Category Archives: The Edge 2016

The Edge 2016 – Creative & Digital Exporting

Last week, I attended an Institute of Directors (IoD) event on creative and digital exporting. Held at the offices of MSB Solicitors, as part of The Edge 2016 festival, the event included speakers from some of Liverpool’s successful creative and digital firms.

The speakers included James Sproule from the IoD, Jennifer Hartley from Tech North, Ian Finch from Mando, Owen Cotterill from Mocha, Clemens Wangerin from vTime, Chris Morland from Citrus Suite, and Amanda Follit from Amaze. As always with digital-related talks, I was eagerly anticipating something special, and looking forward to soaking up plenty of digital inspiration. I am delighted to say the end result was precisely that, giving me a boost of excitement for the future.

The event began with an introduction by Kim Thompson from The Prince’s Trust. Kim presented a short video to raise awareness of the Trust’s new Parallel Lives campaign. The video was a powerful and moving experience, which shows how the lives of young people can be different, without the work and support of the Trust. You can view the video here.

Following on from this, James set the tone for the evening’s feel good factor. This was because he spoke with confidence and belief, by explaining how the UK is the most entrepreneurial country in Europe. In addition, I also learned from James, that there is plenty of help and support available for SMEs and entrepreneurs looking to export. As I listened carefully, any feelings of negativity and trepidation were swiftly dispelled, and replaced with positive thoughts.

Listening to the stories of the other speakers was of the same inspirational tone. From hearing Jennifer talk about the work of Tech North, to hearing Amanda talk about the history of Amaze, were amazing stories to listen to. In addition, I was also particularly taken with Clemens talking about the exciting growth of Virtual Reality (VR) technology, and of how it can be used as a sociable network. In truth, I was greatly impressed with all the speakers, and of their stories of success.

As with all these events, there were also other useful points that I learned. Some of the examples I have included below, which apply to both companies and individuals.

These include the following:

  1. Need to continuously learn as an organisation and as individuals.
  2. There are opportunities and processes out there, to help you make the first steps to export.
  3. Important to start at a local level.
  4. A strong identity and purpose will endure.
  5. Methods that work one-way may not work with others.
  6. Need to be visible and have an online presence.
  7. You still need to work with national and existing clients.
  8. Go out there and do it!

I have learnt from the event that certain qualities are required to export globally. This includes courage, as exporting outside of the UK is a major step outside your comfort zone, which can be daunting. A second quality is to be flexible enough to adapt to changes. In addition, you need to be aware of cultural differences, as other countries have different working methods and traditions, different to the UK. Finally your company must be resilient, as there will be times when you will be seriously tested, and face many challenges on your exporting journey.

To conclude, I would like to thank Michelle Helsby from Evolve Consultancy, Pete Radcliffe from the IoD, Liverpool LEP and all of the speakers involved. I found the event not only uplifting, but also thoughtful, intelligent, and a neat insight into our digital future. In addition, I was heartened by the positive vibes, not only from the speakers, but also from an appreciative audience. I felt an atmosphere of not just confidence, but also hope.

Hope and confidence is what we need right now, and in the future.


The Edge 2016 – Your Digital Future

As we journey into the future, the landscape of our society is changing. Driven by technology, industries and business sectors are moving from analogue to digital means. Therefore the jobs of the future will require different skill sets, to be taught and nurtured through education, in order to meet the demands of the digital future.

Earlier this week, I attended an event held by the City of Liverpool College on this subject. Held at The Learning Exchange as part of The Edge 2016 festival, the purpose of this event was to discuss what digital skills will be required in the future.

The event featured four speakers eager to share their experiences and knowledge. These were Martin Hamilton from Jisc, Lee Stott from Microsoft, Michael Griffiths from Pleq, and Phil Charnock from Draw and Code. With an audience consisting of an eclectic mix of college staff, students, businesses, entrepreneurs and dignitaries, I looked forward eagerly to a fascinating event.

Each of the speakers brought something different to the event. With Martin, I learned about how children are learning about coding in schools. From Lee, I discovered how technologies such as AI (Artificial Intelligence) and machine learning are applied seamlessly to user learning. With Michael, I learned about how technology can not only be used in solving manufacturing problems, but also helps in preventing machine failures and minimising financial losses. Finally, I learned from Phil about how the likes of 3D and VR (Virtual Reality) are being used in real life.

