technology innovation & ai
Building leadership in emerging technology in the south
James Valentine and Gary Ford looked to understand whether the south is building leadership in emerging technology. Their approach was to start by defining what a leadership position might look like and, as dialogic practitioners, begin with a few really good questions, rather than simply provide answers to what might be the wrong question
1 What are the signs of leadership in a particular business sector within a geographic region?
2 What are the supporting capabilities that technology firms need to achieve success?
3 What are some of the ways we could measure sustainable success in delivering innovative technology?
At this point, it might be helpful to add a bit more information about what is meant by emerging technologies.
Emerging (or innovative) technologies are those which are not yet fully developed or even understood, but through rapid growth and adoption have the potential to change the status quo. In the past few years, these are some of the areas that have emerged – drones, robotics, virtual or augmented reality, blockchain, the internet of things (IoT), 3D printing, 5G, quantum computing and many more.
In particular, we’ve seen the rise in discussion, debate (and maybe a little bit of hype) around artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). It is worth being clear on what we mean by these terms.
AI is the design and development of IT systems that replace human beings in tasks and activities which normally require human intelligence, such as pattern recognition (visual, speech, etc) and decision making. A lot of these technologies are designed to augment the decision- making capability of a human being as opposed to actually make the decisions themselves.
ML is often used in conjunction with AI, whereby the ‘intelligence’ that is built to help the decision-making is created by the machine itself, rather than the human. For AI, the
starting point is usually a human being defining the patterns that they ‘connect’ to be the same thing, but once these basic tags are applied, the system can be designed to allow an algorithm to detect the learning patterns and apply them.
There are estimates from Gartner in January of this year that AI and related emerging technologies will replace almost 69% of the manager’s workload by 2024.
So, to our first question. What are the signs of leadership? How about how many people work within the tech sector? How about how many tech employers there are? And how many are providing innovative solutions? Are they winning awards and being recognised?
There are many digital employers in the region with over 8,000 businesses and 62,000 people in the sector in Hampshire alone. Some of those are major employers; take IBM, Starling Bank, Arqiva, JPMorgan, Sony, Ordnance Survey to name a few.
As far back as 2015, Bournemouth and Poole was recognised as having the fastest digital sector growth in the UK. Now both Southampton and Portsmouth have been recognised as being among the 15 fastest-growing
creative and digital clusters in the country. The 2019 Tech Nation report named Basingstoke as the 4th best place for digital sector investment.
In terms of the technology talent that is in the region, let me share a story from when I (Ford) worked for JPMorgan in Bournemouth. About five or six years ago, the firm set up 13 technology centres across the world. We were keen to understand how well each was performing and a number of metrics were selected, one of which was how quickly we could hire from the local talent pool. When the data was published, our location was lagging. After many reviews, local data analysis and investment in our local tech recruitment team, the answer was overwhelming: our hiring practices were to blame and once resolved, we halved the time it took to recruit and were competitive with other locations including Glasgow, Texas, Singapore and India. It was clear: there was plenty of technology talent in the region.
Sounds promising so far, right? But can we find some examples where firms in the south are leading the charge in some of the emerging technologies highlighted above, particular in the realm of AI?
With the South Coast Tech Awards on the horizon for its second year, there is no shortage of companies that
THE BUSINESS MAGAZINE – SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2020 James Valentine Gary Ford
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