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January 27, 2012

Another Government push to help businesses get digital

The Government has announced a new scheme to help businesses adjust to the digital technology age and foster innovation.

By Vinod

Business Secretary Vince Cable has announced the ‘Connected Digital Economy Catapult’, a scheme to help UK businesses benefit from digital technology advances, and shift their business models into the modern world.

Business Secretary Vince Cable
Business Secretary Vince Cable

One of the Connected Digital Economy Catapult’s (CDEC) focuses will be on using the technical knowledge and experience of Britain’s existing digital industries and sharing that knowledge with non-digital businesses, or businesses struggling to make the shift to the online world.

The Government will also be investing £200 million in a network of ‘Catapult centres’. The Advanced Manufacturing Catapult is now operating across seven locations around the UK, a £50 million Cell Therapy Catapult will be established in London and a Satellite Applications Catapult will be set up later this year, Cable said.

"We have world leading, innovative businesses in the ICT, digital and creative sectors which have considerable potential for growth. For instance, a few years ago, there were just fifteen technology start-ups around Old Street and Shoreditch – now there are hundreds of high-tech companies in the area, including Holition where I am today.

"The Connected Digital Economy Catapult is a practical way in which Government can support industry to maintain its competitive advantage so that they can continue to be leading the way in making products and services that people want," he said.

This is the latest in a series of Government initiatives to help drive the UK’s digital economy, and make it Europe’s leader. Prime Minister David Cameron recently hosted a cabinet ‘away day’ to emphasize the Government’s technology focus, announced plans to ensure the UK has Europe’s best broadband by 2015, a new digital copyright exchange, and a new Cyber Security Strategy for the nation.

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Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg have also made sure that London’s ‘Tech City’ is a centrepiece of his first term. The Government has set aside £400 million for the colloquially named ‘Silicon Roundabout’, which is being positioned as a UK version of Silicon Valley. The goal is to attract international tech firms such as Twitter and Google to set up European offices, as well as developing the local technology industry.

The CDEC will look at addressing the challenges of building digital media and content businesses, the impact of new technologies, such as augmented reality, and looking at ‘the internet of things’ – how physical devices, such as clothes, vehicles and other consumer goods will become connected to the internet.

"The Internet has effectively ended any distinction between digital and creative industries. This Catapult centre will help bring together key parts of the UK economy. "The centre will enable businesses to use resources they could only dream of obtaining on their own. It will help businesses realise new ideas and turn them into new products, new jobs, and new growth," said Creative Industries Minister Ed Vaizey.

For example, movie, music and video game luminaries could offer advice on intellectual property protection and modern distribution mechanisms for content.

The Catapult centre programme will be managed by the Technology Strategy Board. The TSB is now taking expressions of interest and written proposals for the running of the catapult centres.

"We are extremely pleased to be supporting such an important technology area with a Catapult centre. With many, if not all, industries searching for ways to utilise digital technology, the opportunity for the Catapult will be enormous. It will also be applicable to all internet-using businesses and industries as they attempt to innovate with digital technology to provide consumers and businesses with new products and services," said Iain Gray, Chief Executive of the TSB.

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