Digital innovation event is a huge success

Digital Northampton recently held their first major digital innovation event, Merged Futures, at the University of Northampton’s Waterside Campus.

Over 300 people registered to attend the free event, which featured 29 speakers and 18 exhibitors. The topics of the talks included the use of Virtual Reality for dementia patients, how technology is transforming the digital shopper’s experience and how to implement successful gamification.

A collaboration between local digital businesses (led by IRIS IoT and Engine Creative), Northamptonshire County Council and the University of Northampton, Digital Northampton is focussed at putting Northamptonshire on the map for its tech innovation.

The name Merged Futures was chosen because of the need for people from different sectors and backgrounds to work together to make the most of emerging technologies. Attendees ranged from businesses to educators to healthcare professionals.

“The success of Merged Futures shows there is a real passion for all things digital in our county,” said Digital Northampton project manager Richard Beards. “The number of attendees and their positive reaction has encouraged us there is a will and demand to build on this.

“People are already talking about what Merged Futures 2020 could be about. Before then, we’ll be organising further events and looking at other ways to bring together people with different skillsets from different sectors to connect and collaborate.”

The University of Northampton’s Waterside, the newest university campus in Britain, was the perfect setting for the event. “Merged Futures was an opportunity for the University to show it is fully engaged with the technologies of tomorrow,” said Iain Douglas, Senior Games Design Lecturer and the University’s lead on the Digital Northampton project. “The University is very proud of its new campus in the heart of the town and it is looking forward to continuing its outreach to the people and businesses of Northamptonshire to help them enrich their environment and experiences.”

Feedback from attendees was hugely positive, with particular praise for the range of speakers, opportunities for targeted networking - and the quality of the lunch provided by two local caterers.

Local companies were also hired to provide marketing materials, printing, video production and photography for Merged Futures. This reflects Digital Northampton’s aim to create a local digital supply chain by promoting Northamptonshire tech companies to businesses in the region.

The tagline for the Digital Northampton project is Connect, Collaborate, Grow. Merged Futures proved the huge scale of collaborative opportunities for Northamptonshire. A digital hub can bring together start-ups and more established businesses, bringing into the conversation professionals from education, healthcare and industry. This would lead to investment in the town, create new jobs, the establishment of a local digital supply chain and help to put Northampton on the map for digital innovation.

“Part of our plans are to push forward with planning for a digital hub,” said Richard Beards. “If we could locate the kind of innovation we saw at Merged Futures in a permanent location in the town centre, it would help to redefine the town centre and give it a new purpose. It would also give us a focal point to start promoting Northampton as a place to come to do digital business.”

Merged Futures was just the start, but it felt like more than that. It felt like a major digital innovation event taking place on our doorstep. If we can continue to keep people connected and collaborating on emerging technologies, who knows what we can achieve for Northamptonshire?

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