Category: Culture

Bristol Technology Festival to return in October.

Bristol Technology Festival (BTF) is back for its third edition from October 10th to October 15th 2021. The city will host over 50 events with themes spanning the breadth and depth of Bristol’s growing tech and digital sector. The current plans are to hold the events in a hybrid model with a selection of online talks and others at limited capacity venues.

BTF was born in 2019 with a mission to showcase the sheer scale of technology that had been developed in the local ecosystem, whilst sharing the stories of those entrepreneurs, engineers and creatives behind the tech with the people of the city and further afield. Last year’s festival hosted 53 events, attracting over 5,000 attendees dialling in from places as far flung as Singapore and San Francisco. The target for 2021 to reach an even greater audience.

Bristol has a long-standing history of tech innovation and the ecosystem is booming, with the most productive tech talent in the UK (TechNation 2019). It feeds industries all over the world with breakthrough engineering and digital innovation. The region is famed for its creative approach to technological challenges, and was recently recognised as the best city for startups in the UK outside of London, with notable companies including IMDb, Graphcore, Ovo and Dyson.

Whilst 2020 was undoubtedly a challenging year for everyone, it has underlined the importance of technology in our lives and demonstrated how it can help connect us. BTF 2021 will seek to capture people’s hopes and predictions for the next decade, exploring the prevalent questions such as: in what ways will technology influence how we live and work? What impact will the tech cluster have locally, and globally?

BTF is coordinated by a group of volunteers from across the ecosystem including representatives from Hargreaves Lansdown, Newicon, TechSPARK, and Engine Shed. Events throughout the festival are crowdsourced from organisations across the city. These include tech companies, public bodies, schools, community interest groups and charities. Events are open to people in the tech sector, business leaders from across sectors, visitors wanting to know more about the region, and anyone wanting to know more about the city’s digital industries. Some of events include:

Engine Shed will host a launch of the festival alongside Deloitte Digital to bring together key people in the sector to understand how tech will support the growth of the city in the future.

For the 9th consecutive year, TechSPARK will host their annual SPARKies awards. The awards will gather 500 people to shine a light on the very best people, products and companies that make up the tech sector in Bristol, Bath and the broader West of England region.

FinTech West will host their annual fintech Summit to deep dive into the latest innovations, connect business in one of the UK’s key fintech communities.

2021 will also see the launch of the Festival Community Partner initiative where businesses across the city show their support by becoming one of 50 community partners, with all money invested into giving the festival a long term sustainable future.

Softcat has become the headline sponsor of the festival in 2021. Rob Parkinson, CIO at SoftCat says “We are delighted to be involved in the 2021 Bristol Technology Festival. Bringing together local technology communities and shining a light on all the innovation the region has to showcase is an important way to drive collaboration and industry growth.

“The last 18 months have been tough for many industries but technology has come through as an enabler and has made many re-think how they interact and do business. As the impact of technology continues to grow forums like the Bristol Technology Festival have never been more important and we are pleased to be supporting it.”

Visit the Bristol Technology Festival website.

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Accelerating Regional Recovery

As a collective group of individual organisations, the UK Tech Cluster Group (UKTCG) assembled over a year ago to connect, share and grow the communities we serve. While we regularly meet to discuss regional technology issues and share opportunities, the impact of COVID-19 on the UK tech sector has seen us work even more closely together. As the established voice of grassroots tech, we are prioritising efforts to accelerate the rate of regional recovery following widespread economic disruption caused by the pandemic.  

An independent voice 

The UKTCG represents geographical clusters of technology and digital businesses across the UK. Independent from government and self-financing, our member organisations include the entire spectrum of businesses that make up the UK’s tech economy – not just the big players. Despite the prominence of a few large corporations and so called “unicorns”, the UK’s tech economy is in fact largely skewed towards small businesses. This ecosystem naturally revolves around local clusters, usually with one or more universities involved as well. These regional ecosystems need to be understood and nurtured at a regional level.  

UKTCG’s member organisations are focused on the entirety of their local tech ecosystems, not just start-ups, scale-ups or specific vertical sectors. We support regional economic growth in both the tech sector and the wider economy. 

The organisations that make up the UKTCG are all firmly rooted in their communities and are uniquely placed to provide in-depth, granular local and regional intelligence in a way that is impossible (or very time consuming and expensive) to do at a national level. 

The UKTCG member organisations are all run by people who have years of experience of working within their local tech economy – we understand the economic and political landscape of our regions and in turn we are extremely well connected and are trusted as intermediaries. 

The group has grown out of a natural tendency of the existing regional cluster organisations to collaborate and share information and resources. Together, our robust and trusted network has an extensive reach across the UK which we believe can be harnessed to accelerate ecosystem recovery following the disruption caused by COVID-19.  

Regional intelligence and regional response 

Since early March the group has been gathering intelligence in our respective regions to understand how both companies and our regional ecosystems have been affected by COVID-19. As well as consulting with government on how to strategically combat sector pain points at large, we have been working at a grassroots level day in, day out to provide companies with immediate relief to individual problems.  

We are uniquely placed to best solve the challenges the sector faces at regional level, given our unrivalled local knowledge, current business support activity and connections across regional ecosystems.  

We therefore hope we can work with the government as a key delivery partner to quickly bring relief to our UK regions. Only by prioritising regional recovery will we see our much-coveted tech sector bounce back at large from the pandemic.  

The UK Tech Cluster Group is in a unique position to provide the voice of the industry at a truly national level and to advise the Government on providing the right support, at the right time to our industry to both survive and thrive moving forward.  

