Bristol, Bath and the South West boasts a rapidly expanding high-tech cluster which includes everything from international engineering and aerospace firms to innovative cutting-edge university projects and collaborations.
So it’s no surprise that High-tech Bristol and Bath (HBB) has been set up – a newly formed organisation providing a place in which engineers and scientists can seek support for and develop their ideas and specialist interests in the region.
We met John Bradford, the network manager of HBB (pictured right), to find out more about the ideas behind the organisation, how it aims to support the growth of ideas and how you can get involved.
“High Tech Bristol and Bath is there to make ideas happen”
The ultimate goal of HBB, as John explains, is “about delivering economic growth within the high tech clusters around Bristol & Bath; that’s the purpose that’s written into our articles as a Community Interest Company.”
“We’ve all sat on committees, or attended events, and after some discussion agreed that ‘what we really need to do is…’ and then we go back to the day job and, after perhaps a couple of emails, nothing happens,” says John. “High Tech Bristol and Bath is there to make those ideas happen.”
“What I hope HBB will achieve, is a stronger sense of community and belonging for engineers and scientists in the Bristol and Bath city region.”
Making ideas reality
With a strong background in collaboration from the start of his career, as well as being an academic, engineer and business manager, John has been able to hone in on not only what it is that makes a high-tech brain tick but also where the business and development related gaps are that stop ideas from becoming a reality. He tells us:
“Having formed my own business I delivered a number of contracts for startups and established firms in high tech. I maintained my links with academia through Knowledge West (building collaboration between the 6 Universities in the West of England region), and delivered Science City Bristol, along with writing the business plan for Venturefest [a large-scale business creation networking event] and Science City Bristol Ltd.
“The last four years has seen me delivering the UWE component of the Aerospace and Advanced Engineering iNet. Again, building collaborations between innovative engineering firms and higher education.”
So how does HBB support collaboration? The way HBB works in terms of nurturing ideas and supporting collaboration is through the creation of Special Interest Groups (SIGs). Each SIG is brought together by members wishing to share ideas, knowledge and opportunities within particular pockets of interest.
“The way HBB works in terms of nurturing ideas and supporting collaboration is through the creation of Special Interest Groups”
Once a SIG has been set up, HBB aims to support them to deliver on their shared ideas, knowledge and opportunities though the basics of regular communication and minute taking during meetings, right up to helping with funding proposals and business cases.
Just yesterday, several SIGs were launched and include Health Technologies and High Performance Computing as well as Education and Skills – interests which really demonstrate the range and wealth of knowledge that is anticipated within the high-tech community of Bristol and Bath, as well as an understanding that these are skills that need to be passed onto younger generations to ensure continued development in the South West.
John explains, “the South West has a nationally and globally recognised strength in high tech across a number of clusters. Aerospace is an obvious one, but many people don’t know about the hugely significant microelectronics cluster in the Bristol and Bath region.
“Many people don’t know about the hugely significant microelectronics cluster in the Bristol and Bath region”
“We have globally leading firms in precision engineering, machining exotic alloys, and in composite materials. We have expertise in airframes, aerodynamics, engines, control systems, landing gear, and the precision assembly needed to keep it all together.”
“We also have the benefit of a vibrant and technologically literate creative cluster. Engineers are great at solving problems; they’re not always the best at imagining the impossible. The creative industry does that as standard practice. Bringing those clusters together will give us unreasonable expectations for the future, and the technical ability to make them possible.”
HBB is a membership organisation which you can join as an individual or as part of a company – the membership rates reflect this and offers not only the ability to become part of SIGs but also to represent an industry sector as a ‘SIG Champion’, helping to steer the strategic direction of a specific SIG community.
Each SIG will have 3 Champions, John explains, “Their role is critical in shaping their industry and the city region.” Each member organisation will also have the right to nominate a Representative Member who sits on the Board and has voting rights as part of the CIC structure.
As a brand new community interest company with its first SIGs only just launched, John tell us: “These are very early days for HBB (we really only started in Oct) so within the CIC framework there is quite a high degree of flexibility.” This means by joining now you have the chance to be involved at the start and to help shape the organisation.
If you want to see if HBB is for you there are already a number of free HBB events scheduled in the coming weeks. They are open to both HBB members as well as those who are simply curious about joining.
Many thanks to John for taking the time out to chat to us. You can keep up to date with HBB by visiting the HBB website. HBB also encourage those interested to get in touch: just drop John an email at email@example.com.