The Connected Digital Economy Catapult (CDEC) held a webinar this morning at Bristol’s digital creativity centre, the Watershed.
Simultaneously streamed online, Neil Crockett, the Catapult’s CEO, and Chris Thomson, Partnerships Director, gave an overview of the progress so far, and outlined an initial focus for the catapult on three sectors: creative and media; digital health; and cities as a context.
Within this scope, CDEC plan to address the whole of the data value chain, from data generation and capture, through the entire process of transport, analysis, storage, curation and visualisation, to outputs in the form of new, disruptive applications and services to provide significant economic value across sectors.
They identified 4 key challenges:
- Difficulty of mashing content and data (skills & time, licensing, trust & privacy)
- Exploiting next generation connectivity
- Developing successful products (taking into account user centricity, design and business models)
- Accelerating the best digital ideas to market.
Neil reinforced CDEC’s role as a doing, not a funding, organisation, stressing that they would be looking to help facilitate the whole journey to productisation or commercialisation, and reiterated the Catapult’s goal of supporting digital innovation to power sustained economic growth, through a variety of quickstart projects (projects on a small-scale that can be ramped-up quickly if promising) and also larger projects.
He gave some examples of existing projects addressing topics and issues related to their chosen areas, such as the Open Health Data Platform, work with Surrey University on next-generation connectivity, work on their cities theme with with Future Everything in Manchester, looking at nowcasting (short term traffic forecasting – 0-3 hours ahead) in the Tyne & Wear region, a trusted data accelerator with the Big Innovation Centre, University of Oxford and others; and working with Richard Hooper’s Copyright Hub group, as well as the importance of their proposed Innovator Centre, after which Chris presented an overview of the Catapult’s creative engagement and projects.
Focussing on the theme of clusters, Chris outlined the value of CDEC to clusters as a powerful neutral convenor, facilitating links and bridges between clusters, as well as being available to listen and identify barriers to innovation, building solutions and providing new capabilities in response, to facilitate the process end-to-end, and helping the best innovators to be heard, through projects, collaboration and showcasing.
He particularly emphasised Bristol’s significance as a creative and media cluster, with potential for CDEC-supported collaborative projects linking technical and creative innovation, and invited the audience to identify opportunities to pilot innovation with data in a Bristol context that CDEC could seek to scale across the UK.
In relation to grants and funding, the presenters clarified that CDEC did not plan initially to engage significantly in grant funding, as at this stage (with only 14 staff) their expectation was that they could be little more than a token presence in any current plans for any such major undertakings. The majority of CDEC’s development work at the moment is contracted out and, although this will most likely continue as a way of progressing platform development, Neil suggested that they might expect in years 2-5, once the organisation had developed further, to take part more substantially in grant-funded projects, including engaging in European bids.