This blog post was originally posted on TechCityInsider.net on 30th September 2015.
TECH NATION: Business leaders in Norwich have worked hard to get the Norfolk city recognised by Tech City UK as one of its key tech clusters outside London. With a fast-growing digital sector specialising in creative media and gaming, that recognition is proving justified. Fiona Lettice of Norwich Business School offers an overview.
Norwich’s economy was historically based firmly on manufacturing: textiles, shoemaking and mustard – the city was famously once the home of the Colman’s brand.
Norwich City Skyline – this image is by JimmyGuano
Over time, Norwich went through a transition to a more service-based economy, with an increase in insurance and other financial services companies. Aviva (formerly Norwich Union) is the largest and longest established in the city.
Norwich has also long been associated with an innovative, creative and pioneering culture, particularly in art, literature and publishing. It was the site of the first provincial library in England, the first provincial newspaper outside of London, the first provincial art movement and the country’s first arts festival.
This continues today, with Norwich being home to national publishing group Archant, which grew out of the city’s local newspapers, and BBC East. And in 2012, it became England’s first UNESCO city of literature.
Today’s emerging digital sector in Norwich is closely linked to these creative sectors, with strong specialisms in content and media production and digital marketing, as well as a fast-growing game development sector.
Digital businesses and jobs are part of Norwich’s strategy for the next wave of strong, high-value economic growth. Tech City UK’s 2015 Tech Nation report showed that there was a 21% increase in the number of digital companies incorporated in Norfolk between 2010 and 2013.
All UK clusters have experienced digital sector employment growth, but in Norfolk, digital job growth outpaced overall regional growth by the highest margin anywhere. Tech Nation reported that there are 14,521 people in digital employment in Norfolk, with this predicted to grow significantly by 2020.
One of the key strengths of Norwich is its ability to create and develop strong networks that enable people to share experiences and knowledge across sectors, and to look for innovative new approaches to the challenges that society faces.
Within Norwich, there are many proactive, grassroots digital meet-up groups, such as SyncDevelopHER and SyncNorwich (with more than 1,000 members), Norfolk Developers (over 600), Norfolk Indie Game Developers (over 250), Hot Source (over 350) and Norfolk Network.
These groups host regular monthly meet-ups with presentations, skills development and networking opportunities and larger annual events such as the Sync the City startup weekend in Norwich; NorDevCon, a technical conference with about 300 attendees; and Norwich Gaming Festival, which attracts more than 35,000 visitors in a week.
The Tech Nation report highlighted access to social networks as a key strength of the Norfolk cluster, with 82% of businesses citing it as a key benefit of being located in the area.
Norwich has seen considerable recent investment in the infrastructure of the digital sector. In 2014, White Space was established in Norwich by Proxama as a co-working space for dynamic, high-growth digital, creative and technology businesses.
Based in an old textile mill, White Space at St James Mill is now a focal point for the digital, creative and technology community in Norwich. Tenants have included Rainbird Technologies, Axon Vibe and Cuju Media. White Space is also home to the SyncNorwich and Norfolk Developers meet-up groups and hosts their networking events.
Norwich Research Park (NRP) is an internationally renowned science and business community and Europe’s leading centre for research into food, health and the environment.
With 3,000 scientists based at NRP and at the University of East Anglia, one of the highest concentrations of academic research institutions in the UK and some of the most cited research scientists in the world, NRP is an attractive home to around 30 innovative science- and IT-based businesses.
The Innovation Centre, Centrum and the Enterprise Centre provide a combination of office accommodation, meeting rooms and support to stimulate innovation and economic growth from a strong research base.
This year Norwich University of the Arts (NUA) is opening its Ideas Factory Centre and UX Lab, which will offer high-quality incubation space and business support for new digital businesses with close links to the NUA academic community.
Norwich is home to a cluster of unique businesses that are internationally established, but base their operations in the city to take advantage of an excellent, cost-effective talent pool, supported by two universities with more than 17,000 students and an effective property infrastructure.
A vibrant and growing group of creative agencies are based in Norwich, including user experience design agency Foolproof, creative technology firm Knit, digital design agency Soak, communications outfit MADE, brand agency Creative Sponge and Neon Tribe, a web development agency.
Image manipulation, processing and film companies include FXHOME (green-screen and visual effects software), Spectral Edge (image fusion, processing and enhancement) and Lambda Films (video production and animation).
There are some well-established tech businesses like Proxama (digital payment and mobile proximity marketing), Validus (insurance technology solutions), ServiceTick (solutions for multi-channel customer feedback) and Liftshare (the UK’s first and largest car sharing scheme), along with exciting new startups such as Supapass (connecting fans to artists) and Rainbird (a TechStars company using artificial intelligence to automate knowledge work).
The next step for Norwich is to use its strong local digital communities and businesses to establish partnerships further afield – both nationally and internationally. This would build support, infrastructure and investment for the progression from startup to scaleup, and attract and retain the best talent by continuing to promote Norwich as a vibrant and appealing place to live and work.
After the success of Sync the City 2014, SyncNorwich and UEA planned and ran another 54 hour startup weekend, called Sync the City 2015. The event was held at The King’s Centre in Norwich from Thursday 19th November to Saturday 21st November 2015.
The aim of the Sync the City events is to bring together Norfolk’s business community of entrepreneurs, product developers, software developers, designers and digital creatives (members of SyncNorwich’s virtual technology and startup community) with students (in 2015 from the University of East Anglia, Norwich University of the Arts and the College of West Anglia) and to facilitate them to create new business models and form startups that are enabled by digital technologies. The mixed business and student teams then have 5 minutes to pitch their ideas to a panel of judges at the end of the event, to win a prize.
SyncNorwich (John Fagan, Fiona Lettice, Sean Clark and Paul Cutting) and UEA (Norwich Business School and Careers Central – Julie Schofield, Susi Waters and Laura Johnson) planned and organised Sync the City 2015. SyncNorwich is proactively developing partnerships with local universities, colleges and schools, so that the organisations within the community can more easily recruit student interns and graduates and to give students opportunities to meet, network with and learn from local tech sector employers. Sync the City is part of the strategy to organise events that will benefit both the SyncNorwich technical cluster, businesses and startups, as well as students.
