Teesside University has again been ranked as one of the world’s leading animation schools and placed in the top three in UK in a new league table published this week.

Animation Career Review, which ranks Teesside third in the UK for animation, also lists the University as eighth across Europe and 19th across the world.

The global list of top 25 universities and colleges which offer animation courses includes institutions in England, France, Canada, Denmark, Argentina, South Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand and Australia. Animation Career Review considered 167 global institutions in preparing this year’s annual international rankings.

The rankings were announced in the same week that Teesside University’s renowned Animex Festival celebrates its 20th anniversary, bringing stars from the animation and games worlds to share their insider knowledge and expertise.

This year’s Animex line-up has remained as diverse as ever, ranging from Disney and Pixar, to the creators of the latest Marvel Spider-Man game and special effects wizards who worked on Game of Thrones. Over the past two decades Animex has attracted animation legends such as stop-motion pioneer Ray Harryhausen and Nancy Cartwright, the voice of Bart Simpson.

The University’s School of Computing & Digital Technologies is also celebrating students’ work in computer innovation, technology and the arts at its annual ExpoTees exhibition this week. ExpoTees gives final year students an opportunity to showcase their work to guests from industry, education and business as they prepare to join the workforce.

In addition, the University has been hosting a special BBC event on campus, with the BBC celebrating the University’s involvement in the creative industries, as part of the build-up to the Radio 1 Big Weekend due to take place at Middlesbrough’s Stewart Park.

Teesside University has a global reputation in the creative and digital industries and, in terms of animation, Teesside graduates have gone on to work on blockbuster film titles including, Avengers, The Jungle Book, Beauty and the Beast, Spider Man and Moana.

Dr Gordon Marshall, Acting Dean, School of Computing & Digital Technologies, said: “We are delighted that our animation courses have continued to achieve these rankings, bringing well-earned recognition for our academic staff and many of our students who have gone on have successful careers in the animation industry.”

A thriving North East film company is celebrating five years in business.

Middlesbrough-based Ithica Films is an independent, award-winning film company creating cinematic film content for businesses.

Founded in 2014 by Managing Director Matt McGough, and based in the Tees Valley’s flagship Boho One building for creative and digital businesses, it provides high level film production with three edit suites, the latest in camera movement rigs and aerial drones.

In the five years since it was launched, Ithica has cemented its position as a leader in creative film-making, delivering over a thousand films for customers throughout the North East and across the world.

The company, which prides itself on the ethos of putting heart and soul into every film, has had a core of six members of staff while recently creating additional Filmmaking and Marketing roles to take the total number of employees to eight for 2019.

Matt McGough, Ithica Films Managing Director, said: “It’s been a great journey for us so far. To start from nothing five years ago, to build the momentum, team and body of work that we have is incredible. People put a lot of trust in us from day one and having the dedication to our craft is something that people have really valued from us.

“It is an important milestone to pass and it marks the end of the start-up phase for us. The quality of the content we create has been increasing constantly and I’m excited about what we can make happen in the future. We’re already looking at additional edit capacity with one eye on what we do about our facilities and capabilities longer term.”

Ithica Films has attracted clients in sectors such as renewables, finance, logistics, public sector, chemical process and healthcare.

These include top names such as Wilton Group, Smulders Projects, Thyssenkrupp, Tees Valley Combined Authority, Newcastle Building Society, Sembcorp, PD Ports, Double 11, and Nifco.

Graduate talent from Teesside University is helping to fuel the expansion of one of the Tees Valley’s most exciting tech firms.

Already, more than half of the staff at the Middlesbrough office of Clicksco are Teesside alumni and the marketing technology business is looking to the University to help meet its recruitment needs as it aims to double in size over the next two years.

Clicksco, which has its headquarters in Dubai with offices across the world, uses data and AI to understand customer behaviour across different sectors.

The Middlesbrough office is the firm’s largest site, and is principally responsible for the development of its data management platform, Carbon, which collects and analyses anonymous data from over 2 million new unique users per day to understand customer behaviour and intent. This data is then unified with first party audience data to enable marketers, publishers and agencies to create bespoke customer segments for intelligent customer acquisition and remarketing, audience monetisation and personalisation.

The innovation within their products and solutions is down to Carbon’s talented team of data scientists and developers who constantly push what is possible with audience data. Examples of such innovations include products such as Audience Match (for creating more programmatic direct deals), Intent Match (for intent fuelled display ads) and Facebook Audience Sync (for adding intent data to social campaigns).

