Funding Prospects on the horizon for UK’s other Tech Clusters as deadline looms for TSB’s pilot project: Tech City Launchpad.

written by: Adriana Hamacher

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Just hours remain for digital and creative companies in London’s Silicon Roundabout to submit their entries for the UK Technology Strategy Board's Tech City Launchpad contest. But for laggards, all is not lost. All that’s needed, at this stage, is a two minute webcam video clip, to be sent in by 12pm on Thursday 26th May. SME candidate companies seeking funding for an innovative project are then in with a chance of winning up to £100,000. And for those who have missed the deadline or who don’t qualify because they’re not based in or around London’s Shoreditch, the Technology Strategy Board (TSB), has plans to roll out the competition to other UK clusters of technical excellence. 

The Tech City or Silicon Roundabout area in Shoreditch and Old Street has been chosen because it’s by far the richest seam of new tech enterprise the UK has to offer and the TSB is seeking to support and extend this area of influence. But the TSB is also keen to foster collaboration and so companies partnering with Shoreditch based businesses are also invited to enter. 

The TSB has up to £1 million in funds available to support 10 winning projects. It plans to fund up to 50 per cent of an enterprise and help the start-ups find the extra money needed through funding workshops with key investors and venture capitalists. 

David Bott, the TSB’s Director of Innovation Programmes, explained:

“We want to support this hotspot of digital and creative by enabling companies to go further and faster towards commercial success. We are looking for projects that may be too risky for companies to go for alone, or that may take them to new areas. By showing our financial support, we hope to make it much easier for the business to secure co-funding.” 

Businesses entering the competition will also gain automatic access to the TSB’s community network programme,IC Tomorrow, billed as: 

“The place where big new ideas in digital can be worked up and tested in a safe supported environment”. 

The community aims to foster collaboration and remove barriers to innovation. It also offers product trials in front of real audiences. 

The three-stage application process starts with an open invitation to submit ideas through a two-minute video. Using both community and expert assessment to prioritise the proposals, about 20 project applications will then be invited to submit written proposals. Ten of these will then be selected and offered up to £100,000 funding, subject to these companies being able to secure the additional funds needed within 12 months. The TSB  will work closely with UK Trade & Investment, the government department tasked with bringing new talent, entrepreneurs and investment to east London. 

The two-minute video should address: the challenge or opportunity being tackled and why it is important;  the approach that will be taken and how it is innovative; the relationship to the Tech City area;  how the solution will be commercialised and what impact it could have if successful; why the Technology Strategy Board investment is needed. 

The perimeters of London’s "Silicon Roundabout" have been the subject of much debate in Wired. The term is first attributed to Dopplr’s Matt Biddulph, who defined it in 2008 as:

"The ever-growing community of fun startups in London's Old Street area". 

He created a Google Map in July 2008 charting the relevant firms in the area. 

But other tech clusters are fast emerging in the UK, the Guardian has started a project to map these hotspots with tech start-ups, less than five years old, fewer than 100 people and less than £10m turnover). Currently Leeds is has the biggest agglomeration after London, with Bristol following close behind. Edinburgh and Belfast also have fledgling communities.

The TSB is the UK’s national innovation agency. Its goal is to accelerate economic growth by stimulating and supporting business led innovation. It believes that the key to this is removing barriers to innovation and bringing organisations together. To that effect it continuously hosts competitions for innovative projects in areas such as Future TV, music, social gaming and opening up government data.

Do you think your city deserves to be the subject of the next Tech City Launchpad? Why not lobby the tsb to that effect. The next contest could be coming to your neighbourhood. 


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