In late 2010, when Cisco began thinking about how best to respond to the Prime Minister’s call for corporate involvement in East London Tech City initiative, we quickly saw a great opportunity for us to contribute to a wider UK economic and social development agenda.
Because we were already committed to creating a legacy of educational and entrepreneurial opportunity from our sponsorship of London 2012, we immediately saw many ways of using Cisco’s technologies and resources to enable innovation, business formation and job growth — especially in the digital industries.
Our instinct, built on all we know about the UK from our extensive customer and partner relationships and our own people, was that there was room for making a more fundamental contribution to strengthening the UK’s national innovation ecosystem.
With that in mind, we designed BIG as a broad-based programme that supports both Tech City and a wider UK community of interest.
I think there are three things that make BIG a uniquely valuable contribution to the UK’s future. First, BIG takes full advantage of Cisco’s experience both as a global leader in creating and delivering the collaborative technologies used by governments and businesses around the world, and as a world-leading innovator in its own right.
All that experience shows us that, in today’s environment of porous borders and fierce global competition for resources (e.g. skills, investment etc.), any nation, region, or city that aspires to improve its overall wellbeing through innovation and entrepreneurship has to become very adept at using technology to enable its people to transcend geographical, cultural and other barriers to success like never before.
Networked collaboration capabilities are key to this: our motto is “connect, communicate and collaborate to innovate”. We are confident that our National Virtual Incubator initiative will make a profound difference to the UK’s abilities in this regard.
Second, BIG reflects our understanding that making a genuine difference does not happen overnight or through small and disconnected initiatives. Instead, making a worthwhile and ultimately successful contribution requires a sustained and holistic commitment. We have understood and addressed this need through designing a five year programme of initiatives.
Together, they allow us to contribute our expertise and resources to the whole innovation and entrepreneurial lifecycle, from supporting the incubation of early stage ventures through to potentially making major investments in businesses that show significant growth potential and which are aligned to Cisco’s core business priorities.
Third, and most importantly, we understand that technology alone, no matter how good, is not enough to ensure success. The results we are committed to delivering cannot be achieved by Cisco acting alone. From the beginning of BIG we have understood the importance of engaging a wide range of partners in the collaborative design and delivery of the BIG programme.
At its very heart you will find three vital partnerships that are enabling collective success: the Innovation and Digital Enterprise Alliance (IDEA) created by Cisco, UCL and DC Thomson which will be creating our innovation centre in Shoreditch, the NVI Alliance which is collaboratively delivering the NVI initiative of BIG, and the tremendous group of partners that has formed around the BIG Awards.
When we embarked on BIG we understood that success would depend on many others buying in to our vision of how the network can be collaboratively leveraged to create a more innovative and entrepreneurial future for the UK, and we are very gratified at the incredibly positive response and tremendous level of commitment we have received to date. As we look forward, it is safe to say the BIG truly is bigger than us, just as we knew it would be.