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Digital Britain: Embracing Open Innovation

October 10, 2011 - 0 Comments

Since my first involvement with the ever growing East London Tech City, I’ve noticed that the social interaction is creating an electric atmosphere in Shoreditch. The lively restaurant and bar scene is also fuelling a vibrant business networking environment.  Tech-centric events are happening around the area — including the Silicon Roundabout Meet Up, the Mini Bar Meet and the Silicon-Drink-About.

One of the Co-Working spaces that have been a haven for me is the TechHub facility.  I have participated in a number of events, including their Tech Tuesdays and their 1st Birthday party – both of which orientated around beer, pizza and tech dialogue. I know what you’re thinking; we British really do enjoy a good pint.

Mike Marcus, Operations Manager at TechHub, is a keen photographer, a painter and master brewer. He came up with the idea of creating his own ale, primarily for use at TechHub events. I have sampled it previously; most recently at the launch of the Roundabout Brewery last Thursday.

Mike’s idea has escalated to a tech-enabled brewery concept – essentially bringing a traditional type of business into the digital age.

Imagine an Open Source Brewery

Some of you may have heard of the Open Source approach to software development — whereby a community of independent contributors creates new code. The Linux Operating System is perhaps the most well known example of this phenomenon.

Mike Marcus has a vision to adapt this approach and apply it to the legacy brewing process.

One brew that has already been created under the open source method, it’s a new the Pale Ale.  There are plans for a Web app and a mobile app that’s used to provide feedback on the key elements of the beer, such as the colour, the taste and the strength.

To begin, a beta Web app was available for event attendees, to provide their feedback on the new Pale Ale brew.  As people were providing their input, this was then being projected onto a large screen. The experience was a bit like viewing a stock market data trending board.

The collective insight from the event will now be averaged and then applied to the next brew of the Roundabout Brewery Pale Ale – so it’s social interaction on brewing mix refinement, enabled by online collaboration tools.

The future plans for the Roundabout Brewery is to develop and launch a mobile app that can be downloaded to provide feedback on the Open Source Brews, currently aiming for both Apple IOS and Google Android mobile devices.

The plan includes promoting the new brew to some local pubs in Shoreditch and East London — to help build the brand awareness, and thereby attract local beer enthusiasts.

Creative Business Uses for Open Innovation

The Open Source approach has been adopted successfully worldwide.  It has also been applied in the crowdsourcing model of new product development. Besides, businesses are using common social media tools — such as Twitter and Facebook — to monitor their customer suggestions for product or service enhancement.

With the use of these collaboration technologies now minimizing geographic constraints, location dependant working is slowly being reduced.  Cisco is a vocal advocate of this trend, with their Borderless Network Architecture – enabling communication for any device, anywhere, any time.

The Birmingham Science Park Aston has also adopted a similar mantra with their vision of a ‘Science Park without walls’ solution – which is intended to foster increased digital innovation within that region.

Moreover, Cisco has recently introduced the Business Innovation Gateway initiative.  A key ingredient is the National Virtual Incubator – a myriad of Science parks, research institutes, universities, commercial businesses and Venture Capitalists that are connected together using the latest online collaboration technologies.

When it is launched and in full operation, the gateway will connect experts across the UK and globally to create an inter-connected network that bolsters innovation and investment for British technology based start-up companies.

As the old boundaries are reduced and the prior barriers to market entry are bulldozed by new technology, this begs the question: what does the future hold for Generation Z – the digital-native entrepreneurs of the future?

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