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Region’s tech superstars recognised at Dynamites21

ByRob Lawson

Nov 29, 2021


THE superstars and rising stars of the region’s growing tech sector were celebrated at a glittering awards night.

Almost 400 people attended the Dynamites 21 Awards which were hosted by North East actor Daymon Britton and organised by Dynamo, the industry-led network focused on growing’s the region’s tech sector.

The eighth annual awards were held in Newcastle Civic Centre’s Banqueting Hall, and sponsored by North of Tyne Combined Authority (NTCA) Digital, NTCA Good Work Pledge and Invest Newcastle. There were 11 award categories in total, including the popular People’s Choice Award.

Cate Kalson, Director of Dynamo, and this year’s Chair of judges welcomed guests.

She said: “It’s fantastic to be with you all in person for a celebration of the talent, values, innovation, hard work and successes of technology people and organisations across the North East. The past 12 months has been challenging: the novelty and excitement of our first grapples with managing the pandemic in 2020 has shifted to a longer-term set of challenges and a new normal to adjust to.

“We all deserve this opportunity to take a step back from the day to day, recognise the achievements of our Dynamo colleagues and have fun too!”

Other speakers included Robin Pembrooke, Director of BBC Digital, who outlined the increased investment in digital and talent in the region; and North of Tyne Mayor Jamie Driscoll who talked about the importance of skills, leadership and tech for good.

He praised the Digital Talent Engine that Dynamo is developing with the NCTA, saying it will provide an important pipeline of talent for the region’s tech sector.

He added: “The government talks of levelling up, but I don’t believe in levelling up, I want to see more than just levelling up. I want to show the world what a powerhouse the north east is.”

There was a wide spread of winners, with tech companies large and small scooping awards, as well as organisations with IT departments.

One of the first winners of the night was Elena Lanzarini, a data scientist working for Wordnerds, who won the Rising Star Award in memory of a previous winner of the same award, Nate Sterling.

Elena said: “I was so proud to have been nominated for the award and didn’t expect to win. I graduated with my Master’s degree from Newcastle University this morning and then tonight I’ve won this award – it’s one of the best days of my life.”

Elena, originally from Italy, has been with Wordnerds for less than a year. Prof Alastair Irons, presented her with her award from University of Sunderland, who made a moving tribute to Nate Sterling and invited his brother Matthew on stage to help present the award to Elena.

Another early winner was Notify Technologies who won the Tech for Good Award for helping to improve worker safety through their safety management software.

Gareth Cram, Chief Revenue Officer for the company, said: “I’m incredibly proud of our team and what we’ve achieved. So many people have lived and breathed this software for the past four years – they’ve given blood, sweat and tears and I’m delighted that this award gives them the recognition they deserve.”

Innovator of the Year was OPPORTUNI whose platform has been dubbed ‘Tinder for Tenders’ and who have enjoyed growth of nearly 600 per cent growth over the last six months.

Tim Ward, OPPORTUNI’s CEO and co-founder, said: “We really weren’t expecting to win this award as were up against such tough opposition – but we’re thrilled.

“Six months ago we were a team of six; now we’re a team of 35. We’re based in Stockton, but have a truly global presence. I’d like to thank the team for their incredible hard work, but also our families who’ve given us so much support.”

Tim added that he nearly hadn’t made it to the Dynamites. He’d been in London on business and his train back to the north east had been badly delayed. His wife picked him up from Darlington station and drove him to Newcastle in time for the awards – but had forgotten his shoes. He picked up his prestigious award in casual boots.

The award winners were:

·      Best Use of Data, sponsored by BJSS:

Connect Health

·      Equality, Diversity and Inclusion, sponsored by Fueled:


·      Growth Explosion, sponsored by LDC:

So Post – (the second time the company has won this category)

Opencast were highly commended

·      Innovator of the Year, sponsored by Sage:


Durham University were highly commended

·      Project of the Year (Corporate), sponsored by Saggezza:

Iamproperty – movebutler

·      Project of the Year (Public Sector/Not for Profit), sponsored by Red Hat:

DWP Digital – Passport Benefit Checker

·      Rising Star in Memory of Nate Sterling, sponsored by University of Sunderland:

Elena Lanzarini – Wordnerds

·      Skills Developer, sponsored by Gateshead College:

Baltic Apprenticeships

Nicole Robson from Saggezza was highly commended

·      Tech for Good, sponsored by tombola:

Notify Technology LTD

Nebula Labs were highly commended

·      Tech Champion, sponsored by Invest Newcastle, NTCA Good Work Pledge:

Dylan McKee – Nebula Labs

·      People’s Choice Award

Peter Bakare, Nutri Troops

This year’s judging panel comprised: Cate Kalson, Dynamo Director; Karen Elliott, Senior Lecturer/Associate Professor, Newcastle University; Andrew Gill, Northern Regional Head, Waterstons; Nigel Moralee, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Program Manager, Sage; Rachel Murphy, CEO, Difrent; Nick O’Reilly, Chief Technology Officer, NHS Business Services Authority; Simon Parker, IS Director, Home Group; Paul Swaddle, Head of Technical Solutions, NBS; and Fareeha Usman, Founder Being Woman and EDI Innovation Manager at Dynamo North East.

The many companies and organisations present at the awards included Sage, tombola, Gateshead College, Newcastle College, DWP, Waterstons, So Post, Notify Technology, the North East BIC, Northumbrian Water, Tharsus, HMRC, Opencast Software, Aspire Technology, Sunderland Software City, Durham University, Kani Payments and The Experience Bank

For more pictures of the Dynamites 21 celebration event, go to Dynamo’s website:


Dynamo is part funded by the ERDF as part of the Catalysing Innovation 2021-23 in North East Clusters project, delivered by the Innovation SuperNetwork.