Carbon’s office, in the Cleveland Business Centre, is home to 24 employees and plans are underway to double this number by the end of next year as the company responds to expected increased demand for the Carbon platform. Furthermore, they’ll also be moving into a new office closer to the tech centre of Middlesbrough to support the growing size and culture of the business.

Clicksco is planning to build on its existing relationship with Teesside University with increased graduate recruitment and placements and enhanced collaboration with academic and business engagement staff.

Each year, the company takes on two or three graduate interns from Teesside University, many of whom go on to be offered permanent positions.

Divisional Chief Executive Pete Danks said: “We have a very structured training programme so our interns are able to add commercial value to the business within four weeks.

“These are exciting times for the Middlesbrough office and we’re looking forward to working together with the University to attract the right talent into the business.

“We use cutting-edge PHP development so this is a fantastic opportunity to help retain key skills within the North East.”

Laura Woods, Director of Academic Enterprise at Teesside University, said: “Having an international company like Clickcso on our doorstep is a fantastic opportunity for our students and graduates.

“We’re very proud to be working alongside Clicksco as they push ahead with their expansion plans and helping them realise their growth plans, particularly around the Carbon Data Management Platform.”

For more information on Teesside University’s services to business visit www.tees.ac.uk/business

Representatives from leading international companies are to speak at the first ever North East conference dedicated to digital marketing.
Teesside University is to host the Digital Marketing Futures conference on 27 June which will see some of the sharpest minds in the digital marketing industry giving insights into the latest trends and providing ‘best practice’ actionable insight into a full breadth of areas of this growing discipline.
The one-day conference is aimed at marketing and business development professionals and business owners who want to acquire more knowledge and practical insight on a wide range of aspects linked with digital marketing.
Speakers from international organisations such as Bing and HyperIsland will be presenting, alongside digital experts from award winning agencies, leaders of award winning in-house marketing teams and some of the best digital trainers in the region and beyond.
This is the first purely digital marketing-focussed conference to be held in the region and will look at developments in a number of key areas such as AI in digital marketing and design thinking in digital marketing, whilst also covering the more tactical aspects of digital marketing, such as social media, email marketing, content marketing and Conversion Rate Optimisation. There are three keynote speeches throughout the day, with attendees then being able to choose four ‘track’ based self-selection sessions.
Dr David Norris, Digital Marketing Futures co-founder and Associate Dean (Marketing and Recruitment) of Teesside University Business School, said: “Digital marketing is a fast-paced area of business, but is also a real growth area in terms of employability and is a must for most modern day businesses.
“The conference will ensure attendees hear from a wide range of thought leaders in an array of digital marketing areas, from leading agency staff, leaders of in-house marketing teams and dedicated digital trainers, to give attendees actionable insight that will support their professional development and will ultimately help drive and support business performance through enhanced digital marketing activity at their organisations.”
The conference will be hosted at the University’s Middlesbrough campus in The Curve and the new-look Teesside University Business School which was redeveloped in 2018 following a £7.5m investment to provide flexible, modern and high quality learning facilities to promote quality interactions between staff, students and businesses alike.
For more information and to register for the Digital Marketing Futures conference visit www.digitalmarketingfutures.com

Publisher and developer Double Eleven have today announced their acquisition of Birmingham-based VooFoo Studios for an undisclosed sum.

The purchase includes multiple intellectual properties, including This is Pool, Mantis Burn Racing and another soon-to-be-announced title. The acquisition also includes VooFoo’s proprietary multi-platform ‘Mantis Engine’, which most recently powered  2016’s Mantis Burn Racing, released for PC, PlayStation™ 4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch™.

VooFoo’s acquisition on the 1st December 2018 brings Double Eleven’s staff count to 70 highly skilled team members, further strengthening the company’s ability to create, publish and support great games.

Double Eleven CEO and co-founder Lee Hutchinson is excited to bring VooFoo into the Double Eleven family, stating  that the team have “really big plans for the future.”.

“With VooFoo’s track record of clean design and strong execution, along with their breadth of experience, we’re looking forward to a relationship that will positively impact the type of entertainment experiences we can offer.”

Mark Williams, VooFoo’s MD and co-founder is enthused by the flexibility that working with Double Eleven will bring.

