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CONTENTS & CREDITS:

07-09 Paul TiLsley & Frank Mills 13-17 CHAPTER 01: HOW IT BEGAN 21-27 CHAPTER 02: HOW IT WORKS 31-37 CHAPTER 03: HOW IT GETS BIGGER 41-51 CHAPTER 04: HOW IT GETS BETTER 55-63 CHAPTER 05: THE NEXT LEVEL

‘Stories from a digital city’ is produced on behalf of Digital Birmingham with support and sponsorship from Marketing Birmingham, Birmingham City Council and BusinessLink West Midlands. Open Box Media and Communications would like to acknowledge all of the help given by the team at Digital Birmingham and express their thanks for all the support and stories they have received from the digital community in the city to make the publication possible.

Sponsors:

‘Stories from a digital city’ is conceived, designed and produced for you by: Open Box Media & Communications 32–35 Hall Street Birmingham B18 6BS +44 (0) 121 608 2300 www.ob-mc.co.uk Stuart Walters stuart.w@ob-mc.co.uk

Thanks to Craig Holmes Images of Birmingham for some brilliant photography.

Samantha Skiller sam.s@ob-mc.co.uk

Images on pages 18-19 & 28-29 courtesy of Thinktank Trust.

Editor: Ian Halstead halsteadian@aol.com NB: The Publishers wish to emphasise that the opinions expressed in Stories from a digital city are not representative of Open Box and accept no responsibility for the views expressed by our contributors.

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City council deputy leader, Coun. Paul Tilsley, who chairs Digital Birmingham, outlines his belief that new technology can transform lives.

Digital vision drives new city agenda of opportunities “The seeds for Digital Birmingham were planted back in 2005, when we launched our broadband initiative with BT. It was a tremendous success, but it soon became clear that broadband was only part of the picture. “I have always seen technology as a medium which could transform people’s social and economic fortunes, and it was very pleasing to discover that BT’s regional director, Frank Mills, was of like mind. I have to confess that putting me in charge of digital technologies is - at one level - like asking an elephant to pen War & Peace on a keyboard, but I believe I ask the right questions, precisely because I am not besotted by technology, although I recognise its many virtues, and use it on a daily basis.

BIRMINGHAM AND THE REGION: HEART OF DIGITAL INNOVATION

“I think it’s been very important, when all Digital Birmingham’s various partners come together, that someone is willing and able to explore the boundaries of what we could do, and what we might achieve, and that is very much my role. At its simplest, the organisation was created to be a driving force, as we all work to bring everyone in Birmingham into the 21st century. At its most sophisticated, it is very exciting to see first-hand how our many partners - many of who have competing corporate strategies - come together, to share in the creation of a new agenda, and then work together to drive that agenda forward. “We well understand that most of our partners hope to achieve commercial rewards from their involvement with our digital strategy, but I am sure we can continue to persuade them to recognise the bigger picture. I recently met management from National Express, showed them my concessionary fares pass, my pre-paid MasterCard and my Tesco loyalty card, and suggested that it would be wonderful if they could help us turn out a single card, offering the benefits of all the others.

“I’ve always believed in the concept of having a single Birmingham card, which could include data and information about council services, transport providers, leisure activities, what is on at the city’s theatres, and a whole lot more. “I think it would prove very popular, it would offer a core range of services, which could be expanded, and it would demonstrate the benefits of digital technology, at a very practical level, to those people who have not yet fully embraced it. It’s never possible to predict the pace of progress, but I believe that by 2015, Digital Birmingham will have succeeded in bringing the benefits of the latest technology to virtually all the city’s residents, and for the benefit of all.”


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Frank Mills, now of Coventry University Enterprises Ltd, explains his role in Birmingham’s digital journey.

The personal touch which drove the digital revolution “I’ve been involved in many important ICT projects during my career, but the one which gave me the most pleasure was helping to create Digital Birmingham, when I was BT’s regional director. I was born in the West Midlands, and still live and work there, and there is always something a little bit special about achieving something when it’s on your own patch. “Before I met Paul Tilsley and his colleagues, we’d done a couple of decent-sized broadband schemes, in Coventry and Shropshire, but when we began our discussions in Birmingham, it was immediately obvious this would be a project on a much grander scale, and of national significance. At the time, BT was investing huge amounts of money in enabling phone exchanges to cope with broadband, and Birmingham was one of the first cities in Western Europe to have 100% availability. Unfortunately, it was also probably 65th or even lower in the league table for take-up.

BIRMINGHAM AND THE REGION: HEART OF DIGITAL INNOVATION

“When I first met Paul, I remember liking the way he saw broadband, playing an important role in promoting social and economic regeneration, because that was very much my view. John Edwards, who was the chief executive of Advantage West Midlands, was also very supportive of our desire to take the city’s ICT infrastructure to a new level, and we all saw scope for a new style of partnership approach; involving the public sector, the private sector and the third sector. “At BT, we were looking to roll-out Wi-Fi projects, and also launch our ‘wireless cities’ programme. We thought we’d need to spend between £1.5 million and £2 million to put the broadband infrastructure into the city, but of course, we were also looking at other regional centres. “It soon became obvious though, that Birmingham was the logical place to start, and for sound business reasons. The council was clearly determined to work with us, to offer the necessary strategic support, and to create the services, to benefit from our investment and to use our infrastructure.

“Visit Birmingham and the ICC also really bought into our approach, and the city centre management team saw the merit of being able to run intelligent traffic management systems, and CCTV networks, via the web. Birmingham is still the only British city to have a major Wi-Fi zone in the centre with free access to a web portal of city information services called Meet Birmingham Mobile. “We couldn’t have made such a major commitment by ourselves, and nor could the council. Together though, it made sense, and BT had the confidence to go ahead with its investment, because of the support and commitment it received from the many stakeholders. We then decided to create Digital Birmingham as the vehicle to drive and manage the technological changes, and I’ve been very pleased to watch as it has evolved into the successful and innovative organisation it is today.”


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CHAPTER 01: HOW IT BEGAN

We start by learning of the first steps on the city’s journey, as Digital Birmingham’s Raj Mack explains how his organisation evolved; from little more than an ambitious desire to make the city a major presence on Europe’s digital landscape, allied to a fierce determination to transform the vision into reality. Marketing Birmingham’s Tim Manson debates the true meaning of a ‘digital city’, and highlights the 2011 opening of the Birmingham Ormiston Academy, which will offer digital media courses for the next generation of students. Business Link WM’s Ian Grewcock explains why digital must be at the core of any business growth plan, and Birmingham Chamber Group’s Jerry Blackett places the benefits of new technology in its widest context; as a major driver for the city’s future economy, and playing a critical role for the new Local Enterprise Partnerships. BIRMINGHAM AND THE REGION: HEART OF DIGITAL INNOVATION


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Raj Mack, the head of Digital Birmingham, explains the logic behind his organisation’s evolution, and outlines its subsequent achievements.

a city digitally driven and embracing technology “As we begin to fine-tune our strategies for 2011 and beyond, I am constantly impressed, and more than a little proud, of what Digital Birmingham has achieved in its first five years. Today, we are driving forward ambitious plans to deliver ultra-fast digital infrastructure for Birmingham; initially via a pilot project in the heart of our new digital district, in Digbeth.

I didn’t join the team until 2006, but have to admit that they took on a major challenge, in deciding to establish their first initiative ‘Computers in the Home’ - in one of the inner city’s most deprived neighbourhoods.

become a major force on the digital landscape. The strategic importance of digital technologies was also being weaved into city-wide policies, such as the Community Strategy and the Birmingham Prospectus.

“We are at the forefront of the city council’s green agenda, devising innovative ways to integrate digital technology into environmental solutions, to tackle the scourge of greenhouse gases. A high-profile visit by the government’s digital champion, Martha Lane Fox, has underscored our city’s credentials as a place where great work is being done on digital inclusion, participation, and engagement. We, and our partners, are also using digital technology to ensure that the council’s frontline services can deliver more for less, as we all move deeper into the uncertain era of austerity.

“The number of awards won by the Aston Pride ICT project underline just how highly regarded it has become. Now in its third phase, it has become a national benchmark for tackling digital exclusion. I was brought in to deliver the city centre Wi-Fi zone and establish the Birmingham Fiz (now known as Meet Birmingham Mobile) which made us the UK’s first city to launch such a service, and was rated by BT as the most successful of its wireless cities initiatives - outside the political enclave which is Westminster City Council. The nationwide publicity which Digital Birmingham received certainly lifted our profile, but more importantly, it demonstrated that we could deliver significant projects, alongside private sector partners.

“By 2008, our Digital Birmingham Partnership had swelled to 30 partners - as our presence spread to the healthcare, property, education, and transport sectors - and we now have more than 40. The summer of 2009 saw us host the first regional launch of the Digital Britain report - a real coup - followed by the very successful Hello Business conference, which attracted hundreds of digital and creative SMEs, emphasising the critical importance of social media channels.

“Yet when our organisation was established in 2005 - via a partnership between the city council and BT - it was simply seen as a vehicle to improve broadband take-up, among the million people who live and work in Birmingham. Closing the digital divide was rightly regarded as critical; both for the city’s business sectors, and as a means of combating economic exclusion.

“The next phase in our development came during 2006-2007, when the national digital challenge competition asked local authorities how they would use technology, to enhance people’s lives through the provision of learning, education, and healthcare opportunities. Birmingham didn’t win, but our presence in the finals again demonstrated our determination to

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“This year we are working on a wide front both promoting technology and celebrating Birmingham’s achievements during our digital week but also working on smart metering, ultra fast broadband and citizen access as well as advising on developments from the Library of Birmingham to the New Gateway station. “Now, as we step up our work with open data, partnering with entrepreneurs to develop new applications and services, we are no longer following, but are setting the agenda as we strive to make Birmingham a world-class digital city.”


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Tim Manson, operations & policy director for Marketing Birmingham, asks what makes a true ‘digital city’.

THE SECRET OF CITY-WIDE COMMUNICATION WITH OUR NEXT GENERATION... AND BEYOND “The term ‘Digital City’ is often-used, but what does it actually mean? Is a city ‘digital’ if it markets itself to the rest of the world using digital media, for example? Or only if it uses digital technology to improve accessibility and reach of services to residents? “Taking a wider perspective, perhaps a city can only be truly digital when it works to ensure that everyone benefits from these technologies; that they not only underpin services, but also make a real difference to quality of life; in terms of transport, education, communication, media, healthcare and the environment “Does Higher Education hold the answer? Maybe a digital city has world-class universities working to advance, and even pioneer, digital technologies through new research, or via academic institutions collaborating with industry on interdisciplinary projects. Or a body of graduates prepared for employment in the knowledge economy through a wide range of courses from digital media to advanced computing, and everything in between. Maybe a digital city nurtures that talent before university, providing specialised courses for secondary school children.

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“Does business and industry hold the key? Can a city call itself digital if it delivers superfast communications technology to support all businesses? Perhaps only if it has many employees in the digital sector, or does it need to actively attract, support and develop companies in the sector, from start- ups to established names?

“It is one of the largest media centres in the UK, employing over 17,000 people and supporting in excess of 1,000 businesses. Its digital district, in Eastside, has been developed with over one million square feet of purpose-built creative space, fitted with next generation high-speed connectivity, to ensure the thriving digital sector continues to grow.

“In truth, all of these scenarios are valid reasons for a city to call itself ‘digital’. However, I can think of only one city that has them all. Birmingham. The city has a joined-up approach to digital technology and visit management. Visitors can communicate, book, and receive advice before ever setting foot in the city. Birmingham also has a completely inclusive approach to connectivity.

“Through education, the city works to ensure it stays at the forefront of the digital technology agenda. For example, next year the Birmingham Ormiston Academy will open, offering a specialist digital media curriculum for 14-19 year olds. Through its three universities, all dynamic partners of Digital Birmingham, the city is leading the way in digital learning and research, across a range of disciplines.

“Digital Birmingham is a partnership of over 40 organisations, across the city, covering the public, private and voluntary sectors. It works to ensure that digital technologies are available to all people, businesses and sectors in the city.

“For all of these reasons, Birmingham can not only lay justifiable claim to the title ‘Digital City’, but is also poised to become a global centre for digital technology.”