In addition, I also learned some other useful points, which I have listed below.

  1. Learning to code is the beginning.
  2. The monopoly on information has been broken.
  3. You can follow hobbies and interests, particularly if they involve digital technologies.
  4. The curriculum needs to constantly evolve to educate people on new technologies.
  5. Education needs to be linked with the IT industry.
  6. Digital technology can enable means in the future.
  7. Important to have the right digital skills to deliver services to customers.
  8. Learners can pursue interests and achieve recognised qualifications independently, without entering an educational institution.

Following the talk, I also got an opportunity to visit the college’s Microsoft Showcase Classroom. This included examples of Microsoft devices and software, being used in the Internet of Things (IoT). When I saw the classroom, I was amazed by how stylish and state of the art it looked, as the college has been named as the UK’s first Microsoft Associate College. A richly deserved achievement, and a feather in Liverpool’s digital education cap.

To conclude, I would like to thank everyone involved with the event. From all those at the City of Liverpool College, Liverpool LEP, all the speakers and exhibitors including Aabyss, Wranx, and First4Skills. My thanks also go to Councillor Gary Millar, for doing an excellent job as event compare, with his trademark passion for technology, gadgets, and of course for the city of Liverpool.

I would like to close this article with a few words…

The future is bright, the future is digital!

The Edge 2016 – The Internet of Things

What is the Internet of Things (IoT)?

The Internet of Things can be described as a network of interlinked objects, allowing for the ability to digitally transfer information between devices and people. This means the IoT has driven changes on an unprecedented scale. From businesses to our personal lives, technology is embedded into every fibre of society, which has changed and transformed established norms, bringing both exciting opportunities and challenges.

Last Tuesday, I attended an event about the IoT, which looked at the opportunities and challenges for businesses and individuals. This event was organised by Grant Thornton and held at their offices in the Royal Liver Building, as part of The Edge 2016 festival.

Chaired by Alex Baleta of Grant Thornton, the event featured three excellent speakers, who contributed an informal and thought provoking discussion, that gave the audience including myself, something to think about. The speakers were Tim Griggs from Arup, Steven Revill from UrbanTide and Dean Ward from Evoke. Working in IT with a passion in using technology to help benefit others, I was very keen to listen and learn, with an open mind.

The discussion covered both sides of the IoT. This was done through a series of questions asked by Alex, followed by individual responses given by each speaker in turn. What was pleasing for me, was that each speaker contributed equally well, and not only demonstrated their knowledge, but their responses were polite, pleasant, succinct and jargon-free. In truth, listening to what Tim, Steven and Dean had to say was nothing but a pleasure.

I learned so much on the opportunities and challenges provided by the IoT. For instance the IoT is at an early stage. As a result there is a massive learning curve involved, with understanding the effects on your business and industry. In addition, one of the challenges is the industrial and technological landscape changes constantly, meaning you will need to future proof your business.

I have included other examples of opportunities and challenges below.

Opportunities include:

  1. Potential to improve people, cities and economic growth.
  2. Connecting and engaging with people who could not be previously reached.
  3. Disruption of business models, which can bring new products and services to customers.
  4. Changing how people access services e.g. self-service facilities.
  5. Reducing of costs and wastage through connectivity, collection and smarter data analysis.
  6. Automation of processes allowing staff to deal directly with customers.
  7. Export of knowledge, skills and capabilities.

Challenges include:

  1. IoT does not replace business strategies or the ability to think.
  2. Need to constantly know customer needs and continually deliver.
  3. All sectors and industries need to learn and understand the IoT is a long-term journey.
  4. Discover and map the capabilities and skill sets you currently have.
  5. Remember to try, but don’t jump too far.
  6. Important to have a reliable infrastructure.
  7. There will also be security, connectivity and performance considerations.

