Posts Tagged ‘UK’

Tech Nation Demonstrates Strength of Norwich Tech Cluster

February 5, 2015  |  Digital innovation, Innovation  |  Comments Off on Tech Nation Demonstrates Strength of Norwich Tech Cluster

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.


TechCrunch Visited Norwich

November 28, 2013  |  Disruptive Innovation, Innovation  |  2 Comments

Mike Butcher speaking 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. TCnorwich audience 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 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. slide6-techcrunchThe 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. 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!mike butcher speaks 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  Watch it grow!

Read other blogs on the event by:

Naked Element at

Smart421 at

ip21 at

Tim Stephenson Photography at

Press coverage by EDP24 and Norwich Evening News24 sites and a feature in the Norfolk TechJournal.

Innovation and Research Impact – Complementary or Competing Objectives?

November 5, 2013  |  Green Innovation, Innovation, Research impact  |  Comments Off on Innovation and Research Impact – Complementary or Competing Objectives?

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:

Downloadable pdf

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.

pollution control


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.