“Through digital technology, the city council delivers its priorities, benefits and services for its citizens and its myriad communities. The city is using digital connectivity to spark innovation led growth and regeneration.


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Jerry Blackett, the chief executive of Birmingham Chamber Group, outlines his role as chair of the Creative Birmingham Board.

The appliance of science to keep the customer satisfied “At its simplest, we have a mission to create the business conditions necessary to see creativity flourish within Birmingham. “However, we see our brief as extending beyond the DCLG definition of the Creative Industries sector, recognising that increasingly, great creativity and design underpins the competitive positioning of almost everything we do. The digital agenda is probably the best example of something that refuses to be labelled. Paradoxically, it has both specialisation and yet also great ubiquity. We are proud of our rapidlygrowing digital districts, such as Birmingham’s Eastside, but we equally understand the need to reduce the number of small businesses not using the internet in their day-to-day operations - thought to be between 35% and 40%. “Digital media producers are indeed as much part of Birmingham and the region’s new manufacturing story, as are the likes of Jaguar Land Rover and Sir Peter Rigby’s Specialist Computer Holdings, Europe’s largest independently-owned computer services business. In Birmingham, we encourage all our 45,000 businesses to understand how consumers now demand services any time, any place, anywhere ... and their way.

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“We need to really understand better what it will take for all our businesses to explore how digital technologies are fundamental to them in meeting the needs of today’s customers. We do know part of the problem is easy access to fast connectivity. That’s why we are big supporters of the City Region commitment to making super-fast broadband accessible to everyone that lives and works here. But we also understand that simply providing the pipes and the infrastructure is not enough. “We also need to demonstrate to our businesses the range of content and services that can be sped through the tubes. I therefore applaud the government’s decision to relax the regulatory rules on local media ownership, with a view to encouraging local services. We are already seeing a great new digital supply of local news, and the appetite of our hungry, ambitious and talented media companies to engage. “It’s the combination of universal access to superfast broadband and how this will accelerate the delivery of local services people want, that will give confidence to all our businesses, that their own futures are indeed inextricably linked to embracing the digital explosion. So isn’t it great that so much of it is going on here in Birmingham?

“The turmoil in government structures for regions and cities also provides an opportunity for us, to ensure that our economic agenda, now being refreshed via the establishment of Local Enterprise Partnerships, recognises the importance of digital. The Birmingham and Solihull LEP, with partners from Southern Staffordshire, will be one of the country’s largest. We highlighted the digital agenda in our submission to government, so we have the potential for an even greater commitment to delivering Birmingham as a digital leader in Europe. “I am confident that by encouraging Birmingham’s creativity and design skills, enabled by a great digital environment, we will outstrip the potential threats of locked-down public sector spending.”


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Business Link West Midlands’ (BLWM) Business Support Director Ian Grewcock highlights how digital technology should be a key ingredient in any business growth plan.

Digital technology offers growth opportunities for all businesses “One barrier to the adoption of digital technology is the misconception that cutting-edge developments are somehow exclusive to design and design agencies, ICT firms or other creative companies. In fact, digital technology can be adopted by all - and often the biggest benefits are seen by businesses in traditional industries, such as manufacturing or construction. Whether it’s software that results in more efficient business processes, or the use of social media to offer sales promotions or increase event attendance, digital technology is everywhere and many West Midlands businesses have been quick to take advantage of it. “Digital media and design agency Substrakt, based in Birmingham, is at the cutting edge of this digital revolution, delivering online campaigns that help its clients cultivate bigger, better brands. MD Andy Hartwell said: “There has been a significant change to the way that consumers take in services and products. Digital technology has changed the marketplace and businesses have to change as the needs of their clients evolve. “We don’t just build websites or design identities any more, we use all aspects of the communications mix to allow users to experience a brand however they want to, from seeing a logo on a billboard to

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downloading an application to a smart phone. We make digital information fit into real life situations. Being able to enrich experiences using digital technology drives future revenue streams for our clients in terms of advertising, value-added content creation and collaboration with companies and brands with similar business objectives. “For firms in other sectors, there can be an initial ‘fear of the unknown’ when looking into digital technology. Even the term itself is not easy to define. For those businesses that need some guidance, Business Link has experts that can help companies meet the challenges of today’s digital age. From explaining what technology is available and analysing which areas of the business it could help, to providing access to quality suppliers and ultimately driving up productivity, Business Link helps companies to grow their business by embracing digital technology. Stewart, Fletcher and Barrett - Chartered Accountants, Business and Tax Advisors with offices in Warwickshire and Leicestershire - contacted BLWM because it understood the need to reinvest in digital technology to achieve its ambitious growth plans. Peter White, a Partner in the business, said: “With multiple sites, improving our technology has resulted in better communications with staff and customers and

we are more efficient as a business, which means better service for our clients. “On top of that, we now know what to look for when planning new IT and digital technology for the business, which puts us in a great position for the future. “For example, just three or four years ago, smart phones were not available in the UK. Now, mobiles are an important shop front for businesses, with even traditional retailers like M&S making use of the technology and boasting more than 1.2m unique users on its mobile commerce site since its launch this year. To emphasize the point, social media is no longer just for socialising. It’s a serious marketing tool, with more than 50% of those on Twitter and Facebook interacting with businesses in some way, as consumers now expect to access information from anywhere and be able to purchase goods 24-hours-a-day. “As customer needs and expectations change, it is only by responding to the rapidly changing marketplaces that businesses can retain a competitive edge. Digital technology clearly has a crucial role to play in business growth, whether for a cutting edge online creative firm or a more traditional professional service company – the leading businesses in any sector will be those who embrace technology.”


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CHAPTER 02: HOW IT WORKS Using technology in innovative ways is critical to driving efficiencies into the public sector, and the city council’s Glyn Evans explains the benefits which digital brings to Birmingham; better and more efficient services, underpinned by a new customer-focused delivery strategy. Science City’s Dr Pam Waddell analyses the city’s expansion as a centre for technological advances, and ScreenWM’s Jason Hall looks at the fast-growing appeal of the region’s film and media industry to inward investors, from across the globe. Healthcare technology is another key economic driver, and MedilinkWM’s Chris Dyke outlines the intriguing way that a 19th century terraced house is used to showcase innovations to the nation’s medical professionals, and Mustafa Shevket, from Birmingham Metropolitan College, explains how a partnership with the global electronics giant Samsung has created a new academy, providing training in 3D and next-generation wireless technology, for students and technicians alike. BIRMINGHAM AND THE REGION: HEART OF DIGITAL INNOVATION


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Glyn Evans, Birmingham City Council’s corporate director of business change, explains where Service Birmingham sits in the digital community.

Birmingham leads the way with its ICT-driven transformation strategy “Business transformation is at the heart of everything which Service Birmingham does, and when we began devising a model which could drive change into the council‘s systems and processes, we knew it was vital to select the right private sector partner. “We considered several options, before identifying Capita as the organisation with which we were confident we could work, and created a strategic partnership with them, back in 2006. We have since come so far that our innovative approach to transformation - Champs2 – is helping Australian local authorities with their own change programmes, and is being studied by many other councils and organisations. It is a methodology designed to ensure that you achieve the desired outcomes and benefits, when you undergo change on such a major scale. Essentially, it is designed to reduce risk. The whole approach and supporting case studies on the www. champs2.info site are available to all, for free, and although the methodology was designed for the public sector, it could equally be applied to the private sector.

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“In the long-term, we hope to establish a community of users - online and offline - which will allow everyone to share their experiences, and introduce further refinements. The last four years have been very demanding, and we know that further challenges lie ahead, but we believe we have devised, fine-tuned, and implemented, strategies which will deliver the transformational change we desire.

“The Customer First initiative reflects our determination to improve the quality of all our services for the people of Birmingham, who are, after all, our customers. We have launched this year our Customer Account, which enables our customers to join up Council services in ways that make sense to them and have visibility about how well we are meeting their needs.

“Digital technologies are at the forefront of our approach, and it is well-known that we have committed an investment of £670 million over a 10-year period, targeted to deliver a return of £2 billion - of which £1.5 billion will be in hard cash.

“In adult social care, we are introducing individual budgets, where people can decide how the resources which are allocated to them should be spent. Our approach is now much less paternalistic, and more flexible, than the old system. Digital technology is crucial to the way we devise, manage and deliver such programmes of change, and in the way we restructure our operations under the impact of the public sector cuts, as we - in common with all local authorities - seek to drive out costs.

“However, I suspect it is not often realised that, because we have capitalised our investment, the programmes of change are now in the black, and we are now saving more than we are spending on an annual basis. We are the largest local authority in Europe, so we could not take a piecemeal approach to change, and although we began by looking at our back office operations, we then considered how we managed and motivated our staff, and also how we could transform our front office teams and our front line services.

“We know that we have to become more efficient, and that will mean we have fewer people, whilst constantly striving to upgrade our services, but it’s a challenge we must meet, and not one from which we will shirk.”


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Director Dr Pam Waddell analyses Birmingham Science City’s contribution to the regional economy.

Birmingham Science City builds on the region’s proud heritage “The West Midlands already boasts a proud history of firsts in science and technology, with Birmingham and the region continually striving to ensure that the proud heritage as the birthplace of the industrial revolution continues well into the future by tackling new challenges and developing a wealth of skills and talent. “Because of the heritage and the current expertise, Birmingham was selected to be one of six ‘Science Cities’ with the aim of using science and technology to improve quality of life and economic prosperity. “Through a range of public, private and research sector partners from across the West Midlands, the Birmingham Science City partnership reflects the strength and diversity of organisations actively committed to exploiting science, technology and innovation. More recent activity includes development of user-driven demonstrators. With cutting-edge businesses and leading universities, Birmingham and the region are already leading the way today in addressing the challenges of tomorrow.

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“Digital technology is a key priority area of BSC, whether it be processing the results of clinical trials, developing innovative healthcare solutions, or aiding the production of world-leading computer equipment and programmes. The region has a growing reputation for excellence in digital media, with Birmingham at the hub of a vibrant area with particular strengths in games production and serious games. “Fazeley Studios in Digbeth was recently chosen as the new Birmingham centre for Microsoft Games Studio, while Daden Ltd, based at Birmingham Science Park in Aston, is already a nationwide leader in virtual technologies, including Second Life. “All of the region’s universities are already showing their commitment to being at the forefront of the digital media sector, with The New Technology Institute (NTI) – based in Birmingham City University – one example of an institution already working with global software leaders to develop a pioneering approach to skills development for the games industry.

“Based in Coventry University’s Technology Park, The Serious Games Institute (SGI) is also a global thought leader in immersive technologies. The Institute enables and facilitates the growth of serious games, virtual worlds and connected industry specialists by supporting research and development into the use and effects of these products, platforms and technologies. The collaboration between the region’s universities, science and technology parks and business is integral to the success of the region’s digital development. “Birmingham Science City has also funded a demonstrator project at The SGI, to develop a new channel for businesses to reach markets using virtual computer worlds. The project originated from the West Midlands’ strength in the global electronic games market through local companies like Blitz Games, Codemasters and PIXELearning. “The West Midlands’ excellence in digital technology is undoubtedly key to the success of the regional economy - long may that growth continue.”


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Jason Hall, ScreenWM’s head of innovation, new markets & skills, explains the organisation’s role in stimulating and supporting the region’s digital, creative and cultural sectors.

Cyber-city has become a universal port of call “When senior personnel from government agencies as far afield as the US, Malaysia, Japan, China and India start visiting the city to find out more about Birmingham’s digital revolution, you know we must be doing something right. “I’ve just put together an itinerary for two more government agencies from the Far East wanting to visit on a fact-finding mission - the fourth time this year that we’ve been involved in this kind of activity. The other occasions resulted in a visit from fifteen foreign field offices of the UKTI and - after some sterling work from Advantage WM’s Inward Investment team - Microsoft’s Rare Games Studios setting up in Fazeley Studios. “There are a number of reasons why we’ve been successful in attracting this kind of attention. Our starting point is a solid core of highly innovative digital media SMEs and a great strength in social media practitioners that are native to the city.

