A fair for Creative Citizens in Birmingham.

(This was first published over on the Podnosh site)

Click on the image to book on the eventbrite page
Click on the image to book on the eventbrite page

Creative Citizens is a project that’s been running for a couple of years bringing together research and activity around hyperlocal websites and active citizens. There’s some fine people involved, including Dave Harte (an old friend and collaborator of ours) and one of the researchers has also been investigating motivations behind the brilliant WV11 blog run by our own Steph Clarke and her very fine husband James.

So there is going to be a fair for active citizens and creative citizens organised as part of this programme. To get a free ticker go here www.creativecitizensfair.eventbrite.co.uk.

What to expect? Organiser Jez Turner says :

Thousands of citizens in the UK take part in community projects every day, from citizen journalists to breadmaking collectives, cycling social enterprises to craft makers. If you run a community project, are thinking of starting one, or are just interested in meeting like-minded people, join us at the first Creative Citizens Fair.

Talks will run throughout the day from community and voluntary projects, sharing their experience and tips, with plenty of time for questions.

In the Fair space you can:

  • talk to some of the organisations
  • take part in activities and workshops
  • see the Creative Citizens photo exhibition
  • find people to collaborate with
  • find out about the Creative Citizens research project
  • grab some lunch and coffee

More details at www.creativecitizens.co.uk

The venue is the Impact Hub in Digbeth, which is another home for creative citizens.

The Birmingham Smart City Alliance May Steering Group meeting: digital leadership, choices for healthy lifestyles, a new Smart Cities demonstrator and the importance of personal data

(Moseley farmers' market in full swing. Can technology and "smart" thinking contribute to Birmingham's food culture?)
(Moseley farmers’ market in full swing. Can technology and “smart” thinking contribute to Birmingham’s food culture?)

May’s steering group meeting of the Birmingham Smart City Alliance, held in Baskerville House thanks to the generous hospitality of Birmingham Science City, was an energetic meeting that welcomed four exciting new initiatives in the West Midlands.

A neighbourhood scale Smart City demonstrator

Digital Birmingham described a new neighbourhood-scale Smart City demonstrator project that is being put together with local and national stakeholders under the guidance of the Smart City Commission. The project will tackle issues including sustainable passenger and freight travel; citizen engagement; health and wellbeing; civic enterprise; and digital skills. The next shaping workshop for the project will be held on 2nd June. Please contact Digital Birmingham for more details, or make contact with the Alliance by commenting on this blog or through the Alliance’s Linked In group.

Digital Leadership

We discussed a new “Digital Leaders” programme  for individuals and organisations across the UK involved in delivering sustainable and innovative digital transformation. The programme is intended to promote digital expertise and the adoption of technology, and is led by Cabinet Office. An Alliance member is taking a national role to support the  programme and looking for collaborators to support it in the West Midlands. For more details, make contact with the Alliance by commenting on this blog or through the Alliance’s Linked In group.

Supporting Healthier Food Preferences

We also learned about “Supporting Healthier Food Preferences“, a new healthy eating initiative supported by “The Lancet” medical journal, intended to tackle obesity in Birmingham, including child obesity, and issues such as the saturation of many shopping centres by fast food outlets. The initiative will ask what business is prepared to contribute towards the healthy eating agenda; and what the public sector is prepared to contribute.

The fast food market has grown across the country – aided by online services such as “Just Eat” – but many local authorities are seeking to restrict them. Birmingham currently limits “fast food” usage of retail space to 10%, whilst some other authorities limit it to 5%. However, over half of Birmingham’s shopping centres are already saturated with such outlets by this measure, and many others escape these restrictions as they are classified as “restaurants”. In the meantime, child obesity is a growing challenge in Birmingham – 1 in 4 children in Year 6 are overweight or obese, and rising).

So what can we do? We will be holding a workshop to explore ideas. If you would like to join the workshop, please comment on this blog post or through the Alliance’s Linked In discussion group.

