UKita, the United Kingdom IT Association - formerly the West Midlands IT Association (WMita) - is moving forward after staging its first new members event.

The event, at Oracle's headquarters on the Blythe Valley Business Park in Solihull, was the first of several UKita events to be delivered across the region and nationally, aimed at generating new membership and partnerships within the ICT sector.

UKita is fast becoming the premier ICT SME membership organisation in the UK.

The Blythe Valley event attracted several new members from various regions and provided a platform of discussion for prospective partners, including corporate sponsors, government agencies and educational bodies.

The event included a presentation from UKita partners Oracle, who have taken a strategic decision to form closer links with the SME sector.

Following Oracle are two new corporate sponsors, O2 and IBM.

Joint events will be held to in the coming months to strengthen these partnerships and provide details of offers to UKita members.

A business partner agreement was also announced with the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) to provide UKita members with a link to specialist knowledge.

The IET is a not-for-profit organisation formed in spring of this year from a merger with the Institution of Electrical Engineers (IEE) and the Institution of Incorporated Engineers (IIE) to serve the global ICT community.

The event was opened by Bob Boyd, chief executive of UKita, who made a presentation on the new partnerships and support available for ICT companies, including the exclusive "Soft Landing Programme", based at Coventry University, which provides knowledge based businesses with a complete package including hands-on support, dedicated office accommodation and advice on setting up a second office abroad, together with research and development opportunities with companies located across the globe.

Membership of the Soft Landing Programme entitles members to start-up packages and support packages, including communications networks, translation services and direct links to outsourcing partners worldwide.

Mr Boyd said he was delighted at having partners such as Oracle, O2 and IBM on board, in addition to working with other partners such as the Association of Midlands Business Advisors (AMBA), The IET, The British Computer Society (BCS), Birmingham Forward, Learning and Skills Council (LSC) and ESkills.

There are also other arrangements with the Manufactory Advisory Service (MAS) and Mustard.

UKita continues to work with universities and colleges around the region and new links are being set up in areas around the country.

"We are committed to raising the profile of UKita nationally and providing our members with tangible benefits and value for money," Mr Boyd said.

Julie Conway, membership marketing manager of UKita, explained in depth the benefits and forthcoming plans for the organisation, including branch, regional and national events with Oracle, The IET, AMBA, IBM and Open Advantage.

UKita members receive free or reduced rates for events and workshops with online packages and skills training available.

The UKita Quality Mark Accreditation was also highlighted as an opportunity to provide reassurance for customers and to provide a confidential vehicle for companies looking for new ICT suppliers.

All members will soon have access to a free online legal helpline.

Guest Speakers at the event included Helen Brewster, Chair of Coventry, Solihull and Warwickshire branch of UKita and founder of ATL Solutions, an ICT training company.

Helen spoke with passion about the benefits of UKita membership, the network support, the UKita Code of Conduct, the importance of an ethical member base and UKita's part in developing the next workforce.

A presentation by Michele L'Estrange, manager of the Oracle Partner Network for UK and Ireland, stressed the importance of partnership working and introduced the wide range of services Oracle had to offer SMEs.

"Partners are extremely important to us because they bring in 47 per cent of our revenue", she explained. "We a re continually looking towards our partners for solutions in order to expand. We want to ensure that we are as innovative as possible. For instance, we have made many of our marketing ideas free of charge to our partners, direct from our website."

John Burlingham, regional development manager of the IET, also said that IET possessed the world's leading technical library accessible for UKita members and discussed the Technical Professional Networks, web-based networks accessible to all globally, as well as all technical publications and outlined the benefits of partnership with UKita as a knowledge provider to the sector.

"Our remit is to raise the profile of engineering of all kinds, including computer and software engineering, through knowledge-sharing. We are delighted to become partners with UKita."

A joint management seminar, hosted by UKita, IET and AMBA, will be held at The Abbey Hotel in Redditch on November 8. UKita members will receive a significant discount - bookings will be taken online from end August.

Chris Eldridge-Hinmers, business development director at Oracle, said, "We have committed ourselves to UKita members. We want to be seen as user-friendly and accessible and flexible to smaller businesses." * Those interested in joining UKita should access the UKita website or call UKita on 0121 506 9320.