Digital Lancaster launches
Over 80 people packed into the auditorium at The Storey last night (9 February) for the launch of Digital Lancaster. The diversity of the people in attendance was remarkable, with attendees from local digital business owners, Lancaster University, leaders in business, representatives from the City and Councils, Tech North and the city’s MP, as well as a host of technical and digital experts.
It was an insightful evening, filled with debate and eagerness for digital transformation in the city. The appetite and urgency for the change was palpable.
Lancaster City Council’s new Chief Executive Susan Parsonage, opened the evening’s discussion with a very open question to the audience.
“How can things change in Lancaster to inspire economic growth?”
She invited members to show her what success looks like in digital, the challenges the sector faces and its capacity for growth. She concluded with the clear statement that she is listening and will help support and be an enabler for change.
Digital Lancashire’s MD Stewart Townsend then provided an introduction to Digital Lancashire and highlighted the huge successes that Digital Burnley has already achieved, ending the presentation with the somewhat provocative statement ‘Lancaster, now it’s your turn’, basically encouraging the audience to say ‘beat that!’.
To discuss some of the issues facing Lancaster in more detail, the audience split into four groups. The topics of discussion were: collaborative work spaces and suitable offices in the city; infrastructure, including broadband, Wi-Fi and 4G; skills including recruitment, retention and training; and finally, support and finance available to businesses.
It was extremely interesting to hear that a lot of businesses face the same challenges. A range of issues came back repeatedly. Everyone agreed that Lancaster lacked good office accommodation and really needed collaborative work space. Also no one had a good word to say for BT Openreach with tales of poor service and endless waits for decent broadband access. Finally, everyone agreed there was fantastic talent in the city and we needed to retain and grow the workforce in the city.
Digital Lancashire Chair, Michael Gibson then led a panel discussion to discuss the issues raised with great insights from Luke Massie, CEO of Vibe Tickets; Mike Ashworth, Technical Director of ecommerce specialist NuBlue; John French, MD of Fat Media, (who together employ over 150 people in the city); Andrew Leeming from Lancashire County Council and the Business Growth Hub; and Cat Smith, MP for Lancaster and Fleetwood.
Mark Keating, who chaired the steering committee for Digital Lancaster, then closed the evening with the powerful message that ‘together we can be a voice for change’. He then posed the question, ‘what next?’. A lively discussion and networking followed in the bar until late in the night. A survey will be shared out with attendees and another meeting will follow of the steering committee will follow to start moving forward some practical actions to make serious change in Lancaster that benefit the digital economy and the city as a whole.
Anyone interested in being a part of Digital Lancaster should join Digital Lancashire first by clicking here and then emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.