Economic Benefit for Lancashire through digital transformation – In Partnership with Digital Lancashire

Burnley based company JP74 are launching The Initiative in partnership with Digital Lancashire. The Initiative is a pilot scheme that aims to improve Lancashire’s economy through digital transformation.

Formed in 2001, JP74 already help global businesses improve their profitability through modifying the technology and digital processes within their organisations – by offering a day of time to understand and diagnose opportunities for more profitable processes, JP74 are now looking to recruit local, Lancashire-based participants for The Initiative.  

JP74’s MD Pete Walker is a champion of the digital landscape in the county through his work on the board of Digital Lancashire, a community interest company who are working to support and celebrate the region’s digital landscape; He said:

We have done a lot of work with key stakeholders such as Councils, Local Authorities and numerous support organisations, and we realised the work JP74 do could really make an impact on businesses; we really can help them. The more profitable businesses in the county are, the better that is for everybody.”

The pilot scheme launches Wednesday 22nd March, and applicants for the pilot can register on the JP74 website, or call the studio direct.


Tech North discovery visit to Lancaster

Tech North has spent three days this week in Lancaster getting to understand the digital economy in the area. Community Engagement Manager, Jazz Hanley has been keen to revisit the area following his attendance at the successful launch of Digital Lancaster back in January.


The visit facilitated by Digital Lancashire included a day of meetings at Lancaster University, including meeting faculty heads and campus-based businesses, a day in Lancaster visiting the city’s businesses at workspaces including White Cross, CityLab and The Storey, and finally a trip to the country to meet B4RN (Broadband for the Rural North).


Digital Lancashire MD Stewart Townsend said, “This is another step to building on the rich foundations currently here and creating a nationally recognised digital city. Lancaster has a host of superb digital businesses, a world-leading research University, incredible connections around the UK and a historic city with a great culture that just needs to show itself off and grow. Digital Lancashire and Digital Lancaster will do all they can to make this a reality.”

Our thanks to Lancaster University, InfoLab21, QuantumBase, Relative Insight, Demopad, The Networking People, Novi Digital, NuBlue, Fat Media, OnDemand Projects, Loading Deck, Factored, Accessplanit, Vibe Tickets, Bucket and Spade, Miralis Data, Cross Bay Marketing, Shadowcat Systems, Lancaster City Council and B4RN for their time, passion and for showing off their fantastic businesses.

Digital Roundtable Roundup


The evening was hosted by the new collaborative working space Society1 in Preston, ahead of its official opening next week.

The space is contemporary and stylish, with quirky original features and wall art in reference to The Shining, it set the scene of the evening which felt informal and sociable.

Guy Levine’s introductory talk was very honest and considered, as he offered attendees the insight into the struggles he’s had whilst building up his businesses.

He talked of the growing pains when a company achieves a certain size, and that something happens when a company reaches around ten to fifteen employees, ‘things get weird’, and that after twenty ‘it all goes crazy’.

He confessed that the largest learning lesson for him in business has been learning to say thank you, and the impact that can have. Stressing that culture is important, and it should be looked after, as can impact business performance and staff retention; explaining, ‘if people are performing well, and your people management is bad, people leave’.

Guy gave some insight on ways he had shown his appreciation to staff in the past; creating tracking charts, which staff would pin their desired item upon, and if they met their KPI’s, the item would be obtained by the company for them, be it a home improvement or a dog. He believes this way of working encourages people to monitor their own performance, and that a gift to say thank you is a nicer way of rewarding people than a monetary bonus culture.

He urged everybody to celebrate. Celebrate not only the staff, but celebrate winning! Whether it is new business, or just surviving a terrible month.

Following the introduction, the Digital Roundtable staff explained the format of the event, and put the first question to the room; What is going well in your business?

Nathaniel Cassidy from 3ManFactory initiated the discussions, enlightening the room about the advances in technology and social platforms allowing for ‘real time’ streaming, and how beneficial to his business these advancements have been, providing an additional service offering to his clients.

Jeremy Coates, CEO of Magma digital highlighted the GDPR Compliance changes that are coming into effect next year, and urged all agencies working on current projects to consider the changes, as the reach is far, with any global company having to comply with the ruling if they have EU citizen data.  

More information can be found here;

Ross Holland from Makers Academy announced that his company has just struck a partnership with Amazon to train Alexa developers, and that the current uptake of the courses his company provide are 52% female, which is unprecedented in the sector.

Finally, after the positive news, the topic turned to the challenges faced by people in the room. One person in particular was extremely kandid about the struggles of ‘feast or famine’ with work, and in the spirit of community the event attendees offered no end of advice on marketing avenues, contractual changes, communications and payment plans, all of which were accompanied by anecdotes and personal experience.

