The UK government today announced an initiative designed to join up five cities in the North of England into one giant tech cluster.
TechNorth, unveiled by deputy prime minister Nick Clegg in Sheffield, will aim to coordinate the existing digital technology expertise of Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield, Liverpool and Newcastle.
It will also aim to attract inward investment to the North, while supporting the 20,000 existing tech firms in the region through pooling ideas and resources.
In many ways, the TechNorth organisation, which will function off the back of taxpayer's money, is designed to replicate what Tech City UK has done in London.
It will be tasked with up-skilling the region's workforce and working with startups to help them access the funding they need.
Nick Clegg said: “We’ve listened to local business leaders and there is a clear need for us to seize an opportunity to capitalise on existing tech talent by creating a Northern tech hub to rival Berlin, New York, or Shanghai.
“My ambition, over time, is to double the number of tech jobs in the North, creating a stronger economy. To put this in context – it is estimated there are about 200,000 ICT jobs in the region currently.
“Time is of the essence, so I’m in Sheffield today to bring creative minds from across the North together so that we can grow this from an idea into reality.
“As a first step, I am announcing the creation of TechNorth, an agency tasked with promoting a world-class tech cluster spanning five cities in the North.”
Industry body techUK welcomed the announcement. Charlotte Holloway, the organisation's head of policy, said, "The current government has done an admirable job in helping to raise international awareness of the UK's excellence in tech by supporting initiatives like Tech City.
“We know from techUK members that the UK tech sector is diverse and, as highlighted by a 2013 report by NIESR and Growth Intelligence, is far more geographically extensive than is often recognised.
"That is why we are delighted that Nick Clegg has taken this step to encourage inward investment and we can build on the fantastic lessons learnt from Tech City right across the UK. In particular, I applaud the deputy prime minister's aim to double the number of tech jobs in these Northern Cities to 400,000. We know that there will be 1 million new vacancies in tech and digital by 2020, and it is imperative that the whole of the UK reaps the benefits, not just the South East."
It is unclear how much the government is investing in the TechNorth initiative.
The announcement is part of Clegg’s Northern Futures project, which was launched in July.