BIRMINGHAM AND THE REGION: HEART OF DIGITAL INNOVATION

“Screen WM and our partners - including Channel 4, Advantage WM, Birmingham City Council, Digital Birmingham, AWM and others have invested heavily in growing and developing the digital media sector over the past few years. “The result is a series of groundbreaking initiatives including Such Tweet Sorrow - a unique collaboration between the RSC and Birmingham-based Mudlark to tell the story of Romeo and Juliet over Twitter - and Talk About Local, referenced in the Digital Britain report as a model framework for hyperlocal provision on a national scale. “This commitment to digital - and the results it has achieved resonates globally. “Such Tweet Sorrow alone made headlines the world over, featured in everything from Time Magazine to the Hindustan Times. So there is a spotlight on the city, which is enough to attract attention and encourage people to start looking deeper.

“If the work of Screen WM and our partners helps to present a model for collaboration and a well-networked, vibrant environment to do business in the digital world, it’s the rich variety of digital media SMEs and the strength of the city’s HE institutions - ensuring a flow of talent into the industry - that really seals the deal. It presents an image of a vibrant digital media scene rather than just an infrastructure. “And that’s crucial to the competitiveness of the city in attracting inward investment - because the truth is that a good physical infrastructure for establishing a business is not unique to Birmingham. However, the digital and social media scene that exists here is far more difficult to replicate elsewhere. “So what we see here is a snowball effect where investment in digital leads to worldbeating projects and companies which in turn leads to more world-beaters - like Rare - setting up and investing in the city. It’s a virtuous circle. And its reputation is growing.”


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Birmingham-based MedilinkWM brings academics, manufacturers and medical professionals together, to drive innovation in life sciences. Connectivity director Chris Dyke looks at the increasing mobilisation of healthcare.

Access to all areas via hi-tech solutions “Telehealth strategies have been proposed for years, but although the original issues of bandwidth and cost have been addressed, demand continues to out-run capacity, and there are still issues connecting with rural communities. However, digital solutions for addressing healthcare needs are increasingly prominent, especially as the government gives patients more input into their healthcare delivery.

“Our recent events have seen a notable increase in inquiries about developing medical apps, from both software specialists and medical professionals.

“Patients have access to their medical records, and are using the internet and mobile apps to monitor their health, and pre-diagnose conditions. GPs therefore need accurate ways of obtaining past healthcare records, and tracking what specialist services a patient is accessing, to ensure continuity of care.

“GPs will increasingly be asked to take on new roles in caring for patients, and to monitor them more closely than ever, such as ensuring that diabetics comply with their medication regime, so they are not hospitalised. They will also need to keep accurate tabs on services supplied by other clinicians and hospitals, and ensure they have performed to target, which will sharply increase the patient-related data to be monitored, reviewed and audited. Inevitably, the demand for hard-cabled, and mobile, communication and data infrastructures will rise significantly.

“A robust digital infrastructure will therefore be vital, to put Birmingham at the forefront of the mobilisation of healthcare; from hospitals to GPs, and then into the homes of patients. We have already seen a rise in the use of devices used to monitor people, initially through mobile phone apps, first with Apple, then with Android. The iPad is now extending the proliferation of medical-related software for those devices.

“As the pressure increases on health professionals, it is of critical importance that they are still able to see - and comprehend the latest advances in digital healthcare. At the same time, chronic diseases afflicting the elderly are rising, as life expectancy increases, and - as a survey we commissioned from YouGov revealed - almost 90% of people wish to stay in their own home after retirement.

BIRMINGHAM AND THE REGION: HEART OF DIGITAL INNOVATION

“The trend towards assisted living is clear, and irreversible, so MedilinkWM has developed the UK’s only house which can demonstrate how technology can make such a lifestyle achievable, and sustainable. We used a typical Victorian terraced property in West Bromwich - now known as the Alvolution Demonstrator House - and asked people living with physical or sensory impairments, to help companies refine, improve and develop their technologies, while raising awareness amongst health service providers and the public. “Our pioneering academics and entrepreneurs are now using data from the house, to create a fast track for assisted living products. We are also evolving a clear pathway for manufacturers to develop, test, refine and market new life-enhancing products that meet the needs and design standards of an increasingly informed public. The success of the venture has helped us access £1.5m of government investment and industry backing. “Those funds are allowing manufacturers and innovators to rise to the challenge of the UK’s ageing population, using the latest technology to create imaginative, user-friendly and easyto-install healthcare products for the home.”


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Birmingham Metropolitan College director, Mustafa Shevket, explains how the Samsung Digital Service Academy was conceived and created.

The educators of our digital future “The concept of the academy started in 2009, with an initial meeting between David Harby at Digital UK and James Lane at Samsung who expressed an interest in acquiring the ‘digital tick’ for service engineers. “Further meetings took place between Samsung, RDI-LB and Digital UK, and as Birmingham Metropolitan College were already recognised by the sector as the National Digital Training Hub of the UK, they were selected as the training provider. Achievement of the full NVQ would allow service engineers to gain the Certification Mark (Digital Tick). “The Samsung Digital Service Academy was launched in just eight months from the original discussions. This is the first partnership of its kind between a further education provider and a global leader in digital convergence technologies, and we admire Samsung’s commitment to providing their workforce and engineers from their contracted service partners with the latest skills in 3D and advanced wireless technology.

BIRMINGHAM AND THE REGION: HEART OF DIGITAL INNOVATION

“The academy, which is based at the college’s Matthew Boulton Campus on Eastside, demonstrates Samsung’s cutting-edge approach to service delivery. Launched in April 2010, the suite contains a fully wireless laboratory for demonstrating state of the art dlna (digital living network appliance) products and 3D studios with next generation equipment. Over the past few years it had became apparent that electronics qualifications needed to be updated to meet the needs of the technologies being developed. “The college worked with City and Guilds to develop new qualifications for the next generation of service engineers and the 7575 qualification, Level 2 Award for Digital Home Technology incorporating endorsed units for wireless technology was developed. Service engineers from across the United Kingdom undertake this qualification. “Service engineers and many of the College’s digital technology and electronic engineering students have been introduced to new wireless audio visual technologies, which now result in television screens offering us the exceptional digital picture quality, sound transmission and wireless connectivity that many people have only just begun to dream about.

“As a result, the colour widescreen and surround sound televisions that we have come to know and love over the past decade will soon be replaced with 3D flat screens and blu-ray footage that will completely transform home entertainment systems as people know them. “Within the next few years, it is more than likely that every home across the UK will have a 3D entertainment system supported by wireless technology. Videos and images from traditional cameras and mobile phones will be uploaded to screens in a matter of moments thanks to immediate bluetooth and other wireless connections, while skype communications on an increasing scale will become second nature to us. “As the only college in the UK to be at heart of this digital and electronics revolution, we look forward to continuing to raise the profile of these digital entertainment and communication services. “We are proud to be showcasing our facilities and expertise to individuals and communities right across the city so that they too can share our passion for digital innovation in the way we live and work.”


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CHAPTER 03: HOW IT GETS BIGGER

Just like the traditional business community, the new digital age needs leaders and thinkers. Stickee’s Steve Gray tells how moving to the city transformed his agency’s fortunes, whilst Urban Designs’ Kevin McCloud offers a personal perspective on the merits of technology in the modern city. One of the city‘s best-known bloggers, Dave Harte, describes the role of the ’chocolate village’ during a global corporate battle for survival. Another member of the region’s blogosphere, Philip John, offers his take on the concept of hyperlocal news, and looks at how big business is starting to take an interest in this community-driven approach. Maverick TV has earned an international reputation for innovative programming, and Jonnie Turpie looks at its latest pioneering project, NHS Local, which uses the latest digital technology to deliver significant benefits to health service staff, patients and others. BIRMINGHAM AND THE REGION: HEART OF DIGITAL INNOVATION


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Stephen Gray, the owner and creative director of Stickee, outlines his challenging pathway to business success.

Stickee nets major profit from Birmingham location “I set up Stickee in 2001 after studying Digital Art & Technology at Plymouth Uni. I felt passionate about the potential fuse of computer arts with computer science and was amazed how users would often find interacting with multimedia to be a magical experience. “Prior to discovering my trade, I was studying business at Cambridge, when I worked in part-time retail roles to subsidise the cost of my studies. Whilst I didn’t see it at the time, these experiences drastically helped me in my understanding (and confidence) within sales. After finishing my studies I recruited a small team and setup an office in the South East. We set about creating our first website which we intended to use as a showcase of our skills. “The creative was innovative, the production values were exceptionally high, and the site won many industry awards including an FWA (Favourite Website Award). Armed with some decent marketing collateral, and an enthusiasm to sell, I managed to get us our first piece of work, promoting the show ‘Your Face or Mine’ for Channel 4.

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“We now had a credible client and a commercially successful project. Over the next five years we won projects with many entertainment-based brands. including EMI, BBC and MTV. In 2005, we decided to change from a digital production house to a digital agency, after becoming frustrated with what I saw as an impenetrable barrier between our business and the client, and later that year, we featured in New Media Age’s Top 100 as ‘One to Watch’. For the next three years the company grew turnover and profit by 100% year on year, winning the South East ‘High Growth Business Award’. We also - importantly - conceived the core values which we still use to validate our creative; emotive, engaging and meaningful. “However, in 2009, family problems forced me to relocate to the West Midlands, which forced the closure of the South-East office, and unfortunately none of the staff were able to relocate. It was a sad and challenging time. I decided to take an office in Birmingham’s Fazeley Studios, and set about re-recruiting.

“Our heritage brought the obvious benefits of a client list and portfolio, but with it came lots of problems including the inability to transfer staff knowledge, previous, but now worthless financial commitments, the physical disruption of the move, an over-complex set of business systems, and the tightening of client spending due to the onset of recession. “Despite the problems, we managed to keep going and as things began to settle I started to see the massive benefits of being in Birmingham. The quality and availability of staff increased whilst our overheads decreased. To the delight of our existing London-based clients we were able to drop our rates, whilst providing a better service, the fundamental principle in the making of a better business. We are now in a high-growth phase again, but with even more potential than before. “We are also being invited to pitch for larger projects, with brands such as Red Bull, and are completing some lovely pieces of work, the most recent being an augmented reality piece for Harper Collins’ best-selling author Cecelia Ahern, which you can see on our site, www. stickee.co.uk”


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Urban thinker and developer, Kevin McCloud, believes digital technology has a critical role to play in the evolution of all successful cities.

McCloud backs city’s vision in embracing new technology “Some cities are on life support, some have been frozen in aspic - of which Venice is the most obvious example - but some are dynamic, and they are constantly evolving, such as Birmingham. It has character, drive, and a strong sense of place, and it also reflects its past, its history, and its heritage. The Industrial Revolution began here, and Birmingham is a great and powerful symbol of where we all came from. At the same time, the new Birmingham is very evident, one which has a low carbon agenda, which is embracing new technology, and where such technology is being put to use for the benefit of its citizens. “The big elephant in the room at the moment is that because there is no money coming from the private sector, the public sector - even with increasing pressure on its resources - has to take up the slack, and digital will become increasingly important for helping local authorities to deliver ever-more efficient services. In Swindon, where I’m working on two schemes for sustainable homes, with Glenn Howells and his team from Birmingham, we’re looking to install a system where people can access real-time transport data and travel information in their homes.

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“Being able to see the latest details on a screen at your bus stop is fine, but you shouldn’t have to go out in the rain and walk down to the nearest stop, before you discover that the service you planned to catch either isn’t running, or has been delayed. “The concept of evolving an intelligent cities ‘platform’ is also very exciting. In the nottoo-distant future, I’d like to see an iPhone app, dedicated to the place where you lived. People using the Birmingham app could instantly get in touch with other people in their neighbourhood. Parents who suddenly realised that they had run out of Calpol in the middle of the night, when all the shops were closed, could use the app to - hopefully - find someone nearby who had some to spare. I think digital technology will be a tremendous force for bringing people together, perhaps through a community intranet, and for making them more aware of what is happening in their area.

