About Nesta

Nesta is an innovation foundation. For us, innovation means turning bold ideas into reality and changing lives for the better. We use our expertise, skills and funding in areas where there are big challenges facing society.

Digital impact at a local level

Digital creative businesses, which have the power to thrive globally, might actually be most useful delivering value at a very local level – their local city.

The successful engagement between cities and digital businesses may well offer new and exciting platforms for both parties to thrive.

Where can creative digital firms begin to have an impact on a city level?

The following are four examples of what I think are growing opportunities for digital media businesses:

1. Strengthening local supply chains in the private sector

Creative Credits is a three year research-led programme to encourage non-creative businesses to work with creative firms.

The vast majority of firms who received help from the programme used the credit to develop an online presence where they could sell their goods and services.

The unique aspect of Creative Credits is that it was B2B - it encouraged businesses to engage with each other to transfer knowledge and expertise.

I think that this is a new model which could be adopted by Local Enterprise Partnerships as a way of encouraging SMEs to see the benefits of using digital media businesses.

2. Developing collaborative consumption

The term, coined by Rachel Botsman, means that collaborative technologies can be used to share local skills, materials and talent which might otherwise be idling.

This means that Whipcar can help you to share your car with others or StreetBank can help you lend your drill to anyone in your neighbourhood.

3. Public services

When faced with a 25-40% budget cut, simply cutting traditional services but keeping the same ways of working is no longer tenable - public services will have to do things in a different, more innovative way.

It is the very disruptive quality of digital media and applications - cutting out the middlemen and putting users in control - that is needed by local authorities.

An interesting example of this is The Social Library created by Sidekick Studios, an innovative rethinking of the traditional public library service which enables people to connect online and swap books.

4. Mobile

The uptake of mobile devices which have access to rich internet experiences is growing rapidly.

Research undertaken by Patrick Hourihan at Yahoo forecasts that by 2012, 50% of the population will be using their mobile phone heavily for internet access, with almost all of those devices enabled to make sense of geographic location.

What might policymakers or government have to do to enable this vision?

  • Encourage the take-up of broadband and internet access more widely so that we can all participate in this world. Let's not leave anyone behind.
  • Find new business models to balance freely available broadband in cities with ISP's right to recoup the costs of putting in a next generation infrastructure.
  • Open up local data at a very local level, and then find ways of encouraging engagement between the private creative businesses and our public sector. Our Make it Local programme is trying to do this, but we need much more of it.
  • Remember that most digital developers still need to make real-world connections to get business and the role of local and regional agencies - both trade associations and screen agencies can be tremendously valuable in helping digital SMEs to win business.


Jon Kingsbury

Jon Kingsbury

Jon Kingsbury

Director, Creative Economy Programmes

Jon led the inter-disciplinary team that designs, commissions and delivers multi-million pound innovation programmes that help the creative and digital economy.

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