Tech boost for Brighton, Bradford and Sunderland

 

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The Independent Online

Ed Vaizey will today announce plans for three new Government-backed ‘Digital Catapult’ centres aiming to help the tech economy take root outside of London.

At the opening of the first ‘Digital Catapult’ centre in Euston, London, tonight, the Culture and Communications secretary will unveil plans for centres in Sunderland, Bradford and Brighton in a bit to foster tech hubs beyond London’s so-called ‘Tech City’.

Speaking ahead of the announcement Mr Vaizey said: “It is an exciting time to be a tech business in the UK. Our digital economy is already one of the strongest markets in the world, valued at more than £100 billion.

“The new Digital Catapult Centre will provide a thriving, state-of-the-art hub for some of the country’s most innovative digital companies and entrepreneurs.”

Neil Crockett, chief executive of Digital Catapult, said: “It’s really important that the digital revolution doesn’t just happen in London and the South East.

“Our view is that the UK has got an amazing array of very exciting innovation centres up and down the country. We’ve got to get out locally and support these clusters.“

The Catapult Project was launched by Vince Cable last year, aiming to encourage technological and scientific innovation by bringing together start-ups, businesses and Universities.

There are seven different ‘catapult’ companies covering everything from renewable energy to precision medicine. The organisations are publicly funded but operate as private companies and aim to eventually fund themselves through grants and private R&D contracts.

Crockett said the Digital Catapult centre in Euston aimed to be a “convening catalyst”, but stressed: “We’re not trying to build another incubator, we’re not trying to build another skills base because there are lots and lots of those already in the UK.

“At the centre here, it’s going to be a place where the small people and big people can collaborate. Newcastle can meet Bristol, Liverpool can meet London. It’s designed to be at the centre of all the railroads and connections. “

Nearly 500 small businesses, tens of big businesses and Universities including Edinburgh, Cambridge, UCL and Southampton have signed up to be a part of the Digital Catapult project, according to Crockett.

The London Digital centre will focus on ‘big data’ projects, with Crockett singling out copyright, best practice for personal data collection and private data within businesses as particular points of interest.

Crockett said: “What we want to do is have British companies realise that sharing their data and allowing small start-ups to look at that data might give those companies a competitive advantage.”

The Brighton Centre will focus on location based data projects, the Sunderland branch will look at secure data transfer and the Bradford initiative will tackle digital health innovation. All three will to open by March 2015 and Digital Catapult hopes to roll the concept out to other regional cities as well.

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