There were some steps in the right direction announced by George Osbourne last week when he delivered the 2013 budget, a few pin points of light in the darkness of austerity, but much more needs to happen to secure the UK's place in the world as as cradle for great ideas that actually go somewhere!
Despite the good news that the government intend to bolster the SBRI (Small Business Research Initiative) scheme from £40m in 2012-13 to over £200m in 2014-15, which will provide opportunities for Micro-businesses and SMEs to pitch to solve some of the more tricky government and MoD problems. These challenges posted often require narrow areas of specialist skills, and offer short term contracts to solve the initial tech problems. The concept of SBRI is good and the more public sector organisations who use the platform, the more useful and wide ranging the contracts will be, so this type of initiative is definately to be encouraged! However, it is not enough in isolation.
The Technology Strategy Board will be designing a new £15m R&D collaborative competition to support the development of Digital Media Industries including Visual Effects. This is a strong industry sector in the UK and cross platform development is critical for the future of these industries. So good news for the UK and for York as we have a strong Media Arts community here who will hopefully benefit from this initiative.
Other innovation benefits were found in industrial areas such as automotive, aerospace, life sciences, agri-tech, professional business services, information economy, construction, education,nuclear, oil and gas, and offshore wind (they get a combined cash injection of £1.6bn, with aerospace benefitting from an additional partnership project with private industry boosting their budget by a staggering £2.1bn). These figures put the Digital Media Industries grant into perspective a bit, do they not?
In terms of employee growth the NI cuts might help a bit, but there is still a massive gap between new ideas being germinated, supported and developed and the point where a business can employ more staff. At the moment there is precious little available to help and support early stage innovation. So I am sorry Mr Osbourne, but these interventions just aren't going to cut it.
In the global race for research and new development, the UK is steadily falling farther and farther behind, with only 1.79% of UK GDP being spent on R&D as opposed to EU-27 averaging 2.03%. This is well below our major competitors and is a sad failure to invest in our future. Also in the UK we are unique in that the majority of our R&D takes place in universities not in the private sector. This can cause additional challenges around time-to-market, intellectual property and its use and commercialisation potential.
So what can we do here in York to help secure innovation and growth for our city? How can we help fast track the best ideas coming from our own city to future proof ourselves and put ourselves in the driving seat to seize opportunities as they arise?
One thing York has in its favour are two very good universities and through more collaboration with business, more new research could be commercialised. It would be good to have an easy way to find out more about what research is going on and if universities wish to work with the private sector in any areas.
Our Local Authority and the city's social enterprises working together could be a great way to future proof the city in areas of social innovation. Through using the understanding and expertise found at grass roots level with support (rather than delivery) by the City Council, could reduce costs and provide a better fit.
City wide ownership of the bigger challenges where everyone has a voice to shape solutions to benefit us all, needs to become the norm and initiatives like GeniUS York are a start to this kind of city-wide working. Better communication of the problems, and shared ways of working towards the solutions need to be developed and our city's innovators encouraged to participate.
We need more resources made available to small innovative businesses, especially in this risk averse era where getting finance from banks to develop an innovative idea is like getting blood out of the preverbial stone. More needs to be done to encourage investors and grant bodies to invest in theese seedling ideas, or for public sector to help co-develop them into something commercial.
So there is much to be done, but through supporting innovation in the city perhaps we can buck the trend in the UK right now of under development in innovation, research and development, to future proof York!
I wanted to give you some more information on The York CORE, and to ask you to complete the 2 min survey to let them know what your specific business needs are now and will be in the future, so that we can tailor the new infrastructure to meet your needs.
There is also an event on Monday 17th at York St John Uni to meet the team implementing this and to find out more. Details of the event can be found here.
What is The York CORE?
The York CORE, recently launched at the York Business Week by James Alexander, Leader of the City of York Council, is the UK's finest city-wide pure fibre optic network. A partnership between the City of York Council and CityFibre (the owners of the network), the 103km York CORE will enable internet service providers to offer the next generation of pure fibre connectivity to York's business community. The York CORE is central to the City of York Council's ambition to become the ‘Digital Infrastructure Capital of the North'.
What Does The York CORE Mean For My Business in York?
The York CORE puts York's businesses at a huge competitive advantage. Few companies have the luxury of accessing affordable, high-quality and ultra-fast services, but this is precisely what The York CORE will enable. Connecting to the network and making the most of a wide range of next generation services will see York's businesses leapfrog most other UK businesses in terms of their digital connectivity. Who Will Offer Services?
