Norfolk and Suffolk Council for Digital Tech - Minutes

Chair: Julian Munson

Date: Wednesday 25th January 2023 Time: 10.00-12.00

Via Teams


Anna Nadolna, Tech Nation

James Allen, New Anglia LEP

Scott Cogman, New Anglia LEP

Julian Munson, New Anglia LEP

James Adams, Akcela

Dean Pierpoint, Norfolk Chamber of Commerce

John Fagan, Scribe & Sync the City

Mark Thomas, Coderus

Gurpreet Jagpal, University of Suffolk

Tim Robinson, Tech East

Ellen Tilney, Norwich City Council

Beverley Wallman, New Anglia LEP

Michael Cousens, New Anglia LEP

Robin Milton, Fairer Games


Marlon Bowser, HTK

John Dugmore, Suffolk Chamber of Commerce

Dominic Keen, Britbots

Roberta Willner, Norfolk County Council

Nova Fairbank, Norfolk Chamber of Commerce

Charlie Wright, Epos Now

Jai Raithatha, Suffolk County Council

James Duez, Rainbird

Fiona Lettice, UEA

Chris Starkie, New Anglia LEP

Dean Withey, Ubisend

Lisa Perkins, BT

John Nicholson, West Suffolk College

Neil Miles, Inawisdom

Sarah Steed, Norwich University of the Arts

Peter Brady, Orbital Global (chair)

Beccy Coombs, Ipswich Borough Council

Catherine Richards, New Anglia Colleges Group

Welcome (Julian Munson)

Julian Munson welcomed attendees to the meeting and noted apologies received.

Insights from Businesses (All)

James Adams:

  • Seeing massive tech layoffs at a macro / high level – e.g., META, Google, and Twitter. These events are starting to suppress mid-level developer salary expectations.

  • At a micro level – there is demand from SMEs requesting graduates / junior developers through the bootcamp programmes. Which is an unusual trend.

  • Schools are also interested in bringing in teachers from Tech Bootcamps for T-Levels around Python, Java Script, and AWS.

  • Seeing influx of junior developers in January as there are no recruitment fees going through bootcamps.

John Fagan:

  • Had a good quarter last year and a great quarter at the start of this year.

  • Local talent engineers are so expensive. Looking to Africa for engineers – had recent starters from Ghana and Turkey paying local market rates.

  • Tech Educators biggest one to watch – could be a big success from Norwich.

  • was an example of a local company raising.

  • Mentioned the difference in recruitment between now and in the early 2000s - there is lack of ‘eagerness’ amongst today’s recruits.

  • Looking to recruit people locally looking to get back into the workforce (such as returning from maternity) with flexible working arrangements as a key benefit being offered.

Tim Robinson:

  • Proposed plans changes to R&D tax credits – Coadec has done a study on this and estimating £100k loss of R&D tax credit allowance per business. Encouraging companies to fill in the Coadec survey.

  • Chambers of Commerce lobbying Government on R&D tax credits for SMEs in general – do you think the changes will affect your business?

  • Seeing some good evidence of new tech start-ups being created through the Innovation Labs network. New businesses coming through, so stimulating start-up activity.

  • Bit concerned over the last two years that the birth rate in tech start-ups in Norfolk and Suffolk was plateauing / declining but seeing some really fantastic new tech start-ups across the East of England with new creations coming frequently, which is a really positive thing. This is the right place to start, grow and move to.

James Adams:

  • Speaking to accountants a lot about tax credits – there are a lot of grey areas where the Government is trying to close loopholes.

Gurpreet Jagpal:

  • Held a positive Innovation Labs Board meeting last week – good to see collaboration leading to increased uptake. Seeing more demand for hot-desking and office spaces. Also seeing increased demand from own students and graduates, which is what the University of Suffolk wanted to encourage. Planning a first birthday party for Innovation Labs at the University of Suffolk in June.

Ellen Tilney:

  • After months of agonising meetings with lawyers, the tender for the digital hub in Norwich went live yesterday. Concession tender (2 parts) – the building Townsend House would be leased to an operator as a Digital Hub. Prior to that, works need to be commissioned to refurbish the building so that would be for the successful tender so they can design the building. 15-year lease, with 5-year breaks. C.£2.5m grant to come for the refurbishment.

  • Across the board, the birth rate for companies has been lower in Norfolk for a long time - however, survival rates are much higher, especially in Norwich - possibly in part due to our geography.

