A group of Sunderland's innovative software companies and glass and ceramic artists have boosted their chances of doing business with America following a successful joint trade mission to Washington DC.READ MORE >
Software innovation company Orcuma Ltd, which works with clients to create bespoke software to deliver an effective customer management experience, moved to the Sunderland Software Centre in March after deciding to upscale to larger offices to make way for future business growth.
Paul Mitchell, co-founder of Orcuma Ltd, said:
"We searched the North East for a suitable location in which our business can grow and it soon became apparent how plugged in to software Sunderland is. The whole ethos and impression of the Software Centre was exactly what we were looking for and it offered the most flexibility in terms of being able to upscale into additional offices when business growth requires."
The cutting edge new software hub located in the city centre, has recently signed a new contract with IBM that will see it act as the building's managed service provider (MSP), delivering support to its tenants and providing equipment to the flagship site.
After starting the business in August 2011 Mr Mitchell and co-founder Richard Whittaker are now setting their sights on the international market, in particular the United States market and plan to take their software skills overseas to win new business. Growth plans will see the company recruit up to two additional full time staff members by the end of 2013.
Mr Mitchell added: "Orcuma also provide their own Customer Relationship Management and Case Management software. America is a huge market for this type of software and it's a great opportunity to take our bespoke software skills further afield and showcase what we have to offer here in Sunderland."
Councillor Paul Watson, leader of Sunderland City Council said that the growth the city had seen in the sector to date was an encouraging sign that the work of the council and partners was delivering the right results.
He said: "As a council, we spotted an opportunity some time ago to tap into the growing technology market and make that a staple part of the Sunderland economy. We had a vision to create one of the most innovative technology clusters in the country, attracting big business and ambitious entrepreneurs to locate here.
"It's great to see companies such as Orcuma choosing the Software Centre as a place to build their foundation. The centre is ideally suited to progressive technology businesses that are looking for a cutting edge place from which to do business. We're delighted to have Orcuma join the businesses already based at the centre."
Orcuma joins a number of businesses that are now based at the new centre, including Convergent Knowledge Ltd, a company specialising in the development and provision of platform-as-a-service business intelligence systems on a national scale.
The future at Port of Sunderland is the brightest it has been in decades and listening to what the market wants, rather than trying to second guess what it needs, has played an integral part in the progress that has been made at the facility over the past two years.
In October 2010 Sunderland City Council launched its economic masterplan and this, aligned with the Port's Policy Review, marked the beginning of a firm commitment by the city council and the newly appointed management team to breathe new life into the port to ensure it was fully maximising its potential.
Since then the number of commercial vessels arriving at the port has increased by 100 per cent and inroads are being made into many markets such as offshore renewables and subsea engineering, bulk cargo handling, project and unitised cargo handling and North Sea oil and gas industry support. I firmly believe this upward trend is largely due to the open and positive approach of the management team in responding to the needs of the port's customers and potential customers.
In October I was involved in a Sunderland Port delegation to London that met with around 40 business leaders from the offshore industry to discuss the opportunities to do business together. More heavy-duty lifting cranes, warehousing and ancillary equipment were identified as essential requirements to compliment existing infrastructure facilities in increasing business with the port. That investment has been approved and the team at Capstan House are now busy putting these in place to ensure the Port is equipped to service this emerging industry. For any business it is essential to understand precisely what its customers need - and to act on this feedback - and this is exactly what is happening at Port of Sunderland.
Another advantage of Port of Sunderland is its municipal status. The port and the city go hand-in-hand and since the launch of the masterplan the city council and the port are working in a much more cohesive way to help pave the way for future progress and to ensure the facility has the support it needs to become as commercial as possible. The council's business development team is working hard to ensure Port of Sunderland is well placed to capitalise on opportunities in Europe and worldwide, and having this in-house expertise is ensuring the whole process of doing business with both UK and overseas markets is much more joined-up and straightforward.
In addition to having the right people at the helm, Port of Sunderland boasts many unique features and natural assets and strengths - such as its location and easy access to the North Sea - that position it well for growth. In contrast to other east coast ports, Port of Sunderland has an abundance of space available for development with 285 acres of land and 3,000 metres of quay frontage on offer. Its multi-modal logistics facilities - including the ability to handle import, export and transhipment cargos through its excellent sea, road and rail links - means Port of Sunderland ticks all of the boxes for both inland and maritime traffic bringing goods in and out of the port.
Over the coming months and years there is a very real opportunity for Port of Sunderland to capitalise on its distinct offering and to play an instrumental role in the council's plans to become a hub for offshore renewables and sub-sea engineering. Sunderland is already involved in providing operational support facilities for the Round 2 projects currently under development and is ideally placed to play a role in future Round 3 offshore wind farm development zones. Pre-development survey operations, manufacturing, assembly, installation and maintenance have all been identified as markets that can be exploited by Sunderland. The Port Board is already switched onto these opportunities and many leading firms associated with the sector have already visited the facility and are recognising its future potential.
I am delighted to be able to continue to play a part in helping Port of Sunderland turn its aspirations into a reality, helping to shape a sustainable growth strategy. The progress made to date really is just the tip of the iceberg.
Its distinct assets and progressive management team will drive Port of Sunderland through its next stage of growth. In my capacity as a Co-opted Non Executive Board Member I am looking forward to utilising my own experience to contribute to the on-going shaping of the Port's forward strategy, business and development plans - helping the Port of Sunderland to continue to re-invigorate the city's waterfront heritage.
Port Director at Port of Sunderland
Elected Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Shipbrokers
Matthew Hunt became Port Director at the Port of Sunderland in 2010. Matthew previously worked as Commercial Manager for the Seaham Harbour Dock Company, he spent 14 years at the Port of Tyne where he rose to the position of Commercial Director of Port Services before coming to Sunderland.
The wealth of experience and enthusiasm that Matthew brought with him into the role has driven the Port of Sunderland from strength to strength. 245 extra vessels were welcomed to the Port in 2011 - 2012, and there has been an 84% increase in traffic into the Ports docks year on year.
Sunderland is open for business, open to business. It offers a remarkable range of opportunities in a city with a growing entrepreneurial spirit.
A city with a strong heritage of making things well, Sunderland has a proven track record of attracting, encouraging and nurturing successful enterprises, from manufacturing to new technologies. Investing in Sunderland is a low risk, high reward opportunity for any business.
Put simply, we believe Sunderland is the easiest place in the UK to do business