By Daniel Hunter

Cisco has donated £300k worth of funding to Sunderland City Council, which will establish it as its newest NVI Alliance Member.

Integral to Cisco’s British Innovation Gateway (BIG) initiative — a significant five-year investment of cash, technology and human resources, which aims to develop Britain’s innovation eco-system and create an environment in which start-up digital businesses and their ideas can flourish — the National Virtual Incubator (NVI) is a sustainable public technology network designed to help accelerate the growth of start-ups and SMEs by facilitating their contact and collaboration with like-minded businesses, partners, advisors and investors.

Launched in 2011, in conjunction with founding partners Ravensbourne College, Greenwich Council, JANET UK and Birmingham Science Park Aston, the NVI spans the entire UK and consists of a series of nodes connected to higher education establishments, research clusters and science parks through the JANET network.

It will link the new Sunderland node to the city’s flagship Software Centre and existing innovation hubs such as the e.Volve centre, enabling entrepreneurs and SMEs to connect with other organisations in the network to share resources, pool ideas and develop business partnerships to help them innovate and grow.

It is hoped that the investment will help to further strengthen Sunderland’s position on the national software map and provide an opportunity to share knowledge and best practices with other industry leaders involved in the network.

Tom Baker, head of ICT at Sunderland City Council, said:

“Sunderland is well established as a hotbed of software and technology talent, and this is something that the city council has pioneered through improved infrastructure and significant investment.

“The support we have had from external partners, like Cisco, in developing an infrastructure that can help software businesses in the city to thrive and enjoy access to really cutting edge support has been fantastic. This investment really will ensure that our businesses are more plugged into the technology network than ever before. It’s a great boost for the city and its growing technology community.”

Phil Smith, CEO of Cisco UK and Ireland, said:

“We are delighted to partner with Sunderland and welcome the city to the NVI Alliance. It has fast become an official landmark for innovation and is therefore the perfect location for the new node. By joining efforts with Sunderland City Council, which is already providing fantastic opportunities for the thriving technology community to collaborate and develop, together we can help support the Government’s objectives to drive economic growth through high-tech innovation. The NVI and our wider British Innovation Gateway (BIG) initiative are providing a leading global example of how, in today’s world, it is essential to connect and collaborate in order to build brilliant future for Britain.”

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