Sarah Windrum, Emerald CEO, writes on behalf of Tech Central. Tech Central is a West Midlands based networking group aimed at bringing businesses together who want to innovate and evolve using technology.
Last month Tech Central hosted an event at Warwick Arts Centre bringing digital and creative businesses together. There were a series of round tables to discuss the role both sectors could play in transforming public sector services across the region.
“If we could harness the energy in that room, all our problems would be solved” said one business owner to me afterwards and I know he is right. Something exciting happens when you bring technology engineers and creative minds together and set them challenges. I believe we call it innovation!
But the idea is only the beginning. In my very simplified version of the Technology Readiness Level (TRL) scale, we need to develop the idea; prototype it; test it; deploy it; and introduce it to market. A difficult journey that often means a great idea never makes it to its final destination.
I have always been fascinated by the story of Apple. As a company, it brought together creative minds, engineers, and commercial thinkers. Creative minds push the boundaries of what is possible by focusing on what problem they want to solve or the difference they want to make. Engineers know what the technology can do and how it does it. And the commercial thinkers provide the business model. It is a team of all three that will see an idea through prototype; testing; deployment; and delivery to market.
The evolution of the iPod is a great example. The creative vision was to allow consumers ready access to the music we want to listen to when and where we want to listen to it. When the idea first appeared to Jobs and team, the technology already in existence could deliver the iPod, which Apple produced in 2001. So we had access to music when and where we wanted with a lightweight device we could carry around easily. But we didn’t all have access to the music we wanted. Originally we had to transfer our existing collection (whether on CD, vinyl, or even mini-disc) onto our iPod. It was no different to any other mp3 player. Then in 2003, Apple brought us iTunes and we could buy music instantly. iPod sales went from 25,000 in 2001 to 2 million in by the end of 2003 and Apple were no longer just a company that made computers. They made peoples lives better.
Then the competitors came. In 2006, Spotify offered us a legitimate music streaming subscription model and delivered streamed music as a service. In 2016, Spotify had 30 million paying subscribers. Apple introduced their subscription service as Apple Music in 2015 and had a paying subscriber base in 2016 of 13 million. Although Apple may feel they showed up a little late to this particular party, the dream has been realised. Now we can truly listen to whatever music we want to listen to whenever and wherever we want.
Tech Central’s mission is to support this region to deliver innovation. We want to bring creative minds, engineers, and commercial thinkers together in the way Apple did.
If you would like to get involved, please contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org