Robin Milton:

  • Support locally is good. Talent is the issue – when it comes to people hiring the talent coming through there is a disconnect.

  • The Chair (Julian) mentioned it would be great to do a deep dive into gaming in the months ahead.

Mark Thomas:

  • Enabling team with leadership skills. Work life balance is key in this area, we should be building on that and promoting that more.

Tim Robinson:

  • Should be digging more into games studios. Narrative we hear is that we produce the talent and the talent leaves because they cannot find jobs locally. We hear there are no shortage of pathways, but not the employers. Now hearing there is work to be done to join up the dots and learn the landscape better. With LSIPs being developed, a good time to dig into this problem a bit more and understand what is going on in more detail.

James Adams:

  • Have 5 gaming companies in the accelerator. Issue is not junior talent – it is the mid-level sizeable companies then spinning out the next level. Producing core fundamental opportunities with basic skills but need a company like those around Cambridge that can pull them in and give them enough expertise to spin-out.

Connected Innovation (Julian Munson)

  • Following recent presentations, the main updates are that funding has been confirmed for another two years of delivery for the Connected Innovation programme (led by James Allen and Scott Cogman) – which links together 23 innovation hubs, co-working spaces, universities and research institutes.

  • The Connected Innovation Conference on 10 March at Adastral Park will showcase highlights from the first two years of the programme and set out the vision for the coming years.

  • Events at the back end of this financial year include ‘Space Tech meets Agri Tech’, ‘Digitalisation in Manufacturing’, East Suffolk’s Hydrogen Conference and wider events across the innovation hubs.

James Adams:

  • Nor(DEV):con is taking place on 23-24 February with over 500 developers. Norfolk punches well above its weight with the speakers confirmed and the event is now in its 10th year. Nor(DEV):con has a games focused track this year organised by Rich Woods on 24th February.

Robin Milton:

  • OLL Games will be holding the ‘OLL Experience’ event at The Forum on 25-26 February celebrating all aspects of our local games industry and featuring Norwich Games Festival.

Digital Skills Update (Beverley Wallman) – Slides attached

  • The Skills Bootcamp contract with the Department for Education (DfE) is running to the end of March 2023 – there is a target for a minimum 240 learners to complete skills bootcamps. The LEP has a framework agreement with 8 training providers.

  • Sectors align well with region including digital.

  • Hit the minimum target set with DfE and now trying to reach a new stretch target of 280 learners.

  • Awarded an additional flex contract with an additional 42 learners. For these contracts, they can start in March and just need to meet Milestone 1.

  • Wave 3 digital landscape:

    • Anicca delivering L5 in digital marketing (target 58) and can do a digital marketing qualification at the end (optional). Cohort 1 (16) – 11 self-employed and 5 seeking employment. Cohort 2 (27) – due to complete 9 March. Cohort 3 (15) – re-allocation to commence 27 January.

    • Netmatters delivering Web Development bootcamps (target 25) – 2 completed, 2 interviews and 2 into employment. Last 6 learners are more about employee upskilling.

    • CoGrammar/HyperionDev – software engineering / coding (target 30) – awarded contract and then they won a national contract. Things are now back on-track, but cohorts did not start until November/December – 24 learners are onboarded. Delivery of their training does look good.

    • Would welcome any visibility of junior vacancies across the region to help move people into jobs. National organisations do not have visibility of companies in our region.

  • DfE has awarded the LEP with a further contract for Wave 4 Skills Bootcamps. Awarded £1.4m from April 2023-2024, with an option to request additional funding if business demands identified. The tender is now live with a deadline of 17th February – hope to have contracts in place by the second or third week of March to move forward in April.

  • Built in ‘Pathways to Accelerated Apprenticeships’ into Wave 4 tender. Piloted and successful with the digital sector. This programme starts people with an apprenticeship and works with employers so there is a ‘try before you buy’ approach for both the learner and the business.

  • Aim for Wave 4 is to extend out to include more sectors including technical core skills and health and social care.

  • Wave 4 digital landscape:

    • Anticipate we can train 322 learners. Allocating 60 learners overall to Digital. Want to front load as much of delivery as possible with 50% by September 2023 so we can go back and ask for more.

    • If you go on ‘find a skills bootcamp’ there are 80 programmes across the East of England with c.24 providers covering web development, technical support, software engineering, design for games and digital marketing.

Tim Robinson:

  • Do you get data through from DfE around national providers (and local people studying / using these)? – Bev will ask for this.

