Norfolk and Suffolk Council for Digital Tech - Minutes
Chair: Julian Munson
Date: Thursday 30 September 2021 Time: 10:00-12:00
Videoconference (Teams)
Neil Miles, Inawisdom
Julian Munson, New Anglia LEP (Chair)
Catherine Richards, New Anglia Colleges Gp.
Lisa Roberts, New Anglia LEP
Chris Sargisson, Norfolk Chamber
Sarah Steed, Norwich University of the Arts
Eoin Marsh, Tech Nation
Tim Robinson, Tech East
James Allen, New Anglia LEP
Viv Gillespie, New Anglia Colleges Gp.
John Fagan, Scribe / Sync Norwich
Marlon Bowser, HTK
Chris Starkie, New Anglia LEP
John Dugmore, Suffolk Chamber
James Duez, Rainbird
Dominic Keen, Britbots
Dean Withey, Ubisend
Steve Kierney, Epos Now
Ellen Tilney, Norwich City Council
Peter Brady, Orbital Media
John Nicholson, West Suffolk College
Lisa Perkins, BT
Jai Raithatha, Suffolk County Council
Anette Gilham, Ipswich Borough Council
Roberta Willner, Norfolk County Council
Welcome and apologies
JM welcomed everyone to the meeting and noted apologies received.
Progress update against the four core workstreams (Tim Robinson)
Delivered by:
• Tech UK’s ‘Local Digital Capital Index’ ranked regions by skills, digital adoption,
infrastructure, R&D, finance and investment, and trade. East of England came out
second behind London.
• Shaping HMG regional tech policy.
5G HPO refresh and international opportunities - pushing out to DIT networks.
Noticing more international opportunities. Concept for tech hubs in Asia-Pacific.
• As a region, need to fight quite hard to be heard in all of that noise.
Hubs for innovation:
• Well into the Connected innovation programme which knits together the various
hubs, incubators, and clusters together.
• Holding the second event on 20 October on underpinning technologies and what they
bring for a wide range of sectors.
• Expanding range of innovation hubs with more hubs coming online - EpiCentre,
Innovation Labs model expanding beyond Stowmarket (Sudbury, Woodbridge),
Akcela (new mini-incubator based in Norwich).
Access to support programmes and finance:
• Noticeable successes recently (e-surgery has got into Tech Nation’s Applied AI
programme and Upside (fintech app) has got into Techstars, one of the world’s
largest accelerators.
• Mergers & Acquisitions: Some exciting opportunities coming out of recent mergers
and acquisitions such as FX Home and EO Charging.
• Dialogue continues with a whole a range of key agencies - Tech Nation, DIT, British
Business Bank, Innovate UK, Catapults, etc.
Skills and talent:
• New digital skills centres opening between September and November.
8 ICET short courses for SMEs range from UoS - product management, data
analytics, digital marketing, leadership, etc.
• Institute of Technology bid in went in. Waiting to see whether this has been a
success or not. If it is successful, this will mean a dramatic improvement to the
provision of and access to L4 and above courses.
• Digital Skills Task Force reconvening in Q4. One of first tasks will be to figure out
how to mitigate the noise factor and make the most of opportunities out there for
businesses. Lot of noise e.g., bootcamps, kickstart, short courses, etc.
Sarah Steed informed Council members that the decision on the Institute of Technology bid
has been delayed due to the Cabinet reshuffle. Norwich University of the Arts has bid for
funding to deliver three short courses focused at Levels 4 and 6 for learners who might have
good latent digital skills and need to pivot their career.
Catherine Richards mentioned the challenges around flexible starts and the need for
January starts on top of September starts.
ACTION: The skills sub-group will look into this issue working with Catherine.
Delivered by:
Renewal Plan Workshop (Julian Munson & Lisa Roberts)
Lisa Roberts:
• A lot has changed over the last few years with the pandemic, EU Exit and need to
address climate change.
• Taking stock and adapting actions identified in recent strategies to ensure they are fit
for purpose.
• Not creating a new strategy, will be an evolved plan merging those strategies into
• During development, partners agreed that vision and strengths stand true, but
actions and interventions needed updating.
• Region’s response to Government’s Build Back Better Plan.
• Will look at medium and long term and interventions required now to deliver that.
• This sector underpins the Norfolk and Suffolk economy and will play a vital role in the
economic recovery and transition to net zero.
• Today is the last engagement session day. Will test Plan emerging in November.
• Publishing the Plan in January.
Julian Munson asked the following questions:
1. What does an ambitious future look like for the ICT digital sector in Norfolk and
Suffolk and what specific opportunities are there?