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Data in the spotlight – contact tracing

The wake of covid, demand for data has combined with a democratisation of data; the general public are talking about R values and voraciously consuming graphs and figures. One of the hottest topics right now is the debate around the use and effectiveness of digital contact tracing apps. Data ethics and privacy are key issues when evaluating the pros and cons of a centralised approach versus a decentralised approach. The centralised approach creates a repository of contacts whereas in the decentralised approach all the data is held on individual’s phones and potential contacts are notified on a push basis only. One of the major concerns with centralised apps is the risk of scope creep. Once there is a central repository, there is potential for the data to be used for other purposes, such as identifying and penalising individuals who have interacted with too many other people. However, a central repository could also be of use to epidemiologists studying the spread of the disease – a purpose many people might be keen to support. Existing data protection law obviously requires data subjects to be informed on how their data will be used so theoretically there is already legal provision to guard against the risks of scope creep, but a lot depends on the phrasing of privacy notices. There is also the question of data retention and the dismantling any central repository when the immediate need has passed (who decides when that is and on what basis?).

Digital contact tracing is really only a small part of the contact tracing solution; it is not really that useful on it’s own. As one commentator said on Singapore’s TraceTogether app: “you can’t big data your way out of a no data situation”. Even if half of the population download and use the app, the chances of picking up a “contact” are only 25% (ie. 50% squared), so the majority of contacts will not be detected. There is also a high potential for false positives, eg. a bus passing close to a block of flats might register contacts which have not actually happened. Most contract tracing will therefore still be largely manual, with an army of people (18k across the UK) working to create a repository of people and contacts. These will be fully identifiable and definitely centralised, but surprisingly this aspect does not seem to be getting the same level of scrutiny as the digital contact tracing apps.

The way in which digital contact tracing functionality is used to supplement manual contact tracing is therefore of key importance and there are a number of potential uses – eg. to help fill gaps in people memories or perhaps to help with prioritisation of testing (eg. if you are ill and have had contact with a covid-19 sufferer, you could potentially be prioritised over someone who has not had contact). These are details which are still emerging.

These questions of data quality, provenance, ethics and privacy are issues which data professionals need to consider on a regular basis. Rarely have they been so high on the public agenda. The current debate highlights the importance and value of giving proper consideration to these questions. Let’s make sure this focus is carried forward into other subject areas and industries as we move beyond COVID-19.

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How to work from home: 6 key tips

Before he was put in charge of all the words on this site, our incredibly handsome Editor was self-employed for almost a decade. He’s put together a handy list to help you to get to grips with working from home. Although he’s not entirely sure why he’s telling you that in the third person.

Stick to your morning routine

Seriously, get up at the same time you would if you had to travel to work. The thing is, you are going to want to keep hitting that snooze button until it’s 8.59 and while I won’t deny you an extra 10 minutes every now and then – you know what you’re like.

You’ll wake up, have a coffee, sit down with breakfast, stick on whatever it is your binge-watching these days and before you know it it’s 10.30 and you haven’t even checked your emails.

Dress for work – but don’t overdo it

Look, your brain is an idiot. It’s all, like “oh wow we’re at home let’s stay in our pyjamas and read lists on the internet” (thanks by the way), so you have to trick it. Leaving the house is no longer your trigger for ‘professional mode’, so make putting on a shirt your new work themed Bat-Signal.

Although, you know, you’re not at work are you? As long as you look boss on a video call, you’re good, and while those shorts are obviously incredible they signify something so much more beautiful. Not having to wear a belt.

Create a workspace

Your house is now both your office and the place where you cannonball episodes of Americas Next Top Model, it’s wise to separate those true, true necessities as much as you possibly can.

Don’t work in front of the telly. I’m lucky enough to have a little box room for an office, but if you don’t, create a little space in whichever part of the house you use least (although, not there, it smells in there – no offence).

Learn to focus

Like every other millennial you’ve met in the last five years, I’m about to recommend you take up mindfulness. Obviously, there are genuine benefits to your mental health and if you are someone prone to anxiety, stress or depression I’d suggest now might be a pretty good time to get into it.

But it has work benefits too, it helps you to train yourself to be present and to focus. Trust me, there’s going to be days where you ‘accidentally’ take a three-hour lunch because, oh my god how good is it to see Picard back, right? That’s human, but it’ll work out a lot better if, when you are in front of your laptop, you’re actually getting things done.

Manage your time effectively

Obviously right? You’re already really good at it, the office was distracting anyway. You’ve got lists and project management tools and everything. Thing is, and I’m sorry if I’m labouring this point, unlike at the office, your house is full of distractions that you actually enjoy.

You’ve got three cats, 200 books you’ve been meaning to get around to and you’re on the verge of a perfect season in Football manager. Too specific? Add in your own examples.  Set goals, have a reward system -heck – have a punishment system if that’s what you’re into. Whatever works for you, set it up and stick to it, otherwise those days are going to slip away.

Look after your physical health

Look, as much as this blog is a shameless attempt to show you multiple pictures of my legs, I’m also trying to be practical here. There is a base level of exercise you do when you have to actually go to work, that you won’t do at home.

Using myself as an example – I’ll do 10,000 steps by the time I get home if I go to work, working from home I’ll get there by some point next Saturday. Buy a yoga mat, get some dumbbells, download one of a billion free home fitness apps. I believe in you.

That should do it. Obviously there’s more I could say but I feel like I’ve lowered the tone of this website enough without giving you my perspective (and accompanying images) on good hygiene or comfort breaks. But for short, wash your hands.

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