Currently The York CORE has two service provider partners Pinacl Solutions and York Data Services. More service provider partners will be announced soon. A full range of services will be available, from basic, high-speed pure-fibre broadband, to dedicated fibre connectivity.
Benefits of Pure Fibre Services Include:
- Ultra-fast download and upload speeds;
- Unbeatable reliability;
- Ultra-low latency and highly responsive network;
- Future-proof and capable of supporting your needs now and in the future.
How Do Businesses Connect to the York CORE and Access Services?
We want to help you to connect to The York CORE and get access to the services you need to increase your efficiency, improve your productivity and grow. To do this, we need to know exactly where your businesses is based, that's why we are asking you to register your interest on our website www.theyorkcore.com. The more interest we see in an area, the faster services will be made available through our service provider partners. We are also asking businesses to complete a two-minute survey on our website www.theyorkcore.com to help us gain a greater understanding of what your business connectivity needs are. This will help us to work with service provider partners to deliver products and price-points that meet your needs.
Visit our website today to find out more, register your interest and complete the two-minute survey: www.theyorkcore.com
Heather Niven, introduces City of York Council's GenIUS York project. Open Innovation in Public Services, British Library, 30 November 2012. Event received funding from Interreg IVB NWE.
Alison Coward from Bracket facilitates a panel discussion with Vicki Purewal, Heather Niven, Carl Reynolds, Jennifer Parkin, David Townson. Open Innovation in Public Services, British Library, 30 November 2012. Event received funding from Interreg IVB NWE.
Originally posted on the GeniUS! York website October 2 2012
Since the GeniUS! York project was launched in January this year a lot has come out of the project and the GeniUS! team want to share this with you and say thanks to those who helped make this happen. So far over the last 9 months:
- Winners of Living Labs Global Awards (LLGA) for Social Innovation, for a proposal to pilot GeniUS! in Cape Town, the team have been invited to pilot there over next year
- Shortlisted for Guardian Public Services Award for Community Engagement 2012. Finals to take place in November 2012
- Invited to participate at a city level in LLGA 2013
- Over 275 GeniUS! York members in innovation community generating over 4000 interactions, comments and ideas since the platform launched in January. 5 pilot projects being considered or underway from the previous 4 challenges, with challenge 5 addressing ‘Making York a Dementia Friendly Place’ now open, in partnership with the Joseph Rowntree Foundation with up to £10k to invest in making your ideas a reality in York
- A partnership programme with SCY and the GeniUS! York team to catalyse and embed innovation in York, through training, events, and opportunities over the next two years, is being developed to build on our early successes
- The GeniUS York team have been invited to speak on the subject of GeniUS! York at ‘Innovation: accelerating adoption and diffusion in the NHS’ conference in October in York and also at a British Library Convention ‘Using open innovation to co-create public services’ as part of their EU Funded Open innovation programme in November in London.
The GeniUS! York team hope to continue building our GeniUS community to facilitate and drive new developments in York with your input and support.
The last week has been pretty amazing! Neil (from the council) and I have been busy bees here in Rio after a hectic few weeks beforehand pulling together the NESTA phase 2 bid for the second phase of the Creative Councils programme.
After sending off the NESTA proposal for the 26th April we packed like mad for the Living Labs Global awards, to get over to Rio in time for the ceremony on the 2nd and the summit on the 3rd may, where we had been shortlisted for an award from around 100 applicants in the Cape town category. Cape Town have challenges with engaging their businesses and community with the council to help solve their problems too, and the Genius project seemed to fit their challenge well. We found out on the evening of 2 May just how well, when we were delighted to hear that we had actually won!!
Twenty one cities took part with a challenge each and there were sixteen companies picked to help solve them (one company scooped 4 awards!) These businesses are now invited to pilot the solution in the respective city they applied to help, and so our next step is to work with Cape Town over the next year to impliment a pilot of the GeniUS programme there: Cape GeniUS!
We met the lovely Loui who was on the adjudication panel for Cape Town and found out more about the specifics; 20% digital enablement in the area, expensive internet fees and lower literacy rates than in York as well as a lot less money kicking about. They do have 100% cellular phone coverage though so that is something we need to consider which may be very useful. Cape Town also has four universities and we could draw on the expertise found there too. So, in a nutshell - no mean feat, but we are willing to give it a go and help them through sharing our learning and techniques. Any advice or expertise from the GeniUS York community would also be a great help to them and us!! We will post the Cape Town presentation on the platform to give you more information. We are hoping to get cracking on the next couple of weeks with preliminary talks and we will keep you posted regularly.
