Archive for the ‘Creativity’ Category

There is some serious talent  on the streets and in the bedrooms of Manchester.  Young people with the kind of creativity we would give our right arm for, Manchester’s future is in their hands.

A teacher I met at the BBC 21st Century Classroom in Salford, told me about his 15 year old student (let’s call him John) who made £5 here, £10 there, by designing My Space pages for his friends. The teacher was frustrated at not having the ability to help John take his digital talent to the next level, nor access to appropriate business start up advice for this teen entrepreneur. When asked what he would do after his GCSE’s, John told the teacher that he’d follow into his father’s shopfitting business, he didn’t consider college, work in the creative sector, or starting his own business as possible options.

To be clear, I am in no way critical of John’s choice. Good design is needed in the physical world as well as the digital (if not more so!).  However,  I do think the story raises the question of how we best nurture young talent, both in and outside schools.

I like the idea of business advisors having surgeries in schools and youth clubs, helping young people to think about markets for their ideas, before they get squelched by the ‘real world’.  I’d love to hear of any case studies where this works (or doesn’t).

We’re lucky to live in a city like Manchester, where projects and partners are aiming to resolve  some of these issues.  Robots have been built at the  MADLAB,  and last year Innovation Manchester and the Manchester Innovation Investment Fund supported Creative Open Access – growing the inner geek in some of Manchester’s brightest young people.

Now a new course, also to be held at Cornerhouse, will not only nurture creativity in 18-24 year olds, but also introduce the skills to progress a career in the creative industries

At the core of the scheme, the kids at the App School will develop their ideas for an iPhone ‘app’, and they’ll work on those ideas throughout the programme. In addition, they’ll get training on things such as project management, team-working, presenting their work, and business & financial management. At the very end of the scheme, they’ll be pitching their ideas through to a panel of some of the city’s best creative companies – who, if they like what they see, will be able to offer them internships. If the ideas are good, the companies will actually create the ‘app’ as a joint venture.

If you know of any young people in Manchester, please help spread the word!

The course is being run by The White Room, in partnership with Manchester City Council, MMU, and Cornerhouse, and applications close next Sunday, 21st February.


Investment in start-ups relies more on mentoring and marketing than concerns about Intellectual property and patents.

That was the message of Jon Bradford,Part-time VC, and technology evangelist who was speaking at the Christmas Northern Start up event held in Manchester last night.

After a journey that has taken from Arthur Anderson’s in London to Newcastle via Melbourne and Silicon Valley,Bradford has launched The Difference Engine.

The idea came from his initial look into investing in technology start ups.He couldn’t see businesses that he wanted to invest in,whereas it used to cost loads of money to build soft ware business,it now cost little

He then asked the question,how do you cope with that and how do you tackle micro investment?

The result is the difference engine,an acceleration programme for early stage digital businesses.It is a is a full-time 16 week acceleration programme which combines investment capital of £20,000 (for 8% of the business) with mentoring, support and office accommodation with various other services provided by partners.

For the first four weeks of the course,the entrants are subjected to what Jon described as a “being given a good kicking ” where their plans and ideas are put under intense scrutiny from every single angle.Only after those initial four weeks are they allowed to start building their programme.

At the end of the course they are ready to pitch and present for venture capital.

What’s Jon looking for? His answer- the entrepreneur who will work on their ideas not matter what and see it as a life style decision.

If you’re interest get applying.Applications close on the 4th January and the the first 16 week course begins 10th Feb

I got a chance to visit the inspiring Leonardo da Vinci exhibition at MOSI a few days ago. The word polymath is perhaps over-used these days – certainly a man of da Vinci’s incredibly diverse talents still puts most of the human race into the shade.

He believed, absolutely, that there is no art without science. His intense curiosity about the world around him led him to be a painter, engineer, inventor, musician, scientist and mathematician.

Leonardo da vinci

Leonardo da vinci

I think that is more difficult today. A few hundred years ago, different branches of science and philosophy were more closely intertwined, and scholars often crossed over between what we would now consider to be disparate branches of knowledge. As world knowledge grew, specialisms developed and the sciences (what we would now broadly distinguish as biology, chemistry & physics) grew apart from each other and from the arts and humanities.