James Adams:

  • Regarding DfE’s review, what was the perception of delivery partners and will this become publicly available like Ofsted reviews? – Bev said yes, and all partners are on track with delivery.

Updates on key areas of work for the Council for Digital Tech

Tim Robinson:

  • TechEast was successful in bidding for Norfolk Investment Framework funding on the back of the Connected Innovation FinTech cluster event. TechEast led on this bid and has been supported by Aviva, FIG, UEA and New Anglia LEP. Trying to map in detail what current situation is in Norwich and Norfolk regarding FinTech. Will see a professional report to be commissioned and series of activity to engage with community in Norfolk. Infrastructure will be put in to keep discussion going around FinTech and build cluster.

  • TechEast 100 – published a list of recognition in 2020 across Norfolk and Suffolk. Created a real buzz and got a lot of attention. This list continues to be really useful for inward investment. Plan is to reboot with a new list in September/October and working out exactly what this will entail with an annual programme of engagement. Need to recognise people and talent within the region, as well as businesses.

James Allen:

  • Innovate UK Innovation Launchpad Competition:

    • An agri-tech related expression of interest went into Innovate UK’s launchpad competition. Still waiting to hear back on this from Innovate UK. Partners include UEA, University of Lincoln, Cambridge University, NIAB, Greater Lincolnshire LEP, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority and Agri-TechE.

    • For each Launchpad, Innovate UK will invest up to £7.5 million for business-led innovation projects and wrap-around support. This will be awarded through competitive opportunities tailored to the needs of the business innovation cluster.

    • The first Launchpad pilot areas have been announced in Tees Valley and Liverpool City Region, with the first grant funding opportunities open for local businesses to be followed by opportunities to support cluster leadership.

  • The DCMS Create Growth Programme:

    • This is moving forward nicely and building blocks are all coming together for our scale-up programme for the creative industries sector across Norfolk, Suffolk, and Cambridgeshire.

    • UEA are leading on delivery working closely with the University of Suffolk, Anglia Ruskin University Peterborough, and Norwich University of the Arts.

    • Innovate UK’s national competition for successful regions is still open to 8 February for creative industries in our region looking to innovate and grow, grants available between £10-30k. This is only open for participating Create Growth regions, of which we are one of six.

  • Space Cluster for Norfolk and Suffolk:

    • New Anglia LEP has been successful with our bid to the UK Space Agency to establish the Space Cluster for Norfolk and Suffolk and will be recruiting someone to manage this cluster.

    • There are a whole host of exciting projects emerging across agriculture, health, tourism, energy and marine science.

    • We will be launching the cluster at the connected innovation conference at Adastral Park on 10 March so please do join us there and we will be holding exciting events in the months ahead such as space tech meets agri tech and offshore wind is coming later in the year.

Michael Cousens:

  • The Department for International Trade (DIT) has three particular activities – overseas exhibitions (with pipeline of market opportunities), briefing overseas posts and engaging with sector teams.

  • There are 91 High Potential Opportunities across UK. Unique for sectors and unique opportunities for the UK.

  • Refreshing the Adastral Park High Potential Opportunity ahead of the Mobile World Congress (MWC) event in 2023. Re-launching this HPO and TechEast is sponsoring a select number of companies across Norfolk and Suffolk to promote at MWC. This will increase awareness from DIT.

Tech Nation Update (Anna Nadolna)

  • Tech Nation was not successful with its bid to continue leading on the Digital Growth programme, so working out what all of this will mean.

  • Deep into Rising Stars programme – has really mobilised and activated the region which is exciting. Announcing 3 winners that will go through to semi-finals. Lots of enquiries coming from investor networks, both angels and VCs.

  • Tech Nation report coming in March with a snapshot of what is happening in UK tech community.

  • Encouraged founders to join the Growth Platform with access to peer groups and activities across network.


Tim Robinson:

  • Will need to figure out how we engage with Barclays Eagle Labs in the region. TechEast has a meeting in Manchester coming up to discuss transition.

  • The Norfolk and Suffolk Innovation Network – LoRaWAN – usage in Suffolk is below where it could be. Some good use cases in Norfolk. If you are talking to businesses looking to innovate around IoT and sensors, with some pretty good coverage. Will be identifying case studies and will look at opportunities for skills and promotion.

    • Julian – let’s put this on the agenda for the next meeting with James Reeve from Suffolk and Kurt/Ali in Norfolk.