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Sneak peak at The SPARKies judging panel

Bath’s first ever Tech Awards, The SPARKies, has just confirmed the full line up for its judging panel: a broad-ranging group of experienced tech people.

The 16 judges are: Danny Haikin (Brand Director, Bowers & Wilkins), Tessa Cook (MD of eCommerce, Dyson), Sean Atkins (Digital Director, Future Plus, Future Publishing), Ryan Carson (Entrepreneur, CEO of Treehouse), Tom Bradshaw (Business Editor, The Chronicle), Paul Douglas (Editor, TechRadar), Mike Large (COO, Real World), Charles Grimsdale (Eden Ventures), Greg Ingham (Chairman Media Clash & Creative Bath), Richard Turner (Catalyst Venture Partners), Simon Bond (Bath Ventures Innovation Centre), Rupert Baines (VP Marketing, Picochip), Nick Perrett (Entrepreneur & Mentor), Garry Pratt (Founder, TecahIt), Andrew Carr (Entrepreneur and Organiser of Incubate London/Bristol) and Dave Kelly (MD of Storm Consultancy).

The judges will be scoring all of the nominations in 11 categories and up to three finalists for each category will be revealed in mid March. The winners will be announced and celebrated at the Awards Party, taking place at Komedia on 21st March.

Nominations for The SPARKies will be open as of 2nd February and close on 24th February. Make sure that Bath has great tech success stories to celebrate: get nominating!

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Startups: need some advice?

There are many places, groups and people offering advice for startups. All helpful in some way, I am sure, but if you are just looking for a quick spark of inspiration, have a look at Startup Quote. You can go to the website or follow them on twitter. My favourite quote on there is from Michael Dell “Ideas are commodity. Execution of them is not”.

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XML Bath / Profile #1: Leah Hoyer

XML Bath Mentor: Leah Hoyer

In the weeks running up to XML Bath (taking place 16-18th March as part of the Bath Digital Festival), we thought it would be a good idea to profile a number of the speakers/mentors that are going to be speaking and mentoring at the event. Remember, XML is split into a conference (on the 16th – get your tickets here) where you can listen to experts in digital media from all around the world, and a 2-day Lab at Real World Studio for startups (apply to be included here).

XML Speaker Profile #1: Leah Hoyer – Creative Producer at Levity Entertainment Group (Los Angeles) and former director of Development at Walt Disney Group where she worked on global hits Phineas & Ferb, Recess and Kim Possible.

1. Where do you find your inspiration for ideas?

I find the most inspiration from interacting with passionate people. Collaborating with people who love what they do is invigorating. It leads to new and better ideas. I’m convinced that brainstorming with others and bouncing ideas off of trusted creative partners makes any creative product better.

2. What’s the best bit of advice anyone gave you? And what’s the best bit of advice you would give to anyone else?

Don’t be too precious with any one project or idea. It is wonderful and necessary to believe in your idea, but it is even better to be able to share it with the world. Your production and distribution partners bring valuable expertise to a project, and they have certain needs and goals that must be met. Their notes and suggestions shouldn’t be seen as things that will compromise the quality of your project, but as an opportunity to view it in a new light and make it even stronger.

3. Who do you most admire in the digital/creative space?

I most admire the independent producers and small companies who make their ideas a reality. The creative sector is an area where great ideas and strong skills can make a mark, even with fewer resources. But we all know that isn’t easy. Giant studios and media companies have a leg up. But those small shops who innovate, not only in their content, but in their technology, marketing and distribution pathways, are the ones the studios often wind up chasing. That is exciting!

4. What is most exciting you about digital technologies right now?

The potential for smaller players to make a big impact. Just about everyone has access to professional quality production resources and worldwide distribution outlets. It is a very exciting time to be a content creator.

5. What was your favourite creative work in 2011 – film, TV, ad, application, viral vid etc?

This is going to sound silly, but I love Words With Friends, and similar games. It is such a simple idea, but the fact that I can be playing a game with people anywhere in the world, from anywhere that I have phone reception, delights me. I carry on conversations with friends, meet new people and stay connected to friends and family through an activity that helps us grow closer, not just messages we may send back and forth via e-mail or facebook that recap things we’ve done.


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Light up your life tonight

Illuminate Bath 2012

Anthony Head (@anthonyohead) is the Creative Director of Illuminate Bath which has its last showing tonight (28th January 2012). I’ve had the pleasure of working with Anthony over the last year or so, so I thought it would be good to get a brief overview of Illuminate Bath from the “horse’s mouth”…

Let’s start with you telling us a bit about who you are and what you do?

By day, I’m a Senior Lecturer at Bath Spa University in Interactive and Digital Media, by night I’m the Creative Director of Illuminate Bath festival (and often in the daytime too!). I’m also a software designer, computer artist and person who likes the power of coding and the creativity that it can unleash.

So… what is Illuminate Bath and why might it be interesting to BathDigital readers?

