Clusters: the future of digital business? - MIDAS

Clusters: the future of digital business?

CREATIVE England recently held an interactive workshop at MediaCity to identify emerging trends and opportunities in Manchester’s digital sector.

The Creative England stake holder workshop was held on 24 April at The Greenhouse, a MediaCity business incubator, where cluster specialists worked with industry experts to create ideas which would help support established digital businesses and those industries making the technological transition.

The meeting was held as part of Cluster 2020, a European Creative Industries Alliance scheme. The 100million Euro initiative includes Germany, France and Belgium as well as the UK and looks at ways to provide better support to flourishing creative businesses.

Industry experts present at the meeting included members of the Digital Innovation team as well as representatives from Salford University, MIDASNew Economy, Salford City Council and Mediasmiths.

Introductory discussions centred on a recent online report which posted findings from industry consultation sessions held throughout 2012.

Some key strengths and themes in the Manchester digital sector to emerge from the report centred on the diversity of skills on offer, entrepreneurial spirit, the ability to find new approaches and the sheer critical mass of those involved in the industry. It was found that small businesses were performing at national levels within a vibrant technological community which must be supported.

Constantly evolving

One of the main barriers facing professionals in the industry was identified as apprehension, something Ray Hanks, co-founder of CIBS at MediaCity, has witnessed throughout his career: “Fear is often the thing that stops people doing what they can do. I’ve run many workshops on marketing and confidence building and fear is the problem most people have. It’s really a matter of overcoming that and being prepared to take the risks.”

Those present were asked to take these factors into consideration when working in groups of their own to present ideas on how to digitise more traditional industries. The teams presented ideas on the use of digital technologies in healthcare, manufacturing and social platforms as well as considering the problems and solutions surrounding these. Further workshops will be held in Birmingham with the outcomes published and recirculated to ensure a dialogue is built from the events.

Johanna Bolhoven, a Cluster Development Manager for Creative England, spoke of the wider objectives of the project: “The ultimate aim is that at the end of the two years we have this blueprint for cluster success and all these findings will feed into that; it is very much an on-going process. We also hope to launch some initiatives, tools and products which businesses can pilot and hopefully benefit from. Without these sessions we can’t really understand what the need is and what the opportunities are, but by holding events like this we can then start to develop solutions.

“It’s interesting because clusters are emerging all the time. Part of the whole outcome of this project is that it will have a strategy that up and coming clusters can adopt and hopefully help them be more effective.

“There is always this gathering of expertise, people and businesses that happens around a supply chain or client base, but it’s constantly evolving – some will die down, others may build up and there’s definitely a need and a desire for it to happen.”

To learn more about Cluster 2020, or to read the full Creative England online consultation, click here

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