With this came culture change – and not in a good way. In the national mindset, arts and sciences became two foreign lands: arts people would perfectly happily confess their ignorance of scientific matters, and scientists would do likewise with art and philosophy. It became OK to be selectively ignorant.

This led to the novelist and scientist CP Snow to give his famous “Two Cultures” lecture in 1959, out of pure frustration with the way that otherwise intelligent and knowledgeable people would put up imaginary barriers to their wider learning.

Innovation often happens ‘at the edges’ – the interface between different groups or sectors or disciplines – but we often have to achieve this despite of our standard school curriculum and national culture.  I generalise of course. But there’s much more we could do to bring different arts and science disciplines together. I vote that as a nation we start mixing things up a lot more. It’ll be fun, educational and productive – what more could you ask?

Time magazine has just produced its list of what it regards as the top 50 inventions of 2009.

Ares rocket off to the stars

Ares rocket off to the stars

No doubt the first of many top list for the year and for the decade,its top of the hit parade is NASA’s Ares rocket which the magazine describes as

The best and smartest and coolest thing built in 2009 — a machine that can launch human beings to cosmic destinations we’d never considered before — is the fruit of a very old family tree, one with branches grand, historic and even wicked.

When Guinness decided that they wanted to expand their market into Europe,they saw Germany as the biggest growth area.After all the Germans are the biggest beer drinkers on the continent so why wouldn’t they drink the black velvet?

Well they didn’t and Guinness ended up with less than 1 per cent of the market.The reason-well Germans prefer light beers and have an affinity to local breweries.

If one message came out of last night’s  Managing Growth – Tech Entrepreneur Series held in Manchester,it was that to successfully grow a business,listen to what your customer wants,and understand who your customers are

Speaking were Chris Allen,instrumental in the founding of back before the first dot com crash and Steve  Purdham who co-founded Surf Control, a global provider of internet filtering software and is now one of the names behind free online music service teaming up with Genesis front-man Peter Gabriel.

Both gave some of the secrets of their success to an assembled audience of entrepreneurs and funders last night.

Chris has worked for 40 years in what he described as the second oldest profession in the world,hotels.Working withinPremium Inns,he tore up the business model of selling rooms,decided that customers wanted something a little more special than their own bedrooms.

Instead he offered them such innovations as the trouser press and satellite television.

It is a pressure business he said because it is a commodity you can only sell once.

After leaving the business he set up and again tried to tear up the business model by offering hotels a direct fee model instead of the more traditional percentage cut.When this failed to take off he decided to differentiate by giving his customers more choice and a personal level of service,often manning the call centre himself to find out exactly what they wanted.

What the customer wants according to Steve Purdham is free music.At WE7,they have created an environment that customers like,you get a free song and you get an advert to pay for it.

A simple model says Steve,publicised not by advertising and PR but by word of mouth.”If you like it you will tell your friends”.

For both entrepreneurs people are at the heart of any growth model.According to Steve,the biggest restrictor of growth is the person in charge wanting to keep control and not delegate.You must have the courage to move people on if they are in the wrong slot and create gaps to bring new people in.

For Chris,a good entrepreneur needs good people around.These people will grow with the company.

The proof is in the pudding and both men have successfully sold their businesses on for a considerable premium.

For Chris his company was sold in 2007 to First Choice for £120 million in 2007, two years after a MBO.For Steve his Surf control company was sold to US rival Websense in 2007 for £201 million in 2007.Now We7 vies for the free music market along with its better known rival Spotify.


Fascinating interview which covers how the  mirror version of the real world that is being created virtually will enhance the sophistication of communications across the globe.

via Ideas Project

News of another event coming to Manchester in the next couple of weeks.

The Manchester Beacon is organising a week long series of events around Manchester.For those who don’t know the Beacon,they use engagement to connect people, places and knowledge to make its internationally acclaimed resources accessible to all.

The events kick off on Monday 9th Nov at the Kanaris Theatre, Manchester Museum where Professor Dame Nancy Rothwell, Deputy President and Deputy Vice Chancellor at The University of Manchester will give an opening address to launch the Manchester Beacon summit.

There will be a chance to hear short presentations by the holders of The University of Manchester Development Awards and the Manchester Science Festival Community Awards – projects that are exploring two-way engagement with local communities or approaches to university cultural change around public engagement.This will be followed by a networking luncheon.

For a full listing of events,check out the details HERE

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