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Launchpads, catapults... what a load of - WAIT, there's £15m for grabs?
Quango sprinkles cash on games, animation and trendy meeja types
Comment Techies and investors with bright ideas for commercial video, imaging and games businesses can apply for a slice of £15m this month – if they can wade past the quango-ese jargon of "catapults" and "launchpads". It's all intended to commercialise good ideas.
Created by Gordon Brown in 2007, the Technology Strategy Board (TSB) survived the Coalition's cull of the quangos, and is a public body sponsored by the government's Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.
The board is now directing new dosh at the "creative industries" – the definition of which is fairly broad. Examples cited include Tangentix, a Sheffield graphics compression outfit which has partnered with both an archaeology department and a games studio, to Biobeats, a healthcare provider that captures and processes physiological data like brainwaves.
Inevitably, the initiative [PDF] is groaning under the kind of language that proliferated along with the quangos in the mid-1990s. Accompanying the new funding is a fresh "Creative Industries Strategy", naturally. Part of this entails a "Connected Digital Economy Catapult" called – wait for it – _connect.
The TSB has also identified "cross-cutting themes", one of which is (inevitably) "sustainability". The strategy document promises to "work to promote our Horizons tool and stimulate creative applications of technology for sustainability in order to enhance UK competitiveness".
In addition, there is a new "Launchpad" in Manchester to "help the creative industries [to] cluster". How will the Launchpad work with the Catapult, you ask: will it be wheeled on? We'll have to wait and see.
It's English, Jim, but not as we know it. Only British quangos can make good ideas sound like a sketch from the London Olympics sendup Twenty Twelve, but once you've negotiated the jargon, the cash is real.
According to the TSB's Creative Industries Strategy programme, £15m will be available "to stimulate innovation in digital media production tools and systems"; £2.5m for what's called "frictionless commerce – transactional environments' for the creative industries"; a rather sketchy £1.5m for "hyperlocal media and technology-led location-based services"; and £4m will be doled out for marketing ideas "to help businesses engage with their customers in the 'here and now' context" [Is there any other? - Ed].
In addition, the rather forlorn creative and digital cluster in the old Sharp offices in Manchester gets £1m. This is on the other side of the city to the creative and digital businesses clustering next to the BBC in Salford. So that should help you make that extra bit of cash if you're driving a taxi.
Money will be doled out via funding competitions. For more, see here.
If you're puzzled why so much taxpayers' money (£4m) earmarked for "innovation" is going to fund what are essentially marketing consultancies, then you can't have been paying attention. The whole point of redefining the word "innovation" during the New Labour era – a word that once evoked boffins in a laboratory devising new materials – to encompass marketing and consultancy, was so that marketing and strategy consultants would benefit. ®