Last Friday, the North West's tech community converged on Manchester to celebrate the entrepreneurial spirit and technological innovation of the region.
The Insider Business of Digital and Technology Conference, held at the UKFast Campus, saw over 100 business leaders, technology entrepreneurs and digital devotees come together to discuss how technology underpins business success. In addition to this, we also touched on the latest trends in the technology sector and what we, as a region can do to ensure the North West remains a hotbed of technology talent.
The conference began by taking a closer look at the global technology map and how the UK fared in comparison to its international neighbors. On the back of a buoyant Q2 in 2014, business confidence in the industry was seen to be high, with the UK recognized as a leading digital market, both in Europe and on a global scale. Bruno Berretta, Senior Research Analyst at Colliers International provided an overview of Manchester's place on this map and how it competes with other major cities.
With 100,000 students, world leading universities and a higher concentration of technology companies than many other leading cities, the diagnosis for Manchester was wholly positive. The one area for improvement was better connecting Manchester to other cities in the North, to create a 'Northern Powerhouse' capable of competing with the likes of London and strengthening the region's global technology presence.
As the conference continued, attendees heard from a number of guest speakers discussing a range of topics. From technology entrepreneurship and understanding what technology means to business, through to future predictions on the impact of technology, the audience soaked up a wealth of knowledge, experience and insight.
As part of this, I was invited to represent Avecto to discuss how technology can underpin a business. Alongside, James Gallacher, CIO of Cabfind.com we touched on the importance of getting the basics in place and perhaps most significantly, securing them.
Technology is for many the lifeblood of their business, the engine which keeps everything moving. Failure to address the security of that technology can be a significant and costly error. Very often, IT security is something many business owners fear, something associated with catastrophic business implications. I was keen to get across that our relationship with security needn't be like that, done right, by being proactive rather than reactive, IT security can boost productivity, creativity and profitability as well as keeping the enterprise secure, leaving you to get on with the running of the business.
A strong undercurrent throughout the conference was the debate around skills and the importance of nurturing the tech talent in our region. Part of this, is working closely with local universities to highlight the multitude of roles available in technology and digital based businesses. During my panel session, I argued that universities weren’t doing enough to show students the options open to them beyond the world of programming or coding. Students don't just need to be taught the practical aspects of role in technology, but also the commercial. For businesses today, graduates coming out of university don’t have that commercial awareness that so many organizations are crying out for.
One thing that was abundantly clear from the conference was the huge amount of passion Manchester, and the surrounding region has for technology, both in its creation and how we use it. Manchester has already featured heavily in the history of the technology in the UK and I'm certain it will have many more chapters to write in the future.