From Bodyshop to Big Brother, Brighton has a long heritage of breaking the mould and embracing new ideas. JetSpace speaks to Wired Sussex Managing Director Phil Jones about how the city has become synonymous with digital innovation and why it’s such a special place to do business.
Originally established as an offshoot of the Sussex Enterprise Chamber of Commerce in the late 1990s, Wired Sussex became a fully independent not-for-profit entity in August 2007. “Based in Brighton, we support the digital, media and technology sector across Sussex. Thousands of companies and freelancers come together to make up our regional network,” explains Phil Jones, Wired Sussex Managing Director.
Since its establishment, Wired Sussex has been involved in a number of projects to support growth within the sector, including the creation of a Digital Catapult Centre in Brighton set up to promote research and development collaboration, in order to rapidly advance the UK’s best digital ideas.
It’s a strategy that is more than paying off, with digital businesses based in the city now chasing tourism for the coveted top spot for value generation. “Brighton is where creative and technology businesses connect more effectively than anywhere else in the UK. The combined value of our creative and digital sector is over £1bn per annum, fast approaching the value of the city’s long-famed visitor economy,” Jones says.
“Brighton has always been great at taking the marginal to mainstream.”
“Combining creative and left-field thinking with technological expertise means that we are one of the country’s most significant centres for virtual and augmented reality start-ups,” Jones adds. In fact, Brighton is a place that positively embraces and supports new businesses ideas with zeal, he adds. “We back that up with a range of resources including coworking spaces, university expertise and innovation hubs like the internationally-famed FuseBox.”
Described as a ‘social super-collider’, Brighton FuseBox is a hub for digital innovators, tech visionaries and creative technologists. It is based on the concept of learning through doing, demonstrating and testing, and in better innovation through collaboration. Its Immersive Lab offers mixed reality testing and showcasing spaces. Fusebox also hosts 5G Brighton, a testbed project to give digital businesses the opportunity to learn more about 5G and develop products for the technology.
“We are a city that can spot the future and make it real. From Anita Roddick starting her Body Shop journey taking cruelty free cosmetics to the high street, to Stomp turning street busking into an international brand, to some of the earliest commercial developments in e-commerce and internet streaming for Big Brother, Brighton has always been great at taking the marginal to mainstream.”