During the summit we met some trully inspirational people, most notably Sascha who is one of the directors of Living Labs Global who is committed to helping to positively impact 21 million people through his program, Rodrigo from CDI who is helping 70 low income communities to become digitally enabled (including the Apps for Good programme in the UK).
On the 4th May we visited a favela (slum) here in Rio, which historically has been the place for violence, drug trafficking and prostitution but which now has an amazing programme and community centre which is used to help the residents of the favela to learn basic computer skills and then teach each other, to become qualified and experienced in something which can give them a future. The visit was an eye opening and humbling experience. This is all part of Rodrigo and the CDI team's good work. Both of these inspirational people are 'Ashoka fellows' (global leaders for the future of the planet and it's inhabitants). It was an honour to talk to them and learn about their projects, as well as meeting and getting to know the other 150 global innovators at the summit.
Our heads are full to bursting with ideas for York and beyind after meeting them.
We believe that this learning will help us shape the GeniUS! programme even further, to adapt it for other communities and to improve it for our own project as well as generating ideas for another load of initiatives to bring to the city.
So we have much much more to do! We have 6-9 pilots to drive forward as phase two of the GeniUS York project, from the super ideas generated on the platform and developed and refined through the workshops and discussions we have had with you over the last 4 months. If we reach phase 2 of NESTA's Creative Councils programme we will have the opportunity to scale this work out to 3-5 other councils in the UK too. We want to build on the foundations of this and the relationships made at the Living Labs Global Awards and summit to create more good initiatives in York working with some of the innovative and transformational ideas, people and pilots presented there, and if we are really lucky we may even have the chance to host an award here in York in the future!
So onwards and upwards! Thanks for your support and enthusiasm so far and we hope you will continue to be an active part of the innovation rennaisance that we are creating collectively here in York and further afield!
Posted on the Knowledge Hub website Wednesday 11th April 2012
As part of the Creative Councils Programme we are now at a stage to look at scaling our pilot to other places to share our learning and benefit others. Also by working with other groups in other places we can collectively improve our approach through shared learning to perfect our innovation movement in the public sector.
I would appreciate it if you could look at our offer and give us some feedback on it, based on your experiences of your own town/city.
We would like to know:
- Is this something that would help your town or city?
- Would you be interested in talking to us about posting a challenge from your city on our platform as a 'guest challenge' to see how the process works?
- Would you be interested in running a pilot in your city or town?
- Would you see reasons why it might not work where you are from?
- Do you have any other comments - all input welcomed.
Many thanks in advance for your time and if we can give you feedback in return please get in touch!
Introduction to the Project
The GeniUS! pilot project opens up the process of solving the city's medium to long term strategic and operational challenges through providing a mechanism to have conversations and co-develop solutions with businesses, academics and the community. This is possible through the use of an online platform to communicate the challenges and encourage discussion around possible solutions. This platform is used to post the challenges and encourage discussion around solutions, but also has the functionality to allow users to set up their own profile page, post images, videos and blogs in addition to contributing to the challenges on the forum.
The process is then supported by an innovation team to work with the 'idea generators' from the platform to develop and refine the best solutions. It is then possible to pilot these refined ideas to test their effectiveness in a live setting. The innovation team are comprised of some of the more creative members of the council and help to navigate around potential barriers, using their experience and contacts within the system to smooth the way for the development process.
This method works well on two levels. Through the conversations on the platform and subsequent development workshops, barriers for businesses to pro-actively engage with the council are reduced through online relationships with businesses, the community and academics. This creates an 'innovation ecosystem' of support for the council to draw on when addressing future challenges. This breaks down the barriers between different council departments, between the business community and the council. It provides a direct route for the community to pro-actively work with the public sector to improve the city and gradually creates a more innovative culture within the council. Added to this, the innovation team are selected from within the council to work with us to facilitate the development of solutions. Therefore, the in-house skills gained can be used by the council for many future challenges.
On another level, better solutions can be found to solve the medium to longer term challenges through a more heterogeneous group of creative thinkers approaching the challenges in a different way to the traditional approach, (which is internally developing solutions and then towards the end of the process, convening a focus group to gain feedback from the group.)
The initial pilot would be comprised of four initial challenges to demonstrate the effectiveness of the platform in your city. These challenges would be identified through communications with the people of your city, council members and other partners in the city, and would address problems your city council don't know the answers to, but they think someone else in the city might.
