Q&A: How the Connected Digital Economy Catapult Centre will help 10,000 entrepreneurs generate serious cash.
A Government-backed centre set up to develop Britain’s digital economy has identified four key challenges it must help startups overcome.
The Connected Digital Economy Catapult Centre will open in King’s Cross, London on November 5, and provide a home for entrepreneurs and SMBs to work together on ideas it hopes will drive the UK’s tech economy.
Funded by the former Technology Strategy Board, now Innovate UK, the centre’s CEO, Neil Crockett, spoke to CBR ahead of the launch to outline four obstacles UK tech start-ups face on the road to success, and how the centre plans to help them pass those roadblocks.
He predicts the centre (and others not yet open) will help 10,000 UK organisations over the next four years, generating £365 million for the economy along the way – partly by acting as a middleman for universities, entrepreneurs and businesses all to meet and work together.
CBR: Can you give examples of typical obstacles tech startups face in the UK?
Neil Crockett: The digital landscape is huge and so we will focus on four core challenges facing the digital business today – Internet of Things demonstrators and labs, the trust and use of personal data, building diverse data and content sets and aiding the re-use of creative content.
When a business is trying to address those issues, they get so far but then reach a point where they need support. This could be anything from a technical problem, or a business function like marketing a product – it is this moment where the Digital Catapult Centre comes into play. It will help people overcome these issues.
Another chasm which is faced by new businesses is the copyright issue. For example, right now, we are working with the Copyright Hub to create a service that allows copyright holders to offer their content for reuse under a variety of licences through an easy to use online marketplace.
CBR: What kind of links do you want to build with UK and London universities – will you run any schemes to attract science/STEM subject graduates?
NC: Working with the academic community throughout the UK is a high priority for us. We already have collaboration agreements with three top universities: the University of Oxford, the University of Southampton and the University of Edinburgh (School of Informatics).
As part of the agreements, the Digital Economy Catapult will work on joint projects and activities with these institutions. At the end of last year the Digital Economy Catapult announced it was investing up to £750,000 to support the training of data scientists at three universities.
This is just the first step for us. We are a centre for the nation and we are currently exploring further methods to widen our connections with universities and the academic community across the UK.
CBR: How will the centre function day to day? Like an incubator that provides entrepreneurs with a space to work to develop their business over the length of some months, or something less structured, where startups can come in whenever they wish?
NC: The Digital Catapult Centre is not an incubator. We aim to complement the support already available to small businesses, rather than duplicate what is already out there. While we will offer a space for technologists, creatives, businesses and academia to showcase their products and connect and collaborate.
Our role is to help these stakeholders address problems they face working in digital. Moreover we will be running events and Pitstop programmes as well. These sessions which see an intense period of engagement where innovators from small companies, academia and larger corporations collaborate to solve data problems with the injection of deep expertise from the Digital Economy Catapult.
Some of those sessions will lead to creations which will see joint ownership of IP across the businesses involved – including the Digital Economy Catapult.