image: aql COO outlines North’s digital ambitions

aql COO outlines North’s digital ambitions at devolution conference

850,000 new jobs in the North by 2050.

That’s the target, according to aql COO Sarah Tulip, speaking last Friday at the Moving Beyond Devolution conference in Leeds on behalf of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership.

As Tulip noted, achieving such an ambitious goal will require sizeable investment in digital connectivity and technology across the region to spur sustained innovation and entrepreneurship.

The North’s digital ecosystem has seen massive growth over the past decade, thanks in large part to aql’s work building the region’s connectivity infrastructure, including IXLeeds, the Northern internet exchange, and laying the groundwork for “smart city” thinking. This next phase of growth can make the region one of the world’s most prominent tech hubs and the biggest growth engine in the UK economy. A thriving North is a thriving UK, emphasised Tulip.

“Digital connectivity can change the way we live and work. Being at the forefront of the next industrial revolution will rely on next generation connectivity to every workplace, including in our countryside. No longer is connectivity the responsibility of one operator. We must work with providers small and large to provide the best solutions for each part of our region.”

This is where aql plays an important role.

aql is building the supporting engineering behind next generation networks, and spearheading Leeds City Region’s bid to become one of the UK’s first 5G test cities. aql’s work in 5G, and the near-future innovation it will unlock, will allow people and businesses across the region to enjoy self-driving cars, delivery drones and a secure internet of things.

“This access will allow entrepreneurs of all ages and experiences to set up businesses on their own terms, including taking advantage of the opportunity to make a difference. To change the world for the better, not limited anymore by the traditional barriers which stop a good idea or good intentions from being known around the world.”

Henri Murison, Director of the Northern Powerhouse Partnership, said: “This conference was a chance to promote the opportunities which are practically available to help increase levels of productivity to drive the North’s ambition.

Talking about skills, “The University of Huddersfield is one of the partners to the iDEA programme, the Duke of York’s Inspiring Digital Enterprise Award. Digital is the North’s prime capability, so we must look to engage with programmes like this which embrace other learning pathways. Currently too few Northern businesses are engaging with this and the other relevant support that is available. It’s essential we make every learning and career development opportunity available to the widest social group possible.”

Moving Beyond Devolution is a three-day conference looking at building the new policy and research agenda for combined local authorities in the UK. Tulip was joined at the conference – held across Leeds Civic Hall and Cloth Hall Court – by Barry White, the new Chief Executive of Transport for the North (TfN), and Roger Marsh OBE, Chair of the LEP. Tom Riordan, Chief Executive of Leeds City Council, and Councillor Judith Blake, Leader of Leeds City Council, also spoke.

aql, and its founder and CEO Prof. Adam Beaumont, have been key partners in the Northern Powerhouse since its inception. The company’s historic Leeds HQ was notably used for the launch of the “Northern Powerhouse” concept by George Osborne, the Chancellor of the Exchequer at the time, as well as for the launch of the first Northern Powerhouse Partnership report and the Northern Powerhouse’s Nordic-Baltic fintech trade mission.

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