Richard Scott: Brighton’s Digital Catapult fires firms into the future

Richard Scott Innovation Manager at Wired Sussex
Richard Scott Innovation Manager at Wired Sussex

Despite the level of media attention the digital sector often attracts, you might be surprised to learn that according to figures published by the Office of National Statistics, the reality is that only 7 per cent of UK national output comes from the digital sector and only 9 per cent of businesses form part of the digital workplace. 

In South Korea, the world’s leader in digital output, the economic contribution is more than 11 per cent.  One of the organisations tasked with helping to grow the UK digital economy is Digital Catapult. 

With four regional hubs across the UK, including one in Brighton, Digital Catapult’s role is to help increase the number of digital businesses, and the number of those employed in digital roles.  The Brighton hub, based at New England House, helps innovators bring digital services and products to market. The centre works closely with local partners including Brighton and Hove City Council, American Express, and the city’s universities, to generate new jobs, drive innovation and create millions in linked investment and funding.

Creative and Digital IT (CDIT) is the fastest growing sector in Brighton and Hove  and the city’s Digital Catapult  helps businesses of all sizes to make the most of technology and turn creative ideas into practical applications.

Dozens of small and medium-sized businesses in the city as well as  experts in leading edge technology are part of the collaboration with the project being delivered by established membership organisation Wired Sussex which has a track record of bringing digital businesses together.

In November 2016, Brighton and Hove’s Economic Development and Culture Committee pledged to continue the council’s support for the project.   The council will use Coast to Capital Local Growth Funding to refurbish the Digital Catapult unit, located next door to the successful Brighton Fusebox, and has offered a three-year rent-free period for the space. The space offers somewhere to deliver new products and services such as the latest 5G technologies that dramatically increase the speed at which data can be transferred across the network, for example downloading full HD films in seconds and improving thousands of internet-connected devices.

Alan Robins, chair of the council’s economic development and culture committee, said: “It’s a great venture which builds on the city’s existing strengths and reputation for being creative in all things digital.

“It gives businesses access to a range of knowledge, experiences and data which will help them develop, create jobs, and also lead to better services and customer experiences.”

Brighton’s Digital Catapult focuses on projects that encourage innovation in location-based data –known as the Internet of Place, as well as three other technologies, Internet of Things, 5G connectivity and Virtual Reality.  The Brighton Catapult runs events, workshops and residency programmes for businesses around these technologies on themes that have commercial potential, including retail innovation and positive ageing.

The aim is to ensure the city continues to be at the forefront of digital innovation and grow the value of its knowledge economy.

Eric Kihlstrom, co-founder, KareInn and UK Ambassador to Aging 2.0, says: “Our startup is focused on providing a better quality of life for older people. The people at Digital Catapult see the world the way we do, where better human relationships are formed with technology led by good design and an understanding of the people it serves. Being a resident at the Digital Catapult Brighton has been transformational for our business. 

“We’ve co-designed public workshops, received mentoring on our strategy and been introduced to really interesting potential partners. In particular, we worked with the Digital Catapult Brighton to organise a Care Clinic; where we gained access to the market, it would have been too difficult for us as a startup company. 

We are really lucky to have such a precious resource in Brighton.”

Richard Scott is the innovation manager at Wired Sussex