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Telecoms veteran weighs in on Digital Catapult’s impact on the UK technology ecosystem

Posted 28 Nov 2023

After a decade of digital innovation our board share their reflections and look to the future…

As we celebrate Digital Catapult’s ten year anniversary we sat down for an interview with William Priest, telecoms industry expert and Non-Executive Director, to discuss Digital Catapult’s impact.

As a non-executive board member of Digital Catapult, what are you the most proud of about the organisation?

I remain hugely impressed by Digital Catapult’s ability to continue to adapt, grow and seek new opportunities. This is done through a “can do” attitude and being innovative – not only in the way we utilise leading-edge technology but also through our processes. We are at the cutting edge of digital industries and our people are a shining beacon in aligning academia, industry and startups.

What are the biggest challenges and opportunities in adopting advanced digital technologies right now?

Economic uncertainty and the challenges still existing from macro-challenges will continue to bear down on Digital Catapult and other similar organisations. Government funding sources will remain uncertain as we head into the next spending review period (SR24). However, this is equally an opportunity as our commercial success and capability will open up more national and regional opportunities. I am very excited about our growing footprint in Belfast/Northern Ireland and the West of England, where we can continue to demonstrate digital leadership which will lead to new business growth with central, local and regional administrations as well as the private sector.

If you could make one challenge to your peers in the deep tech ecosystem, what would it be?

Commercialise tech more rapidly and challenge the USA markets in terms of securing funding on the markets – as well as seeking IPO’s in London rather than NYSE (As ARM has done).

How do you envision Digital Catapult in the next 5 – 10 years?

Certainly in five years’ I expect we will have doubled in size; both headcount and income. I would expect us to be the leading and go-to tech innovator in Northern Ireland, and that we will have expanded our regional footprint – to the West of England, the North West, the Midlands and the North East; each area possessing a Digital Catapult hub to accelerate regional technology adoption and growth. Further regional growth will put us at the heart of digital innovation across the UK

Digital Catapult will be winning more major projects (along the lines of SONIC Labs), multi-million pound programmes that allow UK technology vendors to test and deploy technology at a quicker pace. I can see Digital Catapult winning five to six major projects a year.

What is your top memory from your time as a Board member? 

I have done a three-year term and have committed to a second term. Our strategy sessions with the Senior Leadership Team and the rest of the Board was very positive; great debates, strategic challenges and great company. Digital Catapult’s team possesses a wealth of knowledge across sectors and specific technologies. 

What is your favourite Digital Catapult moment of the last 10 years? 

I have only been involved for three years, but winning the SONIC Labs project and our deep involvement with government bodies like DSIT and DCMS is an extremely exciting opportunity. Expanding the team and our reach in the Belfast hub this past year has been equally exciting.

What is your favourite or most memorable partner, programme or project?

The SONIC Labs programme, and our association with UKTIN (UK Telecoms Innovation Network), puts us at the heart of the UK government’s telecoms diversification policy agenda. We are now seen as experts in this field and cements our reputation in this fast- moving sector.


William Priest

Non Executive Director