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l to r: Cllr Miller and John Seager

Sunderland: open for business

THE NUMBER of businesses setting up in Sunderland increased by almost 3 per cent last year, according to new research by a leading think tank.

The latest Companies House data, analysed by the Centre for Entrepreneurs (CFE), shows that a total of 1,182 businesses were registered in the city last year, compared to 1,148 in 2017.

This follows hot on the heels of a recent report released by card payment specialist paymentsense which named Sunderland as the third best city in the UK to set up a business.

Based on factors including business survival rates, weekly salary, average rent, population, and the number of employed adults in the area, paymentsense compiled a report highlighting which UK cities offered the best environment for entrepreneurs wanting to set up a business.

The research found that Sunderland boasts a five-year start-up survival rate of 41.9%; an average weekly salary for full-time workers of £517.20 and an average monthly cost to rent a 1-bed city centre apartment of £550, ranking it third in the UK behind Nottingham and Sheffield.

Councillor Graeme Miller, leader of Sunderland City Council, said: “As a council, we pride ourselves on the work we do to showcase Sunderland as a great place to invest and do business, so it’s extremely encouraging to find that start-ups in the city are continuing to rise.

“Like many post-heavy industrial cities in the North, Sunderland has worked hard to reinvent itself in recent years and has done so magnificently and figures like this back that up.”

At the heart of this change are the city’s key sectors including automotive, contact centres, offshore and subsea and its burgeoning software industry, which is one of the fastest growing clusters of its kind in the UK.

Outside of London, the North East was named as one of the fastest-growing regions for digital technology in a recent report by Tech Nation report, with Middlesbrough, Newcastle and Sunderland all scoring highly.  The city was said to have the second highest digital turnover growth rate in the UK, outside London.

“Sunderland is steaming towards a digital tech future,” added Councillor Miller. “While the city’s software pedigree has its roots in the 1990s, it has grown rapidly since the establishment of business hubs such as Sunderland Software Centre and Evolve Business Centre in Houghton.

“The two centres are now home to well over 100 businesses, from global tech companies such as Saggezza and Coatsink to innovative, forward-thinking start-ups and SMEs such as Technically Compatible, Geek Talent and EDS HV, to name just a few.”

And with a number of high-profile developments in the pipeline, MAKE it Sunderland (Sunderland City Council inward investment campaign) will now be hoping that the city continues on this upwards trajectory.

One such development is The BEAM, which is expected to open in the spring, delivering over 59,000 sq ft of office and leisure space.

As the flagship building on the city’s iconic VAUX site, The BEAM will provide much sought-after office space in the heart of the city centre.

John Seager, chief executive of Siglion, the organisation behind the redevelopment of the VAUX site, said: “The BEAM is going to be an iconic building, and it is already making an incredible impact on the skyline in Sunderland.

“This research backs up what we’ve known all along, that Sunderland has so much to offer businesses looking to grow. And, with a number of exciting developments in the pipeline, there’s no reason why the city can’t continue on this upwards trajectory.

“Work hasn’t even finished on the site yet, however we’re having a number of positive discussions with companies looking to make VAUX their home.

“The future is certainly bright for VAUX and for Sunderland as a whole.”

The University of Sunderland has also played a huge role in helping attract new businesses to the city through its close relationships with industry and its business start-up support programmes.

Sir David Bell, vice chancellor of the University of Sunderland, said: “The University of Sunderland has recently launched a new project worth more than £1.3 million to help student and graduate entrepreneurs turn their business ideas into a reality.

“The European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) scheme at the University’s Enterprise Place will expand on the many success stories from their previous projects.

“The Enterprise Place, based at Hope Street Xchange in the city centre, acts as the perfect environment for students and graduates to start their own business, bringing together budding entrepreneurs at all stages of their development.

“Many of these start-ups go on to remain based in the city, playing a key role in the collective growth of new businesses in the heart of Sunderland.”

Gary Hutchinson, chair of Sunderland Business Partnership, a collective that works to drive the growth of the city, said: “This is great news for Sunderland and is further proof that this is a great place to live, work and do business.

“The city boasts a vibrant and close-knit business community and it’s extremely satisfying to see this reflected in the increasing number of businesses choosing to make Sunderland their home. 

“There is a huge programme of private and public investment underway in the city – totaling more than £1.5bn – which is helping to change the face of Sunderland, and teamed with the economic boost that more SMEs setting up here provide, this is a really positive sign for a city that is fast establishing itself as an innovative, progressive place to live work and play.”