Relevance to Your City
Your city may face a similar challenge to that facing York. The problem of businesses being able to pro-actively engage with the public sector, especially young or small entrepreneurial businesses. Businesses in York find the traditional procurement exercise cumbersome when tendering for work and this puts off many innovative businesses from engaging with the council at all. The council can be seen as a large faceless organisation, with no clear route to engagement. Everyone loses out with this traditional model; the business doesn't get the chance to provide the best solution, the city doesn't get the best solutions and The City Council receives criticism for not providing the best solutions.
In the 'GeniUS' pilot we have been running in York over the last 7 months, this was one of the issues we tackled head on. Through the overall project by developing better relationships with businesses, and also directly through one of the challenges we posted -"How can City of York Council (CYC) procure work from small businesses easily with less barriers and what way can residents and businesses be more proactive in approaching CYC with beneficial ideas and products?" By using this process it is possible to get a custom, appropriate, geographical and politically relevant solution to the city's specific needs. In the case of York, two pilot ideas have been a fund for piloting innovative new services, and further work exploring new ways to pitch for tenders including alternative means, e.g. You Tube videos.
The pilot in York has already demonstrated its effectiveness at tackling challenges from a different angle and this could also be demonstrated in your city.
What is the Innovation in?
Technology Innovation - The technology exists already as a widely used social media platform, but for this pilot project it is being re-purposed to facilitate an Open Innovation process. The platform 'innovation' is in this re-purposing of social media technology to address and solve city issues.
Business Model Innovation - The business model is a hybrid of open innovation and disruptive innovation and works best sitting alongside the council structure (not within it) but including cross-departmental council staff and other external partners. This links closely with the council culture but is distinct from it, allowing for a more strategic dynamic to catalyse change. Through using a heterogeneous team of people with complimentary competencies and shared values in this way, the shaping of ideas is often much more creative and the team more dynamic and responsive.
Sustainability of Model
The platform technology is a well established social media platform and is globally supported. It is easy to use and the functionality can be customized to suit this individual project easily. The subscription costs to access the platform and support are very low, and down-time so far has been non-existent. They have a support team of engineers on hand to help with any issues you may have with the technology. It is also extremely easy to access the platform on both smart phone and PC, through Facebook, Twitter or Google+ log-in details, or through registering your email address.
The business model is also sustainable. Through the training of the innovation team to be able to facilitate and develop ideas with other parties, the skills are developed 'in house' and contribute to embedding a culture of innovation within the council organisation. Through the growing 'innovation ecosystem' which is created on the platform through conversations and dialogue, a support system of enthusiastic innovators is developed to create even more sustainability for the future success of the new way of working. Through the process of generating better solutions to individual challenges using this way of working, others are also encouraged to adopt this new approach. This helps to gradually embed the culture change into one which is more innovative.
Also, the top ideas are not automatically implemented, but a business case for these solutions are created to ensure feasibility before taking the pilots forward. This minimises the failure rate and de-risks new projects. It also allows better measurement of the true value from the outcomes of the pilot studies, i.e. social, learning, environmental as well as financial.
Duration of Pilot Project – 7-10 Months (This will take the your city team to the point where they can implement the challenge pilots.)
SCY - SCY provides the specialist capability to lead and manage complex private–public sector innovation projects, through their 13 years of innovation expertise and links with over 2000 technology businesses. SCY also has a proven track record in successfully securing major capital investment in support of a leading knowledge economy. Over the last three years SCY has successfully brought over £23 million investment to York.
CYC - The City of York Council are committed to developing city wide innovation and have been collaborating on the GeniUS! Project here in York in partnership with SCY. They bring invaluable experience to the project team.
Resources Required from Your City to Run the Project.
- Public support from the civic leaders and senior managers to show top down commitment for the new approach to problem solving (and resulting culture change.);
- To provide a project manager to coordinate activities with the council/civic body in your city, time resource from a team of 6-10 creatively thinking civil servants-around a half day per week for the duration of the pilot (In order for your city to have their own trained 'in - house' team to manage the project going forward);
- The cooperation of business agencies in your city e.g. Chamber of Commerce as well as Higher Education Institutes, community groups and social enterprises in the area;
- Some marketing and communications support;
- Help to locate data around specific challenges chosen in pilot if information is available and not classified;
- Skype access for the your city project team to contact us weekly when we are in York;
- Resource to finance time and expenses of the York team in working with your city on pilot.*
*(Costs Estimated around £50-70k including platform set-up and maintenance costs, 2 weeks with members of the York team on site to help you start the process and brief your city team, facilitation of 4 challenges, weekly contact via Skype or face to face to take your city through the process, training and supporting materials for your city team, project leadership and mentoring for team.) There may be funding available to help tbc.
