Sunderland’s Transformational ‘Fab Four’ in National Awards Final


18th August 2020

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Sector Events

No less than four Sunderland-based front-runners have been announced as finalists for the Digital Leaders 100 List.

Highlighting the array of talented individuals, teams and collaborative partnerships across the city; the highly anticipated annual DL100 list, features four champions of digital transformation from Sunderland.

Sunderland is represented in the following categories: Smart City of the Year, Digital Leader of the Year, Young Digital Leader of the Year and Cross Sector Digital Collaboration of the Year.

Sunderland is in the offing for this year’s Smart City of the Year Award, which distinguishes places that have made fast and progressive advancement of their smart agenda over the last year. Sunderland is already ranked among the UK’s top cities for tech, celebrating one of the fastest growing digital technology clusters in the country. Inclusion in this year’s DL100 List recognises the city’s recent sizeable and scalable digital transformation.

Hotly contested each year, the Digital Leader of the Year category has seen an abundance of notable talent over the years including Seyi Akiwowo, Mike Bracken and Baroness Martha Lane Fox. Nominated this year, Sunderland City Council’s Chief Executive Patrick Melia has led the council’s agile approach to deploying a 5G ready WiFi network in under eight weeks and with download speeds surpassing the first 5G cities. Enabling the delivery of a range of transformational projects, benefiting individuals and businesses alike, Patrick continues to champion the digital transformation of the smart city of Sunderland.

Patrick expressed his appreciation whilst paying tribute to the collaborative and forward-thinking expertise from the city’s other nominees: “We’ve taken some huge strides as a digitally connected city in which to live, learn and work over the past year.

“Achieving an array of ambitious goals to fast become one of the leading Smart Cities across the UK, has only been possible because of the revolutionary thinking of several individuals and teams who are making it their personal ambition to make a difference, widening opportunities for everyone across Sunderland.”

Patrick adds: “To boast four finalists in the DL100 List, all from Sunderland, is a great honour for the city, but more importantly it highlights the collective commitment to make a difference to the lives and prospects of our communities and businesses across the city.”

This year’s Young Digital Leader of the Year finalist, Penny Day, is Innovation Specialist at Digital Catapult NETV and Sunderland Software City. In less than a year, Penny has proved to be an outstanding and inspirational leader, striving to create more growth opportunities for tech and non-tech SMEs in the region. She is also a STEM Ambassador and co-founder of the region’s leading LGBTQ+ in tech network (LIT NE).

Jenny Lang, Interim Head of Innovation at Sunderland Software City, commented on Penny’s remarkable progression: “Penny relishes the opportunity to help businesses grow, and is inspiring the next generation of tech-savvy leaders through a variety of innovation projects.

“Over the last few months, Penny has been leading on innovation activities at our Digital Catapult NETV Immersive Lab at PROTO and has been helping traditionally non-digital companies explore how advanced digital technologies could be used to drive productivity.

“But Penny doesn’t just care deeply about opportunities for businesses; she also cares deeply for the people who stand to benefit from a more inclusive tech ecosystem. She is a huge advocate for diversity, and we are immensely proud of Penny’s work to create a more inclusive workforce through initiatives like the LITNE network, which she co-founded last year.”

The National Underground Asset Register (NUAR) Pilots are also highlighted in this year’s awards nominations with a place in the top ten Cross Sector Digital Collaboration of the Year category. The Geospatial Commission NUAR aims to advance the way the UK’s authorities manage and share data about the buried infrastructure assets. This provision of digital records of where assets are located via a secure data exchange platform has proven worthy of national recognition in this year’s DL100 List.

The 2020 DL100 list is still open to the public vote, with voting closing at 12 noon on Friday 28th August, and the winners announced on the 15th of October. To show your support for our local finalists, visit