2. What are the key strategic interventions that are needed in order to help us get
there? What are the major barriers - skills, finance, infrastructure, business
Tim Robinson:
• When we talk about tech clusters, there are two kinds emerging - clusters that are
massive and very broad, often based in capital cities or Silicon Valley; and then the
more focused clusters that tend to be more specialised.
• South Wales for example has a real focus on cyber security; AI and machine
learning; and semiconductors.
• Locally, Sync the City has recently had more of a focus around Net Zero and we
have an HPO (DIT high potential opportunity proposition) that focuses on 5G.
• It is still possible to have a broad focus in local places to support local businesses
and have a more targeted focus.
• In response to a question on what the sub-sectors should be, this depends on
government announcements for example we have quantum computing capabilities,
but no start-ups. We have strengths in the payment element of Fintech, which is
important and growing.
• The public sector and bodies such as Tech East could pick five or six capabilities to
focus upon and then we would need to ensure all we do in the support environment
genuinely supports those areas.
John Fagan:
• Cannot have a distinctive identity for the sector across Norfolk and Suffolk, it must be
specific to certain locations.
• Need to find some top companies and double down on them. For example, at one
point Norwich had 6-7 EdTech companies which could have been supported.
Delivered by:
Sarah Steed:
• There is a real opportunity around delivering net zero through digital creative
production. We have all sorts of assets that could support us to get where we need
to be.
• Feature films have a horrendous environmental impact and there is a huge drive in
the industry towards voluntary work towards net zero production. This presents
Norfolk and Suffolk with a great opportunity to be the centre for net zero production.
We need a USP and this could be a net zero teaching studio for games, animation
and virtual production, which could sell the expertise.
Chris Sargisson:
• The aspiration must be for the strategy to take this as far and wide as possible with
businesses to ensure they can work out what role they play in the region’s future
successes and that they can be proud to work here.
• It needs to start with the needs of local communities and then get to the Norfolk and
Suffolk level.
3. In terms of our current business support programmes and interventions e.g.
digital skills, what specifically should we continue with or scale up and what
should we stop doing?
4. How do we enable more businesses to adopt digital technologies to support
their productivity?
John Fagan:
• There are so many companies out there in need of a CTO as this would boost their
productivity no end.
• At Scribe, they build digital tools for town and parish councils trying to improve their
administration and productivity.
• There are so many organisations where they are not using the great software service
tools that are available and could be using it for cost-saving or productivity gains.
Chris Sargisson:
• Businesses do not pick up on these tools because of a lack of time. Majority of
businesses in our region are SMEs who are desperate to learn things but have no
time. Need to find a way to create some time for education.
Catherine Richards:
• Can we be doing more about marginal gains, so if we raise productivity for example
by 1%, the opportunity will be massive for the region?
5. What strategic opportunities are there from stronger collaboration with other
sectors such as agri-food and clean energy to help drive economic growth and
6. How can the sector support the transition to net zero from both within the
sector and supporting other sectors? And what support/interventions would
help drive this forward?
Delivered by:
Tim Robinson:
• Part of this is about making choices. Easier to support conversations between this
sector and a couple of other sectors, than it would be with fifteen other sectors. Need
to be focused.
• Always a challenge as there are multiple opportunities for cross-sector collaboration.
• Need to break net zero and cross-sector collaboration down into sub sectors.
• Similarly on the technology side, it is a very broad church too.
Neil Miles:
• Where do we not have the infrastructure? What are the gaps in the infrastructure?
• Prioritisation and focus are needed. A scoring matrix may assist with this e.g.
Sizewell C could be a major opportunity for the sector.
Tim Robinson:
• Really useful exercise would be what have we already got across our digital tech
capabilities and how can these support some of our major opportunities moving
• If the results of the AI Festival delivered by BT and Stowmarket Innovation Labs were
fantastic, we could consider this for other technologies.
Neil Miles:
• Technology supports and solves use cases.
Julian Munson:
• If there are other thoughts after this call, please do email or get in touch for additional
Roundtable Updates:
Eoin Marsh:
• Increased their activity to support companies going international with a focus on Asia-
Pacific, Europe and North America.
Viv Gillespie:
• Suffolk New College’s Tech Campus is being officially launched in early November.
This will hopefully have a strong impact on numbers for those wanting to learn digital
Chris Sargisson:
• Norfolk Chambers worked closely with Tech East to deliver Talking Tech this month.
• Delighted to see the launch of Productivity East at UEA last week, which will benefit
both the tech and manufacturing sectors.
• Looking forward to relaunching the digital skills sub-group this autumn.
Next meeting will be scheduled before the end of the year.
Likely to be an item on there about Council membership.
Delivered by: