After our competition briefing in London on May 6th, we hit the road as ever, taking a stripped-down version of the briefing to Manchester and then on to Bristol. We were, again, talking everyone through two current Creative Industries funding competitions: Innovation in location-based services and Enhancing the value of interactions with digital content.

We did Manchester on the morning of May 8th, in the splendid Museum of Science and Industry. As in London the TSB’s Lech Rzedzicki and Tom Fiddian walked us through the EVIDC and LBS services in detail, before taking questions from the audience, along with Matt Brown. As ever, the questions ranged from the straightforward and technical (Is this single stage? – Yes. Can a Catalpult be a consortium partner? Yes – but not funded… etc) – to the more challenging (Can you give a %age of successful applications? Not really, varies from call to call).

We had a very informative case study from Dennis Kehoe, CEO of Cloud computing specialists AIMES Grids Services, who’ve received several rounds of TSB funding. Dennis’ key points included:

  • You do have to invest time and effort in this process
  • Collaboration – share the risk of innovation
  • But get collaboration agreements in place
  • Don’t do it for the money!
  • Don’t reverse engineer the call
  • Timescales are rigorously applied
  • Don’t over stretch your cashflow
  • Feedback is key
  • You do get better at this stuff!
  • Allow something like 15% for project management

Dennis then joined the KTN’s Rachel Jones, Lech and Tom for a panel discussion which I chaired. Dennis had used the wonderful line “We are all Pavlovian Dogs”*, so I kicked off with a question on the disturbing ubiquity of advertising and branding around online content. The conversation, spurred on by the audience, went on to cover the user-centred design approach, the difficulty of combining Agile methods of project management with TSB “process”, and ways in which users might start to take back control of their data.

The next day, Friday, we finished off in Bristol with a morning session at the Watershed**. The pre-break format was much the same, and was followed by a case study from Paul Appleby, formerly of the BBC and now CEO of VID Communications. Paul’s tips included:

  • Read the application very carefully
  • Establish the potential value of the bid
  • Use the language of the application
  • Get clarity on roles, especially on “who has nagging rights”
  • Avoid “Spreadsheet  Romanticism”*
  • Establish lead roles: PM, tech lead, UX lead
  • Get a central document store together
  • Get routine meetings in the diary
  • Stay in scope!
  • Keep your Monitoring Officer informed of potential changes of direction
  • Define and montor deliverables
  • Take your time on the application
  • The consortium needs history

We finished the morning, of course, with a panel discussion of the usual suspects, plus Jo Reid, of local company Calvium and Andy Proctor, Lead Technologist for Satellite Navigation at the TSB – all ably chaired by Rachel. Interestingly, of all the three discussion we had this was the most caught up on TSB process, but all in all it was a lively session and great to get fresh insight from Joe and

So, all done for now! As ever, thanks to the KTN’s Anita Onwuegbuzie for making the whole thing run so smoothly; and to Rachel, Tom, Lech and Matt for good company along the way.

* I’m seriously thinking that “We Are All Pavlovian Dogs” by Spreadsheet Romantics has to be my next music project, a kind of early 80s agit-pop pastiche. Or maybe not.

** The Watershed is also home to the Pervasive Media Studio, which I’d not previously seen. Thanks to Mark Leaver who showed me round during a break in the day’s proceedings.