Illuminate Bath 2012 is the second festival we’ve run, the first being in November 2010. It’s a light festival, who’s aim is to transform buildings and spaces with intriguing and engaging artworks. We’ve commissioned some external artists, and also asked students and staff at Bath Spa University to take part by creating installations, or participating in events, such as the live drawing wall. Specifically relevant to BathDigital is the fact that most of the artworks are digital, in the sense that they utilised computer software, and many required specific programming to make them happen.

How much does it cost?

It’s a free festival. Yes, absolutely free! Even the programmes are free. This is because it has been funded by a Legacy Trust project called RELAYS and is part of the Cultural Olympiad. There’s been a lot of in kind support to make it happen, as well as Bath Spa University, BANES Council have been very supportive, and we’ve had to enlist the cooperation of local businesses too, mainly to get permissions to set up some of the events (e.g. BHS granted us access to create the Light Grills piece in Bath Street).

What’s the best bit as far as you’re concerned?

As the Creative Director of the festival I’m not going to point out a specific artwork, as I think they are all great. But the best thing about the festival is the fact that people have come out specifically to see it, and Bath, which usually goes to sleep at 5.30pm when the shops shut, has been kept awake this week, in the coldest and gloomiest time of the year. Then there is the power of engaging people through interactivity and digital media. Compared to a painting, where people spend longer reading the description than they do looking at the painting, digital work can really engage and keep people’s attention, as they immerse themselve’s in it. There’s also a strong element of play that I’m really glad is in the festival. If you’re going to make the effort to come out in the cold, you might as well enjoy yourself as well as be inspired to consider the possibilities.

How long has it taken to get it all together?

We’ve been planning this for a year. The last festival was two weeks long and we decided that this festival should be shorter, but higher in impact. The the work has physically been produced over the last two to three months.

What happens next? Any plans for 2013?

I’d love to do another, I have ideas brewing already. But it all depends on funding to make it happen. These things aren’t cheap to put on (even with volunteer help), artists deserve to be paid and the equipment to show projected artworks is really expensive to hire (let alone buy). The RELAYS funding runs out, as its associated with the Olympics. So for many arts organisations and events, there is a new era dawning post-2012.

My hope is that we’ve made people stop and notice the festival, and that the public have enjoyed it enough to want more, and the businesses and other sponsors will realise the benefits of helping keep the festival going. Let’s see what we can do.


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XML Bath announces rock star line-up for conference

International media and tech conference, X Media Lab, has announced the line-up of speakers and mentors for its XML Bath event taking place in March. The conference takes place on the 16th March and is followed by a two-day Lab for start-ups (to take place at Peter Gabriel’s extremely cool Real World Studios) where the keynote speakers from the conference turn into mentors. XML Bath precedes Bath’s first ever Digital Festival that will take place from 19th-26th March.

The speakers and mentors are flying into Bath from all around the world (Los Angeles, New York, Beijing, Toronto and Bangalore) and  include Jeff Gomez (CEO, Starlight Runner Entertainment), Jane Hu (Head of Programming Strategy, YouTube Next Lab), Rosie Allimonos (Multiplatform Commissioner, BBC Drama), Esther Lim (CEO, The Estuary), Poonacha Machaiah (CEO Shekhar Kapiur Digital Media), Andy Mok (MD Red Pagoda and Organiser of Startup Weekend Beijing) and Gerry Gouy (Senior Director at MTV Networks). For more information, check out the full list of mentors and speakers.

Tickets for the conference are available here and if you want to submit your startup/project/idea for the Lab, fill in the form here.

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Picochip acquired by Mindspeed for up to $76.8m

Bath-based ‘small cell’ manufacturer Picochip, has just been acquired by Mindspeed Technologies, a California-based manufacturer of semi-conductor technologies for a reported $51.8m in cash and shares plus up to $25m in earn out payments.

From the press announcement: “Together, Mindspeed and Picochip will offer the most comprehensive portfolio of base station semiconductor solutions on the market, from residential to enterprise to pico/metro applications.”

Picochip employ 100 people in the centre of Bath with a further 150 in offices in China and the US.

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The SPARKies: City of Bath to celebrate the Best in Tech

The team that organise the BathSPARK networking events have just announced that they will be organising Bath’s first ever annual tech awards; The SPARKies. The aim is to celebrate “the very best of tech in Bath” and to help put Bath on the digital map of the world.

Nominations for the main categories will be open for four weeks from 1st February and can be entered by all via a web form at Bath Digital. The winners will be chosen by a panel of judges including Paul Douglas (Editor in Chief of TechRadar.com), Tom Bradshaw (Business editor at The Chronicle), Rupert Baines (VP Marketing, Picochip), Simon Bond (Bath Innovation Centre), Charles Grimsdale (Eden Ventures) and Tessa Cook (MD of eCommerce at Dyson). Judging will take place in early March and the winners and runners up will all be announced and celebrated at a Not-To-Be-Missed Awards Party at Komedia on 21st March, 2012 – slap bang in the middle of the 2012 Bath Digital Festival.

The award party will be a night to remember. Tickets will include food and drinks and will be released for sale via the Komedia online ticket office very soon.

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