Bristol’s tech pioneers to be showcased as city is chosen to host national innovation festival

September 8, 2014

Bristol’s growing reputation as one of the UK’s leading hi-tech centres has been recognised by its inclusion in a national innovation festival.

Some of the city’s most innovative businesses will open their doors to executives, entrepreneurs, investors, potential employees and the public as part of the OpenCo event, which was launched in 2012 in San Francisco and now takes place across the US as well as Amsterdam and London.

This year’s UK festival will be hosted by five English cities, including Bristol with Bath, as well as the capital as organisers take the innovation showcase nationwide.

The free, one day event on October 2, staged in association with Tech City UK and the Tech City UK Cluster Alliance, is divided into one-hour segments when participating firms will share the stories behind their business and their vision as well as any new projects or developments they are working on.

It has been described by its founders as a mash-up of an open studio tour and a tech conference with the vibe of a music festival.

Bristol companies taking part include social video company Yogscast, which is behind the world’s largest gaming YouTube channel, XMOS, the semiconductor company aiming to capitalise on the internet of things, Yourwealth, whose Money Hub app is being used to revolutionise the financial world, and Toshiba Labs, which will look beyond wi-fi to future communications.

Also being showcased are the Bristol Games Hub, the largest independent co-working hub for games developers, and Pervasive Media Studio, based at Watershed, whose presentation looks set to embrace topics ranging from personal space travel to the future of musical instruments.

An opening drinks reception is to be held at Bristol & Bath Science Park the evening before the main festival gets underway and a closing reception, sponsored by inward investment agency Invest Bristol & Bath, will be held at Bristol’s Engine Shed, innovation hub on the evening of October 2.

Other Bristol firms and organisations involved are CFMS Services, the independent modelling and simulation centre based at the Science Park, video advertising firm Coull, digital media group Sift, mobile consultancy and app developer Mubaloo and Engine Shed.

Science Park chief executive Bonnie Dean, one of the organisers of OpenCo, said: “OpenCo offers a rare, not-to-be-missed opportunity to gain compelling insight into the businesses which are working on the very latest innovations in technology.

“Bristol and Bath’s tech cluster is the ideal location for such an event as it has strong networks across a diverse combination of inter-related sectors such as hi-tech, creative and digital media, robotics and aerospace, resulting in plenty of collaborative working, a key ingredient of any OpenCo event.”

Bristol and Bath’s hi-tech hub was highlighted recently in an influential report by Centre for Cities/McKinsey & Co as the only ‘globally-significant’, ‘high-growth’ UK cluster of its kind outside of London.

As well as being a world leader in media and digital entertainment, the region is at the heart of Europe’s largest aerospace cluster, built on a rich heritage of advanced engineering.

Joe McGeehan, chair of Invest Bristol & Bath and special advisor to Toshiba, said: “It is highly appropriate that Bristol and Bath’s tech hub has become part of the OpenCo phenomenon as the cluster is a vibrant and dynamic hub of innovation, which competes on an international level.

“It is home to a real melting pot of companies, bolstered by the string leading tech players, such as Just Eat, Huawei, Kainos and Somo, which have chosen to invest in the region recently.”  

OpenCo (known outside the UK as NewCo) now takes place in New York, Detroit, San Francisco, Silicon Valley, Boulder, Los Angeles, London and Amsterdam. It has attracted more than 10,000 attendees over the past two years and has involved many of the world’s most-inspiring and forward-thinking business leaders.

The other English cities taking part are Manchester, Birmingham, Sheffield and Liverpool.

Tech City UK CEO Gerard Grech added: “We’re delighted to be partnering with OpenCo to make the UK the first country to host the event simultaneously in multiple cities. This event is very much in line with our mission of accelerating the growth of digital businesses, sharing best practices, spreading opportunities and connecting groups engaged in digital innovation across the UK.”

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