Innovation is a key driver of economic growth through the development of new ideas, products and processes and their adoption and diffusion across the economy, bringing benefits for both residents and businesses. By embracing new technologies and practices, UK businesses can lower costs and become more internationally competitive.
The Covid-19 pandemic has forced businesses to rethink their operations, how they engage with staff and their use of technology. It is estimated that three years’ worth of digital transformation took place in three months when the required public health measures began in March 2020, with companies accelerating the digitisation of their customer and supply-chain interactions and their internal operations.
Many companies are now making investments in long-lasting digital solutions to stay competitive in this new business and economic environment with businesses recognising the strategic importance of digital technology.
The Tees Valley Digital Strategy sets out our high-level ambition for digital innovation:
We will drive digital innovation across the Tees Valley, enabling the development of a Tees Valley Smart Region, supporting business growth through digital innovation, enabling businesses to make technology-led decisions and raising the profile of the area as a hotspot for digital innovation.
Digital Innovation and Teesside Freeport – Digital innovation is at the heart of the Teesside Freeport, supported by the rollout of state-of-the-art digital infrastructure including fibre and wireless communications such as 5G. 5G, will also enable innovative testbeds to be developed within the freeport, including those supporting the development of autonomous vehicles, smart transportation, border control and digital twins. In particular we are seeking to develop a Centre for Frictionless Trade, a partnership between the Combined Authority, HMRC, and private sector stakeholders to utilise industrial digitalisation and blockchain technology to accelerate the movement of goods to and from Global Britain.
Digital Transport Innovation – As part of its devolution deal, the Combined Authority has responsibility for developing transport infrastructure within the Tees Valley, with the aspiration to deliver a world-class transport system to underpin our economic transformation. This includes investing in intelligent transportation systems, using the latest technology to provide innovative services relating to different modes of transport and traffic management, enabling users to be better informed and make safer, more coordinated and smarter use of transport networks. In addition to this the Combined Authority has successfully secured a funding allocation from the City Region Sustainable Transport Settlement (CRSTS) along with seven other metropolitan areas. The settlements are aimed to be used to develop mass transit networks and sustainable transport options, open up new areas of the region for employment, leisure and housing, and create real innovation in transport to solve problems. As part of the Tees Valley CRSTS we have developed a Transport Digital Strategy which will support the development of a Tees Valley Smart Region, aiming to improve physical and digital access to employment and skills opportunities through innovation led growth of industry and commerce.
The Tees Valley already has several growing strengths in digital innovation, including:
Industrial Digitalisation Technology Centre (IDTC) – based at Teesside University, this aims to support SMEs to explore the opportunities Industry 4.0 technologies bring, such as the Internet of Things (IoT), big data analytics, modelling, simulation and sensor technology. It gives companies access to a serious play facility, sensors, cloud computing capacity and academic support to look at new technology applications with their company.
Boho – The £30million Boho development in Middlesbrough represents the opportunity to design, enable, create, and grow new digital opportunities and put the Tees Valley at the heart of the most important and rapidly evolving industries in the world. Focusing around the key pillars of communication, innovation, and sustainability, Boho will act as a catalyst for social, economic and environmental change within the region. It will nurture the freshest new talent and skills within the digital sector and act as a base of new businesses and industry start-ups. Estimated to be finished by 2022, Boho will ensure the Tees Valley becomes a recognised centre for digital investment both nationally and internationally.
Digital City – this long-standing Teesside University-led initiative connects people and businesses in the Tees Valley with the knowledge, skills and expertise needed to thrive in a digital future, working with the digital sector on start-ups, scale-up and digital innovation.