Last week the Minister for the Digital Economy Ed Vaizey announced that Brighton is to host one of three regional Digital Catapults with Wired Sussex as one of the key delivery partners. It is a bid that we worked on together with Coast to Capital LEP, the local universities and a wide range of Brighton-based digital businesses and start-ups.
That we have been successful against very strong opposition is really significant. It means that the momentum behind the cluster here continues, making it easier for all of us to attract talent, investment and work.
For Wired Sussex, it adds significantly to the capacity that we now have to support the sector, joining the FuseBox and Brighton Digital Exchange in a triumvirate of connected spaces that we will be managing and inhabiting.
We have put real effort over the past 18 months into creating useful and sustainable infrastructure for the cluster that can enable digital, media and technology businesses to find a solution to the challenges they face, and to build the impact and the visibility of Brighton.
We see all three projects as part and parcel of a single strategy which is based around meeting the needs of the sector in the city and the surrounding area, but doing so in a way that also builds on the core values of the Brighton cluster. Brighton is an innovative, open and collaborative city and our activity always aims to be that way too.
Through the Fusebox we are attempting to develop new ways of providing business support that is more appropriate and useful to those working in our cluster. The FuseBox launched a little over a year ago and it has hosted a huge number of hackathons, talks, meetings, workshops, launch events and much more. All the recent FuseBox Sessions were filmed and you can access them here.
Over the past 6 months it has also been home to 10 start-ups who have been through our new, radical support programme, FuseBox24.
Brighton Digital Exchange is our solution to 2 things. First, recognition that the cluster in Brighton needs far better broadband connectivity than it currently has access to if it is to continue to be successful. Second, a belief that (after much trying), it was clear that national broadband providers alone were not going to be the answer to our problems – that we had to take matters into our own hands.
The Digital Exchange is a cooperative involving Wired Sussex and a group of (currently 6) small ISPs and broadband players, most of which are Brighton based. It will enable us to work together to access broadband capacity and to package and deliver it in ways that connect more effectively with the real and growing needs of the cluster. We expect that innovative new broadband products and services will result from a group of broadband businesses that are close to their market working together.
The technical infrastructure to enable this to happen will be based in New England House and to start with businesses based in or near New England House will be the first to be able to access broadband through it. However, we are already looking at ways that other businesses in the city can benefit.
This is the first time that such an approach to delivering broadband has been tried in the UK and so we are learning as we go. We expect the UK’s first place-based Digital Exchange to be up and running by February.
And finally, the Digital Catapult Centre Brighton. It is an R + D lab where SMEs, start-ups, large corporates, universities and others can come together to work on innovative digital projects, to create real value from new products and services. Each of the regional catapults has a theme and ours is based on the Internet of Place – real-time, location-based use of digital technology and data. It will also give regional businesses access to 5g technologies, to help them develop new products that keep them ahead of the game.
Our Catapult Centre takes a determinedly human-centric approach to data and technology, and is underpinned by the belief that –when it comes to generating wisdom from data – the context in which people use and engage with it is king.
Digital Catapult Centre Brighton will officially launch in March 2015.
The FuseBox, Brighton Digital Exchange and Digital Catapult Brighton are all underpinned by real, active partnerships – with universities, with Brighton & Hove City Council, with the LEP, with research councils, with Government, but most of all with our member companies whose support and engagement make the idea that you get what you give something real and tangible.
If you want to keep informed about or take part in any of the activities happening through the FuseBox, the Digital Exchange or the Catapult, then I recommend that you sign up to receive our newsletter, or follow us on social media – twitter, facebook or LinkedIn and if you have any questions email me and I’ll happily try and answer them.
The FuseBox is supported by the Recreate project, selected under the cross-border cooperation programme INTERREG IV A France (Channel) England and part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund.