The Innovation Edge 2008

Yesterday, both Gemma and myself headed to a conference called “The Innovation Edge”, held by Nesta. We had no real idea of what to expect — in fact we hadn’t heard of Nesta before the event…

Tim Berners-Lee gives a talk via video feed on a large projector at The Innovation Edge Conference

Tim Berners-Lee on screen via RachelC on Flickr.

All we knew was that this was a chance to see some innovative ideas and hear talks from the likes of Bob Geldof, Tim Berners-Lee and the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown. (Other great reasons to visit included free food and a great chance to meet new people.)

We can now safely say (with the help of the Nesta website) that…

“Nesta is the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts – a unique and independent body with a mission to make the UK more innovative. They offer investment in early-stage companies, inform and shape policy, and deliver practical programmes that inspire others to solve the big challenges of the future.”

The two underlying themes we took away from the event were:

  1. We need to innovate in a way that is positive to the global community, solving issues such as climate change, poverty, health and debt. To do this we must work collaboratively across the globe.
  2. We need to make money to strengthen our local economies and place the UK at the forefront of innovation.

The real shame is that this seemed to be presented as two conflicting goals. Is it not possible to innovate, solve global issues and make money at the same time?

At toggle we might be a long way from solving major global issues, but we’re doing what we can. We’re promoting open source development and helping people get online with Pixie. This is a free project that we have spent a great deal of time developing. While it won’t solve world poverty any time soon, it will enable people to promote positive causes through the web for free.

Parallel to this we are experimenting with different business models alongside running what I would call a “normal” creative services company: client -> project -> fixed cost -> deadline -> complete.

Mix all these things together and I think we are stepping towards the right way to run a modern business. We still have long way to go, and a great deal to learn. Finding the balance between free, value and the necessity to make money is extremely difficult.

Looking back on the day I think we felt the morning talks from Bob Geldof and Tim Berners-Lee were the highlights of the day. Bob in particular was very inspiring. In the afternoon we headed into separate “expert seminars” which I felt were lacking in content and a little out of date. On the whole though a very interesting day that was well worth the visit. Thanks Nesta!