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FuseBox24: what it is and why we ran it

This is the text of a talk I gave last week at the launch of the FuseBox24 research project at the University of Brighton...

FuseBox24 is a new 24 week programme for innovators that uses and integrates a range of concepts from both business (especially lean start-up models) and from the arts. Its aim is to help the participants significantly develop both themselves and their ideas. You can view a short video about the research the University of Brighton undertook into the programme here.

The starting point for Wired Sussex’s activity around the creation and development of the FuseBox24 programme is a belief that existing models of business support designed in the last century are not right for businesses created in this one.

Standard business support models based around a set of assumptions –

  • You need scale to have impact
  • You are operating in largely stable markets
  • Growth is linear
  • Investment  precedes business activity and it’s a precondition of it
  • You need to be located close to your raw materials or supply chains

On the contrary, businesses we were working with were

  • small and impactful
  • required to be highly disruptive (including often of themselves)
  • had low barriers to market entry (and so could iterate using customer feedback)
  • Saw speed to market as important (and so valued collaboration that supported that process) and
  • Had talent as their primary ‘raw material’ (and so had to develop ways of attracting, valuing and retaining that talent).

These businesses could be viewed as the post industrial part of our economy, and it is where most of our membership base sits.

Brighton Fuse

The initial Brighton Fuse research project has proved highly valuable. It has influenced and provided an evidence base for policy-makers and strategists. It has supported funding bids. But crucially it has enhanced the ability of members of our cluster to better understand themselves as a cluster, and all that entails.

For us at Wired Sussex, it helped us to think more concretely about new models of business support through a better understanding not only of the challenges that these business face, but also how they themselves develop ways and cultures to meet those challenges. Crucially, it also pointed to the importance of the arts in these businesses in three key ways: as part of their value proposition (fusion), of the biography of founders (many have arts and design backgrounds), and of their internal innovation culture.

The FuseBox

The FuseBox, our studio in Brighton, was built as an attempt by us to learn from and use those findings. A place which is for innovators and which is culturally designed to encourage experimentation and challenge, peer collaboration, and practitioner support. A bit like an art school in fact.

Because if you think back to those post industrial business support needs, a model which uses the practices and approaches from the arts is a pretty good starting point.

The FuseBox 24 programme

Wired Sussex’s studio the FuseBox provides value to our business community in a whole host of ways. One of the most important is the FuseBox 24 innovators programme that we are celebrating tonight. I wanted 3 themes to underpin our innovators programme: needs, empathy and insight. These are often regarded as soft skills, but they are anything but superficial.

Needs is about working with innovators to critically examine their real needs both in terms of themselves as individuals and founders, and in terms of what their idea requires to take it to the next level.  Usually innovators will assume their need is large amounts of money. It very rarely is.

Needs is also about sharing your needs with others on the programme so that they might help meet them.

Empathy is about deeply understanding the customer for your idea – walking a mile in their shoes. And that often comes from the challenges of putting your idea into the furnace of customer engagement, either directly or via a rounded response to the data and information that their engagement generates.

Finally, insight. Insight is the development of the idea – the game changer. It’s not – or very rarely – a simple light bulb moment. It is more likely to be a process of rigorous analysis, discussion, testing and hard work (which then results in a lightbulb moment!).

What we did with that framework, and the tools and approaches that artist CiCi Blumstein, researcher Jim Byford and the participants themselves developed, is the subject of the research report produced by the University of Brighton. You can view that here

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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