We had great support from local and national sponsors for Sync the City 2015, without whom this would not have been possible. The primary sponsors were: Norfolk County Council, UEA, SyncNorwich, Liquid11, Aviva and Barclays. The supporting sponsors were: Adnams, Allies Computing, Tim Stephenson Photography, Maxi-Cool, MigSolv and OnePulse. The prize sponsors were: Sandler Training, White Space and Norfolk Network. Thank you all!
Mentors and Judges
We invited local tech business leaders to act as mentors for the Sync the City teams over the weekend. We had mentors from Aviva (Paul Russell), Barclays (Andy Adams, Gavin Ratcliffe and Paul Mayne), Liquid11 (Chris Venables), Adnams (Duncan Cardwell), UEA (Dr Joost Noppen and Steve Jones), Allies Computing (Stephen Keable), Liftshare (Ali Clabburn), Rainbird (Ben Taylor and Dom Davis), Axon Vibe (Paul Cutting and Elizabeth Scholefield), Earthware (Brian Norman), FXHOME (Josh Davies), BAE Systems (Jo Vertigan), Sandler Training (Ermine Amies), 1Password (Matt Davey), Blooming Founders (London – Lu Li) and OnePulse (London – Nick Walter), representing a range of the different organisations from small to large across the local tech sector and this year we also attracted 2 mentors from London.
The judges were Jon Bradford (ex-MD of Techstars, London), Grant Hardy (founder and CEO of Liquid11 and New Patricks Yard), Julianna Meyer (founder and CEO of SupaPass), and Julie West (Growth Hub Co-ordinator, New Anglia LEP).
Thanks to the mentors and judges for giving up their time and helping to make the event such a success.
Graham Gannon of Google’s Prototyping team gave the Keynote presentation on Thursday night and Neil Garner of Proxama gave the Endnote presentation on Saturday night. Michael Ni-Man of SyncYouth also gave an update on his November 2015 #ihackednorwich event with Year 9 pupils from Norfolk schools.
There were 115 active participants for the whole event. This was an increase of nearly 60% on the number of participants in 2014. Of these active participants, approximately 50% were students and 50% were professionals. The participants were also identified by their background. There were 40% developers, 41% business/non-technical and 19% designers represented. In particular, the number of designers increased significantly from 2014, which was a welcome addition to the teams.
The presentations on Saturday night were open to the public and approximately 100 additional people attended. This was an increase from the audience of 40 who attended in 2014.
The Pitches, Teams and Winners
For the initial 1 minute pitches, 26 ideas were pitched by the participants. The ideas were innovative and the pitches were of a very high standard, which left a challenge of voting for the best ideas to carry forward and form teams around for the rest of the event.
14 ideas were selected to go forward and teams were formed around these ideas. Click on the names to see their final pitches:
|Team Name||Brief description of idea|
|Gordon Bleu||Matching you with your perfect meal|
|Sox Suk||Gifts to blow your socks off!|
|RenTech||Making tech affordable|
|Prompto||Digital support and monitoring system for independent people who suffer with memory loss|
|Menulicious||Finding the restaurant that’s right for you|
|docdirect||Agentless NHS: Saving £1900 per minute|
|Memsabi||A delightful tactile way to structure your thoughts|
|Zap||Instantly connect to the world around you|
|Everyday Spaces||Making churches everyday places|
|Gorrilla||Free wifi on the tube|
|Zest||Interactive lectures are here!|
|Unfold||We create quality narratives around events as they unfold|
|Teepee||Renting a house is as easy as ordering pizza|
|PROTO Norwich||A city of people ready to embrace your ideas|
After the Saturday night final pitch presentations, the judges deliberated and the audience and team members voted for the best startups emerging from the 54 hour event.
The judges’ prize went to Everyday Spaces for their church hall booking system, which included a website that gathered the information of all churches in Norwich and a website widget that facilitated bookings for each church. Their mission was to make churches everyday places for the community.
The people voted the winners to be docdirect with their plan to save the NHS £1900 per minute, by reducing the NHS’ use of agencies for locum doctors. They won 28% of the 174 votes cast.
Coverage of Sync the City 2015
A dedicated website was created for Sync the City which gives full details of the event, mentors, judges, agenda and sponsors.
Sync The City attracted local media attention and the event was written up by several bloggers.
The editor of the Norfolk Tech Journal helped to promote the event and then blogged about the event over the 54 hours it ran.
The EDP business writer helped to promote the event in mid-November 2015 and then visited the event and wrote about it on the 21st November and Mustard TV televised Everyday Spaces’ story of winning Sync the City 2015.
We had some innovative ways of recording Sync the City as it ran. Alongside Tim Stephenson’s photography and Sean Clark’s filming which can be seen on the SyncNorwich Youtube channel, we had Chris Spalton’s sketchnotes and East West Design/Flush the Fashion did a 3 minute time lapse video of the whole event.
The feedback from Sync the City 2015 has been great and we will use the helpful participant comments to improve the event further – so look out for Sync the City 2016!
The Tech Nation report came out today (5th February 2015), published by Tech City UK. A very exciting day for Norwich as we got a double page spread in the report (pp54-55). This has been the result of a sustained campaign to raise the profile and reputation of the Norwich tech sector.
SyncNorwich has been key in this campaign, by hosting Mike Butcher of TechCrunch in November 2013, which showcased some great Norwich tech companies to him and the 300 attendees who attended that event. Then in 2014, SyncNorwich organised Sync The City and invited Emma Swift of the Tech City UK Cluster Alliance to visit.
Then, when Tech City UK announced their Tech Nation survey, SyncNorwich, Norfolk Developers and Hot Source got behind the survey and encouraged their members to complete it. Norwich has a big enough tech sector and registered enough responses to be included in the report.
Defining the sector clearly wasn’t straightforward, but the report does describe the methodology they used, so that the data in this report can be compared with other surveys.
