Yorkshire should be ‘screaming from rooftops’ about fin-tech and health-tech companies

Michael Peeters

Michael Peeters

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A LEADING IT lawyer said Yorkshire should be “screaming from the rooftops” about its strengths in emerging technologies.

Michael Peeters said Yorkshire lacks the international profile needed to attract global investors to back exciting new companies in the region.

He also called for greater investment in science park facilities to foster collaboration between businesses and universities in Yorkshire.

Mr Peeters is one of the UK’s most experienced technology lawyers. He started his career in technology law in 1986 at the magic circle City firm Clifford Chance.

He acted for early IT players like BACS, WordPerfect and the BBC and also represented Apple, supporting its claims against Microsoft and the Beatles publisher Apple Corp.

Mr Peeters now leads DAC Beachcroft’s northern technology team and was appointed regional senior partner of the top 20 law firm in December.

He told The Yorkshire Post: “In the days of Yorkshire Forward, the regional development agency, we were giving this region a better showcase.

“Two things have happened since then. First, there is a seemingly limitless number of regions in the UK claiming to have a technology hub such as Tech City.

“Second, we seem to have lost the budget and resource to sell our regionally internationally.

“No-one seems to be fighting our corner to make overseas businesses think of investing in Yorkshire rather than elsewhere in the UK.

“I also think the move to city regions makes it more difficult to focus on the Yorkshire brand, which has more impact internationally.

“If a tech business in the United States is looking at the UK, they are invited to think of the likes of London, Cambridge and Manchester.

“We should be high up the list, especially for health-tech and fin-tech, because our region has such as massive focus on financial services and health and both of these are technology rich.

“We should be screaming from the rooftops about our fin-tech and health-tech. We have some real leaders in the region in these areas.

“I don’t think it is a lost cause; we are doing okay, we have some large organisations siting their development teams here but it is an opportunity we should be grabbing more firmly.”

Mr Peeters, who previously spent 20 years at Pinsent Masons, said the regional devolution debate and EU referendum are distracting businesses. “But once the dust has settled, I would like to see a better way of communicated,” he added.

“We could do with having a greater degree of investment in dedicated science park facilities to help collaboration and get a real buzz going. A great linkage with universities would help as well - we need a clear message to those with tech qualifications to promote the region as an area to come and work.”

DAC Beachcroft, which reported revenues of £200m last year, is developing its regional centres and expanding staff numbers outside of London.

Mr Peeters said the firm is always looking out for “northern returners” and access to more affordable homes and lifestyle is a real magnet. Leeds is DAC Beachcroft’s second largest office after Bristol.

The firm’s overall senior partner is real estate lawyer Virginia Clegg, who is from Yorkshire.