Data Citizen Project

Finally, Julia Higginbotham, Chief Executive of Rewired State, asked our help in connecting Birmingham’s institutions, particularly our Universities, to the “Data Citizen Project” Rewired State are running for the Office for National Statistics to understand the motivations and impact of the use of personal data in finance, education, health and travel. The initiative intends to develop a positive narrative for the use of personal data with consent. Again, if you or your organisation has something to add to the initiative, please make contact through the Alliance’s Linked In group or by commenting on this blog.

Our next steering group meeting is on Wednesday 10th June where we’ll be hearing from a new business-led Skills Action Plan for the digital and technology sectors and about InnovateUK’s new £10m “Internet of Things” demonstrator competition.

For more updates from the Birmingham Smart City Alliance, please follow our blog and twitter feed.

Best regards.

Rick Robinson

Chair of the Birmingham Smart City Alliance Steering Group

Net Squared Midlands – global network connecting technology and social impact

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Immy Kaur, Impact Hub Birmingham co-founder, speaks to Net Squared Midlands members and guests, May 2015

Net Squared Midlands, the local branch of the global Net Squared network which organises events for anyone interested in the connection of technology and social impact, held its first event in the Midlands at the Impact Hub Birmingham on Wed May 6 2015 as part of the Hub’s launch festival Demo B.

Members and guests heard about Net Squared and its global mission, and the other local branches in the UK. Immy Kaur, Hub co-founder, also gave an insight into how the Hub was started and the success of their crowdfunding campaign.

Local Net Squared Midlands co-organisers, Pauline Roche of social enterprise RnR Organisation from Birmingham and Paul Webster digital connector from Mansfield, gave short talks about some of the work they do around tech for good in the voluntary sector. As well as the pair co-organising the national VCSSCamp unconference for infrastructure organisations, Pauline spoke about open data and her involvement with networks and events Open Mercia, West Midlands Open Data Forum and Open Data Camp while Paul spoke about his work on the LASA Connecting Care project.

Local Birmingham techy members recommended that the organisers publicise Net Squared Midlands on the new Birmingham discussion forum for all techy people Birmingham IO which Pauline has done. Her post there has had 41 views already.

Paul and Pauline explain that whether you are a not for personal profit organisation in the traditional sense, a venture capitalist, a programmer, an individual with a great idea, or a social changemaker, NetSquared Midlands is here to help you make connections and add to the community around innovating for good in the Midlands.

They say that these events are great opportunities to learn what others are trying, see successful projects and platforms, hear about developing technologies, make new friends and collaborate on new projects.

The next event is being planned for September 2015 but in the meantime, members and others are being encouraged to use the Net Squared Midlands meetup page for dialogue and suggestions.

FIWARE Accelerate – €80M of funding and support available

Logo FIWARE Horiz CMYK

Digital Birmingham are supporting and co-organising the EU FIWARE Accelerator Birmingham event on 13 May 2015. This is part of a roadshow of events taking place across the country where 5 accelerators will present details of their next call and run through how businesses can apply. There is a total fund of 80 million Euros up for grabs for successful SME’s to design applications based on FIWARE technology. The 5 accelerator programmes providing funding and business support are:

  1.  FINODEX: the open data accelerator
  2. CREATIFI: projects on creative industries
  3. FABULOUS: 3D-printing technologies
  4. SOUL-FI: ideas for improving urban life
  5. FIC3: smart territories, health and contents

Further details and how to register are below:

Date: Wednesday 13 May 2015

Time: 9:00 – 13.30

Where: Faraday Wharf, Innovation Birmingham

bit.ly/fi-ware

Join us and inform those that could benefit from this incredible amount of funding available to start-ups and SME’s in this region.

Birmingham to lead extension of voucher scheme to neighbouring LEPs

In the past few weeks, Government has announced that the Superfast Broadband Voucher Scheme will be extended.

