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The UK’s fastest growing digital sector outside of London

An interview with Sabby Gill, Sage Group

North East England’s inventive and innovative spirit created the world’s first incandescent lightbulb, steam engine, windscreen wiper, safety match and passenger locomotive and today, there is a new generation of pioneers who are adding their unique watermarks to the international commercial picture.

Nowhere is this more exemplified than in the digital environment, where Newcastle – the fastest growing digital cluster outside of London according to the Tech Nation Report 2019 – stands at the vanguard of a UK tech sector driving growth across the global ecosystem.

A key component in this enduring success is homegrown FTSE 100 software company, Sage Group.

A beacon for cutting-edge, cloud-based management technology, the Newcastle-based operator – founded in 1981 – is a digital trailblazer that supports millions of UK and international customers with North East England at its core.

“We are incredibly proud to be a North East England company; this region is our spiritual home,” said Sabby Gill, the firm’s UK and Ireland managing

“We started as a small business but have scaled up and grown internationally, and we have almost 2,000 colleagues in North East England.

“The region is extremely important to us and we will continue to fly the flag for North East England and NewcastleGateshead because it is a wonderful place to invest, do business, live and work.”

The firm previously underlined this significance when it announced a £40m plan to move its flagship headquarters from Newcastle’s North Park to the city’s Cobalt Business Park – the UK’s largest office estate that already counts global tech operators Accenture and IBM as tenants.

Creating an enhanced hub for innovation and product development, the move – which represents the largest letting in the North East England market – will maintain Sage’s support for small and medium-sized businesses while ensuring the region, and NewcastleGateshead, remains at its heart.

“Cobalt is becoming one of Europe’s most important business parks and our investment will mean colleagues have a better working environment,” said Sabby.

“One of the best things about NewcastleGateshead is the people; the interaction we have with customers is outstanding and our people are extremely knowledgeable – they deliver a culture of excellence.”

As well as leveraging its market presence from the region, Sage Group is also committed to helping further develop the supportive, joined-up approach that runs through North East England.

“Being part of a region that is so collaborative is majorly important,” said Sabby.

“One of the key factors in its growing reputation is the collaboration between the public and private sectors – which is phenomenal – and there is a very strong spirit of entrepreneurship too, with small businesses doing very well.

“We want to help ensure that it continues and be part of the tech boom.

“Engaging locally is hugely important to us. For example, we are working with Northumbria University on ways to make accountants more productive by training people to become digital enablers.

“They will help introduce greater digital adoption and transform companies into data-driven businesses,” said Sabby, who also works with regional support agencies and members of parliament to further bolster North East England’s commercial environment.

“Our focus is on how we can help businesses become better than they are today,” he added.

“I engage with the North of Tyne Mayor, local MPs and local authorities to help develop the North East England business community, and when I’m down in Westminster, I speak to ministers to make sure we are doing everything we can to foster relationships.”

Such work will be supplemented by advances that include the £350m Newcastle Helix development, which sits close to the city’s iconic St James’ Park stadium.

Co-led by Newcastle City Council, Newcastle University and investor Legal & General, the landmark science and tech quarter includes the National Innovation Centre for Data and National Innovation Centre for Ageing, which position Newcastle – and wider North East England – as a world-leading hub for the development of next-generation products and services.

Newcastle also carries a Digital Leaders 100 Smart City of the Year title for its use of technology to improve transport, deliver cleaner air, create more responsive local services and help people feel more independent in their homes.

“I’m confident North East England and NewcastleGateshead will continue to win accolades because of the technological expertise and collaborative spirit we have here,” added Sabby.

“This is a thriving region; there is incredible momentum and we want to be part of it.”

The content and photography in this editorial section were produced by North East Times.

"This is a thriving region; there is incredible momentum and we want to be part of it."
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