YORKSHIRE MUST do more to promote the strengths of its technology sector if it wants to attract the attention of major investors, senior industry figures have warned.
Speaking at The Yorkshire Post Business Club, the chief executive of the clinical software provider EMIS Group said there is a North-South divide in access to finance for tech businesses.
Chris Spencer said: “If you want to talk to venture capitalists or private equity, you need to go to London. They equally haven’t heard about Leeds. They are talking about things on an entirely different scale.”
The new chief financial officer at Callcredit Information Group said the region needs to put itself on the map.
Bob Munro, a former senior executive at Anglo-Dutch publishing giant Reed Elsevier, said: “When I was interviewing for this job, a number of times people said to me, ‘you do realise it is in Leeds?’
“That was among the investment community. There is a weight of capital out there which is not being directed to the North.
“When you go outside the UK, there is a huge weight of capital which has never heard of Leeds. It might have heard of Manchester by virtue of the football team.”
Mr Munro, who has been in post for seven months, said he could not describe the size or scale of the technology sector in Leeds or Yorkshire and questioned whether it was being marketed enough.
He said: “Business has a role to play. We are deeply interested in this. We are all interested in the right calibre of graduates coming through, we want to work with the universities to do that.
“We would rather those graduates stayed here, working with our business and others doing start-ups, which may be complementary to our businesses rather than heading to the bright lights, big cities elsewhere the world.”
He said efforts to promote the region should begin with local govermment and the authorities.
The founder and chief executive of Leeds-based specialist telecoms firm aql said the region is home to a wide range of capabilities and expertise but “we don’t shout loud enough”.
Adam Beaumont added that Leeds needs to develop stronger conduits to central Government. He has partnered with Government agency Tech City UK to launch North Invest, a platform for reinvigorating the angel investor community in the North.
The three were speakers at the Business Club event hosted at aql’s headquarters at Salem Church.
The forum was attended by business leaders from across Yorkshire and debated the challenges and opportunities facing the technology sector.
With a market capitalisation of £680m, EMIS Group is believed to be Yorkshire’s most valuable tech company. It provides clinical systems and services to more than 5,000 healthcare organisations in the UK and has 2,000 employees.
Mr Spencer told the audience how he trained and practised as a lawyer before applying his entrepreneurial and problem-solving skills to a new business called Egton Medical Information Systems in 1999. He was appointed CEO in 2013.
Callcredit started out as a subsidiary of Skipton Building Society in 2000. It used data to help banks make lending decisions. Mr Munro said at 15 years old, the business is now a “troublesome teenager”, particularly to its rivals in the consumer information market. GTCR, the Chicago-based private equity firm, is reported to have paid nearly £500m for Callcredit in 2014.
Mr Beaumont told the audience how he created a digital hub in Leeds. His facility at aql now supports the growth of northern technology businesses.
He said: “We have every single fibre operator in the country connected into this network here. On the back of those fibre operators is pretty much every single internet service provider.”
He added: “In terms of capacity, just one network connecting into this hub connects 50 terabits a second, which is a blistering amount of traffic.”