Located in the centre of the city, at Platform, Bruntwood SciTech underpins an ecosystem of collaboration and support within the local tech community. We sat down with Head of Innovation, Deb Hetherington, to find out why she thinks Leeds continues to establish itself as a thriving hub for innovation-led businesses in the UK.
Tell us a bit about your company, and your role, in your own words.
Bruntwood SciTech is the UK’s leading property provider to the science and tech sector, with over 500 businesses based on 10 campuses around the country. Our USP is that we are more than just a provider of world-class office and lab space, we create ecosystems and provide high level business support to growing companies based on our campuses. I oversee the design and delivery of that support across Leeds, which is really exciting.
What inspired you to join Bruntwood SciTech?
I saw an opportunity to work for an organisation that had the desire and resource to develop the innovation district here in Leeds, which is something I am very passionate about.
Why do you think is Leeds such a thriving hub for tech businesses?
Leeds is truly a collaborative place, with so many organisations wanting to work together for the good of the city. We collaborate to compete, and it seems to be paying off. I love being part of that activity with the range of hats I wear in the city and wider region.
From your unique perspective, what role will the tech sector have in the growth of the regional economy?
A huge one! Technology solutions are infiltrating every area of business, and Leeds based tech companies are well positioned to take advantage of that. We have the highest number of scaling businesses outside of London, as well as an incredibly exciting startup community. The business support landscape is strong, and tech companies with market-ready products and services can scale here, we have the infrastructure for that.
What do you see as being the biggest challenges faced by the sector today, or your organisation, currently?
I hate to sound like a broken record, but funding. In all forms, from pre-seed to scale. There are funding gaps across the whole entrepreneurial journey, and the process is made very difficult for businesses. It is also not set up for true diversity and inclusivity. Levels of investment in minority groups is embarrassingly low even though, for example, female founders are evidenced to achieve higher returns for funders, time and time again *rolls eyes*.
Looking back, what has been the most pivotal moment in your career?
Taking a role at Top 100 Law Firm Ward Hadaway and working with the commercial team there. One of the first projects I worked on was focussed on the tech ecosystem, and I had no idea how established and important it was to the city. I quickly learned that this was a sector that was going to make a huge impact, not only in every aspect of business but also our personal lives. Technology is advancing at a phenomenal rate, and unless we ensure some form of social conditioning or ethical code alongside those advancements, we may come a cropper.
Looking forward, what are your hopes and ambitions as a company?
Bruntwood SciTech has developed innovation districts in several cities across the country, always in partnership with local stakeholders and always with the mission to make a positive impact within the regions we operate. In Leeds, we are dedicated to working with partners to develop truly innovative spaces that support growing businesses and add value to the city.
Who, or what, has been the single biggest influence on your working life?
Meeting Sarah Tulip, my co-founder with WILD which is a community-led organisation with the aim of increasing diversity within the digital sector. Sarah taught me the power of network, community, and to demand equality within my own personal journey.