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Middlesbrough companies go west for Northern Powerhouse trade mission

08 March 2016 @TeesUniNews


A trio of Middlesbrough companies, with a strong Teesside University contingent, are to take part in a Northern Powerhouse Trade Mission to the world’s largest games industry event.

Bob Makin (left) and Darren Cuthbert (right) of SockMonkey Studios
Bob Makin (left) and Darren Cuthbert (right) of SockMonkey Studios

The three companies have been sponsored by UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) to attend the Games Developer Conference (GDC) in San Francisco next week.

The GDC is the world's largest and longest-running professionals-only game industry event and attracts over 26,000 attendees who gather to exchange ideas and shape the future of the industry.

Representing the Tees Valley will be SockMonkey Studios, Double Eleven and Cardboard Sword.

Delegates from the companies will be able to mix with leading programmers, artists, producers, game designers, audio professionals, business decision-makers and others involved in the development of interactive games.

Games developers, SockMonkey Studios was founded by Bob Makin and Darren Cuthbert with the help of the DigitalCity Fellowship programme, based at Teesside University. The company is located in the Phoenix Building at the University’s Middlesbrough campus.

The Fellowship scheme supports entrepreneurs to develop their digital business product or idea. As well as support with living expenses, Fellows are also able to access industry-specific mentoring and coaching along with facilities and equipment at the University.

Bob Makin, Managing Director of SockMonkey, said: 'We graduated from Teesside University and, after working in the games industry for a few years, we decided to use our experience to create our own studio.

'There was only only one place we knew we should be, and the DigitalCity Fellowship scheme has helped us do that.

'Now with the help of UKTI and schemes like the Northern Powerhouse trade mission to GDC, we are able to take the company forward.

'This gives us the opportunity to strengthen relationships overseas. Independent games developer Double Eleven has maintained close links with Teesside University and has employed several graduates. The company’s Chief Executive Lee Hutchinson is a Teesside alumnus and its Chief of Operations Mark South is a former DigitalCity fellow.

Games studio Cardboard Sword was also formed through the DigitalCity fellowship scheme.

Teesside University’s Pro Vice-Chancellor (Enterprise and Business Engagement) Professor Jane Turner said: 'In the last four years, Digital City has helped to create 286 new businesses and 700 jobs, supported 750 businesses in the digital and creative sector and attracted 13 new digital businesses to the Tees Valley. 'It is therefore extremely gratifying to see three companies with such close connections to Teesside University flying the flag for the region at such a prestigious event and helping to develop an international market for the Tees Valley in this vital sector of the region’s economy.'

The mission is part of UKTI’s commitment to growing international trade in the Tees Valley. To enable this, UKTI has a dedicated International Trade Advisor, based in the Tees Valley, who can provide free and impartial advice to creative and digital media businesses who wish to grow their overseas business.

Chris Simpson, Lead International Trade Advisor, said: 'There are lots of opportunities for international trading which Tees Valley companies can take advantage of and grow their business. UKTI are proud to work alongside Teesside University to grow business in the region.'

An appointment with an International Trade Advisor can be booked by calling the UKTI hotline on 0345 1360169 or emailing

In the News

Boro firms head for Northern Powerhouse trade mission
Tees Business Web, 08.03.16; Newcastle Chronicle, 09/03/16; Newcastle Journal,; Insider Media Ltd 11.03.16;Evening Gazette 15.03.16
SockMonkey Studios was founded by Teesside University Graduates Bob Makin and Darren Cuthbert, both to attend a Northern Powerhouse Trade Mission in San Francisco