Biztech went global with a stellar line-up of speakers at its Christmas Dinner.
Returning to the Swan at Salford, just outside Milton Keynes, the sell-out event on Wednesday, December 7, 2016, showcased highly successful digital entrepreneurs.
American Smart City entrepreneur Rob Monster explained how DigitalTown provides a fresh approach to local economic development – one that equips municipalities and small businesses with the means to compete and win locally against big box retailers and eCommerce merchants.
Rob, who started Global Market Insights, wrote the definitive book on how to do marketing on the internet and spent two years as a venture capitalist, explained his vision of the future as citizens being empowered to carry their reputations across locations.
“Any city can become a smart city and become better,” he said.
Geoff Snelson, the Director of Strategy and Futures at Milton Keynes Council, has established the Milton Keynes Future City Programme as a nationally prominent collaboration between industry, academia and the public sector.
The programme provides a city-wide innovation environment and is deploying commercial and public service applications at scale. Projects include the MK:Smart city data hub (with the Open University and BT), a city-wide internet of things network, the FALCON smart power grid, satellite data services, and low carbon and intelligent mobility - including the UK Autodrive driverless cars and the LUTZ autonomous pods projects.
Mr Snelson looked forward to 2017 and in particular three major projects:
Firstly, the MK Futures project, which is taking smart cities into urban design and planning and involving Biztech in thinking how the project could be enhanced.
Renaissance: CMK is offering a new vision of Central Milton Keynes, including retail, leisure and business space and accommodation.
The National Infrastructure Commission’s recent report highlighted the Milton Keynes area as the most important territory in the UK in terms of the growth of high tech companies.
Geoff said: “Milton Keynes is a great place to do business and will be an even greater place to do business.”
Geoff has established the Milton Keynes smart city programme as a nationally prominent collaboration between industry, academia and the public sector.
The programme provides a city-wide innovation environment and is deploying commercial and public service applications at scale. Projects include the MK:Smart city data hub, a city-wide internet of things network, and low carbon and intelligent mobility - including the UK’s first wireless induction-charged bus route and the UK Autodrive project that is testing autonomous pods on pedestrian surfaces and on-road trials of driverless cars.
David Rollafson, Chief Technical Officer of the Milton Keynes-based Transport Systems Catapult, is responsible for providing technical leadership as well as assuring the technical quality of work undertaken.
He brings more than 30 years of experience in the digital and intelligent transport sectors having previously held senior technology, innovation and business leadership positions at Cisco Systems and Ricardo plc.
In addition to large corporate experience, he is notable as having successfully founded an intelligent mobility SME around advanced positioning, wireless and inertial sensing technologies that was successfully acquired by a leading global ITS player in 2008.
David explained that the testing of driverless cars in Milton Keynes had given millions of pounds worth of free publicity to what is going on in the new city. Attention had been particularly high in China and the USA.
This attention attracts investors and technology projects then step into the real world.
David explained that there are 11 catapults in the UK, all devoted to accelerating economic activity in their defined sectors. He explained that technology entrepreneurs can leverage the power of these catapults to bring attention to their products and help to attract investors.
Richard Kellett-Clarke, Non-Executive Director of Idox, explained how his company, a supplier of specialist information management solutions and services, had grown through a clear strategy of acquisition.
He said others thinking about a similar growth strategy should think less about the price of acquisitions and more on how to integrate. “Focus on the detail, think about staff and integration,” he said.
Paul Copping, Chief Innovation Officer at Digital Greenwich is currently working on several smart city projects, including Dubai RTA driverless cars, MAVEN, MOVE-UK and GATEway. He is also leading the development of a multi-city collaborative procurement framework.
The London borough is one of three centres in the UK, including Bristol and of course Milton Keynes and Coventry, where research and testing is taking place into autonomous vehicles.
Paul encouraged smart city projects to stay honest to the citizens of their localities and to ensure that they have “real citizen pull.”
A wide-ranging debate followed the conclusion of the speakers’ presentations and included how to encourage technology entrepreneurs and start-up companies in Milton Keynes and whether so called business “failure” should be redefined to remove its negative connotations.
“People who have failed should be treated as heroes, because they tried,” said one attendee.