THE North-East's annual technology awards were dominated by Covid-related projects this year as awards were bagged for the likes of a messaging service and PPE project.

The 2020 Dynamites were held virtually on Wednesday, October 14, with the region's tech sector determined to reward its superstars, rising stars and tech for good initiatives.

Many of this year’s winners had a Covid connection, recognising the region’s important involvement in the fight against the virus.

NHS Business Services Authority won the Tech for Good category for its SMS test messaging service, established at the height of the pandemic to enable the most vulnerable groups in society to receive vital communications.

Another Covid-related winner was in the Project of the Year (not for profit/public sector) category, which was won by Newcastle University’s Get PPE NCL project.

This brought together some of the region's universities – Newcastle University, Northumbria University and the University of Sunderland – who worked with local printers to design and support the production of protective equipment for the NHS.

Nathan Hudson, a technician in the School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape at Newcastle University, came up with the idea of the project.

He said: “Our aim was to equip every frontline member of staff in our local NHS hospitals with enough full face shields to take them through the potential multiple waves of the pandemic.

“We are truly grateful for the work being done in the hospitals and the sacrifices the staff are making to take care of us. We couldn't do their job but we knew we could contribute behind the scenes with our skills and facilities.”

Meanwhile, the Project of the Year (Corporate) was won by Sage for its Job Retention Scheme (JRS) Module and Covid Response, while the Outstanding Achievement Award went to HMRC, for its work on the Covid Self-employed Income Support project.

Nicholas Whittaker, lead product manager at HMRC, said: “While the service was created in a short number of weeks it reflected the culmination of many years work at HMRC Digital, building an agile capability that can respond to the current Covid challenges. Not just our Self Employment Income Support, but all the other services that HMRC has created.

“Our Dynamite Outstanding Achievement Award means a great deal to me and the team and the wider group of people at HMRC who worked so hard to create a digital service and make it public in such a short timescale so that millions of self employed people could be supported.”

Hundreds of people attended the free online awards, sponsored by Home Group and organised as usual by north east tech network Dynamo and hosted by actor Daymon Britton.

Fareeha Usman, winner of the Rising Star Award, gave a moving acceptance speech and dedicated her award to all women in tech: “This is a reminder that tech is for women as much as men. The award is not for me but every woman in the sector, particularly those from a Black, Asian or minority background. You can be a woman in tech and this award is proof of that.”

Charlie Hoult, Dynamo chair, said: “Our seventh annual awards were very different from previous events, but were great fun, and attracted more entries than ever before. Importantly, they recognised the innovation and endeavour of north east companies, teams and organisations on the frontline against Covid.”

Winners of the 2020 Dynamites were:

• Skills Developer (sponsored by NHS Business Service Authority): Baltic Apprenticeships; Highly commended: TechUPWomen;

• Growth Explosion (sponsored by Teesside University): Everflow Group; Highly commended: Aspire Technology Solutions;

• International Success Story (sponsored by Invest Newcastle): VEO;

• Rising Star: Fareeha Usman, Being Woman; Highly commended: Katie Shannon, Accenture;

• Project of the Year (Corporate): Sage Payroll - Job Retention Scheme Module and COVID 19 Response;

• Project of the Year (Not for Profit / Public Sector): Newcastle University – Get PPE NCL; Highly commended: Northumbria University, promoting independence through technology-enabled homes;

• Innovator of the Year (sponsored by Sage): Northumbria University;

• Tech for Good (sponsored by tombola): NHS Business Services Authority; Highly commended: South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust and The Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust supported by the Academic Health Science Network for the North East and North Cumbria;

• Diversity & Inclusion (sponsored by Opencast): TechUPWomen;

• Best use of Data : Wordnerds/DWP; Highly commended: Sage/WordNerds;

• Outstanding Achievement (sponsored by Home Group): HMRC;

• People’s Choice: Northumbria University