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Sheffield - how the steel city went digital

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It had to happen sooner or later. Sheffield now has more people working in the digital economy than metal manufacturing.

BCMS Sheffield newsA new report says 21,000 people are employed in creative digital industries, finally overtaking the 20,000 workers in the metal industry which has been the backbone of the city’s economy for over 150 years. However, Sheffield’s creative cluster is also now the fastest-growing of 27 ‘tech clusters’ across the country. What’s going on?

Academics point to the presence of two high-ranking universities, with commentators praising Sheffield as “the right mix of big city ideas with a small town feel”.

However, both these perspectives underestimate the crucial role that institutional investors and overseas businesses have played in the UK’s latest tech success story.

For example, Sheffield videogame developer Sumo Digital has been able to expand and recruit substantially following a 2014 management buyout from its US parent. Chinese insurance giant Fosun has just invested £13m in local data analytics star The Floow. And just last month, BCMS Sheffield client Results Squared, a school messaging app developer, was acquired by IRIS Software Group – a UK SaaS leader itself backed by HG Capital.

Location is important here. It goes without saying that investors back these firms to accelerate their growth, and in the digital economy that means hiring people to bring in new skills and additional capacity. Without the local skills-base, there’s a risk digital jobs will be moved elsewhere.

As well as creating jobs, these investments are about helping SMEs internationalise.

Yet in truth, many owner-managers – regardless of sector – struggle with the level of risk involved in going global, choosing this moment in their business journey to sell some or all of their equity.

Knowing when to exit and how to hand over a business are therefore useful questions to answer, even if that dream may be some years away. To help business owners get their heads around the key issues, BCMS has published a whitepaper, ‘Succession planning and exit strategies’.

 

 
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Posted Jun 2017
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