Until recently, much of the attention has focused on London as the centre of digital innovation in the UK, and indeed Tech City UK were initially set up in 2010 to support the London tech sector. This survey and report highlights that there is a lot of activity outside of London (74% of digital businesses and currently 62% of advertised jobs are not in London). These businesses however need proper support and attention from policy makers and investors.
The report identifies the top 3 sectors by cluster. Software Development is a key sector for Norwich, with 35% of its companies in this sector. Twelve of the other UK clusters have this sector in their top 3 and almost 25% of companies identified their sector as Software Development. Advertising and Marketing is another key sector for Norwich, shared with 5 other clusters and is the second largest sector in the UK with 11% of companies. Telecommunications and Networking is a defining sector for Norwich, with only Sheffield sharing it as one of their top 3 clusters and with just 4% of the companies identifying their company as belonging to this sector. The key cluster capabilities are: content and media production, machine to machine communications and network infrastructure and protocols.
The Tech Nation survey found that, in the UK, 50% of digital businesses have been formed since 2008. Many have been formed in the last 2 years across 2013 and 2014. Norwich has given birth to around 40 digital businesses in this two year period, which represents approximately 13% of the total companies within the cluster, against a UK average of 15%.
Norwich has 14,521 digital jobs, with a 21% growth of digital companies. Digital businesses are key for employment opportunities across the UK. The study found that although all clusters experienced digital sector employment growth – in Norfolk, digital job growth outpaced overall regional growth by the highest margin.
82% of Norwich companies identified access to social networks as a key benefit of the cluster. This is above the national average of 77% and is testament to the hard work put in by the various communities such as SyncNorwich, Hot Source and Norfolk Developers to organise regular meetups and larger annual events, such as Sync The City and NorDevCon.
The other key benefits of the Norwich cluster fall below the national average: access to the right talent for growth is mentioned by 32% of companies (the national average is 54%); access to property is identified by 32% (the national average is 40%); access to private finance scores 24% (the national average is 35%) and access to public finance (grants etc) is identified by 15% (the national average is 33%).
This shows that although there are benefits within the Norwich cluster, there is still some work to do to develop and attract talent, provide enough affordable office space (although White Space and New Patrick’s Yard are a good step in the right direction) and help companies to access funding. Not surprisingly, and similar to many other of the UK clusters in the Tech Nation report, a lack of fast and accessible broadband and a weak transport infrastructure are cited as barriers to growth.
Norwich has a relatively young tech cluster and has come a long way in a short space of time. Support and recognition from Tech City UK, policymakers and the local community will help us to build on this and to continue to grow and develop as a key cluster within the UK’s digital ecosystem.
John Fagan and I have been working together again to put on another big Norwich event, similar to TechCrunch Visits Norwich in 2013. This time, we are challenging entrepreneurs, product developers, software developers, designers, digital creatives along with students from the University of East Anglia and Norwich University of the Arts to form teams to build and launch an innovative start-up in just 54 hours. We have called this event Sync The City.
Sync the City, a collaboration between SyncNorwich, HP, the University of East Anglia and Norfolk County Council, aims to help place Norwich firmly on the tech community map over three days in November 2014.
Participants will arrive on Thursday night (20th November 2014) and Emma Swift of TechCity UK – which champions the digital and technology industry in the UK and internationally – will give a keynote presentation about what makes a successful tech cluster and how different clusters can work together to make the whole UK a digital hub for innovation. Participants will then pitch their start-up ideas in 1 minute slots. Over drinks and some networking, teams will form around the ideas and the start-up process begins!
Friday and Saturday the teams will work together supported by a great line up of mentors including: Ha Cole, Enterprise Architect at Microsoft; Ben Riches, Digital Integration Director at Aviva; Ali Clabburn, Managing Director & Founder of liftshare.com and Ben Taylor, CEO & Co-founder of Rainbird.
On Saturday night, at the end of the event, there will be an endnote presentation by Neil Garner of Proxama. Then the mixed business and student teams will pitch their ideas, for a chance to win a £3000 prize, to a panel of high-profile judges including: Anastasia Emmanuel from crowdsourcing platform Indiegogo, Jon Bradford from TechStars and local investors James Duez and Tim O’Shea. The presentations, judging and prizegiving are open to members of the public, with the award presentation concluding the event.
John and I have been quoted in the local press as saying: “Norfolk is already home to a rapidly growing number of technology innovators turning their creative ideas into real business, and Sync the City will bring together the strength of Norwich’s tech community in one place. The judges and mentors can offer real-life advice whilst we hope the competition will kick start the developments of the next generation of Norfolk tech companies.” And “Start-up weekends are a global movement in the tech community. They prove it really is possible to create a tech business from scratch in 54 hours. Sync the City is a platform to bring people together from public, private and education sectors to collaborate in small teams and have fun. If the teams come up with an amazing product concept and prototype, then that would be the cherry on the cake.”
Photo: John Fagan
Patrick Stephenson, HP General Manager Digital Norfolk Ambition Partnership, said: “HP is delighted to be a sponsor and active participant of Sync the City. I am excited about the disruptive innovation this event will drive and collaboration amongst local entrepreneurs, SME’s, public sector and private sector organisations such as HP.”
Cllr Bev Spratt, Chairman of Norfolk County Council’s Economic Development Sub Committee, said: “Norfolk, and Norwich in particular, has a thriving community of excellent ICT and digital creative businesses. The sector is strongly supported by our two Universities which produce dozens of high quality graduates every year. I hope, by supporting this event, we can help some of those graduates to become entrepreneurs of the future.”
SyncNorwich was founded in 2012 as a virtual community to support the growing digital economy in and around Norwich and is now one of the biggest and most active tech meet-up groups outside of London. SyncNorwich has over 900 members, of which approximately 50% are software developers and architects, 20% are founders, entrepreneurs, directors or investors and 20% are project managers or others.
The event has been funded by HP, Norfolk County Council, NEMODE (New Economic Models in the Digital Economy), Rainbird and the University of East Anglia. Thanks also to Purple Tuesday and Everpress for their website and design work.
