AN ORGANISATION that nurtures the technology sector across the country, focusing on local ecosystems and start ups, has appointed the former CEO of a Newcastle-based firm as its new chairman, reinforcing a strong commitment to regions and North-East.
Tech Nation, borne out of the Tech City UK and Tech North merger in 2017, focuses on access the skills and support business leaders need to succeed, at a start up, scale up and corporate level, to then positively impact regional economies.
Stephen Kelly, former CEO of Newcastle-headquartered Sage Technologies has been appointed as the organisation’s new chair, succeeding Eileen Burbidge MBE, who will support chief exec Gerard Grech as it expands its network of growth programmes.
In its 2020 report, Tech Nation revealed the North-East benefitted from a total of £100 million venture capital investment last year while £22 million was invested in emerging technology between 2015 and 2019 and £896,000 in artificial intelligence in the same time frame.
Mr Kelly has lived in the North-East various times throughout the career, and says the region is very close to his heart.
The 58-year-old visited the North-East a lot in 1980s as part of the technology team for the Department of Work and Pensions predecessor, Department of Health and Social Security.
During this time, he saw closure of the shipyards, Durham mines and steel works across the region, and notes the “fantastic Northern spirit in the face of adversity and soaring unemployment”.
In his role at Sage, he supported many projects and charity drives while mentoring scale ups.
He said: “The North-East is very close to my heart. When I first visited and saw the economic devastation of the 1980s, I was struck by amazing and inspiring the spirit of the people.
“I am so delighted about the regeneration of the region and the vibrant modern companies operating in the North-East.
“It was a great privilege to lead Sage and grow its presence in Newcastle. I got to meet all the local leaders including Greggs, Virgin Money and supporting bodies who together want to create the platform for growth, expansion, job creation.”
The UK regions are strategic to Tech Nation, which says the North-East is a vibrant centre for many tech scale ups and start ups, particularly video gaming technology, and Mr Kelly’s appointment reinforces a strong commitment to regions and North-East.
The new chairman advises North-East firms to look outward, noting his most successful mentorees were focused on UK and international expansion.
When asked what the most exciting thing is about the region’s tech scene, he said: “The people, they are fantastic – smart, hard-working, great attitude and a cracking sense of humour.
“Also, the ecosystem of Tech Nation at the centre of world-class academic institutions; Digital hubs like Dynamo, LEPs, industry bodies, engaged local MPs, and good infrastructure links to London and Europe.”
CEO Gerard Grech, while thanking Ms Burbidge for her work, welcomed Mr Kelly.
He said: “With Eileen’s inspirational leadership, Tech Nation scaled across the UK, enabling scaling founders and companies to access the skills and networks they need to drive growth in the UK’s tech ecosystem.
“Building on that legacy, we warmly welcome Stephen Kelly as chair, and the team and I look forward to working with him.
“His outstanding credentials and extensive experience both as a scaling entrepreneur and tech community champion of scale ups, will help us deliver even more, with greater impact, especially at this crucial time during Covid-19 when companies need support and leadership more than ever.”