Predictions 2016: Charlie Hoult

December 9, 2015

There was some great data about the growth of the tech economy in UK from the economist Douglas McWilliams in his book {i}The Flat White Economy{/i} last year. I would recommend anyone in the sector to consult it as it points to our future, from evidence of the present: the UK has the highest uptake of e-commerce of any economy; tech will account for half the private sector by 2020 as the knowledge economy grows; immigration will feed to try to cure the skills shortage…

From where I am sitting, in Newcastle, we have established the ICT sector as the region’s hidden hotspot and it is already the largest in terms of economic impact – with 35,000 workers and over 2,000 vacancies. So, it’s safe to say that the North East has an uncharacteristic problem of too many jobs in this sector.

I am sure we are not alone as a region – and skills will be a sore point everywhere. The sector will only grow faster as the Internet of Things, Smart Cities and the App economy continue to thrive. There is an age-related problem too – with a large cohort of ‘big tech’ employees now facing retirement, but with their systems needing legacy transformation.

But there’s a great ‘rabbit away’ up north. I predict more hot air on the Northern Powerhouse initiative trumpeted by George Osborne and Manchester. It has great resonance across the Northern cities and is definitely something worth ‘storming, forming, norming’ – but we are in the honeymoon phase even before the storm. The storms will whirl in 2016 as we move towards Metro-area devolution around Newcastle.

What will that mean for the region and the economy? And how will that feed the tech sector? Clearly there is scope for the public sector tech to look at more efficient routes to services – and this will provide lawyers with plenty to consider in governance, project partnership and outsourcing. There needs to be innovation, risk and investment in government at every level – which lawyers will love as this means meaty change and potential pitfalls.

{b}Charlie Hoult is Chairman, Dynamo North East IT network{/b}