Upon reflection, I came away from the event with a better understanding of the IoT. As technology drives changes, I understand the importance for businesses to embraces the opportunities provided, whilst tackling and overcoming the associated challenges. I also realise that the IoT can generate new ideas, that can deliver value to customers. Finally it is important that businesses embrace the IoT, for the simple reason that failure to embrace change and move forward with the times, will see many fall away by the wayside.

To conclude my thoughts, I really enjoyed the event and would like to thank everyone involved. My thanks include Alex and everyone at Grant Thornton and Liverpool LEP, for putting the event together. In addition, I would also like to thank Tim, Steven and Dean for contributing to an excellent discussion.

The Edge 2016 – How to Achieve the Northern Powerhouse

We have all heard about the Northern Powerhouse in the media. Launched by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, the idea behind the Northern Powerhouse is to rebalance the UK economy. However there are many who are understandably negative, due the lack of reliable information, understanding and doubts surrounding it. From my perspective, I understood the reasoning behind it, but I had my doubts about how it could be realised.

Equally there are many others, who seriously believe it is possible for the Northern Powerhouse to be achieved. Last week, I attended an event on this subject, organised by the Institute of Directors (IoD) in Liverpool. Held at the city’s stylish Radisson Hotel, as part of The Edge 2016 festival, I was to discover that the Northern Powerhouse is not only real, but it is also a viable long-term prospect.

The event opened with an introduction from Pete Radcliffe of the IoD, followed by Andrew Rudge of The Prince’s Trust. This focused on the Trust’s work in supporting disadvantaged young people, and how the Northern Powerhouse impacts them, from jobs to training. Andrew also talked about the work of the Trust in supporting young people, with setting up their own businesses.

The event continued with three notable speakers, each giving their input on how the Northern Powerhouse can be achieved. These speakers were Patrick Walters from Peel Ports, Paul Kenyon from Avecto and Jenny Stewart from Liverpool & Sefton Chamber of Commerce. What all three had to say was not only interesting, but their firm and passionate belief for the Powerhouse was evident. As I listened, I started to revaluate and realise that there was more substance to the idea of the Powerhouse, than I had originally thought beforehand.

Listening to each speaker, I picked up on some reoccurring themes, which underpinned the essential requirements for the Northern Powerhouse to succeed. These included the importance of connectivity from a transport, technological and cultural perspective, communicating and collaboration between all local authorities, cities, businesses, towns and rural communities. Another reoccurring theme was the importance of having a single unified vision and coherent strategy, which includes an incentivised outcome.

In addition, the speakers also talked about the importance of education in addressing skills and knowledge gaps.  This involved describing how these gaps need to be addressed by focusing on personal and technical-based skills, for the next generation of employees. This includes apprenticeship schemes (you can read my post on benefits of apprenticeships here), as well as attracting and retaining Northern-based talent.

Other things I learnt from the discussion included:

  1. The Northern Powerhouse is not just about cities, but also towns, villages and rural communities across the North.
  2. Young people need to be involved, as they are the creators, innovators and pioneers for the future.
  3. A positive can-do attitude and a willingness to drive forward are essential.
  4. Important to get involved with grassroots through communicating changes effectively, to incentivise and convince others.
  5. Apprenticeships will be important in developing resources required for the Northern Powerhouse.
  6. It needs to be owned by all of the North!
  7. The digital and transport infrastructure needs to be in place to support it.

Looking back, I came away from the event with a different opinion on the Northern Powerhouse, realising it is inevitable. This is because it will affect everyone from North Wales, Merseyside, Greater Manchester, Yorkshire, Lancashire, all the way to the North East. Therefore I believe the Northern Powerhouse is an opportunity for the North of England, to economically grow in strength. In these uncertain and difficult times where public funding is scarce, it is important that the public, private, voluntary and education sectors, as well as communities across the North of England, work together for the long-term. Only be doing so, can the Northern Powerhouse be realised and achieved.

In conclusion, I would like to thank Patrick, Paul and Jenny for giving an excellent talk and sharing their passion for the Northern Powerhouse. I not only enjoyed listening to them speak, but it also opened up my mind to the possibilities, the Powerhouse brings to the North. My thanks also go to Pete Radcliffe of the IoD, the staff of the Radisson Hotel, and everyone involved for putting together this effective Edge 2016 event.