“I also found it extremely interesting to hear from Brian Gambles, at the city council’s library services department, that the interior design for Birmingham’s new library has already been tweaked a couple of times, because people were able to visit the virtual library in Second Life, and spotted things that would otherwise not have been noticed until the building had been effectively completed. It’s always very hard to stimulate effective public consultation for proposed developments, and the virtual universe could be the way that more residents become interested in what is happening in their towns and cities, which can only be to their benefit, and to the benefit of us all.”


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Lichfield bloggers, Philip John and Ross Hawkes, look at how the hyperlocal concept is evolving.

Cashing in on community spirit “It may have become something of a buzzword across the media in recent years, but identifying exactly what hyperlocal is hasn’t been quite so simple. With independently-run community blogs and large-scale projects by traditional publishers vying for a place in this expanding genre, it’s almost impossible to put your finger firmly on who the rightful owners are. At the last count – by OpenlyLocal. com – the official number of UK hyperlocal outlets across the country stood at 334. In the US the figure is unknown, but is far greater as a vibrant scene continues to develop. “One thing we can be certain of though, is that this new movement of publishing has levelled the playing field and allowed individuals – some citizens, some journalists – to move the goalposts away from the traditional bastions of strength within the media. To get a sense of the freshness such sites are bringing, it’s interesting to notice that the elder statesmen of websites such as VentnorBlog.com are a mere four years old. But the path sites like those travelled has been well and truly trodden by so many others since.

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“It has been refreshing for writers and readers to see that many of these sites are not driven by a sense of commercialism. Instead, they are often created - as our very own www. TheLichfieldBlog.co.uk - to fill a void in localised information that was much valued, but often missing in many communities, and the community spirit on which these sites were often put together has been a consistent factor in their growth. “It may seem that this gentle view of reporting news and information is a nice aside to the traditional routes of the media. However, the noise created by the hyperlocal movement is starting to be heard by its bigger brothers. A Birmingham Mail project to take feeds from this new breed of sites has developed into a content-sharing scheme which aims to offer up a new way of co-existing in a journalistic world which is facing more than its fair share of challenges.

“And where traditional companies go, entrepreneurs will undoubtedly follow. The launch of companies like Cut Media and Journal Local who build tools and platforms to empower start-ups show that the market is not going to go away anytime soon. But the rosy picture of hyperlocal sites giving to their communities isn’t without its pitfalls. The nature of the beast has dictated that many of them are manned by volunteers without financial backing, legal training and other necessities of the publishing world. “However, a number of them are now looking to become more self-sustainable and examine ways in which they can grow their small acorns into great oaks. The arrival of the Addiply advertising system onto the scene has certainly helped in this cause. The self-serve system they supply has allowed many to create income and offer an advertising service that gives them the ability to make their sites not-for-loss. And with national supermarket chains and other big business increasingly looking at the reach this new marketplace offers, the prospects look good for those who can tackle the challenges hyperlocals do face.”


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Dave Harte, who leads an MA in Social Media course at Birmingham City University, admits he just can’t stop blogging.

Busy-bodies are blogging on to the Chocolate Village “There’s a fine line between being an active digital citizen and being a busy-body. In general I fear my attempt to be the former is leading to me becoming the latter. That notwithstanding, my time as editor of bournvillevillage.com offers a glimpse of how individuals and small groups can make a big enough impact in the digital world to change the way things are done beyond the boundaries of their locale. Blogs such as the one I edit have suddenly become the ‘next big thing’. Trainee busy-bodies all over the country are either being courted by major newspaper groups (we currently have our content syndicated by Mirror Group Newspapers) or seen as rivals to compete against. “Recent moves by the media big boys to organise their local reporting around ‘hyperlocal’ is evidence that where once there was a retreat from reporting at this level, there’s now a new desire to capitalise on what people are generally most interested in - that is, the stuff that’s going on outside their front door and surrounding area. The term given for all of this, ‘Hyperlocal’ is a poor one; although for the moment it’s all we’ve got.

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“Hyperlocal isn’t quite a movement as such, but it’s close to being perceived as one, at least by journalists. Indeed the reality of local blogging is that rather than be journalistic in nature, most content is motivated by a desire to correct perceived or real public sector incompetence or to put forward political views. At bournvillevillage.com we do plenty of the former but also something else, which is try to innovate around content. “That might mean using an interactive map to illustrate a story rather than lots of text, or recording audio pieces and publishing them instantly to the blog, or using simple, free, web-based technologies to cover events live as they happen - as we did with the Cadbury/Kraft takeover story. Above all it means creating a network of users on social media, some of whom might well be Bournville residents but many of whom are influential media commentators who often cite us as an example of how local media is changing.

“But our most welcome audience are those who can make change happen for the people of Bournville. Local councillors may not check in daily to see what we’ve written but a gentle nudge has seen some pretty swift reactions to issues, and plenty of scurrying around to prevent the internet-backlash that politicians and public officials now dread. That’s evidence if you like, of a new relationship with power emerging. “It’s that changed relationship that I talk to students about on the Masters in Social Media I lead at Birmingham City University. Writing compelling content that people want to read, combined with an influential social media network, makes for a heady combination and one that results in small blogs having a big impact. Whatever we end up calling it, there’s more to come from ‘Hyperlocal’ blogging. Never has the barrier to participation been so low, and a nation of digital busy-bodies are ready for action.”


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Maverick TV has launched a ground-breaking digital service with the NHS, as its digital media director, Jonnie Turpie, explains.

Taking the Maverick approach to an interactive health service “We are delighted to be leading a consortium of Warwick University, NHSDirect, Digital Public and Brightcove to deliver a contract for the West Midlands Strategic Health Authority. The pioneering digital service - NHS local (www.nhslocal.nhs.uk), is a range of online services providing easy access to news, resources and tools to help people manage their health and, if working for the NHS, help with planning their career. Our team at Maverick began developing the service at the start of this year and it went live to the public during the summer. It’s really rewarding working with the NHS in the West Midlands to prototype a revolutionary digital health service that will support local NHS staff and citizens. “The service is an innovative step which we hope will help the NHS reach out to the public in new and useful ways. What’s so unique about the service is that it is designed specifically for people living and working locally. The aim is to make the service as interactive, open and transparent as possible – a place where the public and healthcare staff can share their experiences, learn from each other and work together to achieve better health outcomes.

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“We’ve achieved this by making sure we include local content that is shaped by the public’s feedback which helps users to share information, materials, views and ideas while connecting people with others who have similar health goals and challenges. “The service features content in the form of blogs, short videos, apps and written articles. Uniquely, NHS local is open to the public and staff as both users and providers of health services. These experiences, views and information can be shared for mutual benefit. We have built a reputation for producing mainstream health and well being TV and digital media, so being able to use these skills to deliver a project directly with the NHS is a major opportunity. Our dedicated digital media team produces the content, tools and services; community manages the service; releases health service data; works with partners and developers; integrates with the wealth of voluntary health services and charities; works with third-party partners and developers to create an inclusive and open digital health ecosystem.

“We are bringing the best stories, services, tools and information about local health and healthcare together in one place, connecting NHS staff and the public to the best online resources, and importantly to each other. We also hope the service will become a central resource for NHS staff to share best practice, access career information, engage in communities of practice and continuing professional development materials. “As a digital service it is available to all, whenever and wherever they are. NHS local will continue to develop in an interactive and agile way over the coming months in response to user feedback, and we hope it will become an invaluable health resource which ultimately empowers both staff and citizens.”


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Collaboration is the key to success, for Mike Musson, West Midlands ICT Cluster manager.

Ten billion reasons to champion our ICT sector “The West Midlands is home to a thriving ICT industry. Some 3,000 ICT businesses are based in the region, employing more than 40,000 people and collectively generating a turnover of £10 billion. Global players - such as Fujitsu, IBM, Oracle, HP, SCC, Epson and CSC - sit alongside a significant number of entrepreneurial SMEs, as more than 75% of ICT businesses based here employ fewer than 11 staff. “The West Midlands ICT Cluster (ICTWM) is a business-focused organisation that champions the interests of companies involved in the ICT, digital and electronic sectors. We provide strategic support to help businesses identify funding opportunities, promote collaboration, deliver tools and events aimed at increasing market share and profitability, undertake and disseminate both industry-specific and general market research, and generate links with universities and other support organisations. “Businesses are increasingly aware of the range of support and services available across the region, particularly as there are many leading universities that provide guidance and partnership research programmes - ICT and digital technologies are key specialisms in nine of the 13 Higher Education Institutions here.

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“Companies should build relationships with these institutions, to help them develop and promote cutting-edge products and technology on a global stage, and our universities also produce a consistent flow of talented, highcalibre graduates. Another key aim for ICT businesses is to maximise overseas trade. This has clear benefits; 39% of ICT businesses and 57% of electronics companies based here, which export, are now generating more than 10% of revenues from overseas trade, according to our research. “What’s more, 24% of electronics companies are securing more than 60% of revenues through export. The ICT market, particularly in productled sectors, lends itself well to export with far fewer barriers to entry than other industries. In our view, many more companies could secure revenues from burgeoning global markets. “To promote innovation, collaboration and industry leadership, ICTWM has developed aWMist, an online directory and mapping tool that provides a comprehensive list of ICT experts, contacts and suppliers. Companies are made visible through a personalised profile on the directory, and all technology SMEs can register free, ensuring that the directory - the first regional resource of its kind - is as comprehensive as possible.

“Our ICT Excellence Awards showcase the region’s leadership in ICT and provide a platform for small businesses to gain greater recognition. Winners - and other innovative businesses that have gained peer recognition - are then eligible for membership of the ICT Excellence Club, which holds bi-monthly meetings on different business issues within the industry. Our annual conference, the largest event dedicated to ICT businesses in the region, provides access to technology partners, thought leaders, business innovators and support organisations, as well as the opportunity to network with industry peers. There are many ways in which businesses can work with ICTWM and other support organisations to help develop their operations. After weathering the economic downturn, the West Midlands’ ICT industry is well placed to become an even more productive and influential hub on the wider international stage.”


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CHAPTER 04: HOW IT GETS BETTER Innovation is essential for technologybased cities, and the account of how student Greg Hughes took on the might of Apple demonstrates how cyberspace allows modernday Davids to overcome their Goliaths. QRKy’s Nic Holzherr is using his digital nous to design business cards for the iPhone generation, and the catalyst for Install Automation’s impressive success in delivering communication solutions for ‘intelligent’ homes was founder Adam Kent’s realisation that he could use technology better, and smarter, than his rivals. Big Button’s Buto concept of client-led ‘clickable video’ has made global corporates turn their attentions to Digbeth, as has the city’s first digital cluster, Fazeley Studios, whose story is told with passion by founder Lucan Gray. Dr David Rosser explains how the city’s newest hospital created an ICT system to improve patient care and drive out costs, and we hear how Aquila designed a special app to enlighten visitors to the city centre, and the way Centro uses technology to make life easier for the region’s bus and train users. BIRMINGHAM AND THE REGION: HEART OF DIGITAL INNOVATION


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Birmingham University student Greg Hughes - who made global headlines, after his Wi-Fi iPhone sync app was rejected by Apple, but became an instant online success - tells his story.

Greg may not be the apple of Steve Jobs’ eye but he really isn’t bothered… “I’ve always been inquisitive and interested in technology, which is why I decided to study at the university’s school of computer science. I’d just started my course when iPhones were launched, and I really did get into them. Earlier this year, I was tinkering with my phone, looking at how the synchronisation process worked. It seemed there should be a way to sync the phone to your Mac, or your PC, without having to plug a cable in, and I was a bit surprised no-one seemed to have created one. “I thought up an idea for a Wi-Fi sync app pretty quickly, although of course I didn’t know if it would work, or if it would be reliable. In about a month, I had a prototype, which I tweaked a little, and it worked. I wouldn’t say it required a lot of technical knowledge, but the app does take a few back doors which Apple didn’t intend, and works ‘under the hood’. It was a stroke of luck that the idea worked so quickly.

