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4 things you missed from London Tech Week

Posted 24 Jun 2022

4 things you missed from London Tech Week

Last week the Digital Catapult team lent their expertise to a number of discussions at London Tech Week, the AI Summit and CogX. These prestigious events in the annual tech calendar celebrate the vibrancy and innovation of the UK technology ecosystem, and saw our experts come together with other leading minds to explore how we can drive the economy forward through improved technology adoption and deployment. 

In case you missed it, here are 4 things related to digital discussed by our experts at London Tech Week this June: 


1.The development of cyber-physical infrastructure requires collaboration

On Wednesday 15th, George Freeman MP, the Minister for Science, Research, and Innovation joined our London Tech Week forum to discuss the importance of building a ‘mixed model’ of cyber-physical infrastructure – i.e. a model which considers multiple different technologies and how they converge. He also stressed the importance of shifting the UK from a service economy, to a science and technology-based economy that is driving innovation. 

At the forum, we were also joined by the UK’s leading experts in Digital Twin technology to consider how we tackle building cyber-physical infrastructure. Concern was expressed that we might see just one organisation co-opt the cyber-physical space, rather than the UK fostering a democratic approach to its development. It was therefore agreed throughout the discussion that we need to encourage both collaboration and competition when it comes to building the UK’s cyber-physical infrastructure. Collaboration is key for setting up the space and the rules, and it’s essential to share data and key learnings; however, when it comes to the game itself, allowing competition is key to driving innovation. 

At the forum there was a clear appetite to have cross-sector conversations about the future of cyber-physical infrastructure. If you are interested in getting involved with Digital Catapult’s cyber-physical consultation please get in touch with [email protected]


2. Augmented Reality is a medium for fostering connections in the real-world

At CogX our CEO Jeremy Silver was joined by both creative and hardware experts to explore the future of augmented reality. While there are barriers to society making use of virtual reality – both due to the costly equipment it requires, and the fact that the individual must escape into a headset – augmented reality presents an alternative medium for creating experiences that can contribute to the public good.

It is important to remember that although AR requires you to use a device, the content itself becomes liberated from 2D spaces – the experience comes to life around us rather than on a screen. While Virtual Reality is an extremely useful and powerful technology, the separation and barrier created by going ‘into’ a headset can hinder connections that Augmented Reality is helping to facilitate. 

By overlapping augmented reality with the real world, people can be empowered to create experiences in a virtual space when they might not have the resources to do so in physical space. This technology can allow people to take ownership of spaces where they can build shared realities with others, fostering a sense of connection that is not always possible through virtual reality. Digital Catapult is currently working with Niantic Labs and Cartoon Network to find a way to bring children into the outside world to play together, through an AR app that possesses elements of their highly successful ToonCup game, but rather than have players interact on a screen, they can interact with characters and other players in the real-world. 

This discussion was an optimistic antidote to some of the more alarmist, but necessary conversations taking place about virtual worlds and the metaverse.


3. Yes we still need to talk about AI ethics…  

There’s a pervasive concern in the AI community that many organisations are taking part in ‘ethics washing’ – fabricating or exaggerating their interest in building equitable AI systems that work for everyone. So do we still really need to be talking about AI ethics? The answer is yes – Cecilia Nunn our Responsible AI Manager joined the AI summit to help cut through the noise. 

Bias, adoption and ethical AI applications were all words buzzing around the AI Summit from the panels, to the keynote speakers and rising to the main stage. As AI becomes more widely adopted across businesses, its responsible application is becoming both a busy and often unclear area, which is why its practical use was a big focus of the two days.

The main takeaway from all these discussions was that to introduce or deepen ethics into teams and organisations, ensuring that people within companies feel empowered to flag and openly discuss potential ethical issues that arise is paramount. 

There is very little point in educating teams about responsible AI if they don’t feel the agency to flag observations or fear the repercussions of speaking up about potential issues. When developing a product or service, team must feel that open communication and accountability about ethical issues are just as important as meeting deadlines and making profits. Creating strong and protected pathways for issues to be raised will enable organisations to innovate more successfully.

Find out more about Digital Catapult’s work in applied AI ethics here.


4. Unleashing the potential for the UK’s supply chains to be more resilient, greener and more efficient.

With recent events exposing myriad supply chain challenges and vulnerabilities, Ben Ramsden, our Partnerships Manager for Digital Supply Chains joined the Global Leadership Summit at CogX to discuss how we can use digital technology to transform global supply chains. 

At CogX we had the opportunity to share more about our latest supply chain initiative where one of the key actions to bolster the UK’s supply chain is to invite collective commitment. This is why Digital Catapult has launched its Digital Supply Chain Hub which is developing a nationwide network of living labs, testbeds and demonstrators. The Hub will serve as a platform for continuous collaboration over the next few years, convening supply chain stakeholders and facilitating the flow of essential knowledge, tools and connectivity. Empowering the community as a collective with better skills, resources, and transparency will be essential in preparing for the critical supply chain challenges facing UK manufacturing. 

To find out more about how your organisation can get involved in bolstering the UK’s supply chains through technology research, development, and deployment visit the Made Smarter Innovation | Digital Supply Chain Hub

With so many events happening virtually over the past two years, it was amazing for our experts to engage with the community in person and have face-to-face discussions about some of the key challenges we are working to tackle. 

If you are interested in attending Digital Catapult’s in-person events in the future make sure you subscribe to our newsletter here.