TSB Consultation on TIC for Future Internet

I attended this session yesterday (and appreciated the invite given my micro-business status). Consultation on a possible Technology Innovation Center. It was well-run and met my expectations (information and networking) so what’s not to like? On reflection I can think of a few points that seem to be worth recording.

The session itself

The introductory talks added little value because most people in the room were aware of the state of technology and pundit predictions for the future. This would have better handled with read-before material and much shorter presentations. The Q&As were welcome (although most of the questioners pontificated instead of asking questions).

The discussions

Interactivity is always the good part of consultations and this was no exception. You get the opportunity for discussion with people with a variety of backgrounds and interests. The general drift was that a “Future Internet” TIC could be valuable as it would add a longer-term, more strategic dimension to existing government funded R&D and offered the possibility of a vision for how the UK can lead in certain areas. Without such an activity we are doomed to follow.

The TIC formulation

There seemed to be general agreement that this TIC would need to be cross-sector and cross-discipline. There would need to be be good leadership and continuity over a much longer period than is usual for government-backed projects. It was difficult to address the “why would they come” question without representatives of sector-based clients in the room. I surmised that they needed to understand the 1+1=3 collaboration proposition – a hard one to prove. Clearly SMEs would only come if the TIC evidently provided business opportunities.

The after-lunch session

A lot of “what is a TIC” questions had been fended off in the morning but these were addressed after lunhc. Again, this would have been better as pre-reading. Such reading was available but too voluminous so, judging by the questions, most people had not read it. We now learned about the funding model (one third private) which is certain to present the major challenge. We need to understand why, given the overheads, sponsors would use this vehicle rather than fund it themselves – in other words are the benefits of collaboration understood and believable?

Conclusion

This was useful and thought-provoking. The next step should involve client organisations. The idea of an opportunity brokerage for SMEs should also be explored.