Small independent businesses are the beating heart of the Brighton economy and that’s just as true in the local digital sector as anywhere else.
Our creative technology businesses are together worth well over a billion pounds a year to the city’s economy. This is an amazing figure for a sector that has only been around for 15 years or so. And the growth is not because we have the big beasts of the digital world based here, we don’t. There’s no Facebook, Microsoft or Google with offices in Brighton; £1bn is the accumulated impact of many hundreds of creative, innovative and ambitious small studios.
This sector provides productive, interesting and generally well-paid employment, and it has been built on Brighton’s key historical strength – being able to attract creative and iconoclastic talent to the city from all over the world.
Brighton has more than its fair share of great web build and design companies, but also houses many award-winning games companies like Plug-In, Ramjam and Mag, world class online training (or ‘e-learning’) businesses like Leo, Totara, Brightwave and Kineo, and too many renowned specialist digital businesses to mention.
Having a large number of small digital businesses, rather than a few big players, has been good for our economy. Small and flexible, they have proved that they can spot new opportunities and move fast to make the most of them when they do. And that’s important. Digital is a sector that doesn’t stand still, and if you aren’t looking at what is on the horizon, you are likely to be left behind.
At the Wired Sussex studio, the FuseBox, and with support from the council and the universities, we run a regional version of the government’s national digital catapult programme. The catapult programme supports ground-breaking digital business ideas across the region. To help those businesses innovate, we have a state-of-the-art immersive lab and one of the first 5G testbeds in the UK.
Recent research has shown that Brighton is now one of the UK’s leading centres for immersive technology like virtual and augmented reality, with local companies such as Fracture, MakeReal, Curiscope and Future Visual making waves internationally.
We are working closely with around 20 virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) businesses through the digital catapult programme. They include Root Interactive, who are developing a sound-based immersive experience based on the first world war for an Austrian museum, Mutiny Media, who are working on live Star Wars-type hologram videos, and Bushra Burge who is embedding immersive technologies into clothing for medical uses. This is just a snapshot of some of the he brilliantly imaginative and innovative digital businesses that are making this city our home.
If you want to find out more about the work we do or access the facilities we have at the FuseBox, get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org
Phil Jones runs Wired Sussex.