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CITY IMPACT DINNER: LEEDS RESPONDS TO FUTURE CHALLENGES

Thursday 20th October 2016
This week in Leeds, Amsource Technology sponsored and attended an exciting evening of discussion looking at the future challenges the city faces covering the areas of People, Places and Business.

25 digital business and city leaders assembled for DigitalAgenda’s  second northern ‘city impact’ gathering.  With big challenges set for northern cities set the opening event in Newcastle, the idea behind the evening was to look at common issues – and talk to some key players in Yorkshire’s biggest city. 
Attendees at the event were from a number of key organisations in the region:
aql, BJSS, Bradford Council, Branksome Partners, Consume Communications Ltd, Dizinga, Futurelabs, KPMG, Leeds Beckett, Leeds Business School, Leeds City Council, Media Yorkshire, mHabitat, NatWest, NorthInvest, ODI Leeds, Plan Digital UK, RBS Group, SkyBet, Ten10

Digital leaders look to Leeds future

Leading city figures provided their views on the opportunities and challenges facing the city of Leeds, particularly making the city a better place to live and do business.

Name one local digital innovation that  you think will help Leeds to become a  better place...

 Simon Brereton, acting head of economic  policy and sector development at Leeds  City Council, says: “Leeds is uniquely  placed, because the NHS is run from  here,  to bring together NHS and social  care  data into a single patient record.  We  are  ahead of the UK and the rest of  the  world  on this, and it is already  making a big  difference to people’s  lives."

 Adam Beaumont, angel investor and  chief  executive of aql (also a board member of DigitalAgenda): “Investment in the right infrastructure is key. IXLeeds is the not-for-profit internet exchange, which acts as the hub to allow traffic to pass efficiently and locally from one operators network to another. This drives down the cost of access to the internet and also improves quality. It also acts as the exchange point between academic research and private data science companies. This bridge provides the necessary conduit to allow “big data” research to happen more effectively.

“For the city to become a better place, we need to understand how it can be better. To do this we need to measure many factors that affect quality of life and also gain smart insights into how we can change those factors to benefit the citizen. To do this, we need to perform smart analysis on many data sources, which will not only show us what we should be doing, but also provide us with valuable feedback on whether we are achieving our goals.”

What is the biggest obstacle in the way of scaling innovation in the city?


Adam Beaumont: “I see one obstacle – mindset. I’d like to divide this into technical mindset and also emotional mindset. “Part of the technical mindset is security. By that, I mean that we need to think about security in a different way. It’s no longer about keeping data locked away in order to protect it. It’s finding new ways of being able to share data collaboratively, whilst still protecting the privacy and rights of the individual. To do this, we need to focus on data integrity, authentication and open standards. Integrity is key – because how can you base outcomes, insights, improvements or investment decisions on data of unknown provenance?

“We need to change also the way we ‘feel’ about sharing and ownership. This involves removing barriers to participation. A city is a complex ecosystem of competitors and partners and they need to be aligned to common goals. Creating trust between parties is key to collaboration. When all parties know their place in the ecosystem and also what the prize is ‘what’s in it for me?’, trust flows naturally.”

Emma Cheshire of Dotforge and Futurelabs, says: “Open collaborative culture and facilitated connectivity and collaboration between sectors. It does not happen without an approach that drives people out of their existing organisational structure and culture and into another space. Futurelabs and ODI are examples of this – neutral spaces run by people with an agenda about connecting people.”

Simon Brereton: “As a council we are still set up to work in the industrial era, and our procurement rules (written for good reasons) make it far easier to buy old things from established corporations. It’s not easy to take risks with public money (again for good reasons), but no risk means no innovation.”

What single change would improve collaboration on digital innovation between UK businesses and cities?

Adam Beaumont: “Clear digital leadership and digital strategy. This leads back to being able to create a clear ecosystem that can support a city but also create a clear narrative of city capability. This narrative can sit alongside the narrative of other cities. This makes it easier for each city to collaborate and lead on its strengths, being inclusive of other cities, in the knowledge that other cities are acting similarly. A clear narrative also travels well – allowing, for example, the capabilities within the northern powerhouse to be better understood by central government.”

 Emma Cheshire: “An approach by  funders  and central government that  encouraged  collaboration not  competition. This is  particularly driven  by the way Innovate  UK and other key  money encourages  cities to compete.  Would be better if  funding was about  rewarding  collaboration.

 The  competitive approach  also has  inhibited  adoption. Realistically  this  needs to be  led by the cities and they  need to  demand a change. This is starting  to happen.”

Simon Brereton: “Get rid of our ridiculous interpretation of state aid rules, and our own procurement rules, which prevent cities from developing projects and products in partnership with their local businesses. Maybe Brexit will let us do this?”

Paul Connell, the founder at Open Data Leeds, says : “There are examples beginning to emerge across our cities, not just in the North. For instance, White Rose Energy, owned by Leeds City Council and Our Data Mutual, a concept developed in Leeds, the Leeds Care record and the many and varied groups, solutions and structures that self organised after the flooding that occurred last Boxing Day. However, we need new structures of policy, funding and technology and data to amplify their benefit for our cities.”

“What will make a difference is for us and our cities to build the new institutions and build the social capital for new institutional thinking that can access the tremendous and profound change that technology can bring. By this I mean institutions that are open by default, that create platforms for shared value, that collaborate and share risk with their partners and make decisions in the open at city scale – much as the Victorians did.”

Credit: Digital Agenda Click here
Julian Blake: Click here
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