Category Archives: Digital Inclusion

Action needed on digital skills crisis says Committee

The Science and Technology Committee publishes a report warning that the UK risks being left behind if the Government does not take more action to address the digital skills crisis.

Report findings
12.6 million adults in the UK lack basic digital skills; 5.8 million people have never used the internet; only 35% of computer teachers in schools have a relevant degree and 30% of the required number of computer science teachers have not been recruited; and 13% of computer graduates are still unemployed 6 months after leaving university. This digital skills gap is costing the UK economy £63 billion a year in lost GDP.

The gap between digital skills possessed and digital skills needed demonstrates a long-running weakness in the UK’s approach to this crisis. The Committee is calling for:

  • Digital skills to be made one of the core components in all apprenticeships, not just ‘digital apprenticeships’.
    Industry led vocationally-focused digital careers advice in universities.
  • Universities to provide ‘code conversion courses’ to help graduates from non-computer science backgrounds enter the tech sector.
  • After introducing the much needed computer curriculum in schools, the Government to establish a forum for employers to feedback on the continuing development of the curriculum, and Ofsted to include it in its school inspections.
  • A review of the qualifying requirements for ‘shortage occupation’ IT jobs under ‘Tier 2 visas’, to allow SMEs to get critical digital skills from abroad.
  • Apprenticeship scheme processes to be simplified to allow SMEs to participate more easily.

Chair’s comments
Science and Technology Committee Chair, Nicola Blackwood MP said:
“The UK leads Europe on tech, but we need to take concerted action to avoid falling behind. We need to make sure tomorrow’s workforce is leaving school or university with the digital skills that employers need.The Government deserves credit for action taken so far but it needs to go much further and faster. We need action on visas, vocational training and putting digital skills at the heart of modern apprenticeships.

The Government’s long-delayed Digital Strategy must now be published without delay, and it must deliver. The Government has introduce a range of measures to help, particularly by expanding the scale of the apprenticeship programme and introducing a new computer curriculum in schools, but it needs urgently to present a vision and coherent strategy that brings these together.”

Digital strategy

The MPs question why the Government has taken so long to produce the long-promised ‘Digital Strategy’ and call for it to be published without further delay. The Committee warns that the Strategy needs to go further than merely listing cross-government digital activity, but present a vision for the future delivered by collaborative work from all involved—industry, educators and Government.

Download the report here

Net Squared Midlands – global network connecting technology and social impact

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.

Ladywood Health & Community Centre – first to reap WiFi benefits!

Members of the public wanting to improve their computer skills or access useful online services at Ladywood Health and Community Centre will no longer have to go elsewhere following the installation of free WiFi for visitors.

Despite being commonplace in today’s society, those using the centre had been long used to being told there wasn’t any internet connection – and sometimes resorted to asking if they could use staff computers to access the internet.

But now though, thanks to Birmingham City Council’s Digital Birmingham team and the Government’s Super-Connected Cities Programme, the building on Vincent Street West, is amongst the first Birmingham buildings to go live with safe, secure public WiFi through the scheme.

Read the full press release here.

Data and open data skills for Birmingham community and voluntary groups at these Social media Surgeries.

Low Hill Social Media Surgery August 2012

First published on the Social Media Surgery blog.

Could your community group or charity be more effective if you collected information in different ways, used it better, shared it with the right people?  Would it help if you could more easily find information that government has about the places  or perhaps the people you are trying to help?

We are experimenting in Birmingham with how we can use the social media surgeries to share not just social media skills with local community groups and charities, but also data skills.

If you want a chat – even to find out what we mean – please click the links below for anyone of the surgeries for the following areas and sign up…

Central Birmingham Social Media

Moseley and Kings Heath Social Media Surgery

Kings Norton Social Media Surgery

What should I expect?

As always we start with you and your group.  What are you trying to achieve? What skills and tools do you have at the moment?  Can we show you new ideas that could help you achieve more? Can we help you in practical ways use those skills and tools – there and then? Always the same relaxed approach of a social media surgery.

What’s your aim?

Our ultimate aim is to encourage more community groups and local charities to find good uses for Open data.  This is numerical information that government shares in public, so we can have a better understanding of the places we live in and the way government works.  But we won’t throw you into anything difficult, we’ll start where you are and help you with the numbers and skills that matter to you.

Is there any information online?

As we work with people we’ll learn together how to solve problems. We’ll describe what we’re doing and share it here on the blog.  We will also be writing about things that might help you, tools, sites where data is stored, examples from other organisations.

I have no idea what you mean when you say open data!

Sorry – it is jargony.  Open government data is when government shares information on the internet that it owns  and grants you and I permission to use it (using an open government license) A simple example is local government releasing a monthly list of all spending over £500.  You can find the Birmingham one here.  But don’t be phased by any of this – we want to help you develop the understanding and skills that might be useful for what you are trying to achieve.

Innovation Birmingham Campus-based Memrica seeks pilot population of people living with early dementia to test new memory app

Memrica; a tech start-up based at the Innovation Birmingham Campus is developing a mobile aid for people with memory problems, including the early stages of dementia.

A grant from Nominet Trust, the UK’s leading ‘tech for good’ funder has been awarded to develop the first roll-out of the app, which is called ‘Memrica Prompt’. Designed to reduce the anxiety and frustration caused by forgetting essential information, it creates a virtual link between the things people want to remember and the objects and people around them. It also offers a smart reminder system, which collates data, image and voice files to prompt the user about day to day tasks and appointments. By increasing confidence and prolonging independence, the app is designed to delay the need for more extensive health and social care, and reduce stress for families and carers.

The tablet and smartphone app is being designed and developed in collaboration with people with dementia, their carers and clinical experts. A pilot population of those with early stage dementia –particularly people under 65, who enjoy using smartphone and tablet apps and already have an iPhone or iPad – is now sought to test the app.

Mary Matthews, Founder of Memrica said: “44 million people worldwide live with dementia and this number is expected to triple by 2050. Eight per cent of those diagnosed with dementia are under 65. However, when it comes to using technology, research from Deloitte suggests that by 2020, the gap between smartphone and tablet usage for the over 65’s and younger generations will be negligible.

“Memrica Prompt is a memory aid that can be built over time with photos, prompts, references and calendar notes to make all aspects of everyday life easier, such as going to the hairdresser or doctors, as well as relating to family and friends. Each subscription package gives access to up to five users, enabling loved ones and carers to contribute information to the app.”

“We have created the Memrica Prompt test application on the iOS Apple platform and are now seeking 50 people either living with early onset dementia, or who are worried about failing memory,  to help test the initial versions and then participate in a pilot. The outcome of the trial – which will be independently run by Coventry University’s Health Design Technology Institute – will be vital to shaping the continued development of the app.”

The Memrica Prompt app is expected to launch to the public this summer. Organisations that have already had input into the development of Memrica include Young Dementia UK, Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust, Worcestershire Early Intervention and Manchester Early Onset Dementia Services.

Memrica is one of the tech start-ups on Innovation Birmingham’s Entrepreneurs for the Future programme, where the Entrepreneurs in Residence have assisted with the development of the business plan.

Dr David Hardman MBE, CEO of Innovation Birmingham said: “Mary and her team have developed a new application in an area that is completely underserviced. The amount of interest from organisations such as Bupa, Young Dementia, Alzheimer’s Society and a number of NHS Trusts is very pleasing to see. The financial support from Nominet Trust to get the Memrica Prompt app to the test stage has been vital, and the importance of such funding to provide grants for ‘Tech for Good’ initiatives such as this cannot be underestimated.”

The Entrepreneurs for the Future (e4f) business incubation centre, provides bespoke mentoring and business planning to achieve investor readiness, as well as free telephone usage, 20Gbit/s broadband and office space for nine months; a package which has a monetary value of £10,000. Part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund, e4f is unique to Birmingham and is specifically designed to harness and support the city’s burgeoning tech community.

To participate in the trial of Memrica Prompt, please email Mary Matthews, founder:

Innovation Birmingham Campus-based Majestic comes 2nd in the Midlands in Deloitte’s Tech Fast 50 awards

MajesticInnovation Birmingham Campus’ largest tenant – has come second in the Midlands, and 17th overall, in the Deloitte Fast 50 awards programme, which took place last night. In five years, the web index creator’s turnover has grown by 1,571 per cent.

Majestic’s web index is far larger than Yahoo’s ever was, being the largest global commercially available link index available. Its client portfolio includes some of the best known international technology brands, who use the Topical Trust Flow product to rank and analyse the influence of all online web and twitter pages.

Having been based at the Innovation Birmingham Campus since its inception, Majestic has just expanded the size of its office to over 3,000 sq ft, to accommodate its growing team of 20 and suite of servers.

Vijay Thakrar, Technology Partner for Deloitte’s Midlands region said: “The Deloitte Fast 50 gives great profile to technology companies and is internationally recognised as being one of the most important business awards in the sector. Achieving sustained revenue growth of 1,571 per cent over five years is a tremendous accomplishment – Majestic has proven that its leadership has the vision and determination to grow in competitive conditions and its exceptional growth puts it in select company.”

Majestic’s groundbreaking specialist search engine has been designed to categorise the entire World Wide Web, eradicating the need for manually categorised website directories. Its purpose-designed technology continuously crawls the web in order to map links between websites. Over seven hundred billion web pages – including all Twitter accounts – are filtered into 800 topics to enable easy analysis and comparison. Trust Flow scores are also provided, where higher rankings are achieved by having links directly relevant to a web page.

Majestic’s search engine is multi-lingual and enables analysis of the web to be fully automated. For organisations that want to boost their own web presence, it provides clear results as to which sites are more influential to link to, without actually viewing any web pages.

Dixon Jones, Marketing Director of Majestic said: “Our company has experienced considerable growth because we are passionate about creating brand new technology for a global audience. Being recognised in Deloitte’s Tech Fast 50 awards is a great accolade for Majestic, especially since we’ve ranked higher than well-known brands such as, Just Eat plc and Sky Scanner.

“Our Topical Trust Flow product provides analysis on every live page on the World Wide Web and every Twitter account. Currently, this is over seven hundred billion pages, but the number increases by the minute. If you want to know who the most influential politicians are on twitter, we can tell you in an instant. While Google continues to make advancements, it does not have a feature similar to our Trust Flow scoring mechanism, so comparing how influential Twitter accounts and web pages are is a functionality we lead on, globally.”

Topical Trust Flow is designed to assist outreach and inbound marketeers, advertising strategists, PR professionals and business analysts. When comparing two of the world’s most influential Twitter accounts; Lady Gaga and Barack Obama, there is virtually no overlap in the topics that they rank most highly for, but their overall Trust Flow scores are very similar.

For advertisers, the new search engine can decipher the topic of every web page, so can inform which messaging is likely to be most effective to the audience.

For more information, visit

Over 30 gaming and ICT professionals from across Europe will attend Innovation Birmingham’s LAUNCH Conference this week

Innovation Birmingham’s fifth annual LAUNCH Future Gaming & Digital Conference has attracted a large delegation of gaming and ICT professionals from across Europe. The delegation has been facilitated by the BOO-Games project, which unites and promotes the gaming industry across nine countries in Europe.

Taking place at the Innovation Birmingham Campus, the focus of Thursday 20th November’s conference agenda is ‘Grads In Games – Launch a Career’, which is run in conjunction with gaming recruitment specialist Aardvark Swift. Friday 21st’s conference theme is ‘Develop Inspired’ to harness the burgeoning community of indie games developers located within the region and beyond.

In addition to the European delegation, LAUNCH has attracted registrations from over 20 universities and colleges from across the UK. Over 300 people will attend the two-day event, which will showcase some of the biggest names in digital gaming.

Speakers include Lee Stott, Technical Evangelist for Microsoft UK; Kyle Jobson, Video Game Producer for Flix Interactive; Richard Semmens and Jafar Soltani of Microsoft Rare Studios; Helana Santos, Lead Programmer for Modern Dream; Jason Fielder, CTO of Exient; Oscar Clark, Everplay Evangelist for Unity Technologies; Chris Sterling of Worldweaver; Paul Norris, Creative Director of Mad Fellows; Charu Desodt, Senior Producer of Microsoft’s Lift London studio; Ant Thomas from Marketing Birmingham; Cliff Dennett, CEO of Soshi Games; and Trevor Williams, COO of Playground Games.

Pia Pearson, Digital Marketing Manager and Head of LAUNCH at the Innovation Birmingham Campus said: “The LAUNCH Conference and regular events programme is one of the largest activities of its kind for the UK’s digital gaming industry. This is the fifth year for LAUNCH, and over that time we have delivered over 40 highly engaging events for the digital gaming industry, ranging from meet-ups and studio showcases, to the annual Meet The Games Press event and this – the flagship two-day LAUNCH Conference.

“Partners and sponsors such as Aardvark Swift, bluegfx, Boo-Games, Business Birmingham, Creative Skillset, Develop, Game Republic, Microsoft, TIGA, UKIE, and for the first time this year – Google, ensure the LAUNCH event series tackles the themes and issues that matter most to the industry.”

The universities that will be in attendance for the ‘Launch a Career’ day include those with specialist digital gaming and computer science departments such as the University of Northampton, Staffordshire University, De Montfort University, University of Birmingham, and Birmingham City University.

The LAUNCH Conference will provide delegates with an insight into the industry’s latest innovations, trends, online tools, computer games, mobile products and services. Delegates will also be able to get hands-on with cutting-edge technology via the interactive exhibition, which will feature a dedicated showcase for gaming start-ups to demonstrate their latest creations.

