Although there is still catching up to do, the city’s digital industries look set to blossom
In 2002, digital industry magazine New Media Age declared that Sheffield was the UK city that new media forgot. Was this a fair assessment back then – and more importantly, is it still the case now?
Sheffield has always been a creative place. Be it in pop music, graphic design, film, art, dance or theatre, the city has always attracted talented, creative and successful individuals who are at the cutting edge of what they do. But we have been slow to channel this creativity into viable and sustainable economic industries to replace our declining industrial heritage.
In the 80s and 90s we were quick off the mark with the Cultural Industries Quarter and Workstation, and both have been success stories. But as the creative digital industries have taken off in other large northern cities, it seems that Sheffield has been slower to fully embrace this fast-growing sector and as a result only a handful of digital agencies exist, with none in the 2007 New Media Age Top 100.
One positive trend is the niche that the city has carved itself in the e-learning sector, with a cluster of established businesses such as theWorkshop, Line, DESQ and more set to move in.
But the big factor that should help the continued growth of existing digital companies in Sheffield, as well as attracting new ones, is the proposed Sheffield Digital Campus in the city centre. The three-phase project has been talked about for several years but is now finally taking shape, with the flagship Electric Works building – featuring a spectacular slide to transport workers from the top floor to the foyer area – at the centre of the scheme.
As well as offering a creative heart in which the region’s digital companies can collaborate, foster a creative culture and thrive, what is exciting about this development is that it also projects a positive image to those looking outside, showing that the city is genuinely an exciting place to work, with the inherent creative energy here being channelled into a prosperous economic vision.