Ed Vaizey MP, HM Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries, visited the Centre on Thursday and took a tour of the building with Executive Director Mike Herd, before meeting with directors from Big Bit and Near You Now, two digital industry businesses that are directly benefitting from increased public funding towards the sector.
“Brighton has made a name for itself in recent years as a place where the digital sector is truly thriving, and we’re pleased to have played our part in supporting some of those success stories,” said Mr Herd. “The minister was very interested in the work we do at the Centre to foster business growth, and I enjoyed introducing him to some of our current members and the excellent work that they’re doing.”
Mobile game developers Big Bit received a £200,000 expansion loan from the Coast to Capital Funding Escalator in December to help them as they continue to develop their own IP, with the aim of creating more than 20 new jobs for the regional economy in the next two years. The minister, who has special responsibility for the digital industries as part of his post, spoke with Technical Director Neil Hutchinson and sampled the company’s racing simulator Race Team Manager.
“We enjoyed showing the minister the fruits of our labour, and it’s good to know that the government is recognising the booming digital sector here in Brighton,” said Mr Hutchinson. “He was very interested to hear from us about the role that the Centre has played in helping Big Bit to get to where we are today.”
Mr Vaizey then met with Anthony Sheehan, the founder of Near You Now, to learn about the development of the company’s ‘hyperlocal’ news platform, which received a £470,000 grant from Innovate UK last August. The funding has enabled the company to work with the University of Sussex Department of Informatics on new algorithms that will provide better semantic analysis and help regional news website to promote increasingly relevant content to individual readers.
“The minister quickly grasped how Near You Now can change the way people discover local news and information,” said Mr Sheehan. “He even asked if we could provide localised feeds for MP constituency sites! He appreciated how the innovation was underpinned by collaborative research work with the University and government support programmes such as Innovate UK and the SEIS angel investment scheme.”