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staying ahead of the curve The issue: How can we all maximise the opportunities created by super-fast broadband and tomorrow’s technology and applications to enhance the performance of West Midlands businesses? A diverse group of 19 business leaders, politicians and broadband experts got together for a wide-ranging debate on the future of super-fast broadband. BQ West Midlands editor Steve Dyson recorded the comments made during dinner, and edited the shapes of the discussions that emerged. What were guests’ opening thoughts on super-fast broadband issues? Simon Jenner, a leading entrepreneur who now guides other start-ups, began by challenging the public sector about what he felt might be unnecessary interference. He said: “I feel strongly about the council’s/ government intervention into 4G and broadband.” His views were immediately noted by James McKay, responsible for Birmingham City Council’s role in assisting internet roll-out. James said: “I’m Simon’s interventionist! My responsibility for the council is all around the digital agenda. What I’d be particularly keen to debate is the capacity of the workforce, and the capacity


particularly of the youth workforce, as a currently limiting but potentially maximising factor in digital opportunities.” Other public sector guests also seemed ready to defend the need for their intervention. Birmingham Chamber’s Katie Teasdale said: “There’s a really horrible statistic that some 40% of the businesses in this area don’t use a computer regularly. There’s obviously a huge job to be done to stimulate growth, to stimulate businesses to make use of this amazing infrastructure that we’re building. That’s where we’re coming from, how do you help businesses to see the opportunity and potential?” Peter Shearer, of Aston University, seemed to agree: “Many small businesses do not appreciate why they should have super-fast broadband. I don’t believe they know what it can do for them. Even young people can see the advantages of downloading films and music at home, but the link between that and improved business performance is missing. I


Taking part Ian Binks, regional partnership director, BT West Midlands Richard Butler, regional director, CBI West Midlands Debra Davis, chief executive, City TV Broadcasting Dr Phil Extance, pro vice chancellor, business partnerships and knowledge transfer, Aston University Lucan Gray, managing director, Fazeley Studios David Hardman, MBE, chief executive, Birmingham Science Park, Aston Derek Inman, director, City TV Broadcasting Simon Jenner, chief executive, Oxygen Enterprise Partners Alastair MacColl, chief executive, BE Group Councillor James McKay, Labour cabinet member for a green, safe and smart city, Birmingham City Council Bill Murphy, managing director, BT Next Generation Access John Rider, regional chairman, Institute of Directors, West Midlands Peter Shearer, director of the Business Partnership Unit, Aston University Katie Teasdale, director of policy and strategic relationships, Birmingham Chamber Group Emma Tennant, senior media relations manager, BT Councillor Paul Tilsley MBE, Liberal Democrat leader, Birmingham City Council Stewart Towe CBE, chair, Black Country LEP, and managing director, Hadley Industries Holdings Jonnie Turpie, director, digital media, Maverick TV Pam Waddell, director, Birmingham Science City In the chair: Caroline Theobald, BQ Live Venue: MPW Steakhouse Birmingham BQ is highly regarded as a leading independent commentator on business issues, many of which have a bearing on the current and future success of the region’s business economy. BQ Live is a series of informative debates designed to further contribute to the success and prosperity of our regional economy through the debate, discussion and feedback on a range of key business topics and issues.

think there’s a communications exercise to be carried out here.” His Aston colleague, Phil Extance, added: