By Akshay Thakur, Cisco UKI
The National Virtual Incubator (NVI) is one of the four pillars of Cisco’s British Innovation Gateway (BIG) programme. As you may have noticed, the hard work on BIG has begun and our three key partnerships are already producing results. These programmes are a continuation of our London 2012 Olympics legacy.
The NVI aims to create a community and a platform for collaboration between clusters of innovation throughout the UK. Such clusters of innovation are in various stages of their lifecycle and most are renown as a centre of excellence of a given sector, industry, or vertical.
As an aside, the “Tech Country” study provides very interesting insight into a subset of UK tech clusters. With all the excitement surrounding the East London Tech City, it’s easy to overlook that Britain -- as a whole -- has a long history of establishing high-technology industry clusters.
In the past, the excellence, specialisms, support networks, and talent within these clusters are usually localised for various reasons. However, enabled by today’s online communication platforms, location and proximity shouldn’t be limiting factors. Consider the potential that is available when such centres of excellence have an easy and reliable means of collaboration.
Building on Digital Ecosystem Strengths
Nobody likes recreating the wheel, so the NVI is all about utilising the strengths of existing clusters and providing programmes, mentorship, access to meet fellow start-ups and entrepreneurs, investors, future employees, and eco-system partners beyond the physical boundaries of current clusters.
The technology consists of Cisco’s TelePresence -- an immersive video conferencing solution – which plays a key part in enabling a platform for online collaboration. But it’s not the only ingredient to ensure success.
The NVI Alliance was created with four founding members: Cisco, Janet, Birmingham Science Park Aston (BSPA), and the Greenwich NVI node consortium (Royal Borough of Greenwich and Ravensbourne). Currently there are four live nodes on the NVI in the following cities: Greenwich (Digitial Enterprise Greenwich and Ravensbourne), Birmingham (BSPA), Cambridge (Judge Business School), and Coventry (Coventry University).
The initial locations will be followed by the up-coming nodes in Manchester, Salford, Sunderland, Dundee, and Shoreditch. Planning is also underway for nodes in Wales, Belfast, Oxford, and York. By 2014 we will have 12 nodes on the NVI network.
You’re Invited to Participate in NVI
So, what does all this mean to a start-up, entrepreneur, student, or SME? Quite simply, it is an opportunity to become part of the NVI community, to meet like-minded enthusiasts, business developers, technologists, and future investors.
The NVI also provides the opportunity to take part in the educational programmes, talks, events, and discussions which will occur locally at each node and also across the NVI network. I would recommend looking into your local NVI node and getting involved.
How will these programmes help to advance British economic development? Only time will tell. That being said, we believe that the potential of NVI -- as a catalyst for entrepreneur advancement -- is very promising and the opportunity to work with the next wave of UK innovators is extremely exciting.