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“My first thought was to offer it to Apple, to see if they’d accept it as an official download for their App Store. It was a pretty lengthy process, but a few weeks later, someone from their developer relations team rang to say the app had been rejected. They said they admired the way it had been done, and considered it very professional, and told me to get in touch once I’d got my degree, but it obviously wasn’t going to be available through their store. I wasn’t angry, I expected them to say it couldn’t be sold as an official Apple download, but I just wanted to get it out there, as I knew it would be very useful for iPhone users. As a business decision, they were probably right, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they built a similar app into their phone one day. “As I couldn’t distribute the app through Apple, the only other option was to use the jailbreakme.com site, which was set up - legally - to allow people to download apps for iPhones which have been rejected, or not approved, by Apple. I made the app available for $9.99, at first just for Mac users, but then in Windows format, which was when sales rose dramatically. I’ve got a graph showing the peaks and falls of demand, and at first, I was watching sales like a hawk - but now I’m more relaxed.

“Sales will always rise and fall, as it’s a game of cat and mouse between the people who run the JailbreakMe site, and Apple. The hackers will open a new ’hole’ so apps can be downloaded, then Apple will create a new ’fix’ to prevent that happening, and so it goes on. At the moment, I’ve sold more than 21,000 apps, and I’ve set up a company to handle the sales, although I‘m just putting the money on one side for now. I’m working on a new version of the app, which will offer some hefty new features, so you can take your iPhone anywhere, and sync it over the 3G network, but I don’t suppose Apple will want to sell that either...”


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Nick Holzherr, founder and MD of QRky, explains how digital technology underpins his innovative Birmingham-based venture.

QRky idea raises the bar of reinvention “We’re bringing the business card - a concept which hasn’t really changed since tradecards were invented in the 1730s - into the 21st century, by using 2D barcode technology. We print small ‘QRky barcodes‘ on the cards, which can be scanned by almost any smart-phone, using free apps, available from all the app stores. You just hold the card up to a phone’s camera, and your data is displayed. Because our barcodes are generated using an ISO standard, they work with any app, not just our own. “We believe the added value comes in QRky’s content platform. When a QRky profile is displayed on a mobile, the complete contact details on the card can be stored into the phone’s address book, by just tapping ‘download contact‘ on the screen. The speed and simplicity really does impress everyone who sees it. In addition to the basic contact information, card owners are able to attach almost any content they like, using QRky’s online portal. Using a simple drag-and-drop interface, users can stream up-to-date videos, pictures, or even blog posts to their cards, making information that best represents themselves available to everyone they meet.

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“With my business partner Simon McCann, we started using the Quick Response barcodes in our first venture after leaving Aston University; Mo-Go Media. We ran advertising campaigns on the side of paper coffee cups, so people buying their daily caffeine fix would see our client’s adverts. We still organise those mobile ads, and our latest client was KPMG, which was a very strong brand to work with. We loved the barcode technology, so we started using it on our own business cards, linking to very simple data. Everyone we met remembered us for the barcodes, so we printed a few sets for fellow business owners, and QRky just took off from there. “We started the business in the Entrepreneurs4f high-tech incubator in the Birmingham Science Park - Aston, which gave us a great head start, and the city has since proved a great environment for a start-up. The business networks are fantastic, and the backing from the corporate community has been a big help. We also received a business feasibility grant from the city council, and I must admit, without all the support from Aston University and others, we would not be as successful as we are.

“A year after we began, we now have a viable business, and have recruited two programmers, and two other staff, to work at our Faraday Wharf offices. Simon and I put our success down to the advanced software we have developed. We have evolved one of the most advanced content display systems in the mobile sector, which has proved especially appealing to larger clients. The cards have been taken up by a range of companies though, from small SMEs to blue-chips, and the feedback from them all has been very positive. We find working in the mobile sector is immensely exciting. Technology is moving forward at such a fast pace and being part of that, and at the heart of Birmingham’s up-and coming digital scene, is very enjoyable.”


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Adam Kent, founder and MD of Install Automation, looks at how his company was created, and its subsequent success.

Install Automation team has Grand Designs on your home “Last month, I was promoting our products at the world’s biggest exhibition for home automation and electronic systems - CEDIA Expo 2010, in Atlanta - which underlines how far we have come in the last ten years. We operate in two high-growth sectors - home automation and energy management designing, planning and installing technologybased systems for ’intelligent homes’, ranging from multi-room audio and home cinema systems, to complete home networks and sub-systems which control lighting, security, heating, ventilation and air-conditioning. “A typical solution is removing all the clutter from around the television set, dvd and blu-ray players, games consoles and other media devices, centrally locating and sharing them to all rooms, simplifying everything, by removing the excess remotes, and replacing them with a single control that handles it all. “We have worked hard to win financial support from InvestBX, Birmingham City Council and Advantage West Midlands, to accelerate our company’s growth, and further develop our innovative home control/energy monitoring system, OpenAV.

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“The home can now be controlled both internally and externally, over the internet, by a wide range of devices, including the Apple Ipad, Itouch and Iphone as well as all the latest android and tablet phones, and computers. Costs have been driven down substantially, and real-time energy readouts and load controls now let people see how much power and heat their home is consuming, and can switch off energy-consuming devices, to save money and help the environment. “This month, we were at Grand Designs Live - at the NEC - where we exhibited a whole house of home automation, shoehorned into an exhibition stand, featuring sophisticated controls for lighting, music, heating, high definition video distribution, and of course, Open AV. It is important for us, and our customers, that Install Automation is right at the forefront of new technologies and new products, enabling us to give the right advice to our customers, and to be bang up to date on the latest developments. We are a proud and active member of the Custom Electronic Design & Installation Association, our staff deliver training to architects, electricians and selfbuilders, lecture to hundreds of people every year, and even train other association members.

“Yet, for all our technical achievements and commercial success, the company wasn’t the result of a grand plan. Ten years ago I’d just bought a house which needed renovation, and wanted to add home automation and CCTV to the property. Unfortunately, each potential installer I went to, made the technology sound more like black magic, and the prices being quoted were astronomical. I was sure there had to be a better way, to use the latest technology for the benefit of home-owners, and to offer sophisticated control systems at price levels which were affordable. By the time I‘d researched and devised a solution for my own home, the potential for a company to do likewise for others was evident, and the result was Install Automation. “Now, we can create systems to provide music, video, TV and gaming to every room in a house, integrated with the heating or climate controls, the lighting systems, energy monitors, and even the gate or door access. We can also hook the controls up to operate CCTV and security systems, phones, computers, and even the kitchen blinds or the curtains. If something moves in your house, we can pretty much create a control solution for it, even down to turning on your bath taps…”


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Will Grant, Buto’s technology director, explains how online video platform Buto.tv has brought engineering of the digital kind, to a former factory in Birmingham’s industrial heart.

A new kind of engineering pops up down in Digbeth “Big Button was established, in Birmingham, almost a decade ago, doing the usual mix of bespoke web, software and digital applications. We were successful, won great clients, made a profit, and once we were established, were accepted as one of the UK’s top 50 production agencies, even though we were only a very small team. We could just have carried on, evolving new ways of doing what we did, but our digital team realised customers were looking for ways to put video on the web, which kept them in control of the content. Most clients didn’t have the resources to invest in their own content delivery systems, so we set about designing a service that was easy to use, but would give people the functionality and robustness they required. “Until now, the market for online video platforms has been dominated by US-based companies, and there have only been a couple of solutions devised in this country. The technology to ‘track’ regions within a video, and turn them into hyperlinks, has been around for several years, but like most technologies, it’s only once they become usable that they really take off.

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“I’m proud to say that in September 2010, we launched the first clickable video, where a client doesn’t have to pay hundreds of dollars for the service. Content owners can now set up and operate their videos themselves, and we designed and built both the software and the delivery system, in-house.“We believe it is massively important that the web isn’t held hostage by IT departments. “The people who use the web know what they want, and marketeers know how to listen. It will also mean a revolution for customers. You might be browsing the latest Miss Selfridge offering, and click on a video to see the winter collection. Now you can click any item, and store it to study later, but you won’t have to close down pop-up ads, or be directed away from what you’re watching. “Instead, you’ll be able to click on items to find out more; whether it’s where Beyonce got her sunglasses in her latest music video, or how to make puff pastry during an online recipe session. We’re now in discussion with several UK retailers about how clickable video, and myriad other functions offered by Buto, could help them get more from their online presence, by optimising their video content for example.

“Buto’s success has been more about design and user-interface, than hard coding, which should comfort other innovators who are all too aware of the competitiveness of emerging markets. We’ve proved that you can engage with, and retain, such diverse and high-profile clients as Rackspace, the world’s biggest hosting provider, the global logistics giant TNT, and our own NHS, even though you are a small business, based in a provincial centre. It’s also fitting that our offices are inside a former manufacturing plant, as we see ourselves as a success story for a new kind of British engineering, based on digital technology, rather than on CNC machines.”


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Fazeley Studios’ Lucan Gray looks back at the origins of the ambitious venture, which now houses Birmingham’s largest digital cluster.

Building the city’s first digital hub “This February, exactly one year after Fazeley Studios launched, Birmingham’s digital media sector was the talk of the gaming globe, as Microsoft Games studio Rare took 11,000 sq ft to create a new testing and development facility for the next wave of Xbox games and technology. Three years earlier, a company like Microsoft would have struggled to find the space they wanted in Birmingham, and getting them here would have been only a distant dream, but now they are just one of the truly inspiring companies we have here. When we launched Fazeley Studios, as the first purely digital hub for Birmingham times were hard. We were opening a £7 million development, spanning 1.25 acres, during the darkest hours of the commercial property market. Many thousands of square feet of space lay empty throughout the city and we had not only an extremely ambitious number of studios to fill, we were also targeting a very niche market. “I had the idea for Fazeley in 2005. I had been developing in Digbeth since 1993, when at just 23, I was tasked by my father, Bennie Gray, with project managing the development of the first phase of his now-famous building, The Custard Factory. It began as derelict buildings; empty shells sitting in a forgotten industrial area, but creative companies later flooded in, and I saw the deserted side streets transform into a

BIRMINGHAM AND THE REGION: HEART OF DIGITAL INNOVATION

buzzing creative village, which brought a new economy and international media interest to Digbeth. Creative companies loved the sense of history, and the gritty, urban vibe. They could also finally get cheap space next to the city centre. The companies also thrived from being in a cluster, where they could share ideas, swap skills, collaborate on projects and build new networks. The concept was simple, but the effects were astounding. “Over the next few years I developed my own projects, mostly bespoke media studios for companies such as North One (The Gadget Show), Maverick TV (How to Look Good Naked), The Audio Suite, and Eastside Projects. But by 2005, it became clear there was a sub-sector developing within the creative industries in Digbeth. There were traditional arts, crafts, cultural bodies, but also a stream of enquiries from digital and online creatives. They had different networks and different needs, in terms of technology and working environment. They definitely needed their own cluster, and their own visible presence. “Around that time, I stumbled upon a collection of old buildings, just a stone’s throw from the Custard Factory. Although rundown, you couldn’t fail to be inspired by the potential. They were fronted by an old Unitarian chapel and

Sunday school from the 1860s, with large open factory spaces at the back. I knew immediately they had the history and the natural grandeur to be something amazing. After securing gap funding from Advantage West Midlands to restore the buildings, we dedicated three years to getting it perfect. We added a courtyard, chose every antique and piece of furniture by hand and finally ended up with exactly the kind of space I had imagined. It had a very different feel from the Custard Factory, less gritty, but still creative, and more like a boutique business hotel. Most importantly it was worlds apart from a standard glass office block. “One by one, the city’s fast-rising companies piled in, including Big Button, Substrakt and First Light Movies, and Fullrange and Stickee Digital relocated from outside the area. We have created two new spaces since Rare arrived, and launching our onsite venue, Fazeley Social, for food, drink, events and live music. Over the next decade, I believe the number of digital businesses in Digbeth will increase tenfold. We have the space ready to develop, there are enough talented rising companies to fill it, and I believe now is the time for the digital community in Birmingham.”


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Dr David Rosser, medical director and director of IT at University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust looks at its innovative e-strategies.