“I see it as a fantastic opportunity to leverage our collective strengths and do things we might not have been able to otherwise. While Double Eleven have a huge amount of technical experience, they also bring a lot more to the table in terms of support and resources from both a development and publishing point of view.”

VooFoo Studios was founded in 2007 by a small team of experienced industry professionals. Utilising its own proprietary cutting-edge technology, VooFoo’s first game, the critically acclaimed Hustle Kings, was released for PlayStation 3 in 2009, reaching the top of the PSN charts and earning VooFoo nominations for two highly coveted Develop Awards. VooFoo went on to develop Hustle Kings on PlayStation Vita, Backgammon Blitz and the acclaimed ‘Pure’ series of simulation games – Pure Chess, Pure Pool and Pure Hold’em, as well as Mantis Burn Racing. Their next release will be This Is Pool, a state-of-the-art cue sports simulation game, which is the 3rd generation since Hustle Kings, and is currently in the final stages of development.

Digital platforms for the Chinese educational sector, a hi-tech board game for visually impaired people and an intuitive mobile app that can be used at crime scenes are some of the latest products and ideas being developed with the support of DigitalCity.

A total of ten start-up businesses have been accepted onto the latest Fellowship Accelerator Programme.

The three-month programme works with early-stage businesses and offers funding of up to £5,000, as well as workshops and bespoke consultancy as they develop their product or idea.

Led by Teesside University, in partnership with the Tees Valley Combined Authority, and part-financed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), DigitalCity has been responsible for helping to create some of the region’s most successful companies.

Since its launch, DigitalCity has awarded a total of 365 Fellowships – some of which have developed into the Tees Valley’s most successful digital businesses.

The latest cohort of DigitalCity fellows are:

  • Britannia Educational Intelligent Systems – An educational technology and consultancy service creating apps for parents, students and teachers in the Chinese market
  • Crime Scene Assist – Developing a mobile app for frontline responders at crime scenes
  • EnerG Solutions Ltd – A digital energy assessment tool for the construction industry
  • Wander Films – Developing innovative video marketing and vlog packages
  • Go Roar International Ltd – A social media travel app
  • The Teaching Hub Ltd – Web and app platform for recruitment of school staff
  • Greentree On-line – An ethical web and social media consultancy for community groups and small businesses
  • Deivos Ltd – Multi-platform digital content production and distribution in the SVOD market
  • Alpha Globe – Creating a ‘Wellbeing Alphabet’ app for children
  • Across The Board Games – Developing a tech-based board game linked to an app that will be accessible to the visually impaired.

Pam Bennett, co-founder of Across the Board Games, said: “Our ‘Discuss’ board game is innovative in that it enables the visually impaired to experience a fun, highly interactive game with non-disabled players. We are exploring routes to market and are hoping that the Fellowship Accelerator will help us to commercialise our product.”

James Stoddart, whose business, Britannia Educational Intelligent Systems is creating educational apps for parents, students and teachers in the Chinese market, said: “The Fellowship will really help, not just because of the funding, but the support it will give us to scale the business in the right way.”

Scott Watson, Innovation Manager at DigitalCity, said: “This is probably the most diverse group of businesses we have worked with for some time. We’re delighted to be supporting them as we think that all of them have bags of potential.

“This programme has supported 25 of the most innovative start-up businesses in the Tees Valley in the last 12 months. We look forward to helping this group unlock their potential and are confident that they will make a strong contribution to the Tees Valley’s future economic success.”

Get more information on DigitalCity.

Middlesbrough based media company XCel Broadcast has successfully climbed the great firewall of China to become one of very few ‘foreign’ organisations to send live digital broadcasts into the communist country.

With a population approaching 1.4 billion people, China boasts a huge audience for media content, however almost all foreign information is blocked from entering the country by the government’s formidable digital firewall, a challenge XCel had to successfully overcome in order to broadcast the first of 36 international motor racing events into the country.

It did that successfully this weekend by streaming live the opening two rounds of the Blancpain GT World Challenge, which took place at the Austin based Formula 1 venue, Circuit of the Americas, in Texas, USA.

XCel Managing Director, Dave Roberts said, “It’s an extremely proud moment for both XCel and Teesside. It’s fairly straightforward to make digital broadcasts today but China is one of a few countries that imposes very strict controls on all ‘foreign’ media content, very little content is allowed in.

“We effectively had to punch a digital tunnel through the firewall to deliver the USA based broadcast through to our Beijing production centre. To think a Middlesbrough based operation has been able to successfully achieve such a unique feat is testament to the hard work and creative thinking of all involved. Teesside has again proved its digital enterprise is as good as anywhere.”