References of Other Implementations of the Solutions or Similar Projects
The GeniUS! York team researched 98 other available Open Innovation platforms as part of the pilot process, to ascertain the best option for this project. The platform which was finally decided upon, is shaped to suit the discussion space required in addition to users posting ideas. This allowed us the functionality we needed. This technological solution is further enhanced with a series of workshops and a refining and developing process to take the ideas to pilot stage.
Our Open Innovation solution is unique in the way that it harnesses localism, using a format that allows for conversation and development, which can be applied to any city.
Benefits to the Local Community
This is where the biggest impact can be found. The community is at the heart of the project and through working on the challenges posted, real relationships can be developed with the motivated individuals and businesses looking to make a difference in the city. Challenges are well understood at grass roots level and solutions fit closely with the problems when they are suggested by the people who live with those problems. There is a sense of shared values from an early stage between the communities and the council, with a deeper understanding of the issues, ownership of the solutions by all and an overall shared pride in better informed processes and solutions. Bringing in hi-tech innovative companies and academic specialisms into the mix also links new technological solutions to the challenges, educating the city to new possibilities and allowing the city to quickly pilot new techniques.
The 'idea providers' win in this project as their ideas are supported, resourced and very quickly implemented with them closely involved in the process. We have specifically focused on making sure ideas are responded to quickly, and that business and community see their ideas come to fruition effectively.
Everyone benefits, the community through better solutions to their problems, the council through many more brains helping them to develop solutions which best fit the problems, the local businesses who can develop solutions for their own city and can be rewarded for their efforts through resource and exposure.
Benefits of the Project to the City
Knowledge and experience are two hugely valuable assets to the city and through our platform and process, the city can greatly benefit from harnessing the GeniUS! of it's residents, businesses and academics. This allows the city to make a step change in how it tackles innovation, allowing a programme of radical and strategic innovation to take place alongside the more traditional incremental innovation commonly seen within the council.
This can 'future-proof' the city through introducing a mechanism to collectively evolve and respond to city-wide challenges using small scale pilot schemes to test and de-risk more radical solutions before implementing them on a larger scale. Due to the methods used and the community input, continuous feedback can help steer more radical projects to ensure the solutions best fit the challenges.
Through providing training and a tool-kit to civil servants in the city as part of the pilot process, intelligence and learning can be harnessed within each city to grow the process and share best practice with others. This means each city can use it's unique qualities and assets to solve the challenges faced within that specific city.
This process can be applied to any medium to long term challenge the city might face, and is most useful when, "we don't know the answer but we think others in the city might".
Benefits of the Project to Mitigate Climate Change
Consideration for environmental impact is inherent in the whole project, which emphasises 'smarter' solutions rather than just cost effective ones.
One of the challenges we piloted on the platform tackled environmental sustainability head-on. i.e. 'How can footfall and transport be used innovatively to generate income and improve environmental sustainability in the city?'
Proposed solutions included fitting kinetic paving stones in the city centre, real time air monitors, LED cycle counters and energy generating exercise bikes. Using the platform as a conversation space to tackle local issues also means less impact on the environment, as there is no need to travel large distances to contribute.
When selecting the best ideas from the platform, one of the criteria to get to the second stage is to demonstrate a solution which considers its environmental impact. Through embedding the open innovation process in the city we also hope to receive many more environmentally sound solutions as we progress.
This is a low cost sustainable technical solution to link diverse groups together and provide a conversation and ideas development space. It can be scaled and applied anywhere (with internet access) through PC, Mac, tablet and smart-phone. There is additional support to the technological solution (or platform) through follow up contact with the innovation team. This takes the form of workshops and meetings to co-develop pilot projects with the experienced 'idea generators' and the councils working together. The two go hand in hand and our experiences and research show that in addition to the platform, having the supporting team to facilitate the pilot planning and implementation is hugely beneficial to the process.
We have been piloting this project in York over the last 7 months through support from the National Endowment of Science Technology and the Arts (NESTA) Creative Councils project. York were short-listed as one of the 17 Creative Councils chosen from 137 applications to pilot this transformational initiative in the UK. Because we have already been through the process, we can fully support your city throughout their pilot and beyond, fully share our experiences with your city to ensure maximum impact of the project and reduce potential obstacles.
The project involves training staff in the relevant city to be able to manage the process going forward and to share best practice with others. The platform provides a knowledge repository of ideas and feedback, which can be referred back to. Additional feedback and intelligence can also be captured through the site statistics section in the platform dashboard and this can be further enhanced through linking the site to Google Analytics.