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Government minister visits SInC to learn about the digital sector

MP Ed Vaizey with Neil Hutchinson, Technical Director for games developer Big Bit

A screenshot from 'Race Team Manager', Big Bit's racing simulator

Mr Vaizey with Anthony Sheehan, founder of Near You Now

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey MP visited the Sussex Innovation Centre (SInC) on campus this week as part of a whistle-stop tour to learn about the success of the digital sector in Brighton and Hove.

During his tour on Thursday (12 March), which also included visits to the local Chamber of Commerce and the Brighton Media Centre, Mr Vaizey met with directors from two digital businesses that are based at SInC and are directly benefitting from increased public funding for the sector.

Mobile game developers Big Bit received a £200,000 expansion loan from the Coast to Capital Funding Escalator in December 2014 to help them as they continue to develop their own intellectual property, with the aim of creating more than 20 new jobs for the regional economy in the next two years.

The minister, who has responsibility for the digital industries as part of his post, spoke with the company’s Technical Director Neil Hutchinson and sampled Big Bit’s racing simulator game, Race Team Manager.

"We enjoyed showing the minister the fruits of our labour,” said Mr Hutchinson after the visit. “It’s good to know that the government is recognising the booming digital sector here in Brighton.

“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 in August 2014.

The funding has enabled the company to work with the Department of Informatics at the University of Sussex on new algorithms that will provide better semantic analysis, and will help regional news websites to promote increasingly relevant content to individual readers.

Mr Sheehan said: “The minister quickly grasped how Near You Now can change the way people discover local news and information, and 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."

Mr Vaizey was accompanied on his tour of SInC by its Executive Director, Mike Herd.

Mr Herd said: "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.

"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."

Wholly owned by the University of Sussex, the Centre is home to more than 100 member companies, spanning a range of sectors from new media, design and IT to engineering and biomedical research.

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Posted on behalf of: Sussex Innovation Centre
Last updated: Monday, 16 March 2015

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