Patience pays for pioneering trust “The recent decision by the Government to scrap the centralised, national approach to IT in the NHS only served to reinforce University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust’s position as a pioneer of in-house systems. Some 12 years ago we took a leap of faith and moved outside the NPfIT (National Programme for IT) to design our own e-prescribing and clinical dashboard systems. We already have in place a flexible framework called Birmingham Systems which we are now sharing with other organisations in a bid to help them save money, time and, ultimately, lives. “Birmingham Systems has evolved with direct input from clinicians to ensure it meets their expectations of best practice technology and produces results through frontline buy-in which improve the quality of patient care. The entity encompasses PICS (Prescribing Information Communication System) – a rules-based e-prescribing and clinical decision support system and HED (Health Evaluation Data) – a clinical dashboard for healthcare performance monitoring and evaluation. Measurable results from PICS include: a 66% reduction in prescription errors (400-450 each day); and over 9% reduction in drug expenditure whilst improving care in departments who have adopted PICS.

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“The development of Birmingham Systems has been facilitated by a philosophical approach based on the belief that quality information inspires quality management which, in turn, improves quality of patient care. The quality agenda used to be based purely on the patient survey: there was a tendency to stick to that arena because it can be seen as soft and fluffy. Once you get into measurable care you’re into the realms of dead patients, disabilities and dismissals. Getting it wrong is serious. “For information to be of a certain quality it must be timely, accurate, meaningful to clinicians who will use it, open to question and therefore open to adaptation and improvement. This means the right things must be measured and they must be measured in real time. Senior staff must be given ‘now’ information, from today or last week, rather than a retrospective audit. “Birmingham Systems offers real-time patient feedback via bedside TVs, recording data on perceptions of dignity and respect, privacy, involvement in decisions, cleanliness of the hospital and the ward and overall rating of care. Information is accessed from a desktop icon. Automated emails ensure a rapid response to concerns and flag up potential issues within the system, giving management

the opportunity to act ahead of monthly reports and annual audits. Emails are received on a daily basis. Indicators are required to get a true picture and indicators ultimately prompt questions, which lead to benchmarking. There must be a clear methodology but equally there is no one magic number. “By managing quality with Information Technology, we improve both the patient experience and the technicalities of care. The spin-off is that quality tends to lead to cost reductions. The better the information, the more efficient the delivery of care and the better the outcomes for patients.”


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Adrian Shooter, chairman of Chiltern Railways explains how digital technology is revolutionising train travel.

Chiltern Railways – the Digital City’s alternative Mainline to London Railways are probably not a service that springs immediately to mind when you think about high-tech wizardry. But Birmingham is actually home to one of the most innovative, forward looking train companies in the UK.

So you can find out how your train is running before you even leave your home or office. Although, with 95% of Chiltern Railways services running on time, you’ll be pretty unlucky to find it’s late.

Chiltern Railways – based at Moor Street station, right next to the Bull Ring – run the most reliable service between the West Midlands and London. They also offer some of the best value prices – from just £5 one way if you book in advance. And Chiltern Railways also use modern technology to make rail travel as simple as possible.

Huge cash savings. Travelling to London on business? From Birmingham Moor Street, you can leave at 0815 and pay just £36.20 same day return*, and that even includes your tube and bus travel whilst you’re in London!

Tickets over your mobile phone. When you travel with Chiltern Railways to London Marylebone there is no need to queue up for a ticket. You can order in the comfort of your own home or office and have the ticket sent direct as a barcode to your mobile phone. When you get to Moor Street station just run your phone by the reader on the ticket barrier, and you will be on your way. With 2 trains an hour to London, you’ll never have long to wait. But, if you don’t want to wait at all, then you can also use your mobile phone to access a range of real time information about Chiltern Railways services.

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There are no restrictions on which train you can use to get home. And no extra costs to come back at a popular time. Unlike many other longer distance trains, Chiltern Railways services are spacious and comfortable with power points and tables allowing a laptop at every seat meaning your travel time can be really productive working time. There are also extra benefits like the Chiltern Carnet – 12 open return tickets to London Marylebone for the price of 10. Carnet saves you, and your company, money, time and expenses claims as you don’t have to queue or book up each time you travel. You can even share the tickets around different people!

‘Quiet Zones’ are available for those who want an extra snooze in the morning or some peace and quiet after a hard day in London. Faster journey times for 2011. From 2011 journey times on the Chiltern route will be reduced by a massive 20%, with trains from Birmingham Moor Street taking just 100 minutes to reach London. This follows the £250 million ‘Chiltern Mainline’ project, one of the biggest private investments in railway improvement works since the second world war. Chiltern Railways are managing this upgrade themselves and are promising business as usual for the vast majority of travellers whilst the works take place. Weekend services will be affected, but for most passengers it will be the normal, reliable Chiltern service. • For more information about your new Mainline to London, visit: www.chilternrailways.co.uk/mainline. • For train times, real time arrivals, departures and station information on your mobile visit: m.chilternrailways.co.uk * Prices may change from January 2011


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Broad St BID’s Caroline Ashton takes a walk through the thinking behind her organisation’s iPhone app.

Broad St app taps into a wealth of knowledge “We’re very proud of our new app, because we think we’re the first Business Improvement District to have such a sophisticated and informative means of reaching people; whether they are first-time visitors or residents. All Broad Street and Brindleyplace businesses, their events and promotions, and details of the area’s Walk of Stars are available. Of course, creating an app for a street presented its own set of unique challenges for our developers, Aquila. Broad Street and Brindleyplace are fast-paced environments, with businesses opening, offering different events, and even new Walk of Stars being added regularly, so our app needed to be future-proofed. “The area also comprises a vast array of businesses, day and night, everything from your local post office to a £5m super-club, and from banks to radio broadcasters How did we get across that we are the hub of nightlife in the West Midlands; but also have family entertainment venues, fine eateries, top theatres and are the workplace of some 12,000 employees? We also needed to cater for both regular clients, and new visitors to the area.

BIRMINGHAM AND THE REGION: HEART OF DIGITAL INNOVATION

“The presence of the ICC, conference venues and a wide range of hotels, means we have heavy foot-fall all year so information needed to cater for first-timers, as well as being fresh and interesting for our regular users. “Aquila came up with a host of ideas to overcome our challenges and ensure that the app was easy to use, but also contained the wealth of information we required. If people work or visit here they want to know where they can park, where to get lunch, and where is the nearest cash machine. If they’re here for a night out, they want to know what is on offer, where to eat, drink, and see a play or a concert. We used an easy to navigate map, and a listing view of all businesses that include links to their own sites, with email addresses and phone numbers to call. The listings and the map are complemented by the extensive use of icons, allowing businesses and the sector they trade in, to be easily recognised.

“We also have a live news page, which links to the Broad Street website, ensuring that fresh and relevant content is always available, and reducing the number of updates, which can become tedious for users to download. Our app also has an API system - a website, with a database which the app gets its listings information from - so we can add listings, and change information with ease, saving time and money. My favourite aspect has to be the Walk of Stars page; providing all the information on the stars that have visited and a fantastic video montage of our ceremonies. An amazing two minutes that shows you what the walk is all about. Going forward, we’ve already got a host of ideas for exciting additions to the app to enhance its use for both visitors and the businesses, so watch out for the latest update.”


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Centro is the Integrated Transport Authority in the West Midlands. Head of passenger information, Chris Lane, underlines the importance of digital.

Smart ideas are on the cards for Centro “We’ve done a lot of work during 2010 on both our passenger information strategy, and operational systems, and I’m delighted to say that almost all buses in the West Midlands now have smart card readers, and are being used by concessionary pass-holders. We see digital creating a platform for the enhancement of all services in the region, but we were determined to get the basics right, before we began to roll out a new approach. We are pioneering a new way of thinking, which involves spreading our transport expertise to providers outside the West Midlands, and developing partnerships with local authorities, and other organisations, in our operational area. “We have deliberately left the door open for others to take advantage of our digital knowledge, and have already held exploratory talks with Dudley MBC, who themselves have been pioneering opportunities for smartcards. Half the space on our cards is for transport applications such as concessionary travel, and the rest for other information.

BIRMINGHAM AND THE REGION: HEART OF DIGITAL INNOVATION

“We could enable local libraries, or leisure services departments to put their data on the same card. The possibilities really are almost endless. We‘re also working on a Net-Nav project, which would effectively be a public transport sat-nav for your mobile. If a bus was running late, it would inform you of alternative services, but it could also offer a wide range of other information. “We’re in the process of selecting our preferred development partner, and researching what has been done in Continental Europe, so we can learn from the experiences of other countries, then look to improve on what they are offering. We certainly won’t neglect traditional methods of informing customers, such as print, but we are equally conscious that we need to reach a new generation of transport users, for whom digital and mobile technologies are secondnature. We hope to formally announce this project before the end of 2010, but won’t reveal the precise details of the application until the New Year. We are very conscious that all the technological bugs must be ironed out first, so we’ll carry out controlled tests to make sure the passenger gets a reliable and trusted service.

“We also have much work to do with the bus companies. The data we provide to passengers is only as good as the information provided to us, so the systems and processes need to be put carefully into place and we rely on the excellent partnership arrangements we have developed. However, we’re very happy to be the interface between transport providers and the public, and in a year, I hope that tens of thousands of customers will be happily using their iPhones and Androids to access our timetables, and other information. “At the same time, we are upgrading our web offering; to provide new location maps showing access to key locations, such as hospitals, and to offer information about how making a particular journey by bus, car, rail or bike would change your carbon footprint. Looking ahead, we are very keen to embrace the ‘intelligent cities’ platform, where our cards could be set up to access other products and services such as theatre tickets, restaurant offers, hotels, and much more. That may be some way off, but we are putting all the digital building blocks in place now.”


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CHAPTER 05: THE NEXT LEVEL Virtual reality is already delivering tangible returns; for digital businesses, and more traditional organisations. Daden’s David Burden outlines the merits of Second Life, and the council’s Brian Gambles reveals that the cyber-universe has enabled architects to tweak the design of Birmingham’s spectacular new library. David Hardman,from Birmingham Science Park Aston, details his vision of a future where innovators, investors and mentors meet in the virtual world, and Glenn Howells’ Dav Bansal explains how Hollywood technology has become a vital tool for architectural practices. Gavin Wray, from the West Midlands Regional Observatory, muses about the concept of ‘open data’, whilst the council’s Jack Glonek believes one of the city’s political heroes still has relevance today. he merits of technology in the modern city. Digital Birmingham’s Simon Whitehouse explains the organisation’s latest project, creating a ‘civic dashboard’, through data capture, and Warda Mohammed, from Aston, tells her very personal story of how access to the internet transformed her life. BIRMINGHAM AND THE REGION: HEART OF DIGITAL INNOVATION


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David Burden, founder and MD of Daden, takes a look inside the virtual universe.

Real life in the virtual world “I run a digital company. Beyond that it can be hard to say what Daden is. We don’t appear to fit any of the ‘standard’ classifications. Are we an ICT company, new media, creative industry, screen-based media? Sometimes it seems that digital is no more than a state of mind - how you choose to define yourself and what you do. “Working in virtual worlds we have to be very careful about how we define things. The word ‘virtual’ was hi-jacked long ago for almost anything that happens on the web, or indeed on a computer. And people have this strange idea that things that happen in a virtual world aren’t real. “If you really want to know what digital means, then you need to go back to Nicholas Negroponte’s classic book Being Digital. He describes a world of just two things - atoms and bits, the physical world and the digital world. Whilst the distinction may not be as clear cut as he suggests (where does a CD or radio signal fit in, and is there a third category of ‘memes’, for example?), it is a very useful lens through which to view changing businesses, business models, and indeed cities.

BIRMINGHAM AND THE REGION: HEART OF DIGITAL INNOVATION

“With this perspective there is no doubt that we are an extremely digital company. Almost all our work takes place within virtual worlds, and in the cloud. We build virtual buildings and create virtual training exercises and data visualisations, that only exist as bits in a computer. Indeed several of our staff spend their entire day as their digital selves – their avatars within the virtual worlds. But the important distinction here is digital bits (virtual) versus atoms (physical). It is not between ‘real’ and unreal/virtual/fantasy. We do real work for our clients with real risks, and who pay us real money. Even at an individual level, we feel real emotions when we interact with the virtual environment and with other avatars - real happiness, even real fear and panic. “Over the past few years we have worked with Digital Birmingham to create different visualisations to understand both how this technology can be used, and to explore the wider meaning of a digital city.

