Digital Shoreditch's £1million prize
Shoreditch is at the heart of London’s new digital technology sector. There are some successful start-ups and a diverse, exciting culture. But the government is sticking its nose in - will they ruin it all?
Shoreditch’s tech community has been doing famously well, and now has a place in UK culture (for instance, in the satire Nathan Barley).
There are more, bigger businesses in the area, and there's evidence that the area is London’s centre for ‘blended-media’ companies. Small tech heavy businesses are becoming ‘micro-global’ digital companies punching above their weight internationally.
And, the government has got involved, supporting two initiatives targeting the sector. Digital Shoreditch - a new festival full of tech-heavy events - and a new, £1 million prize to support these businesses.
Another attempt to rival SxSW
The Digital Shoreditch festival celebrated “the creative diversity of London's digital community”. Events included projections and installations, open studios, conferences and augmented reality games, involving nearly 200 digital studios and companies over 40 events.
The festival had the right mix between people, policy and practice. The big event was a summit exploring the issues facing the UK digital market, with other events reaching out to other groups.
A family day featured a viral video booth and interactive mirrors and a debate hosted by London Metropolitan University and the GLA (London's Government) looked at the role of universities in the proposed 'East London Tech City', which is focused on the area.
Kam Starr, CEO of PlayGen, one of the larger digital companies involved - and one of the co-founders of the festival - said that he wanted it to become a new SXSW, the major festival which annually transforms Austin, Texas, into the interactive capital of the world. SXSW started out as a small music festival in 1987. In 2011, there were 17,000 registrants. This is an ambitious goal.
Eyes on the prize
So to back these companies, there’s a major new prize for start-ups: Tech City Launchpad. It was announced by David Bott, from the government funded Technology Strategy Board, at the festival. He said, “We want to support this hotspot of digital and creative industries by enabling companies to go further and faster towards commercial success. We are looking for projects that may be too risky for companies to go for alone, or that may take them into new areas.”
They’re expecting 200 companies to enter the competition, which will provide funding for research and development.
So this is a great example of finding the right balance between government and businesses. Proper funding that excites a sector, funds innovation and brings people together.
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