Flirting with industry

Written by Stephen Hilton on 12 Nov, 06
Focus on city challenges Responsible innovation

Here’s my personal feedback on the Digital Challenge industry day.

It was a globally warmed and unnaturally sunny morning when we arrived at Paddington Station last Thursday.  I had forgotten my sunglasses so couldn’t see a thing, nothing-new there.

Kevin and I like to walk to meetings but are too arrogant to check directions.  Instead, we rely on the inbuilt sat nav system that all men like to believe they possess (and Kevin occasionally asks a police constable when we go wrong).  Fortunately, the force was running strong that morning and we arrived at the venue on High Street Kensington, early and de-stressed. 

Kevin was particularly impressed that we were sharing the hotel’s conference suite with a pack of top rugby players.  Whilst Kevin was star-spotting I caught up with some industry ‘friends’ – Jim from Community People, Kim and Peter from City Space, Ellie from UK Villages and some chaps from Alfred McAlpines who I have met at previous Digital Challenge events (yes – they do more than build roads!!).  I also chatted with the “Slivers of Time” man.

I love the title and concept behind the Slivers of Time project, which aims to get people with limited or irregular work availability back into employment.  I am not yet sure how we can use Slivers of Time but I promised to set up a meeting between the council’s HR and Economic Regen Teams.  I also managed a quick chat with Tim Anderson from Norfolk, who was my co-presenter for the morning.  Kevin and I had come up with some ideas on the train. Tim was experienced and nimble enough to cope with my last minute changes.

The formal proceedings started with a thoughtful and well-constructed speech from Stephen Dodson.  After this, members of the Digital Challenge top-ten teams made presentations on Identity, Connectivity, Convergence and Content.   It was positive that the top-ten group selected these themes together and made the presentations collaboratively but at the same time, each authority presenter was ‘on show’ and we all worked hard to create a good impression.

Tim and I delivered a particularly good presentation (see David Wilcox’s blog for impartial commentary) In a nutshell, our message was – authorities need to recognise content generation is as significant an opportunity as content consumption.  We need to work to ensure that all communities have the skills to produce and share their own high quality content.  At the same time, we need to transform the way we organise and deliver services in order to fully harness this opportunity.  As for the business model – I cheekily suggested that you only need type essay for sale into Google to recognise that where there is a timely and compelling need for content – the business model will follow!

INTELLECT summed up the morning’s proceedings by discussing the Challenge from an industry perspective.

The afternoon consisted of ‘speed-dating’ with industry partners.  Five companies fancied meeting with Kevin and I.  Some were sexier than others. We did some flirting but are too much the gentleman to go any further on a first date.  However, we picked-up some mobile phone numbers and may fix up some assignations soon, or maybe we’ll wait to see if they call us?

The key message I took from the day is that there has to be a strong underlying business model for industry investment to be made.  No one is going to give us anything entirely for free!  At the same time, the industry people we spoke with displayed a massive appetite for finding new ways to engage with authorities and citizens.  If nothing else, industry will help bring a ‘sense of urgency’ to our programme – which is no bad thing.


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