“We’ve enjoyed working with Digital Birmingham to create virtual versions of the city; from scale models of the whole of the city centre, to 1:1 models of entire buildings. It is only by experiencing these digital worlds, be they Second Life, Facebook or Twitter, that we can begin to understand how they might be used by the city, and how the city itself might grow and expand its presence across both the digital and physical worlds. “We are a virtual company – even though we now have physical offices at Birmingham Science Park. We’ve had team members who we’ve never physically met, across three continents. We even have major clients we’ve never met physically. Through the use of digital technology both we and the city are able to extend our reach and our reputation across the physical world, and to grow deeper connections between those with whom we share this digital city.”


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The Library of Birmingham is due to open in June 2013, and the council’s head of library and archive services, Brian Gambles, has placed digital at the heart of his strategy.

New chapter in the library’s evolution “To put the new library in context, it is the biggest cultural project in Europe. It‘s also a huge statement of belief by the council; belief in the value it puts upon our sense of place, and in the quality of our cultural life, as a key driver for the economic and physical regeneration of our city centre. We are eager to have a library that not only looks special, but also functions differently, and its digital offer will be crucial. In the days of electronic books and the internet, some people query the need for libraries, but to me, new technology allows libraries to become more relevant, and makes their collections more readily accessible. “We do pretty well at the moment, but the new library, with its profile and the technological platforms that it will offer, gives us the chance to be fully relevant to the digital environment. We will naturally have a presence on Twitter, Facebook, and any new social media which evolve during the next three years. We are looking to develop a digital reading element to our offer, and our presence in Second Life will also be important, as we seek to reach wider audiences.

BIRMINGHAM AND THE REGION: HEART OF DIGITAL INNOVATION

“We have already refined the library’s design in several small ways, by using our visualisation of Meccano’s original concept, and ‘walking’ through the building as users would. We can see and feel the library in a way we couldn‘t simply by looking at an architect‘s plans. The library will naturally have a 24-hour online presence, much stronger than a web site, through sound and vision. Young people are our future, and their instinctive use of mobile technology makes it essential that they can relate to, and access, our digital library. “If our approach to technology was devicedriven, it would be outdated before we opened, so we are basing our strategy on getting the core infrastructure right, and creating basic core applications, such as a digital asset management system. It often feels that I have spent years of my working life, deciding which PCs to order, wondering how they will operate, and when they need upgrading. Now we can concentrate on our core skill, which is providing content. The new library will also enable us to increase social participation, and to evolve our services in a much more organic way than previously. Our collections are among Europe’s best, but if we were to digitise everything, it would take several centuries.

“Instead, we will respond to demand, so we can digitise what is seen as most relevant and interesting. We will also open up our photographic archives online, to share them with the public, so we can unlock their memories and learn more about Birmingham’s history. Libraries have a major role to play in narrowing the digital divide, and we believe that as more people engage more fully with us, that they will come to appreciate the immense benefits of new technology. Everyone has a story to tell, and we are here to listen and spread the word.”


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Birmingham Science Park Aston is using advanced digital technology to underpin its latest international initiative, as managing director Dr David Hardman explains.

Science park breaks down the walls as it aims to work in virtual places “We will become the UK’s first ‘science park without walls’. It is a pioneering concept that will allow SMEs and start-ups to communicate with academics, potential investors and innovators from across the globe, as if they are in the same room. “We are moving away from the sense of physical place which has limited science parks for so long, because they have been about aggregating people around a building or two, in a single location. In January 2011, we will launch our Ideas and Communications Suite, which will include two 52-inch TelePresence screens, supplied by Cisco. These will enable real-time and interactive meetings can take place, between up to 16 people at different locations, using the next-gen ICT connectivity which is available at the park. “The technology we will have available will give us the ability to set up what you could call ‘conference calls on steroids’. The opportunities for SMEs and start-ups to do business across the globe is tremendously exciting. We are also being supported by Tata Communications, whose network of public TelePresence suites means we can hold virtual business meetings, in 21 of the world’s largest cities; including Chicago, Hong Kong, Johannesburg, New York, Manila, Mumbai, Sydney, Toronto and Washington DC.

BIRMINGHAM AND THE REGION: HEART OF DIGITAL INNOVATION

“The University of Warwick is another key partner, because it is installing its own TelePresence suites so its academics can add their considerable presence to our initiative, and has also donated specialist equipment allowing us to link into the UK’s online education and research network, JANET UK.

“I am currently re-reading a book by Tad Williams, called ’Otherland’, which sees a time when the real world and the virtual reality universe become intertwined. When I bought the book 10 years ago, it seemed sciencefiction. Not so now; it is easy to see how what seemed to be fiction is becoming fact.

“We will be connected to 18 million end-users; in universities, FE colleges, research councils, specialist colleges and local government bodies, allowing us to go way beyond the traditional boundaries for teaching, learning and research. The new networks will enable potential investors from overseas to ‘meet’ the region’s innovators and entrepreneurs, and so help drive economic regeneration. Non-executive directors can support businesses through real-time video links, bringing much-needed expertise to new businesses as they grow.

“The potential offered by interfacing the virtual and physical world to drive economic regeneration means the ‘science park without walls’ can be here today. We must always be careful not go overboard with such concepts, but there is no doubt that the virtual world will become, indeed, already is an important new business tool.

“We are already thinking about how to extend the initiative into Second Life. For example, the founder of a digital start-up business, which is based on our science park, could be represented by his avatar in a virtual office in Second Life, and can engage with his CEO’s avatar, whereas in reality his CEO is based in the US.

“We could set up a virtual network of science parks, with our peers in Warwick, Keele, Wolverhampton and elsewhere, for example. Such a virtual network could link the innovation agendas across the various Local Enterprise Partnerships. Their geographical boundaries are very narrow and restrictive, but we do not need to connect them physically, to make them operate efficiently.”


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Dav Bansal, director at Glenn Howells Architects, looks at how technology is impacting on his profession.

Tinseltown technology helps deliver a vision of the future “Going digital has changed the world and as architects, this complements the way we work. For us nothing will replace a hand-drawn sketch, but technological advances mean that the way we develop a building and how we communicate our vision, has evolved. “This has largely been driven by entertainment industry-funded R&D, which has taken still images to flythrough to digital storytelling and real time simulation. As these innovations become old hat in Hollywood, they become more accessible, to industry and increasingly sophisticated modelling and prototyping solutions are more prevalent. “Technically, the impact of bespoke programmes, such as Building Information Modelling (BIM) and real time simulation/ rendering programmes is profound throughout the lifecycle of a scheme, from concept through to construction phase. This ranges from aiding early identification of issues and testing; making performance monitoring such as meeting environmental benchmarks easier to achieve; as well as pre-empting onsite buildability issues.

BIRMINGHAM AND THE REGION: HEART OF DIGITAL INNOVATION

“Systems such as BIM also facilitate crossdisciplinary working and these kinds of design tools mean that specialisms which were once shrouded in mystery suddenly become desktop tools at the hands of designers and architects everywhere. The net result is faster and more powerful computing, means we spend less time processing and more time doing. Simpler, faster, cheaper. “Digital doesn’t replace more traditional techniques but complements them. There’s nothing quite like presenting your client with a hand-crafted model to communicate the vision for their building or scheme, beautifully produced by our in-house 3D model-making team and this craft is also advancing through the digital world. These advances in visualisation mean that we can use the same software to produce physical models as life-like images putting our vision in context with its surroundings. In the early stages this helps to guide the design process and develop the vision into reality.

“Moving forward, virtual building exploration means that the viewer will be able to explore a digital model through real-time visualisation, which is so important as buildings are rarely experienced statically. For us, there is no programme that can or will ever produce excellent design – no matter the technology, bad design is still bad design. But utilising technology to inform better design, communicate effectively, understand constraints and produce something great is our digital future.”


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Gavin Wray, of the West Midlands Regional Observatory, is a passionate believer in the concept of ‘open data’.

Information at your finger-tips “Opening public data has gained a real head of steam in the last year. The idea is to make publicly-held and non-personal data freely available for reuse by public bodies, individuals and businesses. Practically, it’s about making data easy to find, easy to license and easy for others to re-use. Public bodies create, collect or use all kinds of information every day. From building applications to job centre vacancies, welfare benefits to MPs’ expenses. I’m not naturally drawn to spreadsheets and data but the information in them affects all our lives, and that interests me. When you get hold of the data, find the stories and communicate these in meaningful ways, all kinds of civic and commercial opportunities open up. “All over Birmingham and nearby, I’ve seen councils, businesses, academics, web developers, journalists and community groups exploring these opportunities. Talis, a Birmingham-based software company, are leaders in semantic web technology. They host linked data for the government’s data.gov.uk site. bevocal.org, which is one aspect of Digital Birmingham’s Timely Information Project, highlights how public data can be turned into useful information for citizens.

BIRMINGHAM AND THE REGION: HEART OF DIGITAL INNOVATION

“Paul Bradshaw coordinates the Hacks/ Hackers group in Birmingham, connecting people interested in journalistic (and civic) possibilities of data to make sense of their world. NHS Local (nhslocal.nhs.uk) provides digital services for NHS staff and the public in the West Midlands. They run a data blog looking at using open health data to evidence decisions and solve problems. “Speed Data events in Birmingham connect senior public sector managers with digital talent from across the West Midlands, to turn raw data into something practical focused on citizens, and build applications to help public servants work more efficiently. I went to Mapitude, an event sponsored by Digital Birmingham to develop understanding and practical collaboration between web developers and mappers, including Mappa Mercia (the OpenStreetMap group for the Midlands). What impressed me was how individuals gave their own time because of a shared interest in mapping and open data. Crossing typical professional boundaries, programmers, mappers, local government officers, researchers and designers worked together to build a demonstration of how open data can be mapped to tell a story about a place.

“Connecting data experts with policy makers and local authorities was the focus of an Open data event run by Andrew Mackenzie and the WMRO. I was pleased to see senior policy people and officers from local government together with those already opening up public data, including some of the developers mentioned above. This collaboration across groups is crucial to realising the benefits of open data. What I really hope for is open data principles embedded in public sector culture and used to improve services. At our event, I felt policy makers and senior public sector managers wanted to grasp how open data can improve their organisations’ services, drive efficiency and save them money. “Many councils in the West Midlands are already using open data effectively to improve services, and we saw great examples of work by Lichfield District Council, Warwickshire County Council and Walsall Council. There’s a real sense of momentum around open data here in Birmingham and the West Midlands. Yes, there’s a long way to go and we’re all learning as we go, but with the talent here and the great work going on, we’re well placed to turn the knowledge and experience into real benefits.”


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Jack Glonek, the city council’s assistant director for investment, enterprise and employment, explains his vision for Birmingham’s digital district.

The new Birmingham can still learn from Chamberlain’s lateral thinking “I am confident that the new Digital Districts will be a key driver of our city’s economic growth for decades to come, but I think the concept needs to be put into a wider context. The idea of a ’connected city’ is at the forefront of the council’s strategic thinking, and to me, it is also very much entwined with differing aspects of innovation. Our early adoption of new technology will benefit Birmingham through economic innovation; making the city more attractive to inward investors, persuading companies to relocate here - rather than elsewhere in the UK or Western Europe - and highlighting the city as a place to do business, efficiently and profitably. “However, alongside that private sector activity, we need to see innovation from the public sector. We must devise ways of creating value, which will resonate with the business community. Digital will also help stimulate, and deliver social innovation. Society is evolving at an ever-faster pace, and as people’s needs change, we and our private sector partners must work together, to ensure the benefits of greater connectivity reach all our residents, in all our communities.

BIRMINGHAM AND THE REGION: HEART OF DIGITAL INNOVATION

“The council is committed to using technology as a driver for social and economic improvements in the city, but is also a formidable organisation by itself, with an impressive asset-base in land and property. I believe we can use our own economic strength, both to leverage in external finance and support from the private sector, but also to develop what might be called municipal entrepreneurship. “It has fallen out of fashion for local authorities to have ’big ideas’, but I would love to see Birmingham hark back to the days when Joseph Chamberlain resolved - as Lord Mayor of Birmingham - the problems of the city’s water and gas suppliers, by new ways of thinking, and new ways of delivering solutions. For me, digital is the new gas, and it is capable of transforming the city‘s economic and social fortunes, in the dramatic way last seen in the era of Chamberlain. In the short-term, it is vital that everyone in Birmingham has access to next-generation broadband - of at least 100MB - at work and home, and as a standard service. Ideally, I’d like to see it become available through open access, so people can get it in different forms, and are not tied to a particular supplier.

