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Digitally Thinking

​What’s great about Sheffield in Tech?

In May we took part in the Sheffield Digital Festival for the third time – and for the first time with an office in Sheffield, located at Kollider. Our offering in Sheffield is very tightly tech focused, under our Berwins Digital banner, and both our developing networks and client base are in that sector.

We hosted two events as part of the festival – the second was our Festival Run, a lovely, easy paced and moderately distanced run starting form Kollider and heading into the hills overlooking the city – passing the Cholera monument on the way back down. Festival Runs are one of our brand differentiators (at Festivals, at least) – running in the run at Estonia’s Latitude 50 for several years and having started the run at Leeds Digital Festival in 2019.  If you run, even a little, look out for this next time; thanks to Up & Running for their support!

The first event though was a fascinating in-person event at Kollider – also the home of Barclays EagleLabs.  We weren’t sure how many would venture out, but we had an excellent turnout that was – is this unprecedented? – greater than the number of acceptances we’d had. The pizza too was plentiful and great. 

We ran a little exercise – and this is the nub of this piece – with a whiteboard up and a running (not actually running) invitation to anyone to say what they thought was good, and what they thought wasn’t so good, about tech in Sheffield. We know we are new boys, and so we don’t pretend to speak with any authority – this might be fair, unfair, fixable, easy to fix, hard to fix. We headed the columns “Good” and “Bad” – but bad, in this context, could just mean “could be better”. At first, people were reticent to come forward. Then, as the evening progressed, more people kept sneaking up to the board to add their thoughts. These headings, then, are not ours – they are the thoughts of those who joined us. We had about 30 there – not a stadium-full, but more than a handful; and they included some very strongly embedded in the community.

So with minimal comment, but inviting response, here goes:

“Bad”

  • Lack of visibility of the sector
  • Accessibility (of premises? Of getting into it?)
  • Lack of diversity
  • Connectivity
  • Cliques (interesting one this – we understood here, but hadn’t previously realised, that Sheffield Digital and Sheffield Digital Festival were unrelated – is that right?)
  • Lack of Marketing/exposure
  • Lack of Council engagement
  • Lack of student retention
  • Skills Gap

“Good”

  • Film collaboration
  • Collaborative events (no details with this)
  • Community
  • Funding in Film
  • BFI
  • Screen Yorkshire (that’s four items on film)
  • SME support
  • SIAN (Sheffield Incubator and Accelerator Network). Interesting this, to us – we haven’t encountered this, and haven’t seen anything similar in the other towns/cities in which we work - real strength?
  • Breadth of opportunity
  • Digital Innovation Grant
  • Advanced Engineering

We’ll be really interested to see how the most is made of these strengths, and how any relative weaknesses are tackled – if, indeed, these are fair. With our work in other tech centres, this feels distinctively Sheffield – different, for instance, from how a Leeds list would read. We’re looking forward to further involvement in the tech scene in Sheffield, and to playing our part.

Paul Berwin is Head of Berwins Digital. If you work in the tech sphere and need legal support, call Paul on 07595 650224.

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