What does a Festival of Digital Disruption mean to you? To us it was 600 people across 6 events in three days. We hosted a Tech for Good conference with amazing speakers sharing talks including the future of unmanned aerial surveillance, a tool that detects fake news, the use of drones across the UK, a fintech platform that greatly reduces charity spend on donation collection and a live demo of a glove that vocalises sign language. We had 300 people attend of which half were local sixth form and university students able to come because we rallied the business community to sponsor their tickets.
We closed with a Fashtech challenge with twelve teams from local schools pitching their ideas for a fashion concept of the future. During the day they heard masterclasses covering app design, product design, the evolution of wearables and how sustainability needs to be at the heart of what we do. From the teams we saw ideas about a coat with an embedded SIM for hikers, a tech hoody, a configurable shoe and the winning team, Team Phoenix from Blessed Hugh Farringdon, had pulled an all nighter to arrive with a programmed micro-bit and full presentation ready to go.
In between we delivered a creative funding session with investors and founders talking about their journeys, we hosted the ever popular FuckUp nights and we celebrated the Thames Valley 50 Game Changers with a VIP launch party.
But what was the driver behind a three day event in the Town Hall. Essentially we wanted to polarise the tech community in Reading – not just the big logos sat out on the periphery in the business parks but the entire eco-system. We had start-up founders, we had investors, we had the next generation of developers and entrepreneurs all sharing their ideas and stories. Why? Because we believe that through being successful for the last twenty years the region has become fragmented. We hear individual companies talking about the same issues but then also addressing them individually. We believe that collaboration is the key to tackling these issues – by making Reading and the surrounding area a true digital destination we will attract more people to come and work here, we will inspire the next generation that careers with the region’s tech companies are better than being lured to the bright lights of London, Manchester or to tech hubs overseas. We wanted to show that with a bit of passion, energy and determination that we could deliver something that people normally associate with having to travel elsewhere for.
We would like to thank Reading UK and Henley Business School for having faith in us when it was just an idea and we’re proud to have delivered Reading’s other, other, other, other Festival and we want to do it again – put 20-22 November 2019 in your diary and we’ll see you there.