“It is also vital that we are constantly in touch with our private sector partners to make this happen. This autumn, I met 40 suppliers of ICT services, to ask how we could help them, to discover how they might help us, and to see what we could learn from their digital experiences, elsewhere in the UK and globally. “We always need to know if the parameters we set in our digital strategy are realistic, or if they need to be made more challenging, and that can only be done by talking, and by listening to those who provide such services. We hear a great deal about the need for ‘partnerships’, and often it is simply lip service, but if we are to stimulate Birmingham’s economic, social and physical renaissance, it will only come through genuine, effective and enduring partnerships as Digital Birmingham so aptly demonstrates.”


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Digital Birmingham’s implementation manager, Simon Whitehouse, explains how the city’s residents will soon be able to interact with live council data via a new web tool.

Data Capture Project will create ‘civic dashboard’ “All councils hold large amounts of data on their internal systems, which they use to plan, deliver and monitor the services they deliver on behalf of their citizens. At Digital Birmingham we believe there are huge benefits to be gained by opening much of this to the web where the public can both scrutinise it and also potentially reuse it for their own purposes. We are now working on a project to create a ’Birmingham civic dashboard’, so that people can get information on anything from the location of the worst potholes on the city’s roads, to which areas have most complaints received about graffiti. “Digital Birmingham, which is working in partnership with a local digital production company, Mudlark, has been awarded £30,000 from the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA), as part of its ‘Make it Local’ project. The web tool will provide an online ‘heat map’ of requests raised by residents, colour-coded according to the nature of their requests, which will enable them and the council to interact with live data, and provide a forum for discussion of issues which are highlighted by the heat map.

BIRMINGHAM AND THE REGION: HEART OF DIGITAL INNOVATION

“It’s all about the open data concept, which helps make local authorities more accountable to their citizens and will be a major feature of our Beyond 2010 conference this month. “Birmingham, through its Customer First Business Transformation programme, has invested in a database through which all requests from the public are managed. We hope to build on this work, and by providing an easy way for the public to view this online, to transform the way that services are delivered. It is very pleasing that we and Mudlark are one of just four teams, across the whole of the country, to win funding from the NESTA project. We now have the opportunity to explore the practical use of linked data within a local authority, revealing local concerns and issues being raised, through our customer relationship management database. Equally, we are also looking forward to making use of our open data, to create a wide range of conversations with Birmingham’s residents.

“NESTA‘s ‘Make it Local’ campaign aims to bring together digital media developers – such as Mudlark - and pioneering local authorities to show exactly what can be achieved. Our Beyond 2010 conference will be addressed by Professor Nigel Shadbolt, the government’s transparency & open data advisor. He is responsible for setting open data standards across the public sector, and is also advising the government on the data.gov.uk initiative. We are certainly looking forward to his keynote speech, which will outline how open data can help transform public services, explore the best strategic approaches, and guide us all as to what future government policy will mean for public delivery.”


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Warda Mohammed is a passionate advocate of being online and a member of Martha Lane Fox’s ‘People’s Taskforce’

Warda gives Prime Minister digital low down “I am a single mum living in the centre of Aston close to the Aston Villa football ground. I moved here some 5 years ago via Somalia (my home country) and Holland where I was mainly educated. I am therefore fluent in English, Somali, Swahili and Dutch. I have three children who are aged 13, 4 and 2 years old and I was keen to find employment that I could do from home which allowed me to care for my children at the same time. “My eldest child attended a local primary school and it was there, four years ago, that I learnt about the Computers in the Home Project (CITH) run by Aston Pride and at that time supported by Digital Birmingham. The project was designed to help children and adults benefit from digital technology and so improve education prospects and employability, ‘Computers in the Home’ supplied children with a computer and internet connectivity for the home. “This project gave me access to the internet and the possibility of setting up a small business which used my language skills. It allowed me to work from my home and at the same time look after my young family.

BIRMINGHAM AND THE REGION: HEART OF DIGITAL INNOVATION

“I soon discovered a number of established companies supplying oral translation services to organisations like local authorities, the NHS, solicitors, the courts, police and job centres, as well as international firms; all of whom have a need for oral translators to enable them to communicate effectively with people who do not speak English. “I passed the necessary tests and became a translator for two of these companies, working for a UK based company between 11am and 4pm and a US organisation between 7pm and 11pm. The translation work is via the telephone, and the internet allows me to do the research that’s necessary for realtime translation in areas requiring complex interpretation, such as surgery. “Thanks to the internet, I have been able to find work that pays well and fits in with my family requirements. I have been able to increase my workload as time permits and have started training other women in the community to enable them to access similar work. The internet has also given me the opportunity of developing my knowledge base. I have just obtained a ‘Pharmacy Assistant Diploma’ through online study. This has helped me greatly with my translation work.

“Access to connectivity has changed my life. It has also changed the life of my family. It has allowed me to gain employment opportunities while still successfully looking after my young family. It has also given my children access to a fantastic learning resource which will be part of their provision for the future. “I am now a member of the UK Digital Champion and Lastminute.com founder Martha Lane Fox’s ‘People’s Taskforce’, which comprises inspiring representatives of the four million UK citizens who are least likely to embrace the information revolution. In July, I was invited to join a delegation visiting 10 Downing Street with Martha Lane Fox to launch her ‘Manifesto for a Networked Nation’. It was a really proud moment and I was able to tell the Prime Minister, David Cameron, the power and value of being online to me and my family.”


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CLASSIFIED

University of Wolverhampton School of Art & Design MK Building Molineux Street Wolverhampton WV1 1DT t. e. w. p.

00 (44) 1902 322058 art-design@wlv.ac.uk www.wlv.ac.uk/sad Course enquiries

Thinktank and IMAX Cinema

@Warblefly Productions Ltd

Millennium Point Curzon Street Birmingham B4 7XG

The Zoo 21-21a Caroline Street St.. Paul’s Square Birmingham, B3 1UE

t. 0121 202 2222 e. findout@thinktank.ac w. www.thinktank.ac

t. e. w. p.

0121 233 3441 info@warblefly.com www.warblefly.com Warren Haughey

Undergraduate and postgraduate programmes, taught by internationally recognised academics. Housed within a purpose built building with outstanding facilities. A wide range of courses from Computer Games Design and Animation to Fine Art.

Thinktank offers an extraordinary, fun-packed day out for all the family. From steam engines to intestines, this exciting museum has over 200 hands-on displays on science and technology, including a state-of-the-art digital Planetarium. Thinktank shares its home at Millennium Point with the IMAX Cinema, hosting the largest cinema screen in the whole of the Midlands.

Ulfah Arts & Media

Atkins

In Cahoots

Unit 15 Highgate Craft Centre 8 Highgate Square Birmingham B12 0DU

The Axis 10 Holliday Street Birmingham B11TF

Waterside House 46 Gas Street Birmingham B1 2JT

t. e. w. p.

t. e. w. p.

t. e. w. p.

01214464460 prashant@ulfaharts.co.uk www.ulfaharts.co.uk Prashant Singh

Ulfah Arts & Media develops arts and media projects that encourage participation, develop skills and nurture a new generation of artists and media producers. We develop projects for and with youth groups, NDPB’s and educational authorities across UK and mainland Europe.

0121 483 5000 info@atkinsglobal.com www.atkinsglobal.com Dr Fraser Sommerville

Atkins is one of the world’s leading design and engineering consultancy firms. We have the depth and breadth of expertise to respond to the most technically challenging and time critical projects whilst addressing the transition to a low-carbon economy.

Daden Limited

Staffordshire University

Faraday Wharf Birmingham Science Park Holt Street Birmingham B7 4BB

College Road Stoke-on-Trent Staffordshire ST4 2DE

t. e. w. p.

t. e. w. p.

0121 250 5678 info@daden.co.uk www.daden.co.uk Soulla Stylianou

Daden is an international virtual worlds and chatbot solutions provider. We help organisations understand and use virtual world and chatbot technologies for collaboration, education and building visualisations. Clients range from SMEs to global brands including central and local government, universities and healthcare organisations.

BIRMINGHAM AND THE REGION: HEART OF DIGITAL INNOVATION

01785 353823 p.l.hughes@staffs.ac.uk www.staffs.ac.uk Peter Hughes

With a wide range of awards at all levels, investment in facilities including a broadcast quality SDI studio and experienced teaching staff, who all have industry experience, we understand exactly what it is you need to succeed in today’s digital age.

Let our creative team take your idea and make it shine, get noticed, and most importantly, get the results you need. @Warblefly Productions Ltd is a one-stop-shop for all of your production; postproduction and camera hire needs.

+44 121 248 4468 hello@in-cahoots.net www.in-cahoots.net Rebecca Cadwallader

In Cahoots is digital content and creative production company. With a BAFTA level pedigree from broadcast television, we’ve transformed to deliver experiences for the digital age that educate, inspire and entertain. We develop and implement bespoke digital strategies and communications that work. We’ve revolutionised international conferences encouraging new levels of participation and solved clients’ problems by harnessing user engagement. Your business can’t afford to ignore digital and its power to bring employees together, to market or to service customers changing needs.


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CONTACTS

Digital Birmingham www.digitalbirmingham.co.uk +44 (0) 121 303 8779

Birmingham University www.birmingham.ac.uk +44 (0)121 414 3344

Big Button www.bigbutton.tv +44 (0) 21 224 8265

Marketing Birmingham www.marketingbirmingham.com +44 (0) 121 202 5115

Aston University www.aston.ac.uk +44 (0) 121 204 3000

Custard Factory www.custardfactory.co.uk +44 (0) 121 224 7777

Birmingham City Council www.birmingham.go.uk +44 (0)121 303 1111

Birmingham City University www.bcu.ac.uk +44 (0) 121 331 5000

University Hospital Birmingham www.uhb.nhs.uk +44 (0) 121 627 2000

Service Birmingham www.birmingham.gov.uk/servicebirmingham +44 (0) 121 303 1111

Birmingham Metropolitan College www.bmetc.ac.uk 0845 155 0101

Chiltern Railways www.chilternrailways.co.uk 08456 005 165

Birmingham Chamber Group www.birmingham-chamber.com +44 (0) 121 454 6171

Medilink www.medilinkwm.co.uk +44(0) 121 452 5630

Broad Street Business Improvement District www.broadstreetbid.co.uk +44 (0) 121 303 3114

Birmingham Science City www.birminghamsciencecity.co.uk +44 (0) 121 202 5072

Stickee www.stickee.co.uk 08456 445656

Centro www.centro.org.uk +44 (0) 121 200 2787

Business Link West Midlands www.businesslinkwm.co.uk 0845 113 1234

Philip John and Ross Hawkes www.thelichfieldblog.co.uk

Daden www.daden.co.uk +44 (00 121 250 5678

Screen West Midlands www.screenwm.co.uk +44 (0) 121 265 7120 Serious Games Institute www.seriousgamesinstitute.co.uk +44 (0) 24 7615 8201 Birmingham Library www.libraryofbirmingham.com +44 (0) 121 303 1111 ICT Cluster www.wmictcluster.org 0844 477 6350

BIRMINGHAM AND THE REGION: HEART OF DIGITAL INNOVATION

Maverick TV www.mavericktv.co.uk +44 (0)121 771 1812 QRKy www.qrky.co.uk +44 (0) 121 288 2350 Install Automation www.installautomation.com 08708 550010

Birmingham Science Park Aston www.bsp-a.com +44 (0) 121 260 6000 Glen Howells www.glennhowells.co.uk +44 (0) 121 666 7640 West Midlands Observatory www.wmro.org +44 (0) 121 202 3250 NESTA www.nesta.org.uk +44 (0)20 7438 2500


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Birmingham: Stories from a digital city  

For the first time Open Box brings together a collection of inspirational interviews, stories and features which show how Birmingham’s aim t...