At the time of writing, as we face successive waves and outbreaks of the virus, building resilience and adaptability in the face of uncertainty has never been more important. The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has been unprecedented and has fundamentally changed almost everything and everyone in some way. Technology has played its part in the fight against the pandemic by helping find new solutions to challenges, to inspire new and exciting applications, and to contribute to rebuilding the economy for recovery. Digital adoption has been accelerated by two or three years in the space of a few months. Our ambition is to ensure that the best aspects of that technology adoption continue postpandemic and drive new value into our economy and society.
Looking back to March 2019 and seeing the journey we have taken our partners on since then, Digital Catapult has grown in impact at an astonishing pace.
Someone told me recently that Digital Catapult was like the Tardis from Doctor Who: bigger on the inside than the outside. Because we work with such a range of stakeholders, few individual partners appreciate the extent of our reach, although each I hope gets to appreciate the depth of our expertise. The more you see of the range of projects that we’re working on, the more you will understand the real impact of this business and how much we have to offer through the incredibly talented team here. Hopefully, the review will provide you with some new insights about how Digital Catapult is driving early adoption across the UK and supporting the new position of the country in global markets.
Early adopters gain market advantage by increasing their own productivity and that of their customers, they drive sector growth through competition and they increase UK global competitiveness by attracting inward investment. Early adoption occurs in startups, scaleups and established enterprises. Digital Catapult is excited to drive that early adoption across the UK’s manufacturing and creative industries where there are frequent capability and market failures in technology adoption.
Over the last year, we’ve forged partnerships with world leading organisations and brands. From the Industrial 5G Accelerator with Ericsson, exploring international logistics challenges with Siemens and CHEP Europe, running innovation activities for BAE Systems, Thales and P&G, to establishing a new industrial net zero innovation centre with TWI, Digital Catapult is working hand in hand with these pathfinder businesses to produce real, lasting change and direct impact on productivity, optimisation and efficiency.
In the cultural sphere, we were thrilled to continue our partnership with Arts Council England in CreativeXR as well as welcoming Epic Games and Storyfutures Academy as new partners. Working with Arcade, a creative digital production company and Oslo’s Munch Museum, we have built an immersive experience exploring the creative process of one of Norway’s greatest artists, and we are pushing ahead with plans to create a unique research studio facility focused on virtual production expertise in collaboration with the UK’s leading broadcasters, filmmakers and visual effects companies, as part of the national levelling up agenda and skills agenda.
Since we started business in 2014, the level of investment raised by the companies we have worked with is in excess of £4 billion, a clearly definable proxy for our contribution to the UK economy.
As we continue to encourage, stimulate and support early adopters across the manufacturing and creative sectors, we find that increasingly a blend of technologies converging to form a new tech stack is having the greatest impact. 5G combined with augmented reality to create new opportunities in virtual retail is the kind of idea we are exploring in our partnership with Verizon. In our CreativeXR programme, overshadowed by the constraints of lockdown, we are seeing various mixes of virtual reality, 5G and artificial intelligence being harnessed to bring cultural experiences to new audiences at home. In one of our best named projects, Digital Sandwich (funded via the Made Smarter programme), a combination of IoT, AI and distributed ledger technologies is revolutionising the incredibly complex sandwich supply chain for the NHS, by increasing transparency and permanently recording the provenance of ingredients.
Around the UK, our work to help level up the nation and drive economic growth into all parts of the country continues, from unlocking the potential of 5G in the West Midlands with Telefonica, Deloitte and Wayra UK, to creative partnerships with the University of Bristol that will completely transform immersive experiences, and the continued outstanding work being done by the teams in our centres in Northern Ireland and North East Tees Valley, boosting regional growth and expertise.
In addition to our work in supporting and growing UK businesses, Digital Catapult has been successful in a number of international collaborative research and development bids in the last year, leading to an increasing international role in promoting UK tech companies in key sectors. Synchronicity, HyperCRC, 5G VICTORI, CPN and DLT4EU are all examples of the complex and exciting multi-stakeholder projects that we are part of across Europe, funded by the EU’s H2020 programme. As we find our new place in the global marketplace, we hope very much that we will be able to continue to contribute to this kind of pan-European and international partnership in the future. 5G Victori, for example, is a brilliant project exploring the complexities and opportunities in connecting 5G networks across national boundaries. And beyond Europe, we’re helping to break world records by partnering with Amazon Web Services in supporting the Bloodhound world land speed record attempt in South Africa.
Digital Catapult looks forward to continuing to grow and scale its contribution to the UK’s economic recovery, helping businesses adjust to and make the most of the emerging new normal.