Anyone wishing to be part of a start-up team for the whole event, or interested in being an audience member on Saturday night only (free entry), can register and get tickets at www.syncthecity.com. The website includes information about the agenda, judges and mentors, or contact the UEA Events team with any queries by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Press Coverage of Sync The City so far:
Audrey Mandela is an entrepreneur, consultant and angel investor. She co-founded Multimap with Sean Phelan in 1995, where she was Marketing Director, Board Director, Company Secretary and General Counsel. Before that, she had been Senior Vice President, International for the Yankee Group, where she worked from 1980 to 1998. She is currently Board Chair and Acting COO at Informilo, a news site and print publisher for global tech sector developments. On Thursday 10th July, Audrey came to speak at SyncDevelopHER, hosted at the Virgin Money Lounge in Norwich.
Rewind to 1995. The internet was just starting to take off, Netscape had just gone public and Microsoft had just launched Internet Explorer. The key players in a growing mobile phone market were Motorola and Nokia. Sean Phelan, a software engineer and sailing enthusiast, had just bought a GPS system before they had become consumer products. The initial idea that Sean had was to put maps on phones. Sean took the idea to Nokia, but they dismissed it – this was not what a phone was for! So Sean and Audrey decided to put the maps on the internet instead. They took the idea to Ordnance Survey and offered to buy their maps to put on the internet, but Ordnance Survey were worried that people might steal them. They did come around eventually! Multimap was founded in 1995 and began filing patents and in 1996 began software development. 1997 saw the launch of the public site and their first fee-paying customers. By 1998, Multimap needed some funding. They went to 3i, but 3i didn’t want to support Multimap’s mixed business model. How could they be serving both business (B2B) and consumer (B2C) markets? They said that Multimap needed to do one or the other, but not both. Multimap argued that it was the same platform that could serve two different customers, but unfortunately could not convince 3i. Eventually they were able to secure funding from Flextech and Audrey put some funding in as well, raising nearly £2m.
By 1999, they rented some office space and had hired some employees. The first hire worked on a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) database. There was nothing available in the market that could do everything they envisioned and so they had decided to build one themselves so that they would be ready to serve customers. In 2000, they went from 5 people to 23 people, including SyncNorwich’s co-founder and organiser – John Fagan. They also began their first advertising campaign, with the clever idea of finding shapes within maps, like a crab near Brighton, a guitar near Abbey Road, a cocktail glass in the West End of London, a dinosaur near the Natural History Museum and a sheep in Wales. By this time, the dot.com boom was in full force and Multimap were competing for advertising space and attention. But the campaign, although expensive for Multimap, worked – it increased traffic to their site by nearly 50% and more importantly, traffic stayed high after the campaign. Awareness of the brand had been raised and the sheep advert won ad of the week with Campaign magazine.
In 2001, Multimap moved to their own offices and launched in the US. The dot.com bubble had burst and Multimap needed to raise more money to survive at a time when investors’ enthusiasm for tech start-ups had all but disappeared. They considered VC funding, strategic investors and follow on funding from existing investors – each option came with different pros and cons, and Multimap did not want to lose control of their company. Flextech were not keen to invest, as only 2 of the 8 dot.coms that they had invested in had survived. In the end, Audrey, Flextech and a key supplier did provide investment. This enabled Multimap to expand beyond the UK and Europe and to grow the number of B2B customers from 400 to 800. By 2003, they had served one billion maps, they had added Australian and New Zealand maps, had secured some big customers, including Argos and Ford US, and had made it into the Sunday Times Tech Track 100. In 2004, they partnered with Microsoft and began to expand in the US market. They had their first £1m month and celebrated their 10th anniversary in the Natural History Museum.
2005 also saw the rise of Google Maps. Google Maps, previously focused on the US only, had started to penetrate the UK. Google had draggable maps, whereas Multimap used the tab system. So in 2006, Multimap developed their own draggable maps API and implemented a new site design in response. They also won a Queen’s Award for Innovation. In 2007, Multimap launched a new public site with draggable maps and added more Asian country coverage and started to look for new investors. But, competition was starting to heat up, with more new entrants, big competitors like Google and Microsoft with very deep pockets, and the rise of satellites. 2007 also saw TomTom buy TeleAtlas and Nokia pay $8.1 billion for Navteq. Multimap agreed to entertain the idea of selling the business, as there were signs that the industry was about to change significantly. They then sold to Microsoft in December. Microsoft incorporated Multimap into Bing about a year later.
At the time of sale, Multimap had close to 200 million page views per month, was the number 1 business mapping service provider in Europe and number 2 or 3 in the world and one of the top 10 most visited websites in the UK. They were delivering maps to more than 1200 business customers and they had over 120 employees in London, Boston, Sydney and Istanbul. They had been consistently profitable since 2002 and were only one of three companies to appear in 4 consecutive years (2003 to 2006) in Tech Track’s Top 100 fastest-growing technology companies.
After this interesting and informative overview of Multimap’s birth and growth, Audrey then offered advice on what they had learned by starting, building and selling a business. Some of these included:
- Be clear about why you want to start a business – it’s not for everyone and it’s hard work!
- Know your strengths/core competencies and weaknesses
- People – find the right people, motivate these people, keep them and if they leave – get them back!
- Be clear on and nurture your company values
- Understand how you will make money and sales
- Let the market drive development and operations….but balance and allocate resources based on market potential for tomorrow as well – Be ready to scale!
- Go for as many awards as you can – they boost employee morale and make good PR
- Watch the cash – but do pay for the right external advisors
- Speed is important, but big decisions shouldn’t be made too hastily
- It is not about raising investment money, but about growing your business – make the right kind of money at the right time
- And finally – don’t believe your own predictions!
After a short break for beer and wine, sponsored by Tipsy & Tumbler , Audrey went on to talk about Women In Tech. She started by telling us about a survey by the British Computer Society. They asked whether there would be a benefit to having more women working in IT – 9% of men responded NO! A 2013 European Commission report states that of the 7 million people working in the ICT sector, only 30% are women. Women also drop out of the sector early, from 20% at aged 30 to less than 9% over the age of 45. They estimate that if women held digital jobs as frequently as men, Europe’s GDP would be boosted by approximately 9 million Euros per annum.
