CultureTECH a unique selling point for city

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CultureTECH has become one of the Londonderry Chamber of Commerce’s most important activities. And this year it will be even better and even more exciting than its inaugural event last year – which was more successful than any of us could even have dreamed it would be.

We expect over 30,000 people to attend the week-long series of CultureTECH events in September 2013. This will make it a highlight of the City of Culture year, with music, media and gaming events and lots of fun.

But the most significant element of CultureTECH is to make the very serious point that culture, creativity, digital technologies, fun and business can all come together. We want to persuade more of our young people – and older people, too – to be interested in digital technologies, to see the link of those technologies to culture and to persuade some of the visitors to become digital entrepreneurs.

CultureTECH will celebrate the strides forward our city has made in creating a digital hub. We have some of Northern Ireland’s most exciting and largest digital businesses. Seagate, Kofax, Allstate, Kainos, Fujitsu, 8Over8, 360Productions, Learning Pool, Smalltown America, Dog Ears and many more are cutting-edge digital businesses that have significant operations in Derry.

We already have many hundreds of people working in the digital sector in this city. It is sometimes overlooked, but our city is a market leader in new technologies. That is one of the reasons our Chamber is so keen to see the substantial expansion of Magee, to provide the pipeline of graduates with skills in the right disciplines to feed the continued growth of our digital businesses.

The educational aspects of CultureTECH are aimed at persuading more school children to study STEM – science, technology, engineering and maths – subjects and for many of them to go on to university or college to study in these disciplines. We want to attract 5,000 students to ‘teen tech’, 500 kids to ‘CoderDojo’ and to leave a lasting, positive, image of digital technologies.

For several years, the Chamber has led the DigitalDerry campaign, promoting digital entrepreneurs, with the aim of creating 100 new digital businesses in the city. We are well on our way to achieving that ambitious target.

But the success of CultureTECH last year was so enormous that we have renamed DigitalDerry. The Chamber’s subsidiary company that had been called DigitalDerry Ventures is now re-registered as CultureTECH and it is this organisation under the direction of Mark Nagurski that will be running the festival and other business initiatives that will support and develop the digital sector in the city and region.

With the rebranding of CultureTECH, we believe that we can generate even more excitement behind the objectives of supporting and creating new digital businesses. In doing so, the Chamber is not only demonstrating its strong and practical support for the City of Culture year, but also helping to produce a permanent legacy from it. However, we must not ignore a longer term programme that we all have a commitment to – the One Plan.

Lest we forget, a key One Plan objective is the creation of an additional 4,000 jobs in the digital and knowledge economy sectors by 2020. These will mostly be highly paid, high skilled positions, from which the whole city will benefit.

The linkage between CultureTECH and London’s Tech City creates an opportunity that this city could benefit from tremendously as it expands the digital sector and generates a permanent investment proposition for the city, attracting businesses from across the globe. CultureTECH will help produce a permanent unique selling point for Derry.

Mark Nagurski and his colleagues are now working with contacts in other parts of the world, including New York. With the world class digital infrastructure that Derry can now boast – specifically the Project Kelvin cable to North America and BT’s high speed broadband cabling across the city – we can compete with anywhere in Europe in terms of digital systems.

So while we hope everyone will have a wonderful time for CultureTECH’s week of fun in September, we also hope for much, much more. Creative, digital businesses are an opportunity for Derry to be a world leading city, in which we carve out a distinctive future for ourselves. Think of the history of Derry as one of the world’s great producers of shirts and replicate it today in the digital sector – but with much higher rates of pay!

While CultureTECH will occupy one week in September this year, the firm intention of the Chamber of Commerce is that it will also occupy a much more permanent and positive influence over our city for many years to come.