The steel industry undoubtedly played a fundamental role in forging the region’s global reputation, but it is the digital sector which is at the forefront of an exciting future.

That is the view of Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen and Professor Jane Turner OBE DL, Teesside University’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Enterprise and Business Engagement), who are emphasising the impact the digital and tech sector has on the region – both in terms of job creation and economic value.

Mayor Houchen was speaking as Teesside University’s internationally renowned Animex Festival, now in its 21st year, got under way once again.

Things are a little different this year, with activities taking place online, but Animex has still attracted some of the biggest names in the games and animation industry to deliver a series of inspiring talks, workshops and screenings, which are all free to attend.

One of the highlights of this year’s Animex Festival is the Animex Industry Day, taking place on 30 September, which brings together key figures to discuss the impact of Covid-19 and how the games, animation and visual effects industry has responded. Dr Jo Twist OBE, Chief Executive of the Association for UK Interactive Entertainment, will chair the discussion, which is aimed at educators and people in the industry.  Sign up to the Animex Industry Day.

The Tees Valley digital sector accounted for an estimated 5,340 jobs in 2020, and a further 2,270 jobs across the supply chain.

Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen said: “Our digital sector is home to some world-leading businesses doing some incredible things across the globe. It is one of our key sectors, responsible for employing thousands of people and delivering more than half a billion pounds into our economy each year.

“People know Teesside steel helped build the world in the past and now they are hearing more and more about how we are driving forward innovation and the technologies of the future.

“The sector will play a huge role as we recover our economy post-coronavirus. We need to be ready to capitalise on opportunities that the new normal brings as we see a further shift towards things like remote working, online learning and digitalisation.

“There are companies here in Teesside working on the next blockbuster for the likes of Microsoft and Animex shows that if you want to get into games design, animation or visual effects, you don’t have to move away from the area.”

Teesside University’s Animex Festival is one of the world’s largest and longest running festivals of animation and computer games and is always a highlight in the Teesside University Calendar. This year it has launched an exciting new partnership with the Tees Valley Mayor and Combined Authority, working together to use Animex’s reputation and profile to continue to promote and  develop the Tees Valley’s burgeoning digital sector and establish the region as a hub for digital innovation, growth, enterprise and employability.

Teesside University is well-versed in this area. Since starting in 2001, its DigitalCity initiative has helped over 650 digital and creative businesses, creating 254 new companies and 518 jobs. In the last year, the University has worked with 43 separate digital organisations, completing 62 projects and, since 2016, its Launchpad scheme has launched 28 digital organisations, creating 57 jobs in the digital industry.

Professor Turner OBE DL, said: “The digital and technology sector is of huge significance to the region and Teesside University has, and continues to play, a leading role in its growth and success by providing the talent, research and business creating opportunities.”

“Animex showcases some of the games and animation industries’ brightest lights and future stars sharing their knowledge, ideas and experiences. We are delighted to be hosting Animex 2020 in partnership with the Tees Valley Mayor and Combined Authority.”

Mayor Houchen added: “The creative side of this sector is hugely important and we are delighted to be working with Teesside University to bring Animex back for its 21st year. Brilliant guests who started their careers in Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool will inspire our up-and-coming talent, while experts in animation and gaming from around the world will pass on their knowledge and experience.

“Each year, Animex helps us increase our profile even more and highlight that we are leading the way for digital, while creating jobs and driving economic growth.”

Animex runs until 2 October. Find out more about the event and the various activities taking place.