Audrey also champions more women getting onto Boards. She is on the Steering Committee for Global Board Ready Women – supporting gender diversity on corporate boards – and is the Chair and Company Secretary for Women in Telecoms and Technology (WiTT) – an informal networking group on education and enhancing women’s careers. She presented studies to show that companies that are more inclusive of women in management achieve a 35% higher return on equity and a 34% better return to shareholders than other organisations. Women who do choose to work in the ICT sector earn approximately 9% more than women in other sectors and are less likely to become unemployed. Women make up approximately 31% of self-employed Europeans, but only 19% are ICT entrepreneurs.
The Female FTSE Index for 2014 shows that there has been some improvement in the number of females on Boards, but most progress has been made for Non-Executive Directors (NEDs), with very little progress in increasing the number of executive directorships.
Audrey offered some advice for improving this situation:
- Introduce more diversity programmes and remove genders from CVs to reduce unconscious bias in recruitment decisions.
- Use quotas to get more women onto Boards – this may be controversial, but so little progress has been made – we’re all getting tired of waiting for this to change! Public companies must reflect their users and women are still very under-represented.
- Introduce more coding into schools – get kids developing apps and doing more fun stuff in ICT – current teaching is generally outdated.
There were lot of questions for Audrey and the comments on the SyncNorwich meetup site reflect how much her talk inspired the audience and how much they enjoyed it!
Indiegogo organised a tour of Britain to raise the awareness of what crowdfunding is and to help those interested to crowdfund more successfully. The “Go Crowdfund Britain Tour” is a million pound mission to get Britain’s best ideas, coolest inventions, brightest young businesses and the most creative music and arts projects crowdfunded on Indiegogo before the end of 2014.
“Go Crowdfund Britain” started on 23rd June 2014 with Indiegogo visiting 10 UK cities over three weeks to gather individuals, groups and companies with big ambitions and show them how to crowdfund successfully on Indiegogo. Starting off in Manchester, the tour visited Birmingham, Swansea, Bristol, Norwich, Nottingham, Sheffield, Leeds, Newcastle and finished in Edinburgh on 10th July 2014.
Anastasia Emmanuel, Indiegogo’s UK Marketing and Community Manager, gave a great presentation to an audience of over 50 people in Norwich. She defined crowdfunding as “The collective effort of individuals who network and pool their money, usually via the internet, to support the efforts initiated by other people or organisations.” She explained that it wasn’t a new concept, but has been made popular by the founding of organisations such as Indiegogo.
Anastasia Emmanuel presenting
Indiegogo, with its headquarters in San Francisco, was founded by Danae Ringelmann, Slava Rubin, and Eric Schell in 2008, with the ambition to democratise finance and allow anyone with an idea to sign up and raise money. There are now many different crowdfunding platforms out there, such as Kickstarter, Crowdcube and Seedrs, but the choice of these depends on your reason for crowdfunding. Anastasia explained the reasons to use Indiegogo, which is based on gifts and rewards (perks) rather than an equity stake in the idea:
(1) Global – Indiegogo has run over 200,000 campaigns from 224 countries/territories and operates in 5 currencies and 4 languages
(2) Open – there is no application or approval process for an Indiegogo campaign, it is merit based and covers entrepreneurial, creative and cause campaigns
(3) Customer Focused – Indiegogo has a Customer Happiness team available 24-7 to support its campaigners, they produce a lot of guides and videos to help campaigners and they offer both fixed and flexible funding.
Anastasia emphasised the benefits of crowdfunding with Indiegogo as being able to: validate your idea, gain awareness for your campaign, connect with customers, create evangelists and raise money. She explained that often the money raised was the least important of the benefits. She then gave a few case studies to illustrate the benefits that other campaigners had realised.
London’s first cat café was financed through Indiegogo. Lady Dinah’s Cat Emporium in Shoreditch raised £109,510 against a target of £108,000 to open its doors in 2013.
Tens: The Real Life Photo Filter is an Edinburgh-based sunglasses brand that set an initial target of £9,400 on Indiegogo and went on to raise over £350,000. They had met their initial target within hours of posting their campaign and the exposure from this and the validation of their idea really helped them take the product to the next stage.
Misfit Shine, a personal activity tracker, was another example of an American campaign that was able to do real time market research and connect directly with the customers that would buy their product. They had a goal to raise $100,000 and ended up raising over $800,000 from nearly 8000 funders from around the world. But, possibly more importantly, they learnt a lot through the campaign that influenced the final design of their product and they secured a strong customer base.
Norwich has had its own successful campaigns too. Stuart Ashen, a Norwich-based YouTube comedian raised over $73,000 against a target of $50,000 to make his first feature film “Ashens and the Quest for the Game Child”, which was about 41% of the overall film budget. Stuart joined the Norwich leg of the tour to share his Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign experiences and tips. He encouraged the audience to develop their ideas sufficiently before launching a campaign. If you look like you know what you are doing and what you need the money for, people are more likely to give.
So how do you develop a successful pitch? First remember that a higher goal does not mean more money! People want to give to successful projects and so setting a lower and more attainable goal works better as you will more quickly raise a higher percentage of your goal (this is nicknamed the green bar effect on Indiegogo). There are no penalties for exceeding your goal, you keep all of the money raised, and people will keep contributing even after your target has been met. You need a good pitch video that is short (about 3 minutes), explains who you are, what you are raising money for and provides a clear call to action. Make your pitch text easy to read, with pictures and infographics that help to sell your product or product.
Anastasia then went on to share the 6Ps of successful crowdfunding:
(1) People – they want meaning in their lives and they like to support projects and causes that they care about. Make it easy for them to see the opportunity in your project
(2) Perks – campaigns with perks raise more money. Limited quantities of perks create demand and provide a thank you to contributors
(3) Passion – you need to find ways to show your passion for your project and then it will generate passion in others
(4) Pride – people want to feel proud of having supported a campaign – what will make them proud to join yours?