The Digital Roundtable event in partnership with Digital Lancashire will be a regular event in Lancashire, occurring approximately every two months.

Details to follow about the events next location.

Digital Advantage Encourages More Digital Apprenticeships

The Government have just announced their Digital Skills Strategy, in a bid to ensure that everyone has the digital skills they need to fully participate in the economy and society.

Digital Lancashire are currently leading and participating in, a wide range of the activities mentioned in the UK Digital Strategy document to promote this goal, including education in schools, with the Digital Advantage program.  

The Digital Advantage program, the ‘Pop Up Agency’ has shown progressive improvement on the skills and learning methods that can be achieved for young people in Lancashire. The report emphasises the importance of reform of the technical education system and the creation of specialist digital routes, such as digital apprenticeship programmes and digital degree apprenticeships.

One of the overarching aims of Digital Advantage scheme was to stimulate the counties need for Digital Apprenticeships, and the Pop Up Agency program is doing just that.

This year alone, the program will see 170 pupils graduate the scheme, armed with industry relevant skills, and an appetite for professional knowledge in the digital sector.

With all the change and reform to education, and the effort to close the digital skills gap coming from the top, it is now time for businesses to play their part, by thinking about their business growth strategies differently, and consider more varied recruitment options, such as offering digital apprenticeships.


There are many benefits of running an apprenticeship scheme to fulfil business roles, such as:

  • The average Apprenticeship improves productivity by £214 a week
  • Apprenticeships are a tried and tested way to recruit new staff, re-train or upskill existing staff.
  • Up to 100% funding could be available to support Apprenticeship programmes in your business.
  • Apprenticeships can help you tackle skill shortages.
  • Learning can be done in your workplace, minimising disruption and maximising impact.
  • Apprenticeships are a great way of attracting enthusiastic talent with fresh ideas.
  • They can be tailored to specific job roles, making them flexible to the needs of your business.
  • Apprenticeships provide you with the skilled workers you need for the future.
  • Apprenticeships can help reduce staff turnover, by increasing employee satisfaction and loyalty.
  • If you employ an apprentice below the age of 25, you will no longer be required to pay employer National Insurance contributions for them.


There are currently 13 approved digital apprenticeship standards, with more in development. With initiatives like The Pop Up Agency running in the county, now is the optimal time to consider apprenticeships, with a fresh generation of pupils not only interested, but equipped with the practical and everyday skills needed to succeed in digital roles.

This is what some of the pupils have said about the Pop Up Agency:

The course provided a similar working environment which gave me an insight into what it’s like to work in the creative industries.” Dariusz Slebocki – 11/03/1998

I have improved upon my development skills and now have a greater understanding of the process behind preparing to launch a product to market.”  Arran Clarke – 19/05/1998

It was a good team working experience which offered a lot of project pre-production and practical skills development.” Jo Docherty – 28/01/1998

The UK currently holds the position as a leader in global digital economy, however to maintain that title, everybody needs to invest in providing a range of specialist digital skills to fill specific digital jobs. It is estimated that 1.2 million new technical and digitally skilled people are needed by 2022 to satisfy future skills needs.

The UK has a supply of specialist skills that scores well above the EU average, however computer science graduates have the highest unemployment rate of any degree course at 10% after 6 months graduating.

The Government’s Strategy also reveals some stark statistics about correlation between where people live, their socio-economic circumstances and whether they have basic digital capability.

The report states that in August 2016, 22% of adults in Blackburn had not used the internet in the last three months, compared with 7% of adults in Surrey. With information such as this, it is more important than ever that the young people in areas such as Blackburn and other parts of Lancashire, gain the knowledge and access through educational services in the region.

In the previous academic year, the Tech Partnership published statistics, that in the North West, in total there were 79,000 apprenticeship starts, of these 2,000 were digital. In this growing and expanding industry sector, there needs to be more. More businesses running them, and more pupils undertaking them, the latter will not be the challenge.

It is for this reasons that Digital Lancashire are at the vanguard of improving the options available to young people, and businesses in Lancashire by providing information and support on this fast moving landscape that is education and the digital skills gap.

For more information on how to get involved with Digital Apprentice Schemes there are a number of online guides and information such as:


The Tech Partnership

The White Room

UCLAN Event: A panel to answer your questions on how degree apprenticeships can add value to your organisation. 

National Apprenticeship Service
Lancashire Apprenticeship Providers 

Closing Lancashire’s digital skills gap

A pilot project to train young people in cutting-edge digital skills has been launched in Lancashire – as part of an innovative strategy to fuel growth in the county’s multi-million pound creative and digital economy.

Digital Advantage is offering around 200 young people the kind of skills which are rarely taught in local schools and colleges but are highly-prized by local employers.

It’s the first time the pioneering initiative – which encourages students to compete for a £2,000 prize by developing an actual digital product or service – has been introduced outside of Manchester.

Employers and industry experts from across the creative and digital sector in Lancashire are now being asked to lend their support though masterclasses, mentoring, sponsorship and to offer the Digital Advantage graduates job interviews for new apprentice positions.

The creative economy in Lancashire – which is dominated by digital, creative, software and computer science businesses – employees 36,000 people and is worth £1.3bn in GVA.

Yet 57 per cent of fast-growing businesses in a recent survey said they struggled to find technically capable staff with advanced IT or software skills. Provision of computer sciences at higher-education level also lags behind the national average.

Read more on the Lancashire LEP blog…

The Pop Up Agency

The foundation of supporting any sector or working profession, is to ensure young people are informed, inspired and intrigued about those career options, and that they are equipped with certain skillsets to be able to thrive within them.

Therefore as part of Digital Lancashire’s supporting activities to Digital in Lancashire, the Digital Advantage Scheme was created.

The Digital Advantage Scheme was born as a potential antidote to the current digital skills gap issue, and its overarching purpose is to get professional digital skills being taught and explored earlier, or sometimes even at all, within the education system.

The teaching program has recently been rebranded as The Pop Up Agency, and is presently being piloted amongst 10 colleges and sixth forms in Lancashire. Although this is only the first year of the pilot scheme in the county, the course was extremely successful in Greater Manchester last year, and is now thriving in it’s second year of running.

Dominic Williams, is currently a course leader for The Pop Up Agency, and has given us insight into what the course is teaching the students. Dominic himself, was a founder and former Creative Director of award winning digital marketing agency Fat Media in Lancaster.

He explained that the aim of the course, is for students to change their approach and mindset from academia to agency thinking; To get the creative thought process into the classroom. The output of the course, is to form a business idea, and follow the process from idea conception through to a finalised product or business model.

The course begins with several icebreakers, to get the students comfortable with each other, then the initial idea generation takes place. Held as group workshops, everybody has the chance to get involved. “The great thing about this is that everybody has to contribute, it can’t just be one way” says Dominic.

When the ideas are generated, the pupils then undergo the convergent phase, to refine their lists of ideas and interrogate potential issues. The pupils then break off into groups and form specialisms such as project management, design or research, and expand on their chosen idea. Each group are told that they are the owner of that ‘business’ and will effectively have shares. This helps them to become more invested in the project.

The project activities are carried out in a scrum methodology. Scrum is an agile software development model based on multiple small teams working in an intensive and interdependent manner. Scrum is a methodology that allows a team to self-organise and make changes quickly, in accordance with agile principles.

Throughout the two day course, the pupils are also taught about self representation, and are encouraged to use a networking site similar to LinkedIn, to gain experience of representing themselves in a digital age.

The course concludes with the pupils producing a video presentation of their business idea, and the work they have undertaken in the course. At the end of the year, all the videos are put forward from all participating institutions, and a judging panel chooses the winner.

The winner receives £2000 of business funding.

When asked how the students feel at the end of the course Dominic says “Whilst the participating students are excited and motivated by the possibility of their idea becoming a real business in which they have can have a stake, the real value of the exercise from a digital business perspective is the process itself, and the teaching and instilling of agency-style creative methods which will help them develop their ideas into real, tangible outcomes.

Excitement and passion for subject area is absolutely imperative to attract more undergraduates into the profession.

Digital Lancaster launches

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

Digital Lancaster – 9th February

Digital Lancaster is a part of Digital Lancashire, a not-for-profit community interest company dedicated to accelerating the digital economy in Lancashire.

The launch event is a discussion group with a specially selected panel of digital business leaders and interested parties.

There will be an opening talk by Stewart Townsend, Managing Director of Digital Lancashire, followed by a talk from Susan Parsonage, the Chief Executive of Lancaster City Council.

Then all attendees will be asked to break into smaller groups to discuss the identified main challenges facing digital businesses in Lancaster and how they can be remedied. The groups will then report back to the group where the issues will be discussed with the panel and all the attendees.

