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Start-up call-up for North of England

Start-ups are given the opportunity to evolve their solutions on Cisco platforms and be exposed to the technology company’s customers

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Based at MSP's newest campus, Mi-IDEA will be a digtial living lab for innovation
Based at MSP's newest campus, Mi-IDEA will be a digtial living lab for innovation

Start-ups will have an opportunity to pilot their solutions with Cisco customers

Innovators can help Cisco customers develop ‘disruption-proof’ strategies and solutions

Ideas and solutions will likely feed into smart city projects nationally and internationally

Cisco is beginning its recruitment drive for start-ups and innovators for the Mi-IDEA innovation centre, launched in June with Manchester Science Partnerships (MSP). Mi-IDEA, which stands for Manchester Inspired – Innovation Digital Enterprise Alliance, aims to support key innovation clusters in the North of England with smart city applications and the Internet of Things among its areas of focus.


It is the second innovation centre that Cisco has established in the UK and follows the launch of IDEALondon, a collaborative venture with media company DC Thomson and University College London (UCL).


Speaking to SmartCitiesWorld, Tom Kneen, head of business development at Cisco UKI, explained that Manchester will follow a similar model and aims to get start-ups and innovators on board this autumn with a view to beginning project work in early 2017. It will be based at MSP’s newest 70,000 sq ft campus, No 1 MSP Central.


“We like to find the most innovative start-ups and then expose them to the Cisco developer programme and provide a Cisco platform on which they can evolve their solutions,” said Kneen, who added that innovators will also work with some of Cisco’s major customers during this period. “So it’s a Cisco, customer and innovator triangle. Innovators are always keen to pilot their solutions as early as possible and customers want to accelerate their digital capability and initiatives. Many sectors are ripe for digital disruption so customers want to make themselves ‘disruption proof’. The start-up communities we are building address these issues.”


In addition, Cisco wants to build relationships with more established organisations from vertical sectors operating in the locality. “These projects tend to work well when you have a mixture of academia, tech companies like ourselves, as well as some major industry players,” said Kneen. “Smart city or any other digital challenges aren’t solved by one organisation or one fancy idea but by organisations of all sizes connected together.”


Those involved in the project also have the benefit of collaborating with Cisco’s other innovation centres around the world, including those in Berlin, Paris, Rio de Janeiro, Songdo, Toronto and Tokyo as well as London.


As well as smart cities and the IoT, Mi-IDEA will focus on the digital healthcare sector. In April this year, the Greater Manchester region became the first in the country to take control of its combined health and social care budgets, a sum of more than £6 billion. It follows the historic agreement signed with the government in April 2014 to give Greater Manchester new powers over transport, housing, planning and policing via a directly elected region-wide Mayor, the first such post outside London. “We believe healthcare devolution will be an area crying out for innovation so it is a big area of focus,” said Kneen.


With Manchester’s reputation as a thriving creative community, the digital creative industry has also been segmented as an area of focus.


Specific projects will depend on what emerges from the innovation clusters and start-ups. Kneen explained that in London this has tended to centre around areas such as smart building management, predictive maintenance and smart lighting.


One of London’s success stories is Asset Mapping, which has developed a scalable database, designed to bring together data from billions of devices and systems into a single map. It allows anyone to see the location and condition of equipment in real-time, from any device. Asset Mapping is one of those involved in the Manchester CityVerve smart city project with which Cisco is also involved.


Kneen explains that Mi-IDEA is entirely separate from this project but he added: “What is most likely is that what we develop at the new centre will feed into smart city projects nationally and internationally.”


Cisco recently topped the ranking of best corporate brands for start-ups to work with by Nesta and the Startup Europe Partnership.


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