(5) Participation – people like to participate in successful projects and your perks can also provide motivation for people to participate to get an exclusive product
(6) Promotion – you need to think carefully about how you will promote your campaign. Start with a soft-launch and get your family and friends to donate (approx 30% of your target) in this phase so your project starts to look successful before you go to full launch. Have them ready to do this. Run your campaign for 21 to 45 days and launch on a Monday or Tuesday. Email and social media are the best ways to raise contributions and also contact the press, bloggers and do live events. Campaigns usually start well and then drop off a bit, so plan to have some perks for this quieter phase. Send out regular updates and celebrate the milestones as you reach them. Campaigns that send at least 3 updates raise more cash!
After the energetic and engaging presentation, there were plenty of questions for Anastasia and Stuart and an opportunity to network before heading home much clearer about how crowdfunding could help to bring a multitude of ideas and projects to life!
UEA were delighted to be the first UK university to host Mike Butcher, Editor-at-Large, for TechCrunch. Mike is one of the most influential tech journalists in Europe right now and is on a mission to excite students about tech startups. It started with a tweet back in May 2013 and then finally, last night – November 27th 2013 – we hosted, with SyncNorwich, the biggest tech event and geek meetup in Norwich ever, with over 300 attendees. John Fagan of SyncNorwich and I opened the event with an overview of the growing digital creative community in Norfolk. Then it was the turn of a great line up of tech and startups from the region, with some great success stories and a sprinkling of UEA graduates in the line up too. It was fast and furious with fantastic presentations from all involved. FxHome’s Josh Davies (a UEA graduate) kicked off the tech showcase and demonstrated how FXHome’s products are used by children to make their own films right through to Hollywood creating the special visual effects in blockbusters like Salt and the short film, Prism. Next up was Liftshare, with Ali Clabburn explaining how his company was born from a need to get to Bristol and not enough cash for the train fare! From this start in 1998, Liftshare has grown to support 1.5 million trips per month and a typical member can save about £1000 per year by using the service. Then Rainbird’s James Duez and Ben Taylor shared their vision of building smarter software to capture knowledge and solve problems by joining up the dots – lots of potential applications and one to watch as they head for full release in March 2014. Richard Churchill of Service Tick presented Sessioncam.com and session replay. This product picks up how users are interacting with your website, where they are touching and looking and so can help to increase conversion and reduce basket abandonment. Proxama finished this session with James Taylor explaining how they connect the physical and digital worlds with their TapPoint platform, offering next generation mobile market for brands wanting to better engage with their customers. They offer proximity marketing and contactless payment via smartphones. The agenda then turned to a series of ten 2 minute pitches: Get3Sixty offer the ability to gather, store and view anonymous feedback from the people you work with. 99squared have developed Kuoob to support personalised advertising. Everpress presented their Haberdash app to create your own personalised photo-cushion. Betahive showcased their Pingle app to match and connect groups of people. Photocrowd set photographic assignments and allow users to vote and provide reviews from experts and then showcase the winners. Supapass are building the music ecosystem of the future, linking musicians and fans. Blurtit presented their social question and answer site. Sourcing.io helps source talented software engineers with their matching service. Zealify, started by UEA graduates, is a recruitment platform to help small companies to identify the right interns and graduates to recruit. Last up was a 16 year old Norwich School student, Michael Ni’Man, aiming to raise literacy rates with an educational app – Wordwides. What a brilliant showcase of innovative products and services! After a quick networking break, came the energetic and engaging keynote from Mike Butcher. He took us on a whistlestop tour of the history of tech and the highs and lows of being a startup. He explained how Web 2.0 has taken innovation out of the labs and into the bedrooms and coffee shops, creating “absolute chaos” – but in a good way! He emphasised that people are what matters most in the early stages of technology businesses. He stressed the power of serendipity and the need to keep on meeting at events like this one and the other meetups that SyncNorwich and Hot Source provide. He encouraged Norwich to build silicon bridges to link up the ecosystem and was impressed with the incredible display of talent that Norwich has to offer. In the Q&A session he encouraged those pitching their ideas to keep it simple – strip back the text in presentations, make it visual, be enthusiastic and tell a story. Boil down complex concepts and get to the point. Identify the problem and how you will solve it! The evening was rounded off with big thanks from Peter Schmidt-Hansen of Norwich Business School at UEA to all who helped to make it happen at SyncNorwich and UEA and to the events other sponsors: Smart 421, Naked Element, Lambda Films and Tim Stephenson Photography (including photos in this post). Thanks also to the OPEN team for the venue, technical support and catering. And of course, to Mike Butcher for travelling up from London and supporting the event for the Norwich tech community and UEA students!
Check out the slides here, great photos from the event here and don’t miss the doodles of the presentations by Chris Spalton. Inspired by Mike’s presentation, Everpress are building a map of tech companies in and around Norwich at SiliconBroads.co.uk. Watch it grow!
Read other blogs on the event by:
Naked Element at http://nakedelement.co.uk/techcrunch-visits-norwich/
Tim Stephenson Photography at http://www.timstephensonphotography.co.uk/news/norfolk-event-photography-techcrunch-comes-to-syncnorwich
This paper came about from having access to a complete set of research proposals on climate change and realising that there were some really interesting ways to analyse these. Palie Smart and I worked out how best to develop the hypotheses and structure the paper. When the research and paper started to take shape, Yehuda Baruch and Mark Johnson analysed the data and helped to make sense of the findings.
Lettice F, Smart P, Baruch Y and Johnson M. 2012. Navigating the impact-innovation double hurdle: The case of a climate change research fund, Research Policy, 41, pp 1048-1057, doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.respol.2012.03.003
A summary of the research was also published at: Lettice F and Smart P. 2012. Don’t assume that innovation and impact go hand in hand, Research Fortnight, 3rd October, p20.
The impact agenda has become increasingly important within research settings within the UK higher education sector. But there is a question over whether pursuing both research and commercialisation of that research are complementary or competing activities. This is what we wanted to investigate. We had access to all 102 of the proposals submitted to a climate change research fund. This fund wanted to support innovative research projects that could demonstrate impact (climate change reduction) and future commercialisation of the research. Of these 102 proposals, 27 received funding.
