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11th Oct 2022

Lessons From Week 1 of Leeds Digital Festival 

Gabrielle Percival

Well, well, well. Wasn’t 2022’s instalment of the Leeds Digital Festival SOMETHING ELSE?! We thought we were used to having busy diaries, yet the last two weeks of September did something else for our stamina! As a Group, we crammed our calendars with a record-number of events, relishing the chance to listen, learn, lead, and leave inspired by the numerous industry leaders LDF had secured. Among our jam-packed schedules, working lunches, and a few glasses of wine for ‘networking purposes’, we were also busy compiling lists of ideas from each event. 

Whether it was simply the fact we attended SO MANY EVENTS, or because we’re keen beans when it comes to understanding every word, niche, or application of each thought-provoking presentation, to say trying to round up Leeds Digital Festival 2022 was a comprehensive task would be an understatement. In fact, we’ve got so much to say that we’re having to take it one week at a time…. 

Read on for highlights from week 1! 

Tuesday 20th September

Health Inequalities and the Digital Divide

Group Head of Content & PR, Jessica Farrow, attended this event hosted by Thrive by Design, showcasing how 2020 propelled awareness of health inequality thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic catalysing a digital-first approach. Yet, soon after the transition started, many elements were quickly retracted and reverted back to more traditional delivery methods due to many unable to access digital platforms.  

We left this event thinking about: 

1. Outside of the traditional health environment setting, health inequalities become greater and will require due consideration if and when we move closer to at-home patient care. 

2. “It should only be digital when it’s the best service, not when it’s the most convenient,” Anna Chippindale, Community Project Worker at Healthwatch Leeds. 

3. Health services must think ‘holistically’ about people’s circumstances and their choices during digital transformations, according to Bola Akinwale, Deputy Director at NHS England’s National Health Inequalities Improvement Programme. 

How Do You Sell a Technology Business? 

Halston Group CEO, Georgia Halston, chaired this event ran by Brewin Dolphin Wealth Management in collaboration with Sentio Partners and Mills & Reeve.  

Providing the audience with an encouragingly genuine and candid retrospective of Founder of 247 David Brooks’ journey to exit, Georgia hosted the accomplished panel answering related queries on selling tech companies. We heard from: 

Paul Johnson, fielding questions on the legal aspects 

Paul Redfearn, commenting on the planning of personal wealth management  

John O’Gara, who worked on David’s advisory through the sale of the company 

Engaged and curious attendees joined in with the lively discussion held in the Banyan City Square function room, packed to the absolute rafters! 

Small Changes, Huge Impact 

Event number THREE of day 1 came in the form of a talk from Mike Coulter, hosted by Creode. Group Senior Marketing Manager Antonia Gifford represented Halston Group in the audience, learning about Stanford University Professor BJ Fogg’s views on behaviour.  

Toni learned about the new ways created by Fogg to understand behaviour, alongside new methods for designing change solutions, like his Tiny Habits Academy. The systematic method and process of personal change teaches industry innovators about how human behaviour really works, by: 

1. Asking you to create a tiny habit hit list of habits that take 30 seconds or less and can be done at least once per day! 

2. Getting us thinking about motivation and how it’s a bit of a slippery slope – it’s great for longer-term behaviours, but not necessarily habits!  

3. Having us consider how can we apply these tiny habits to our work and the brands we work with.

One of the ideas that’s really made a lasted impression on Toni is how simplicity changes behaviour. Think about it… 

The internet existed before Google. Google just simplified it! 

Taxis existed before Uber. Uber just simplified them! 

Hotels existed before Airbnb. Airbnb just simplified them! 

Your target audience is already motivated and able – all you need to do is prompt them. “Get close to your creatives. The best creators are detectives.” 

Nexus Connect

Group Senior Partnership Engagement Manager, Evie Highley, was in attendance at another of Nexus’s super successful networking events! Innovators from the entire MedTech Eco system, including Wellola and Inovus Medical, delivered presentations detailing numerous opportunities for collaboration in the sector. Exhibitions from Medipex, Bionow, and the Leeds Teaching Hospitals Innovation Pop-Up were also available at this evening event, showcasing their most recent – and most advanced – offerings. 

Wednesday 21st September

Sustainable North

We were buzzed to attend the launch event for the unique investment initiative founded by Paceline and our new client, NorthInvest! The aspiration for the next 5 years? To support the creation of 60 sustainable tech businesses across the North of England.  

Bringing together a panel discussion on how best to support sustainable tech businesses, we heard some pretty inspiring speeches from those already using sustainable tech to drive real change, plus some rather exciting pitches from emerging companies being supported by the initiative! 

3 standout points from the event, according to Jess:  

1. An introductory talk from Tom Riordan, Chief Executive of Leeds City Council, who spoke with passion about the importance of driving innovation in the North and addressing problems that partly stem from our manufacturing heritage. 

2. The speech by award-winning green-tech innovator Dr Marilyn Comrie OBE FRSA, who spoke about the incredible work she’s part of in Manchester that’s creating a leading Green-tech incubator to upskill the surrounding areas ready for the renewable transition.  

