A new digital lab based at Coventry University’s Technology Park is offering help to West Midlands SMEs to integrate the latest technologies into their business and boost productivity.
The Touch Digital tech lab – which is backed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and run as a collaboration between Coventry and Aston universities – features interactive touch screen tables, an array of smart devices and a state-of-the-art 3D printer, and will be launched at the Serious Games Institute on Wednesday 26th June.
Small and medium firms in the region will be able to take advantage of five days of free expert advice and practical support in the new lab, where they can try out new technologies first-hand and explore ways to use them for their business needs.
A separate ERDF-funded initiative – the Eco Business project – will also be launching at the event, and is set to support SMEs with grant funding towards efforts to save costs on energy, transport and waste reduction.
The Eco Business project offers grants of up to £2,400 to help businesses aid their transformation to become cost efficient, and includes advice on processes such as recycling and redesigning packaging.
West Midlands-based visual communications specialist Alex Hughes is one example of an entrepreneur whose business has already benefited from the Touch Digital tech lab.
Alex, a freelance cartoonist whose work involves using ‘visual reportage’ to create bespoke images for companies and individuals, was offered a tailored workshop as part of the project to help him understand his technology requirements.
The result – the integration of new software into his digital tablet work flow – has helped him to connect with clients remotely in real-time and make huge savings on transport.
Alex, whose clients include banks, charities and the EU, said: “The help I received from Touch Digital extended beyond what I thought would be available to me. Previously I was doing a lot of travelling around to meet clients and was spending a lot of time on a train or in an airport, which is potentially all lost work time. I’m now getting up to speed with new software which basically enables me to meet my client and demonstrate work wherever I am in the world, and it’s likely to save me thousands and make my business a lot more in revenue.”
Serena Malone, project manager for the Touch Digital tech lab initiative, said: “It’s fantastic that even as we launch the Touch Digital tech lab, its potential benefits are being showcased through an enterprising individual like Alex.
Different businesses will have very different requirements when it comes to the uptake of new technology, but the ultimate aim of our project is to be the first port of call for any small and medium firm in the West Midlands when it considers upgrading or developing its tech. We’re very much ‘open to business’ for SMEs looking to explore what options they have.”
Sunil Vara, project manager for Eco Business, said: “It’s appropriate that the Eco Business project should be launching at the same time as Touch Digital, as small and medium businesses in the West Midlands have much to gain from both initiatives.
Where Touch Digital serves technology requirements, Eco Business is set to help SMEs take a look at how they could become more eco-friendly through the likes of energy and waste management. Businesses are coming under increasing pressure to demonstrate their environmental credentials, so support in this area is critical.”
Following on from the launch event, the Touch Digital project is soon to confirm a programme of regional workshops across the West Midlands which will see it take some of the tech lab’s latest gizmos out on the road for SMEs to try out first-hand.