We considered whether those projects that predicted higher carbon reduction figures would be more likely to be funded or to receive higher levels of funding. Our analysis showed that this was not the case. We also assessed the commercial maturity of the projects and anticipated that those that were closer to commercialisation would be more likely to be funded. Again, this was not the case. We considered whether the projects funded were more likely to be cleaner production approaches, which aim to reduce or prevent emissions, or end-of-pipe solutions, where emissions are treated. There have been calls to move towards more cleaner production approaches, which deliver higher benefits and have a bigger impact, so we anticipated that these approaches would be more likely to be funded. Again, this was not the case. This suggests that the other funding criteria rather than impact or commercialisation were more important.
So was innovation more important than impact in the decision-making process?
First, we considered the level of innovation. We hypothesised that projects with an incremental or continuity approach would be more likely to be funded than projects with a radical or discontinuity approach. The more radical approaches could lead to higher carbon reduction, but would meet more resistance due to existing technological lock-in and the inability to reverse existing technology trajectories and path dependence. There was no preference for either type of project. We also considered whether projects were trying to diffuse existing solutions or create new innovations, again predicting that those that were trying to diffuse existing solutions would be more likely to be funded. There was no shift towards new innovations in the funding of projects.
The funders requested that the proposals identified the levels of commercial, technical, societal and environmental risk within the projects. We expected that lower risk projects would be more likely to receive funding. However, what we found was that the decision makers favoured projects with higher technical, commercial and societal risks. So in this case, there was some move towards riskier and possibly more innovative approaches.
Finally, we found that the success of the proposal was not based on departmental research standing nor on Principal Investigator gender. This is contradictory to some other studies that show that funding is not always meritocratic.
The conclusions from this research are that the funders did not show any preference for funding any particular type of proposal. The results are indicative of a compromise. It may be that there were not sufficient individual proposals that met both the impact and innovation criteria. Also, setting potentially competing criteria may make it harder for reviewers to compare proposals and assess claims, and so to arrive at an appropriate balance of funding decisions, particularly given the complexity and variety of the proposals and the uncertainty around how best to reduce carbon emissions.
We propose that rather than forcing the two strands of impact and innovation together in a single funding initiative, they should be seen as complementary strands and could be pursued by separate, but connected, groups of researchers and funding streams. This would enable some researchers to work on incrementally improving and diffusing existing solutions to achieve faster impact and other researchers to pursue more systemic and discontinuous solutions that may not yet be able to demonstrate impact or where the impact is less immediate.
The interest in graphical techniques has been rising steadily and many companies use such techniques to facilitate meetings and to help with communicating key corporate messages. We define graphic recording and graphic facilitation as the use of business-oriented graphic artists and consultants to help organisations to document meetings, develop strategy and communicate it to employees through rich pictures. In this research, we worked with a range of different organisations including Root, Grove Consultants International, Delta7 and Don Braisby Associates. This paper is based on one technique from Root Learning, called the RootMap© or Strategic Learning Map ©.
Lettice F and Brayshaw K. 2007. Using graphical techniques to communicate strategy: an exploratory study, Strategic Change, 16, pp 145-159.
Strategy implementation often fails. One reason for this is that the strategy is not effectively communicated to employees. The second reason is that the communication is not understood. Much business communication is in written format or via emails and this can result in information overload. Meetings can help as more rich information can be conveyed, but too many meetings can be counter-productive. Experimental research has shown that visual images help to improve learning and recall of the information.
For strategy communication, rich communication media, such as small group meetings and one-to-one discussions, which enable two-way, top-down and bottom-up communication are better than lean media such as reports and newsletters. Individuals need to be able to work out what any change means for them and strategy communication should be able to trigger debate about where the organisation is going and what that means for individuals within it.
As part of this research, we interviewed three organisations that had used Root’s techniques for strategy communication and we also interviewed Root’s consultants. A survey was also carried out within one of the organisations, with 201 respondents. The three organisations were all large multinationals with a need to communicate strategy to large numbers of employees. They had previously communicated strategy through presentation slides, CEO talks and newsletters, but felt that these techniques has not been particularly successful and messages had not been clear of understandable enough.
Each organisation had then used Root to try to improve their strategy development and communication processes. Each Strategic Learning Map ©.for the three organisations was unique to that organisation and their particular strategy. What was similar across all of the Maps was the use of a visual metaphor or rich picture. One metaphor used was a mountain that the organisation had to climb. Embedded in each picture are boxes with detailed data about, for example, trends in sales, trends in profit, customer purchasing habits, and key competitors. Each Map has a series of questions that accompany it, designed to encourage participation and discussion about the picture.
The three organisations each felt that the process and Maps had been more successful at communicating strategy than other approaches in the past. Some of the reasons given for this are:
- Use of graphics – the visual nature of the Maps had made the key messages much easier to understand and had been more effective and engaging in representing information
- Encourage dialogue – the interactive process had enable two-way communication around the rich picture and the picture was felt to draw out more conversation and discussion
- Inclusiveness – the pictures allowed participants to absorb information and come to conclusions themselves, rather than being presented with a fait accompli.
- Remembering information – the picture enabled participants to remember the message and recall it after much longer periods of time than more standard communication media
- Connectivity of information – having all of the information on a single page allowed connections to be drawn more easily between key pieces of information and enabled smaller parts of the organisation to see how they fitted into the whole
- Novelty – the Maps are different from what has been used in the past and so are well received – the novelty helps to set the organisation off on a different route with a new strategy
For the creation of the Maps, a large amount of information is collected and distilled, so that only the key information appears in the final picture. This process itself ensures that care is taken to articulate the strategic message clearly. The use of pictures and metaphors makes the message more engaging and memorable. Representing information in a single page, rather than over multiple slides also helps the audience to make connections and think more holistically about the organisation and its strategy. The dialogue that is encouraged around the pictures also increases ownership for the strategy amongst employees. Strategy communication is an important part of the strategy implementation process. As well as considering the communication media, it is also important to consider the content of the communication, so that the messages being conveyed are clear and understandable. Novel ways of communicating strategy should be encouraged, which combine pictures, metaphors, text and data.
