent and a significant user base for Edtech start-up and scale up companies.
The North has the opportunity to not only export its edtech expertise but use it to improve the pipeline of home grown talent, allowing the region to become even more globally competitive.
Now imagine if Edtech can be as large and visible as Fintech is for London, with advanced Edtech pioneered in the North being deployed to other sectors. The Northern Powerhouse would have a significant economic and social advantage of hugely up-skilled people: something that can really drive forward the UK in a global economy.
The first Edtech UK North event takes place in Sunderland on Thursday 9thJune, and will kick off a programme of activity aimed at establishing the North of England as a global cluster of edtech excellence. Register to attend at http://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/edtech-north-tickets-25056349215?aff=eac2