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Why the FuseBox is Needed

The FuseBox is our new support space for the creative and digital industries. It still very much in beta mode, but we recently had a little party for people who have supported it in some way. Those who came brought books as housewarming presents. I spoke at the event about why the FuseBox is necessary. This is the text:

“Welcome to the Fusebox. This day has been a long time coming. And represents the place where many roads converge. It’s a space. A space that has lain unused and unusable for over 12 years. And, for a city with limited workspace, making it usable again, well that in itself is a win. Its renovation is a small step in the process of redeveloping New England House and the surrounding area into something which generates real value for this city.

It’s a space for the CDIT sector. The Creative, Digital and Tech sector in Brighton and Hove is now central to the city’s future. It feeds off the same elements that other key parts of the economy like tourism and Higher Education do, with the cultural and lifestyle offer being foremost amongst them, but it is growing faster, delivering productive, future facing and sustainable employment in a way that maybe the others currently don’t.

Tonight isn’t about demonstrating what the FuseBox does, we haven’t started yet, and once we have there will be open days aplenty. It is a chance to say a collective thank you to all of you who have contributed resources, support and ideas to get us to where we are today. Some of you may not even have realised you’ve done so to be honest. Particularly in terms of those chance remarks that have sparked a chain of thought for us.

Because, more than anything, the FuseBox is about putting ideas into practice. Ideas about the kind of learning and the type of skills that our sector does need and will need to succeed. And ideas that measure success in more than merely the amount of money that a business makes.

I said that there were many roads that lead to today. One was a discussion I had with Will Mcinnes when we were thinking about how we might redesign a degree course for our sector. We felt that it needed to cross subject boundaries (or ‘disciplines’ as they are accurately known in academia), drawing knowledge and ideas from different sources. Like, we thought, the bookshelf of an interesting friend.

Creativity, innovation and new ideas often draw from different sources, super-fusing them together. So thanks to those of you who have today contributed books to the FuseBox’s wall of ideas.

One person who unfortunately can’t be here tonight is writer and Brighton resident Marek Kohn. He wrote a great book on trust.

But the thing that got me is a short article and talk he gave about his favourite view in Brighton across the rooftops to the sea. He drew a comparison between that and the default position for people in the city – gazing into the distance. Gazing into the distance is a real strength. We live in a time of massive technological, social and economic turmoil. It’s no good expecting the existing ways of doing things to provide the way forward. To paraphrase John Cage, I can’t understand why people are frightened by new ideas. It’s the old ones that scare the hell out of me.

Our sector is at the epicentre of new ideas – the technology gives us the opportunity to do new things and to do existing things in new and better ways. We can either see that disruption as threat or opportunity. The FuseBox is about embracing the latter. There needs to be a better way of doing business and this city needs to be at the forefront of that.

Of course, not all old ideas are bad. Shaun Fensom of Manchester Digital and the chair of the One Digital Alliance has taught me a lot about the role that cooperatives have played in the formation of the internet. And cooperation is the DNA of Wired Sussex and will be of The FuseBox. The start-ups that will be based here and the businesses that will learn here will be expected to work together to succeed. You can’t innovate if you don’t collaborate.

I’m delighted to tell you that Tom Nixon, joint founder of Nixon Mcinnes and the man behind the Brightoneers has agreed to join the Wired Sussex team to work with us on the FuseBox start-ups programme.

I have, I fear, spent too much time over the past 4 years trying to convince 2 different governments and numerous national agencies that the kind of business support that might be right for large businesses in a stable environment doesn’t work for small businesses whose modus operandi is and needs to be disruption. The truth is, too many of the big boys have too much vested interest and value built into keeping things the way they are. Well, rather than talking about it anymore, through the FuseBox, we’ve decided to just get on and do it ourselves. That feels more like the Brighton way.

We know that we are embarking on a journey here, but it is more important to try something new, and work on the problems as they arise, than to figure out a way to do something without having any problems. Clay Shirky said that. We sincerely thank all of you, individuals and  organisations, public sector and businesses for your support and hope you will continue to do so. Here is something else Clay Skirky said: The task isn’t just to get something done, it’s to create an environment in which people want to do it. Welcome to the FuseBox. Have fun.”

About the author

Phil Jones

Hi, I'm the Managing Director of Wired Sussex, overseeing our strategy as an organisation and work to promote our membership and its needs to local, national and international stakeholders, including government.

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