This paper was presented at the 2013 ICE Conference in Den Hague. The theme of the whole conference was Responsible Innovation. This paper was in response to that Call for Papers and builds on earlier work on social and green innovation.
Lettice F, Pawar K and Rogers H. 2013. Responsible Innovation: What Challenges Does It Pose for the New Product Development Process? 19th International ICE & IEEE-ITMC International Technology Management Conference, The Hague, Netherlands, 24-26 June.
As well as legislation to try to reduce carbon emissions (e.g. the 2008 United Kingdom (UK) Climate Change Act), there has been consumer concern and action, as can be seen by how the Fairtrade and organic markets have shifted from niche markets to become more mainstream. Companies have also been publicly challenged over their use of sweatshops or child labour. The Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) agenda has become quite well-established in many companies in response to these pressures and to pursue a tripartite of economic, environmental and social performance.
From these beginnings, a relatively new topic has emerged: Responsible Innovation – but what is it and how might it affect the new product development process within organisations?
One of the first researchers to use the term responsible innovation was Tomas Hellström in 2003 . He argued that as well as producing benefits, technological innovation comes with risks. Using the example of agro-food production, he showed the complex interplay between science, environment and society and showed the issues with competing stakeholder priorities, how in some cases the risks might outweigh the benefits and that some of the problems created might be largely irreversible. He called for better ways to identify and consider risks and for “preventative foresight and governance of Responsible Innovation”.
Prof Richard Owen and his colleagues have also stated that government-led regulation is important, but not enough as it often lags innovative developments. They also call for stronger risk management around the upstream development of new technologies and innovations to promote responsible and sustainable development in a proactive way. They also show that the term Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI) has even appeared within the EU policy discourse, with the focus being on science, with calls for a transformation “from science in society – to science for society, with society” and for policy to support “the best science for the world rather than the best science in the world”.
René Von Schomberg’s website gives a definition for Responsible Research and Innovation .
In our paper, we take these broad definitions and apply them within the product development process within organisations, where we believe these responsible innovation principles and practices are as important as within the development of science and scientific practice.
We used Cooper’s stage gate process to consider mechanisms and activities that could be used at each stage to ensure a more responsible approach is taken.
Discovery Stage – identifying opportunities and generating new product ideas. This stage is the best opportunity for organisations to consider how they can develop more responsible innovations. A broad range of stakeholders can be engaged. Traditional market research techniques can be used (e.g. surveys or focus groups), but organisations (such as Threadless and Apache/Linux) are increasingly experimenting with new technology-enabled methods such as “enterprise 2.0” or “crowdsourcing”. Some large organisations are using formal strategies to engage externally, often referred to as open innovation. A famous example is Proctor and Gamble’s Connect and Develop programme , where they increased the number of innovations sourced from outside their organisation to over 50%. There are also websites such as Innocentive and NineSigma that aim to connect organisations with inventors and other problem solvers. Social media tools are also being used to help to generate new product ideas, by monitoring customer needs, market trends, perceptions of brands, although many organisations still feel that they lack the internal expertise or best practices required to use these techniques. Using both traditional and newer techniques, organisations can frame good problems around social responsibility and gauge the reactions of a wide range of stakeholders, before deciding which ideas to pursue.
Scoping Stage – assessing the technical merits of the product and its potential market. As well as the technical and market assessments, this stage should include ethical, environmental and risk assessments of the product and its market. There will be many uncertainties, but by paying attention to these aspects, Responsible Innovation will be easier to achieve.
Build the Business Case Stage – feasibility stage to ensure the product has a good product definition, a strong justification and a plan for delivery. Here the focus is typically on the technical, market and financial feasibility of a product. For Responsible Innovation, the ethical and environmental feasibility of the product and associated manufacturing, supplier and consumption processes should also be considered. Different business models can be considered, such as product-service systems (Du Pont have shifted from selling floor coverings to providing total servicing to customers including installation, tailored maintenance, take back and recycling). Collaborative consumption is another relatively new trend, where consumers form peer communities to share, barter, lend, trade, rent and swap products to enable more sustainable and responsible consumption patterns.
Development Stage – the actual design and development of the product. Raw materials should be sourced appropriately. They should be created in safe factories by workers who are well-treated ad paid suitable wages to work legal hours. Recent cases with IKEA in Eastern Europe and Apple in China have shown that it is not always straightforward to achieve these standards throughout a large, complex, global supply chain. Suppliers also need to respect the environment and use materials from sustainable sources and implementing effective pollution and emissions measures and controls.
Testing and Validation Stage – the entire project is examined, including the product itself, the manufacturing processes, customer acceptance and the economics of the project. Care should be taken to include the holistic issues covered earlier in the NPD process. The product needs to be reliable, maintainable and safe to ensure that customers will not be injured by defective products. Products should also meet ethical and environmental standards. Waste reduction, recycling and reuse options need to be monitored and improved and detailed life cycle analyses performed to ensure that the product meets standards for all lifecycle stages.
Launch Stage – full commercialisation of the product, the beginning of full production and commercial launch. Customers want brands to do well while doing good. In the fashion sector, Marks and Spencer , Uniqlo and H&M provide opportunities for customers to recycle and donate old clothes to charity, providing environmental sustainability and supporting people living in poverty. Innocent drinks launched the Big Knit to support older people in the colder winter months and raised over £1million in 2012. These examples promote responsible consumerism.
Also companies should ensure that sufficient information is available to customers when their products are launched, so that customers can make informed decisions and purchases. The take up of labelling has been mixed and the proliferation of labels can be confusing, but with time they should improve and help with the move towards more sustainable and responsible consumption of responsible innovations.
The biggest opportunities to influence responsible innovation lie in the earlier stages of the innovation cycle. In the later stages, assessments (and subsequent adjustments, if needed) can be made to ensure that the highest standards are being met.
In summary, we call for extending Responsible Innovation thinking beyond science and very new technologies and towards all sectors that are innovating and developing new products and services. This is an extension of the CSR agenda with the aim of more fully embracing the new product development (NPD) process.