The races are part of a new agreement between XCel and race organiser SRO Motorsports to digitally broadcast 36 GT motor races from USA, Europe and Asia live into China. All but two of the races are located outside of the world’s most populist country with Mandarin commentary being added to all.

Digital platforms in China that are broadcasting the races include, Huya, Douyu, SMG, PandaTV and the country’s largest digital video platform, Youku.

Mike Scott, Head of Television for SRO Motorsports, said, “China is a huge market for the Blancpain GT World Challenge and with XCel’s expertise we will now reach many millions of more motor sports fans.

“XCel has been an integral partner of ours since 2015 and again they have delivered. Not only do they produce our entire Asia series they have now stepped up again to take the entire 2019 season across USA, Europe and Asia into China. It’s a fantastic achievement.”

The series sees 14 races in the US, 12 in Asia and 10 across Europe, ending in Las Vegas in October.

In April XCel will begin the second year of its two-year host broadcaster agreement to provide all broadcast equipment and personnel for SRO’s Blancpain GT World Challenge Asia series. April’s broadcast comes from Malaysia’s Sepang Formula 1 circuit.

One of the region’s longest standing companies to specialise in software and web, is celebrating it’s tenth anniversary this month.

Calm, a team of specialists that deliver to a huge range of world wide clients needing top end software, is celebrating its birthday by launching a brand new website that positions them as software market leaders that they have become.

Headed up by the five directors, Danielle Bloom, Helen Stewart, Phil Allick, Daniel Askwith and Andrew Murphy the company now employs an impressive 15 people, all with their own specialisms.

Danielle Bloom, who heads up the digital team, said:

“Over the last ten years our services have naturally developed and whilst we still provide all the traditional web services, we now have a team of specialists that are quite simply streets ahead in software creation and delivery knowledge. Because of this it has very much become our specialism and our newly launched website reflects this move.”

Based in Boho One in Middlesbrough, the company that works with clients and large scale brands across the UK, Europe and USA, recently expanding their office to accommodate the planned growth for the coming anniversary year. It is intended that another five jobs are created.

Helen Stewart heads up the business development team. She said:

“As the latest of the team to be appointed as a director, I have very much focused on growth and the future of the company. To celebrate 10 years in business is a great achievement, but to be confident in our future is a greater one. We have a very healthy pipeline and very happy current and past clients who will return to us for their next stages of web or software development. That is testament to the talent we have in the team here!”

As well as business software systems, websites and mobile apps, the company specialises in platforms including eLearning, API integrations and SaaS development. The company owns Advent Calendar Online, which delivers marketing campaigns and engagement in the retail, hospitality and leisure industries with clients including Lindt and Holiday Pirates.

Calm also owns Intasite, an online health and safety induction platform for contractors and visitors to hazardous and secure conscious sites, which boasts a host of impressive clients including EDF Renewables, Telefonica O2, PD Ports and Sirius Minerals PLC.

For more information please visit the brand new Calm Digital website.

The vision for the next phase of Middlesbrough’s cutting edge digital sector is unveiled this month.

The Boho Next Generation report outlines a £20 million investment to grow the city’s burgeoning digital cluster, bringing fresh high-tech investment and creating 1,000 jobs.

A report to Middlesbrough Council’s Executive on Tuesday, March 12 sets out a powerful strategic and market case for the continued growth of the Boho Zone within Middlehaven.

The strategy highlights a clear need for additional specialist accommodation for digital businesses, to meet the needs of the sector and further unlock its potential.

Middlesbrough’s established digital sector – nearly 200 businesses – accounts for 6% of all businesses in the borough, and more than 18% all digital and creative businesses in the Tees Valley.

The digital cluster – spearheaded by Middlesbrough Council, Teesside University and the Digital City strategic partnership – was recognised in last year’s influential TechNation Report as one of the leading tech clusters in the UK.

The businesses themselves stress the business benefits of being co-located alongside other firms in the digital sector, with high quality design a prerequisite to the development’s continued success.

Digital Middlesbrough Manager Dan Watson said: “The local sector is healthy and growing locally and future prospects are positive, with digital and creative businesses in the Tees Valley very confident about their growth prospects.

“The time is therefore right for a bold, collaborative vision that will build on what has already been achieved, and provide certainty for the long-term future of the wider Boho Zone over the next ten to 15 years.”

Boho Next Generation proposes a high-level masterplan to create a Boho Zone ‘Digital Campus’ alongside the former town hall building within Middlehaven, attracting £20 million investment, including the development of 60,000 sq ft of office space and creating up to 2,000 jobs.

The Boho Next Generation development is just one in a series of complementary schemes delivering the next stage of Middlesbrough’s renaissance, providing clustering and expansion opportunities targeted at the digital sector.

Centre Square provides Grade A office space for large professional business services and TeesAMP is focused on attracting Advanced Manufacturing, ensuring Middlesbrough is perfectly placed to attract new inward investment while supporting existing expansion from the area’s growth industrial sectors.

Funding from Tees Valley Combined Authority has paved the way for master-planning and feasibility studies, with a further funding bid expected in the near future.

Councillor Charlie Rooney, Middlesbrough Deputy Mayor and Executive member for City Centre Strategy, said: “Boho has been a huge success, and has cemented Middlesbrough’s status as a digital pioneer, not just regionally but nationally.

“We’re now at the stage where we need new accommodation to meet the specific needs of this growing sector, and to ensure it continues to attract investment and create jobs.

“This report sets out a bold vision that speaks volumes about what has been achieved here over the last ten years, and the ambition we have for the future.”

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said: “Boho already serves as a home for some world-class digital companies and as we look to drive forward growth in this vital sector, we need to provide more top-quality facilities that businesses are crying out for.

“The report’s ambitions, supported by our £20million in funding, will help produce high-tech, highly skilled, cutting edge jobs. Expanding Boho will be yet another boost to Middlesbrough’s already fantastic reputation in the sector, and will build on the good work it does with partners like Teesside University.”

  • Taking Middlesbrough’s Digital Cluster Forward – Boho Next Generation will be considered at a meeting of Middlesbrough Council’s Executive on Tuesday, March 12.

A fast-growing Middlesbrough tech company is gearing up for further growth with expansion into EU and international markets.

Appamondo, based in Boho One, is a Zendesk Premier Partner established in 2012, specialising in the design, build and deployment of digital help and support services.

The company has an established track record of working with global brands and organisations across a range of sectors. In 2018, Appamondo was recognised as Zendesk’s Innovation Partner of the Year in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Director Michael Smith is forecasting double-digit revenue growth in 2019, having seen a 45% increase in 2018, as the organisation strengthens its position as a service and solution provider in the UK and Europe.

“What customers expect today is convenience and rapid service without distraction. Self-management, effortless interaction from smart devices on chat, via forms or social media, are key to retention and increasing lifetime value,” he says.

“Thankfully, more and more companies are recognising this and investing seriously in using technology to transform customer experience and keep their customer base happy, which has helped fuel growth of Appamondo.”

Director Rick Hutchinson emphasises the role of innovation through tech development, as key to their success.

“In the last few years, we’ve managed to grow the business rapidly and win contracts with national and international brands. We are very agile as an organisation and take this approach into the businesses with whom we work. IT is no longer a lone-function or dark art. Technology is transforming intra-company communication so that it can meet the needs of a more tech-savvy consumer. We demonstrate the art of the possible and make it happen.

“It’s meant we’ve been able to establish ourselves as a sought-after name in custom-built Zendesk applications.

“Continued expansion of our technical resource in the form of developers and service personnel is key to our continued success in the UK and abroad.”

Appamondo is a software-as-a-service provider which allows clients to access its services from anywhere in the world. This allows the company to expand in Teesside without the need to open offices in additional locations – something both directors are pleased about.

“Teesside is a thriving digital hub and an inspiring place to work,” says Hutchinson.

“From the start, we’ve been committed to employing and nurturing local talent and creating a culture where people enjoy coming to work. That’s reflected in the work we do for clients, which has got us to where we are now.

“We’re proud to be growing our business in the region.”

Appamondo has worked on many projects for leading transport companies including Northern Rail, Grand Central and Eurotunnel.

The company has implemented Zendesk applications to improve customer interaction for transport, retail and contact centre clients such as Arriva Plc, Grand Central, Northern Rail, GoAhead Eurotunnel Le Shuttle, Heals, Dune, GHD, Moss Bros, Links of London, Ascensos and Ventrica.

Appamondo expects profits to double in 2019. Plans are also in place to add to the company’s 13-strong team, with headcount to grow by 40% this year.