Confirmed for the panel is:

  • Cat Smith MP – MP for Lancaster & Fleetwood
  • David Durnford – CEO of Lancaster based digital agency Fat Media
  • Michael Ashworth – MD & Founder of Lancaster based digital agency Nublue
  • Luke Massie – Founder of Lancaster based Vibe Tickets
  • Andrew Leeming – Senior Project Officer at Lancashire County Council and Boost Business Lancashire

The panel and discussion will be chaired by Michael Gibson, Chairman of Digital Lancashire and former MD at Fat Media.

As we’re limited in space, we’d like to open invitations to the following people who live in Lancaster or the surrounding area:

  • Business Owners of digital companies
  • Digital Professionals in non-digital companies
  • Digital Freelancers
  • Non-Digital business owners with an interest in digital

More details HERE

Digital Transformation

The Death of Digital

The death of ‘digital’ is imminent, not a headline you would expect to see, however I am by no means suggesting we are regressing, but that in order to conduct business within a digital age, we should no longer be ‘doing digital’ as a siloed activity. We should just be conducting business effectively in a digital age, leveraging the technologies available to us. In order to do this, most businesses will at some stage, undergo a period of ‘digital transformation’.

Digital transformation is part of a larger technological process, and is the change associated with the application of digital technology in all aspects of human society. However, that is the broadest description of the term, and you are more likely to hear ‘digital transformation’ with regards to business models and processes.

The digital transformation process is simply taking a current business activity or process, and striving to improve it based on technological resources that are available. Although it is not technical, it can however be difficult to see what processes need transforming, and what it is that should replace them.

Although the processes required to change will be unique to every business, we have put together a few points for consideration that may help the transition run smoothly.


Get input from all areas of the business.

Although a digital transformation may be spearheaded by the company’s ‘digital expert’ it should always get input from all areas of the business.


Senior backing.

In order for new tech savvy processes to be successful, the senior business people must back them. Not only back them, but employ them themselves. Most people within an organisation will look to the top for guidance, so the senior members must also be on board, or cultures will never change.


Put customers needs first.

This is possibly the most important point, as no matter what changes you champion within your business, if the customer or client doesn’t want it, it won’t work. This week saw a news story focus on Elon Musk,  Tesla’s CEO, who responded to a customer’s feedback on twitter immediately, and implemented a major change* within his business in just six days. That is an incredible response rate, and will have no doubt been an incredible boost for Tesla PR.


*For those interested, the change Tesla made was in relation to people using the charging points as parking spaces, therefore blocking other users from being able to charge their cars. Musk implemented a charge to cars utilising the space with a full battery after a small grace period.


Get the right system in place.

This can be extremely difficult. It is imperative that a change is made for the better, and the new systems in place do in fact improve the service, and don’t just use digital for the sake of using new technologies. The best platforms, software and data strategy will not be the same for everybody they will be unique to your business.


There are however plenty of businesses and services to help with digital transformation, if you would like help and support finding these services, then please do get in touch. Our aim is to support businesses in Lancashire with whatever challenges they may face.


We would love to hear from our members about their experiences with digital transformation, please get in touch with your stories, questions and comments.

Just one month to go until Prolific North Live! Pre-register for free until 10 Feb!

Join hundreds of brands, agencies and broadcasters at the biggest ever media, marketing and creative industries event to take place outside London.

Following on from the huge success of the inaugural Prolific North Live in February 2016, the expo has increased in size, moved venues and goes from a one day to a two-day event.

The who’s who of digital innovation, cutting edge marketing, branding and experiential agencies, content and engagement specialists, advertising and PR firms, leading broadcasters, TV and film production companies, printers and media suppliers will be in attendance – and as well as an essential networking opportunity – register to see what the competition are up to!

As well as hundreds of exhibitors offering invaluable insight into their businesses, Prolific North Live will also feature talks from leading brands, tech innovation demonstrations, creative workshops, collaboration areas, conference sessions and seminars designed to motivate and inspire. Take a look at our speakers here – it’s a line up not to be missed.

In addition to invaluable insights into marketing and creative industries, Prolific North Live is not to be missed for small business owners across the region. The event will be the premier networking opportunity for companies looking to meet with new suppliers and freelancers. To find out more about what’s on across the two days, visit Prolific North NOW

Free to attend, it will provide an unrivalled opportunity for businesses to meet and network with prospective suppliers, key decision makers and potential clients whilst learning about the latest industry innovations.

Prolific North Live will takes place at EventCity on Wednesday 15 and Thursday 16 February 2017.

Interested in attending? Register for free NOW until 10 February 2017. All registrations after this will be charged an administration fee to attend the event.

For more information about Prolific North Live, email the PNL team at or join the conversation on Twitter and follow @prolificlive