The University of East Anglia (UEA) is a founding member of TechEast, a community of innovators whose mission is to accelerate the growth of the digital tech economy in the East of England.

The network provides opportunities to promote and celebrate the achievements of the region’s digital tech sector on a national and international scale, attracting new businesses and individual talent to the region, as well as retaining existing talent and forging collaborations between members.

UEA’s role within TechEast is led by Professor Fiona Lettice, Professor of Innovation Management at UEA’s Norwich Business School, and interim Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Research and Enterprise. Professor Lettice is also a leading member of SyncNorwich, a group for local tech businesses and start-ups, which organises monthly meetups.

The group has also grown a branch called SyncDevelopHER, founded in order to promote gender equality in the technology industry, encourage more women to attend tech meetups, and showcase the female talent already working in the industry.

UEA and Professor Lettice co-founded Norwich’s annual flagship tech start-up event, Sync the City, which brings together entrepreneurs, product developers, teachers, researchers, software developers, designers, and students in a 54 hour challenge to create new business models that are powered by digital technologies.

UEA also supports Norfolk Developers, a local group dedicated to software development practices and processes. UEA sponsors NOR(DEV):CON, the group’s annual conference, which attracts guest speakers from the likes of Google, Microsoft and The Guardian, alongside local tech businesses, UEA and other Norwich Research Park institutions.

Professor Lettice said: “Opportunities like this are invaluable in connecting UEA’s students and graduates with the local digital tech business and developer community, giving them a clearer idea of the skills and mindset required to be a success in the sector, and for companies themselves to spot talent and recruit it.”

This proactive grassroots activity of Norwich’s local tech community has been attracting national attention for a while now, and the Norwich digital cluster is recognised as a member of the Tech City UK Cluster Alliance – one of only 27 in the UK.

TechEast was established partly in response to this, and the Government’s annual Tech Nation report, a national recognition of the role of digital tech industries in driving economic growth, employment and regional development.

TechEast provides a valuable opportunity to integrate the networks of all the East region digital clusters – Cambridge, Ipswich and Norwich – to raise the entire region’s profile on the national and international stage.

TechEast members range from small innovative startups to large multinationals such as Aviva, many of whom are regular collaborators with UEA. Mike Kingston, Head of IT, Commercial Lines & Finance at Aviva, and Board member of TechEast, said: “For a business like ours, not only is it important to understand the wealth of people talent that exists and is available locally, but also to support the continued development of skills in future generations, ensuring a strong talent pipeline.

“It is also important to connect with the opportunities created by the innovative thinking and development that so many start-ups and smaller organisations bring. It is exciting to see how TechEast can help facilitate the collaboration between the two.”