Leeds City Council is proud to continue its support for the Leeds Digital Festival since its rebirth in 2016.
As a city, our digital, tech and creative sector is thriving, with the digital sector being the fastest growing of anywhere in the UK with around 3,500 digital companies in the city employing 30,000 people, an increase of 67% since 2015.
The aim is to build a digital sector that can compete on the world stage – that puts digital inclusion and diversity from the ground up at the heart of our ambition, and uses technology to improve health outcomes and tackle health inequalities, all supported by strengthened digital and data infrastructure.
The Leeds Economic Recovery Framework
The Leeds Economic Recovery Framework highlights the importance of digital transformation, better use of data, and embracing technological innovation and innovation driven entrepreneurs as key tools to tackle the post-pandemic economic recovery. This along with the upcoming Leeds Digital Strategy, due to be published in Autumn 2021, will provide a strategy built by the city, for the city and will create an action plan that promotes an adaptable, sustainable and ethical platform where innovation can flourish.
The Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated digital inequalities and increased the digital literacy divide in the city. The 100% Digital Leeds programme, a partnership between the Good Things Foundation and Leeds City Council is acknowledged as the leading digital inclusion programme that aims to reach the most digitally excluded people and provide the tools and training so they can benefit from digital literacy.
Digital and Data Infrastructure improvements are underway and enhancing our connectivity, with full fibre network rolling out to Leeds City Council owned buildings, GP surgeries and CCG sites, schools and other public sector buildings ensuring we are able to deliver the best services to the citizens of Leeds. A dedicated 5G network will be delivered over the next few years, and the Leeds Innovation LoRaWAN Network will allow free and open IoT access that will encourage further innovation in this area. The Smart Leeds programme aims at identifying and delivering new technologies and innovative solutions to solve real world problems in Health and Wellbeing, Housing, Climate and Travel and Transport. Through combining innovation labs and a ‘Living Lab’ in Leeds, where new technology can be tested in a controlled environment, with open-by-default approach to data through the Data Mill North, and working with other contributors the city is able to apply technological solutions to the challenges faced now and in the future.
Supporting continued growth
As part of the continued growth and strength in the sector it needs to be diverse from the ground up. The council is working in partnership with WILD Digital and Diverse and Equal on the ‘Diversity in Digital Leeds’ project which recently launched and aims to uncover the lived realities of people of colour across the Leeds digital and tech sector. This research project will help us understand how best to set objectives to create real and impactful change that can unlock the true potential of the digital and tech sector and ensure inclusive workspaces across the city.
We are refreshing our Talent and Skills Plan, now known as ‘Future Talent Leeds’, with input through a city-wide conversation which will launch later this year. The plan will accommodate the change and pace of digital adoption and transformation, as well as changes to the skills landscape and labour market.
Following the successful participation in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Programme (MIT REAP), the maturing BUILD and LEAP programmes encourage and support the new and next wave of entrepreneurs to start and scale new innovative businesses, making Leeds home to a globally focussed and vibrant socially beneficial ecosystem that also drives economic impact.
We have a fantastic array of hubs and workspaces in Leeds, such as Platform, ODI Leeds, Nexus, mHabitat, Duke Studios and Leeds Digital Hub to name only a few that offer space, support and expertise to the sector and beyond. Alongside superb networks such as Fintech North, AITech North, WILD, [email protected] and North Invest and support programmes such as Digital Enterprise, AD:Venture, Propel YH, Next Up and BUILD, Leeds provides a brilliant ecosystem for growth. Further opportunities and confidence will follow the recent inward investments into the city and government presence, such as The UK Infrastructure Bank, Bank of England NorthernHub, the BBC Across the UK and DWP’s second HQ in Leeds.
Deputy Leader and Executive Member for Resources, Councillor Debra Coupar said:
“We are proud to be supporting and getting involved with Leeds Digital Festival again. The festival is a great example of the open, collaborative approaches we see happening across the city and sectors.
“Our digital, creative and tech sector is going from strength to strength, and will play an increasingly important role as the city recovers from the pandemic and the festival is the perfect platform to showcase this and all the fantastic innovation and work taking place here in Leeds.”