Our new series delves into the modern world of technology to discover the advancements this city is making, for better or for worse, for all of our futures. Peter Lowes provides an overview.
Leeds has a reputation for giving bedroom hobbyists a platform to shine. 19th century domestic cloth workers moved from their homes to the factories and mills of Water Lane, creating an industry that would lay the foundations for the city’s industrial boom. DJs and musicians could move from an audience of one to an audience of thousands thanks to Leeds’ musical institutions such as Back2Basics and the Cockpit. Now, it’s the tech sector that will benefit from the city’s most inquisitive.
The digital age has made it easier for curious minds to run free, with the possibilities for creativity in tech endless. Mobius Entertainment were the trailblazers – a small group of gaming obsessives in the late 90s who went on to become the Leeds outpost of Rockstar, owner of some of the most successful gaming franchises of all time. However our tech enthusiasts don’t just elevate their hobbies. They use their skills and particular mindsets to help solve the humankind’s problems, large or small. Cocoon was founded in 2014 by a team of five, with the sole aim of dragging home security kicking and screaming into the 21st century.
On a larger scale, the NHS’ decision to house their national Digital team in our city is a huge show of support for our many talented developers. This one move places Leeds at the centre of the future of healthcare; our residents will now be the first to trial new schemes, and our tech practitioners can make a tangible difference to the way the entire country accesses and experiences public healthcare.
Leeds is also home to a digital agency scene to rival anywhere else in the country. Co-working spaces such as Duke Studios give innovative startups the space to grow in a creative, community-focused environment, with the Hungry Sandwich Club just one of the many startups calling Duke their home. The city’s also providing ample room for small teams and individuals to progress, with growing agencies such as Engage Interactive and Brawl and larger specialists including Epiphany, Stickyeyes and Branded3 consistently hiring and developing the city’s talent.
When you couple this with the work being done by businesses such as the Perform Group, Sky and Sky Betting & Gaming, it seems like everything is rosy in the Leeds tech scene, doesn’t it? However, with an ever increasing number of businesses choosing to make the city their base, the talent pool needs to increase in parallel. This is where problems could arise.
From showing the next generation of Leeds locals that their natural flair for maths, science or art could translate into a successful tech career in their own city, or encouraging the tens of thousands of students who attend our many top-class higher education establishments to stay with the city beyond their studies, we’ve got a battle on our hands to ensure the talent supply meets the demand. As always, the city has the talent and the means to give them a platform to shine. We just need to work harder to bring the two together.