Pia Pearson added: “The UK games industry is the second largest in the world after the US, and the West Midlands is home to 25 per cent of the country’s total games workforce.  This region has become a hub for games and digital media, with the Innovation Birmingham Campus being home to 18 games studios.”

Innovation Birmingham runs UK-wide competition to discover the brightest clean-tech talent

Innovation Birmingham has hosted the UK heat of the European-wide CleanLaunchpad competition, where the eventual winners and two runners up will collectively receive €17,500 to develop their clean-tech products/services. The competition is one of the initiatives being run by Innovation Birmingham’s Climate-KIC team.

The competition entrants for the UK heat were located across the country. Cambridge-based bio-glue manufacturer Cambond has come out as the overall winner of CleanLaunchpad UK. The company, which makes adhesives from biomass feedstocks (including algae), using a low-carbon, cost effective process will now progress to the European-wide final in Valencia at the end of October.

Cambond will be joined by the UK joint runners-up; Derby-headquartered Adaptavate and London-headquartered Desolenator. Adaptavate has developed a natural compostable plasterboard, suitable for use on heritage buildings and traditional homes, while Desolenator has produced a solar-powered means of desalinating water.

CleanLaunchpad is Europe’s largest clean-tech business idea competition. The UK is one of 10 countries taking part, along with The Netherlands, Hungary, Germany, Spain, Italy, Poland, Cyprus, Greece and Denmark. As well as the cash prize, the winner of the European final, which is held annually, will also receive a place on Climate-KIC’s Accelerator programme.

Catherine Shelley, Innovation Birmingham’s Climate KIC Programme Development and Delivery Officer said: “Many of the innovative concepts that came onto the CleanLaunchpad competition at the beginning of the process have made genuinely impressive progress with developing their products, plans for reaching the mass market and the quality of their pitching. We are confident that Cambond, Adaptavate and Desolenator will do the UK proud in the final, and I really hope that all entrants keep developing their ideas.”

CleanLaunchPad is a Climate Knowledge Innovation Community (Climate KIC) project, which Innovation Birmingham is a delivery partner for. Climate KIC is the EU’s main climate innovation initiative, and was one of the first Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs) created by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) in 2010. The EIT is the European Union body tasked with creating sustainable European growth and jobs while dealing with the global challenges of our time.

Coventry’s Serious Games Studio strikes up new partnership with Innovation Birmingham’s LAUNCH Digital Gaming event programme

Coventry University’s Serious Games Studio has signed up as a partner of Innovation Birmingham’s LAUNCH event series for digital gaming and mobile app developers.

LAUNCH is the biggest event programme of its kind outside of London, connecting and supporting the region’s burgeoning digital gaming sector. The highlight of the annual programme – which is now in its fifth year – is a two-day conference for over 300 indie games developers, held during November at the Innovation Birmingham Campus. The Serious Games Studio has signed up as a partner ahead of the conference on 20th -21stNovember 2014, in order to promote the ERDF funded support available to West Midlands-based gaming companies needing to develop a proof of concept.

Features of LAUNCH’s November conference include a ‘grads in games’ programme by industry recruitment specialists Aardvark Swift, as well as a dedicated session from Microsoft on cloud gaming.

Pia Pearson, Digital Marketing Manager and Head of LAUNCH at the Innovation Birmingham Campus said: “Working alongside Coventry’s Serious Games Studio is a natural expansion of the LAUNCH programme and a great way to promote the support on offer to indie games developers based within the West Midlands.

Education Tech Start-Up Wambiz Secures £600,000 Investment

Innovation Birmingham Campus-based WAMBIZ, a start-up tackling the issue of student retention in further education, has secured over £600,000 of angel investment following its latest round of funding.

The business creates VENs (virtual engagement networks), which connect students with educators to deliver crucial course and student information via a channel they will regularly use.

Co-founded by Harry Jawanda and Andrew West – who met when playing hockey for England, the private social networks created by WAMBiz provide a safe means for students to connect, communicate and collaborate with peers, teachers and institutions in an engaging, yet controlled way.

The investment was made by Allan Murdoch, the former Executive Chairman of HIPCOM, a leading telecoms provider, who has created a consortium of investors to back new tech start-ups.

The group has already invested in such companies as Forge Special Projects which delivers technology to festivals and events, Stylect a shoe app and Shareight which creates a virtual high street on your mobile.

Harry Jawanda CEO and co-founder of WAMBIZ said:

“Institutions are losing millions in funding each year through students dropping out within the first three months of the school year. Much of this is down to a lack of initial engagement between the student and teachers and institutions. WAMedu offers a solution and bridges that gap. We help build engagement between these audiences through our understanding of how social networks have changed the way we all communicate. “

Read full article on the Innovation Birmingham Campus news page, here>