A government agency tasked with developing the struggling technology sector in the North of England has lost its leader just six months after launching.
Tech North announced on its website today that Claire Braithwaite is stepping down after getting Tech North off to a “great start.”
The organisation, which is part of Tech City UK, is funded with £2 million of taxpayer money. It was created to join up the tech ecosystems across Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, Liverpool, Newcastle and Sunderland into one giant internationally renowned tech cluster. It’s fair to say that hasn’t happened yet.
But Tech City UK appears to be happy with Braithwaite’s efforts.
In a joint-bylined blog post, Tech City UK CEO Gerard Grech and Tech North executive chairman Herb Kim wrote: “On behalf of the entire Tech City UK team, we would like to take this opportunity to thank Claire for all her fantastic work with Tech North.
“She has played an invaluable role in steering our efforts to boost digital clusters across the North of England and to build a truly amazing team around her.”
They went on to praise her for her efforts around the Northern Stars initiative, the Tech Nation Visa Scheme, and Founders Network. “She has been instrumental in highlighting the depth of digital talent that exists across the North,” they continued.
Braithwaite said: “I’m very proud to have been at the forefront of the launch of Tech North, which is a vital initiative to ensure the continuing development of the tech ecosystem across the North of England. I will continue to support both Tech North and the technology sector in the North of England in my new role that I will announce details of in the near future.”
The official launch of Tech North was delayed by several months, bringing early criticism from the Labour Party. The scheme was announced by former Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg in October 2014 but did not get going until mid-way through 2015.
Last July, the organisation’s business plan was also criticised by one of the entrepreneurs it was hoping to support, after they saw a business plan outlining the vision for Tech North. “They don’t seem to have actually been able to get a strategy together,” said a Techworld source — understood to be a leading startup figurehead at the core of one of the cities included in the Tech North scheme. “I still don’t understand what they’re supposed to be doing,” they said at the time.
Nearly all of the UK’s largest technology companies, particularly the new generation, are still located in London. According to data released in June by research firm GP Bullhound, there is only a single billion dollar technology company in the North of England: ao.com. It’s a website that sells fridges and washing machines, so although it’s a successful business, it’s not exactly revolutionary. There’s also enterprise software firm Sage in Newcastle but that’s been around since 1981. London, on the other hand, is home to 13 tech “unicorns” developing everything from music identification services like Shazam to fintech apps like TransferWise.
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