The scheme which allows SMEs to receive up to £3000 grant funding to connect to new, superfast broadband connections has been a big success for Birmingham over the last twelve months and things are about to get even more exciting. Over the past few months, we have been negotiating with Local Authorities from our surrounding areas and we are delighted to announce that Birmingham will become the lead organisation and administrative centre for the newly extended scheme which will now cover the following Local Enterprise Partnerships:

  1. Greater Birmingham and Solihull
  2. Worcestershire
  3. Stoke on Trent and Staffordshire
  4. The Marches – Herefordshire, Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin

For further information about the voucher scheme, please visit https://www.connectionvouchers.co.uk/ or alternatively contact Stuart Lester.
Suart_Butcher_swoosh_1000

Our first annual report: the Birmingham Smart City Alliance 2013-2015

Originally posted on Birmingham Smart City Alliance:

(Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall opening the Harborne Food School, with founders Robert Smith and Shaleen Meelu. The Food School is one of the initiatives the Birmingham Smart City Alliance has supported over the last two years)

In February 2013, IBM, SCC, Millennium Point and Innovation Birmingham – then known as Birmingham Science Park Aston – agreed to form a “Birmingham Smart City Alliance” as a collaboration to stimulate and support “smart” projects and initiatives in Birmingham.

Our inspiration was the work of Kelvin Campbell, the architect of Birmingham’s “Big City Plan”. Kelvin designs cities according to the “Massive / Small” principle: successful cities create “massive” amounts of the “small”-scale innovations that make a difference to people, businesses and communities.

We realised that we could help Birmingham become more successful at “Massive / Small” innovation by collaborating in a focused way on the “Smart City” agenda and making…

View original 1,349 more words

Synapse is awarded a Knowledge Transfer Partnership with the University of Leicester, after securing £380,000 of grant income

Synapse – a business spreadsheet collaboration company based at the Innovation Birmingham Campus – has concluded the 2014/5 financial year with a total of £380,000 secured in grant and investment income. In addition, a Knowledge Transfer Partnership with the University of Leicester has just been awarded to further accelerate product development.

Started in 2012 by serial entrepreneur Brian Donnelly, Synapse has tripled in size to 18 people during the 2014/5 financial year. A £250,000 SMART Grant from Innovate UK, a £25,000 investment from Finance Birmingham, a £15,000 grant secured via a Coventry University project, and a £90,000 grant from The Birmingham Post’s Regional Growth Fund have supported the tech start-up’s rapid growth. Revenues have grown from £300,000 in 2012 to over £1.3 million in 2014.

Synapse’ largest clients include a high street bank and a leading Swedish furniture retailer.

Brian Donnelly, CEO of Synapse Information Ltd said: “Despite the prevalence of enterprise software, companies large and small still opt to produce financial reports using spreadsheets, which are manually cut and pasted together every time amends and new data are inputted. Spreadsheets offer employees a familiar, flexible format, but the time wasted and significant margin for error created by cutting and pasting various versions – sometimes as many as 200 versions are being worked on simultaneously –is bad for business.

“Synapse has spent three years developing a collaborative solution which connects standard spreadsheets through our cloud service and automates all of the cutting and pasting work in the background. Every change made by a user ripples through to every other user in a controlled and auditable manner, so ‘one version of the truth’ is instantly accessible across the business. There is no software to install or buy and no disruption to business as usual, which is resonating with our clients.

“The three grants we secured in the 2014 financial year – together with the investment from Finance Birmingham – has enabled the team to triple in size to 18. The newly awarded Knowledge Transfer Partnership grant will enable us to carry out much more product development work during this coming 2015 financial year, alongside a team from the University of Leicester.”

Synapse’s growth has also been supported by loan finance from Aston Reinvestment Trust (ART), which is also based at the Innovation Birmingham Campus.

The previous business founded by Brian Donnelly was relocated from the UK in order to grow the business exponentially in California’s ‘Silicon Valley’. Over a series of investment rounds with US venture capitalists, he raised a total of $30 million, enabling the team to grow to 160 with a customer base of 70 large clients, before exiting the business and subsequently returning to the UK.

Brian Donnelly added: “I made the decision to create a new start-up in Birmingham because the wealth of companies in the region makes it easier to establish a strong customer base. In addition, recruiting a high-skilled team of software engineers and marketers is much more straightforward and inexpensive than it would be in London. Birmingham is significantly underrated as a location for tech businesses.”

A place to share ideas and developments for a Smarter Birmingham

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