14 September 2018

Pennine Cloud's "Smart Holmfirth" Initiative

Author Michael Ely
Licence  Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 2.0 

Jane Lambert

The government's industrial strategy is built on 5 foundations  one of which is "place".  In conjunction with the national strategy local areas are encouraged to develop their own local industrial strategies to "identify local strengths and challenges, future opportunities and the action needed to boost productivity, earning power and competitiveness."

In a press release published on the 17 Jan 2018 the Leeds City Region local economic partnership announced discussions with the West Yorkshire Combined Authority on a "New inclusive Industrial Strategy to put region at forefront of UK productivity and prosperity." The Leeds City Region covers a vast and diverse area from the Yorkshire Dales to Leeds and Bradford.  Each and every one of the districts of that City region has its own strengths and opportunities for which district strategies will be required.

One of the metropolitan districts of the Leeds City Region is Kirklees which includes small towns and villages in the rural Pennines as well as former mill towns.  It goes without saying that the needs of the rural communities are very different from urban ones.  Realizing that it is up to local communities to help themselves, Will Roebuck, a non-executive member of the Leeds City Region LEP with 25 years experience of information technology, telecommunications and media, has set up a company called the Pennine Cloud which describes itself as "the challenger and accelerator hub for business and community leaders and top managers working across the UK's Pennine region."

On Wednesday, 12 Sep 2018, the Pennine Cloud convened a meeting of representatives of local businesses and other organizations in Holmfirth Methodist Church on 12 Sept 2018 to discuss:
"How do we unlock the opportunities and benefits of the Leeds City Region's digital economy? Especially in rural areas, such as in the South Pennines and Holmfirth?"
The title of the meeting was "Smart Holmfirth' - Enabling Rural Digital Across The Leeds City Region" 

The agenda was as follows:
  • 10:00 Understanding the new economic landscape (Will Roebuck)​
  • 10:15 Leeds City Region Digital Framework (Sarah Bowes, Steve Moore)​
  • 10:45 Brain storms (all)​
  • 11:30 Refreshment stop ​
  • 11.40 Calming the storms – key observations (all)
  • 12.20 Making rain - action stations (Will Roebuck/Valda Smits)​
  • 12.30 Filling station - working business lunch.
I did not count them, but I estimate that there were over 30 individuals in the room seated around 5 or 6 tables each of which had a label.  Mine was "Infrastructure" and our table included representatives from Kirklees MDC, a local dairy products company, a retired gentleman who ran a coding club, a lady who ran a local community service organization and me. The labels of the other tables were "Tech", "Skills", "Traditional Business" and so on.

Will gave a full presentation and Sarah a shorter one.  Steve started to speak about funding and the various schemes that were available through the local authority and the LEP. He was immediately challenged by a member of the audience who complained that none of them was available to him or his business. Happily, he said he had obtained funding elsewhere.  A lively exchange followed which was ended when Will asked each of the tables to consider individually the questions that had been out to us.

After a lot of discussion each table nominated a foreman who read out its conclusions all of which seemed very pertinent to me.  We did not really get round to the "Calming storms" or "Making rain" discussions as such but I am not sure that matters.   I understand that Pennine Cloud will refer to our brainstorming in planning an industrial strategy for our area.   This will necessarily be a private sector initiative led by Will and Valda but there is nothing inherently wrong with that.

The only discussion of intellectual property was on the legal protection of big data.  However, I can foresee plenty of inventions and other intellectual assets resulting from this initiative with which I should be glad to assist.   Anyone wishing to discuss this article should call me on 020 7404 5252 or send me a message through my contact form.