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Tech in the North of England: The November 2017 roundup


Martin Bryant, community editor at Tech North brings you a roundup of the top tech news to come out of the North of England over the past month.

Things have been relatively quiet on the accelerator front lately in the North. Or at least they were until two new Internet-of-Things focused programmes launched in November.

IoT Tribe announced an initiative in Barnsley that will take on 10 early-stage companies with existing prototypes and evidence of product-market fit. Participating teams will go on a supply chain mission to South East Asia as part of the 12-week programme.

Links to Asia are what the other IoT accelerator to launch this month sells itself on, too. Newcastle-based Forge is a collaboration between Dotforge and Chinese incubator operator TUS Holdings. It’s pitched as a ‘scaleup accelerator,’ aimed at companies that already have a product on the market and are ready to do business in the Chinese market.

In addition to spending time in China, participating companies have the possibility of TUS investing up to £10m in them after the programme is over.

Also of note in the world of specialised accelerators, Bradford will play host to Northern MAX from January. It will help health and social care-focused companies reach new customers and investors.


Some interesting companies announced funding in November. CircleLoop, based just outside Manchester, offers phone lines to businesses, managed through an online interface, with a simple monthly fee. Phone ‘switchboards’ are one of the only areas of business that hadn’t been properly ‘SaaS-ified’, so with £1.5m in seed funding, CircleLoop can find out if the market really is there.

Meanwhile, Manchester-based MindTrace has raised £1.3m to create ‘self-learning machines.’ Other companies like Google’s DeepMind are also active in the field of AI that can teach itself, and in this case the tech is being applied to helping autonomous vehicles avoid collisions.

The money, raised from Accelerated Digital Ventures and the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund, will be used to staff up and develop a prototype with a major car manufacturer.

Another interesting deal saw Salford’s GoodBox, which has developed a 21st century take on the charity collection box, raise £2.4m. The company’s box, which accepts donations via bank cards, is rolling out to a number of cathedrals, hospitals, and museums around the UK.

Burbery’s announcement

There was talk of expansion across the North this month. Burberry announced it would base 100 IT roles in its brand new Leeds office. And in Liverpool, fresh-faced co-working space Avenue HQ, which only opened in June, has taken over another floor at its Mann Island location to cater for demand.

In Hull, the local university has partnered with the city’s main communications provider, KCOM, to submit plans for a new data centre. In addition to the university’s own needs, the facility will be able to serve other academic institutions, plus public and private organisations. This will help meet unserved demand for local data centres in the East Yorkshire region.

Meanwhile Tech North announced the 10 winners for its Northern Stars competition.

The first thing the startups will do as part of their prize is exhibit at TechCrunch Disrupt in Berlin this week.

Celebrities head north

Finally, the Northern tech scene had a couple of glimpses of celebrity in November. Will.i.am stopped by Newcastle coworking space Campus North to launch a partnership between The Prince’s Trust and Atom, the Durham-based challenger bank to which he’s a board advisor.

And in Manchester, none other than Alphabet CFO Ruth Porat was in town to open the latest of Google’s Digital Garages. Okay, she’s not quite a celebrity, but she’s a star to fans of fiduciary responsibility and informative earnings calls. Porat was born in the Manchester area. Even though she moved away as a child, now that Mancunians have learned this fact, you can bet they’ll mention it to anyone who’ll listen.