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Yorkshire Business Insider – Powerhouse Perspective

Our CEO Nick Halliday was interviewed by Insider magazine recently, regarding his views on the Northern Powerhouse. If you missed the feature, you can catch up in full, here…

What does the Northern Powerhouse mean to you?

It’s an opportunity to grow businesses faster with an injection of money and infrastructure support that organisations have historically tended to receive only in London and the South. However, I think the DNA of the Northern Powerhouse is more exciting than that – the vision is to rival other large successful economic ecosystems worldwide. And why not?!

Six years have passed since the phrase ‘Northern Powerhouse’ was first coined. Has enough happened since then?

Definitely not. It’s a complex landscape and people will complain that the money was slow to come. They’d be right, but that’s not the only factor. 

In the earlier years, I don’t think we had the leadership, human infrastructure or geographical cohesion in place to drive this forward at the right pace. There was almost a degree of suspicion that certain cities or organisations would use it to their own competitive advantage, rather than the shared cause. Perhaps there was also a sense of complacency at play – a presumption that someone else would get things done.  

In some ways, we were therefore on the backfoot and it took some time for the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ to grow to become more than ‘just a phrase’. I think the difficult times of the past 12 months have definitely united the North, however.

How is the appointment of metro mayors starting to help the initiative?

It brings a little more process, structure and clarity to the vision – a strategic focus that is needed for a project of this scale.

What needs to be done to help the North recover from the Covid-19 outbreak?

This is a difficult one, but I think the answer lies in focusing on what we’ve been trying to achieve with the Northern Powerhouse all along. If the city regions across the North can combine their knowledge, ideas, resources, talent pools and transport to solve joint challenges, we’ve a better chance of realising a shared vision. 

Covid-19 is just another challenge that Northern businesses face. Yes, it’s admittedly a big one, rich in uncertainty, but we have to tackle it as we would any other external economic or social threat.

What is the single main issue you would like to see dominate the Northern Powerhouse agenda? 

Getting the UK back on the map for overachieving – whether that’s in tech, finance, health, construction or engineering, I don’t care!  We are a great nation that has a history of leading the charge and punching above our weight – particularly given our comparatively small size. But that’s never stopped us. 

The untapped business potential in the North could pave the way back to us taking centre stage. 

Is there enough collaboration between towns and cities across the North? 

It’s improving, definitely, but there is still a long way to go. While you’ll find some real celebratory camaraderie in the vibrant towns and cities of the North, I don’t want people to stop looking beyond their own postcode. 

How would the success of the Northern Powerhouse agenda benefit your business? 

I want to design and build world-conquering software – technology that can literally change people’s lives, not least in mission-critical scenarios. I am lucky that I can do this from anywhere in the world – and in fact we have a talented and close knit team spread across three different countries.

However, I believe that being a UK-owned business still counts for an awful lot. So, I want us to use the Northern Powerhouse agenda to improve the infrastructure of specialist support available to businesses that have real scale-up potential, before they leave for the US or another country that can better nurture their ambitions. 

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