A new group has been formed to promote the work of technology businesses headquartered in northern Devon.
Digital Northern Devon launched with an event at Petroc College of Further and Higher Education attended by over thirty representatives of the area’s diverse tech sector. Leading Internet pioneer and non-executive director of Barnstaple-based firm Applegate Professor Jim Norton spoke on the increasing threat of cyber crime and the steps necessary to address it.
For Paula Byers, founder of LimeCloud and Chair of Digital Northern Devon, its creation has been long overdue. “There are many ground-breaking high-tech businesses in North Devon, but because they tend to be serving clients outside the region, often across the world, they can be overlooked.” Toby Parkins, Chair of Tech South West, noted “Digital businesses can be hard to spot: they don’t need huge warehouses, they don’t have lorries trundling along the M5, so the huge contribution they make to the economy and to society isn’t always as apparent as it should be.”
Professor Norton, a board member of the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology and Chair of the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Digital Systems Community of Practice, explained that a number of factors are joining together to create a ‘perfect storm’ in cyber security. The exponential growth in processing power, use of artificial intelligence tools by cyber criminals, the continuing trend to connect more and more devices to the Internet, combined with poorly written software and human fallibility means that the worst is still ahead of us for cyber attacks. Better IT education will play a key role in ensuring future generations are better prepared to withstand this.
Commenting after the event he said, “The timely and very welcome launch of Digital Northern Devon brings into sharp focus the need to drive up Digital Skills at all levels from primary schools through to life-long learning. Our collective economic and social future depends on this.”
The event was hosted by Petroc College. Vice Principal Bill Blythe is a member of the Digital Northern Devon steering group. “Petroc is one of the few colleges nationally to have STEM Assured status, signifying our strength in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths. We believe strongly that digital skills and digital business are vital for the future of our region.” Stuart Brocklehurst, Chief Executive of event partner Applegate, agreed, “Digital businesses can trade with the world from a base by a beach or moor. We have great success stories in the Devon tech sector, we should shout about them more.”