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Digital Catapult Centre planned for Bradford

Published: Wed 5 Nov 2014

The Digital Catapult, a national centre set up to rapidly advance the UK's best digital ideas, has today announced that it intends to appoint a Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP)-led consortium in Yorkshire to establish one of three local Digital Catapult Centres.

Due to open in March 2015, the Digital Catapult Centre Yorkshire will be located in the Design Exchange building in the Little Germany area of Bradford and will provide a physical space for start-ups and small businesses in the creative and technology sectors to develop and showcase their digital ideas and products. They will also be able to use it to connect and collaborate with larger businesses, universities and public sector organisations.

With a united aim of generating thousands of new jobs, driving innovation at a local level and creating millions in linked investment and future funding by 2025, the three local centres will support the London King’s Cross Digital Catapult Centre which was opened today by Ed Vaizey MP, Minister for the Digital Economy.

The Digital Catapult Centre Yorkshire will host a high bandwidth connection linking it with two additional centres planned for Brighton and Sunderland, and also with the Digital Catapult Centre London.

The Yorkshire based consortium, proposed by Leeds City Region LEP and York, North Yorkshire and East Riding LEP, was selected following an open call for partners in July 2014. It was chosen from 17 LEP and local consortia bids involving more than 50 business, local authority, SME and university partners (1). 

The project will be led by the University of Bradford with support from experts from across Yorkshire’s universities. The new Centre will be part of Bradford’s Digital Health Enterprise Zone, one of four University Enterprise Zones under construction nationally. The consortium will have a specific focus on digital health innovation and will bring together start-ups, small and large businesses and the academic community to develop new healthcare products and services.

Other partners include the University of Leeds, University of York, BT, Science City York, Leeds Beckett University, City of Bradford Metropolitan Council and University of Huddersfield.

Ed Vaizey MP, Minister for the Digital Economy said “It is an exciting time to be a tech business in the UK. Our digital economy is already one of the strongest markets in the world, valued at more than £100 billion. Growth areas including the Internet of Things and digital creative industries are opening up a range of new opportunities for companies in the sector.”

“The new Digital Catapult Centre will provide a thriving, state-of-the-art hub for some of the country’s most innovative digital companies and entrepreneurs.”

Activity will run until March 2018, and the consortia will also be tasked with

  • Initiating and collaborating with the Digital Catapult on a range of innovative projects, designed to be accessible to start-up and SME businesses to use and learn from.
  • Creating links between universities and the local business community that enable university led R&D in the Digital Catapult challenge areas to be converted into commercial market opportunities which can be prototyped and piloted by start-ups and SMEs.
  • Helping to develop the higher level skills needed to realise and exploit new data and media capabilities.

Neil Crockett, CEO of the Digital Catapult said: “The truth is the most exciting digital innovation is happening in local communities, like Bradford, who are bringing together new ideas, businesses, universities and the public sector. As a national centre, it is important we support and collaborate with these local innovation communities who are doing amazing things in our focus areas.  The open call has only reinforced our view that there are many brilliant digital innovation communities across the UK, and we hope it is the start to building a whole range of exciting future relationships.” 

Professor Brian Cantor, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Bradford, said: “As a world-leading technology university, Bradford is ideally suited to this initiative. The Digital Catapult Centre Yorkshire will build on our recently launched Digital Health Enterprise Zone, enabling companies developing new healthcare products and services to connect with Bradford’s outstanding capabilities in healthcare systems research, practice-based medicine and information and communications technology, and with other centres nationally, driving the UK digital economy.”

Roger Marsh, Chair of the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership said: “The LEP is delighted to have played a key role in this successful bid to the Digital Catapult to stimulate the innovation development needs of SMEs across the City Region. The project will enable businesses to maximise the opportunities from new technologies such as big data and has the potential to contribute significant economic growth for both the Leeds City Region and the wider northern economy. “

Bradford Council Leader, Councillor David Green said: "I'm pleased that Bradford has been selected to host one of only four Digital Catapult centres in the UK. Based in the Design Exchange, it will enable small businesses to showcase their innovative digital ideas and products and link up with larger businesses, which will drive the local and regional economy and forge links right across the UK.

"Being part of Bradford's Digital Health Enterprise Zone is a further boost, strengthening the Digital Exchange as a focus of innovation in digital technology and digital health care in the Leeds City Region."

Chris Thompson, Partnerships Director at the Digital Catapult said: “The Yorkshire consortium demonstrated a long-term commitment to supporting business creation, growth and economic impact through data-led innovation.  They also clearly presented how the Catapult could add significant value to their broader local initiatives and link in with existing university, EU, national and regional funding sources. We hope to work closely with them in the next three years to encourage some truly disruptive innovations.”

The Digital Catapult will initially support the LEP with resources and collaborative support of up to £500,000. This includes the cost of setting up the local Digital Catapult Centre, costs for developing and delivering projects agreed and aligned with the Catapult’s focus areas and for use of Catapult resources to support engagement and initiatives. (2)  

The Digital Catapult builds platforms for UK SMEs to innovate on at speed and with less risk, so new digital products and services can be accelerated to market. It works with a range of partners interested in the success of the digital economy including large businesses, start-ups and SMEs and the research and academic community.   The relationships with the LEPs are non-exclusive.

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