07 June 2012

Catapulted - Forwards or Back

Last Friday I attended a workshop on Shaping the CDE Catapult to support digital SMEs at the Electric Works in Sheffield.   "Catapults" are the new name for the technology and innovation centres proposed by Hermann Hauser in his report "The Current and Future Role of Technology and Innovation Centres in the UK".   I discussed them in detail in my article "Catapult: Is that really the Sort of Initiative that we need to stimulate Growth?" which I posted to my chambers website on 3 June 2012.  "CDE" stands for "Connected Digital Economy" and it is a collaboration between the creative industries, electronics, sensors and photonics and ICT knowledge transfer networks of the Technology Strategy Board.

Over 80 delegates had signed up for this event though not everybody turned up. Those who did make the effort included Trevor Beard of e2E Services in Hatfield, local lad Adrian Tunicliffe of Can Sudios and Danny Licari, self-styled digital media fixer.

We had a comprehensive introduction to the Catapult concept from Nick Appleyard, Head of Digital at the TSB. After a brief Q & A session, we were divided into groups and asked to address a short questionnaire on the priority areas for small and medium enterprises. My group included Trevor, Adrian, Danny and a bright young chap called Tom who offered somewhat rashly to act as our rapporteur. I had read Hargreaves and the IPO's proposals to help SME to get value from their IP the night before and was thus conscious of Hargreaves's finding that many SME were bewildered by the choice of range of IP advice already on offer.   I argued that the Catapult should work with existing resources such as the IPO and PatLib libraries rather than complete with them.   I also stressed that innovation should be market driven rather than bureaucrat or boffin led. A final task after lunch was to imagine a "user journey" to illustrate how an SME might use a Catapult.   We spotted difficulties in IP sharing and our business's jounrey ended in failure.

As I said in my article this is not the first time a government has tried to induce innovation by bringing together business, the universities and the public sector.   That was the thinking that led to the NCC in 1966 which had to be remodelled in order to survive. One hopes that the Catapult initiative will do better though it is not clear why it should.

Finally, Carmel Harrison, head of public relations for the Institute of Directors in Yorkshire, drew my attention to an event at New Broadcasting House between 98L00 and 10:00 on 21 June 2012 called  "Boost your business with thebigword boss". In a comment to my earlier article, Carmel wrote:
"Based on the Knowledge Transfer Partnership it actually allows SMEs to tell Unis what they need and help them shape and deliver the key skills. WE have been here before and will be again but we need to get SMEs to get closer to the academic and learning community."
The event is free and it takes place at the start of the day so it won't cost you much to attend,   I encourage as many of my readers as possible to find out what Leeds Met can do for your business.  If you do go, let me know whether you found it useful by calling ne on 0800 862 0055 or contacting me through my contact form,, Facebook, Linkedin, Xing or twitter.

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