5th September 2018

GX: The Emerging Tech Series So Far

Urban Foresight was commissioned to curate a series of workshops and networking events on Emerging Tech as part of the Great Exhibition of the North.

Emerging technology is transforming how we travel, work and experience the world around us. It is helping us to live longer and healthier lives in smart and sustainable cities. The pace of this change is rapidly accelerating, with high tech breakthroughs creating new opportunities to solve everyday challenges.

Bringing together entrepreneurs, influencers and thought leaders, the Emerging Tech series is part of a wider ERDF funded GX programme developed as part of the Great Exhibition of the North. It aims to engage with SMEs and scaleups in the NELEP region to develop their innovation capacity, propensity to collaborate and ability to develop new products and services.

These themes have been explored in four workshops to date, with further planned in the coming weeks and months.

Emerging Tech in Transport

The first event featured an expert panel focused on the future of mobility. Tyne and Wear Passenger Transport Executive, Nexus, looked at how the evolution of public transport in a changing North, including new perspectives on public procurement in transport and how new technologies can help public transport address public health challenges. The executive used the event as an opportunity to announce a new opportunity for tech SMEs to work with Nexus towards developing new solutions to improve  the service and passenger experience. The event was excellently facilitated by Alison Shaw of Newcastle University Business School.

Telecommunications expert Xavier Priem of 5G North East then went on to address the shift in emphasis from transport to ‘mobility as a service’ (MaaS) and what transformations cities may see in future as this trend grows, from autonomous vehicles to robust 5G networks and the opportunities this could yield for SMEs.

Northumbria Design School’s Dr Matteo Conti addressed the arguments and challenges hindering uptake of autonomous vehicles, how concerns were being addressed and what opportunities this could present for SMEs.

Finally, Liz Gray, of car club Co-Wheels took to the stage to discuss the sharing economy, the role of technology in creating sustainable mobility solutions and what the car-sharing sector might look like in 20 years’ time.

Emerging Tech in Advanced Manufacturing

From industrial design and marketing to health and safety and quality control, new technology has transformed how we create and build products. The Advanced Manufacturing event looked at how the latest advanced technology can help create smarter design, while using less energy and fewer resources.

Our panel on the day included Dr Rab Scott from the  Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre (AMRC), Paul Blanchard of KOMATSU, Animmersion’s Andi Liddell, Marianne Whitfield from Metrology Software Products Ltd, and Richard Halstead of the EEF, facilitated by Enigma Interactive MD Steve Grainger.

A lively conversation ensued in the room and online, with Rab Scott challenging the audience to see virtual reality (VR) not only as a visual tool, but also one that increasingly includes the other senses also and Paul Blanchard detailing how VR can be used to recruit and engage younger workers to the industry’s ageing workforce. Marriane Whitfield illustrated how use of homegrown innovative software was reducing the time taken to produce crucial components, and Richard Halstead addressed the challenges faced by the manufacturing industry as they embark on the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR).

Emerging Tech in Creative & Culture

The fourth workshop in the series was opened by Minister of State for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), Margot James MP, highlighting Britain’s £92bn economy and the opportunities that presented for Northern SMEs. Speakers included Hayley Edwards from Creative England, Lucie Mclean & Melanie Rodrigues from the BBC, Hammerhead VR’s MD Simon Windsor, and Dave Black of Mixed Immersion. Helena Hill, of 49 Digital, was at hand to facilitate the event.

Lively discussions were had on the future of virtual, mixed and augmented reality (VR, MR & AR), the role of fibre connectivity in unlcking potential for the creative & cultural industries and more.

Emerging Tech in Healthcare: Ageing Well

The Emerging Tech in Healthcare workshop took an in-depth focus on how technological innovations are helping us live well and age well. With an ageing workforce, the challenge remains to keep up productivity and preserve the valuable skills acquired by older professionals over a lifetime. Speakers included Graham Armitage from the National Innovation Centre for Ageing, Chris Gibbons- Accenture, the Home Group’s Kate Gilmartin, hedgehoglab’s Harry Ronchetti, Cintra, MiCarePlan founder Shantelle Million, and Elaine Hall & Becky Eskandari from Northumberland innovator Podfo.  Facilitated by Kate Baucherel of Galia Digital, discussions focused delegates on the need for innovation in the health and social care sectors and how public bodies could engage with local SMEs to create innovative solutions and improve service and user experience.

GX partners Innovation Supernetwork were also in attendance, highlighting funding and support opportunities available to local SMEs as part of the Great Exhibition of the North’s legacy project, the GX Programme.


Following a brief summer recess, the series resumed on the 12th September 2018 at the  ‘Emerging Tech in Aerospace Ecosystems’ event. Join us for the next and penultimate instalment of the series on the 22nd November 2018 as we return to the theme of ‘Emerging Tech in Smart Cities’. The final event of the series will take place on the 29th November 2018 with a showcase celebrating the digital and technological innovations from the North East and discuss what we might expect to see in 2019. Find out more and register to attend this free event here.

More Stories