3. Halocycle’s pitch on how their technology looks to address the plastics problem!

Digital Day in the Life of an Egg

We weren’t just physically present at LDF 2022, but in the online world, too! Marketing Executive Isobel Nield attended this webinar hosted by the Morrisons Operational Team, exploring the barriers to predicting supply and demand when it comes to food produce.  

Through ‘the life of an egg’ from the hen to the shelf, Izzy was particularly intrigued by how the weather is one of the most defining factors in food demand. For example, Morrisons have to work to predict weather patterns, like the first cold weather snap or any particular ‘warmer’ weekends. Naturally, the weather influences consumer behaviour – when it’s cold, we’ll begin to buy heating appliances for foods like soup, and when it’s hotter, we tend to buy more alcohol and BBQ-related products. If this prediction is wrong by even a couple of days, it can spell disaster for sales! 

Digital Bites 

‘A little bit different to your average marketing event’ is how Connective3 describe their Digital Bites events, and they’re sure right! Favouring short, bitesize talks over lengthy presentations, speakers have just 10 minutes to shine and share tips and tricks that you can actually apply to your job the next day. 

Cerys Moore, Account Executive, came away from the event with a real understanding of why collaboration with clients is so integral to idea generation – after all, they’re the ones with knowledge about their product/service, a wealth of expertise, and not to mention that all-important internal data!  

Developing Digital Health Hubs in Leeds 

Providing a platform for speakers from the Local Care Partnership Development team, 100% Digital Leeds, and partners in the delivery of the Digital Health Hub, this one-hour session provided Evie with insight on: 

– How these organisations are working together to identify and remove obstacles to the delivery of, and inclusion in, digitised health and care services.  

– The importance of digital health equalities to assist people to better manage their conditions on their own.  

– How the Digital Health Hub supports the improved motivation, access, skills, and knowledge people require to self-manage, leading to fewer appointments and hospital admissions.  

Evie came away with a new sense of excitement about the launch of the model, soon to be implemented across the city in an ambitious 24-month plan following two years of creation, testing, and evaluation! 

Thursday 22nd September

The Importance of Data Before, During, and After a Fundraise or Exit

Georgia Anna Sutton, Co-Founder of The Data Refinery and CEO of The Data Shed , chaired this breakfast session on the importance of data and how it can be applied as an asset in different situations. 

Panellist Mitch Cox, Director of Finance at EY, gave his insight on the imperativeness of data readiness in the process. Followed by a personal account from Amman Boughan, CFO of Lights4fun (which featured a live case study of his 2020 fundraise), it’s safe to say the audience was privy to a few personal learnings! 

D-List: Launch of a New Platform & Community for Exceptional Entrepreneurs 

Celebrating the launch of the D-List 100 by inclusivity network Include Me, this event kicked off with some pertinent words from Tom Riordan CBE, CEO of Leeds City Council. The list details 100 incredible founders and business leaders, coined by Mel Ellyard and Richelle Schuster who gave us a lowdown of their future plans.  

Bradley Khan, CEO at Trusic, then hosted a spotlight session followed by a panel on Women in Innovation & Black Founders featuring Innovate UK KTN, Tech Nation, and Barclays Eagle Labs. We were then treated to our second spotlight session on Regional Innovation from the Applied Artificial Intelligence Society, and a third on Regional Healthcare from Richard Stubbs, CEO at Y&H AHSN. The event was rounded off with a live performance from Testament and Agent M, whose rap based on AI and inclusion brought the house down! 

Friday 23rd September

Low-Code/No-Code: The Building Blocks for Tech Success in 2022 and Beyond

Digital Development specialists XDesign invited LegalTech no code/low code mavens Toca.io to Bruntwood’s Platform to discuss the virtues of the no-code movement. With its templated blocks of code, Toca.io answered questions on if they can really provide companies with the scalability and freedom they need for growth in the short and longer term. Audience members were interested in the development of MVPs using no-code, and how rapid development really is when using a no-code builder! 

Sustainability in Health Care for Innovators

To round off a very busy first week of LDF 2022, we heard from Frank Swinton, Climate Change Lead at the West Yorkshire Health & Care Partnership. He told us that ‘1 in 20 vehicles on the road are either NHS-owned or businesses supplying the NHS.’ And, with interesting points raised about accountability and why healthcare providers (like the NHS) need clearer legislation of sustainability expectations, Jess went into the weekend thinking about the importance of keeping conversations about sustainability ongoing to ensure they remain at the forefront of people’s minds. 

Her understanding of how the sector now has to adhere to the latest changes in sustainability regulations was deepened, thanks to a presentation from Jamie Foster, Partner at Hill Dickinson. He told the audience how the Competition and Market Authorities (CMA) is now starting to investigate greenwashing in an aim to address those who are marketing a version of the truth that shows them in a ‘greener’ light – for the first time, Directors can now be sued. What’s more, The Health and Care Act 2022 has taken a positive step to be more descriptive in terms of expectations and legal duties in terms of climate actions. Lots to be considering within this changing sector! 

And there you have it – almost 2,000 words later, you’ve got your whistle-stop tour of week 1 of Leeds Digital Festival 2022. Keep your eyes peeled for week 2, coming soon… In the meantime, did YOU make it to any of these events? We’d love to know how your best bits stack up!