Naomi Hutchinson has joined the growing Smart City Programme team at Sunderland City Council, where she will lead innovative projects that support local businesses and give people across this great city opportunity to be a part of something special.

Naomi joins the Council team from Sunderland Software City, where she worked for almost eight years as Head of Innovation for the most part. Here, Naomi found her passion for supporting tech startups and SMEs across the region to realise their potential through innovative, digital solutions.

She also quickly recognised technology’s potential to change lives on an individual level – drawing inspiration from its ability to boost confidence, increase independence and connect people.


Pivotal in growing a forward-thinking team at Sunderland Software City, Naomi established a recognised brand in the region for Digital Catapult, embedding this well-respected brand amidst a time of impressive growth as the Sunderland Software City team grew from 3 people to 33 when she left. 

Listening to the needs of SMEs and understanding how technology could support their growth potential, Naomi has worked across a wide range of manufacturing and creative industries, honing her skills and knowledge of how technology and innovation can boost business competitiveness and efficiency. 

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A law graduate from the University of York, Naomi brings a broad understanding of the laws and regulations surrounding business practices and transactions, as well as an extensive understanding of the challenges faced by businesses, all underpinned by a well-honed technical specialism gained through practical engagement with businesses over the last decade. Naomi brings a unique perspective to the businesses she works with, helping them to develop new and better strategies for growth. 

Level up the growth

Acutely aware of the barriers facing new businesses and those poised for growth, such as lack of investment, low volume of startups and the skills agenda, and recognising the barriers individuals face in adopting new technologies, including skills development and access to equipment; Naomi felt compelled to level up the growth potential of Sunderland’s businesses and residents as Chief Innovation and Growth Officer in Sunderland City Council’s Smart City Programme team. 

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Naomi will be working with businesses, residents and visitors, helping them to understand how to adapt to take advantage of next generation connectivity across the city, enabling them to embrace opportunities, compete and grow. 

Sunderland City Council is making it easier than ever for businesses and people to explore how they can tap into the smart city network, which includes free ultrafast public Wi-Fi and private small cell networks. With a growing number of trials and proof of concepts over recent years, Sunderland has an abundance of examples to draw from to inspire people and encourage organisations to take innovation to scale and invest in their future in the city. 

Liz St Louis, Assistant Director of Smart Cities at Sunderland City Council, is delighted to welcome Naomi to the team. She said:

“Sunderland is making waves nationally and indeed internationally, carving an ever-growing reputation for digital excellence. 

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“It’s a great time for Naomi to be joining the organisation as she helps us to take on the next stage of our smart city’s growth journey. Further strengthening our team with Naomi’s proven capabilities represents not just a great opportunity for us as a team, but for the wider business community across the city who will undoubtedly benefit from her knowledge and expertise.”

Naomi said: “I’ve worked with Liz (St Louis) on a number of projects, whilst I was leading Digital Catapult in the region, and from the very beginning felt a symmetry between the Council’s Smart City ambitions and my own. 

“Sunderland City Council’s core ethos of leaving no one and nowhere behind really resonated with me, and as I delved deeper into the Council’s plans to build a leading smart city infrastructure, I could see clear opportunities for residents, visitors, local businesses and inward investors.” 

Naomi added:

“Joining the Smart City Programme team felt like the perfect fit and the ideal way for me to play a central role in technology improving the lives of residents, catalysing the scaleup of so many businesses, large and small, across Sunderland.”