By Lal Tawney, Director of Whitecap Consulting Ltd
Lal Tawney from Whitecap Consulting gives us an insight into the ongoing Milton Keynes Tech Ecosystem Project, a report conducting an analysis of the tech ecosystem in Milton Keynes, in partnership with Protospace.
Please tell us a bit about yourself.
I've lived in Milton Keynes ever since arriving here for my first job from university back in the early 90s. I thought I'd be here for two years, and many years on I'm still here! So I'm now a big fan of MK and I’ve got a vested interest in its growth. I love the place. I've worked for several organisations here, such as Abbey National, Santander and the Open University. I'm also on the board of the Stables Theatre in Wavendon and I’m so proud to be part of that.
Please tell us about Whitecap Consulting and some of your key areas of interest in Milton Keynes.
Whitecap Consulting is a strategy consultancy firm which helps organisations with their strategic challenges. We help them analyse what's going on at the moment and look at what might happen in the future, and we guide them through options of what they can do going forward.
We're sector agnostic – for example, we work with universities, manufacturers, retailers, banks. We're based in six cities across the UK, including Milton Keynes, and we’re keen to support and work with local organisations – in all of these cities we've undertaken a local ecosystem analysis. We've looked at a number of sectors in different regions, such as FinTech in Leeds or LegalTech in Bristol and Bath, and we've started to understand what's happening in those sectors from an ecosystem perspective. We've built up an approach to working with different stakeholders in these regions to really understand what the opportunities are for the sector to grow.
Please tell us a bit more about the report you’re working on. Firstly, who's supporting it?
About a year ago, I was in conversation with Oliver Waters from Protospace, which is an organisation that has been supported by Milton Keynes Council to help bring the tech sector together. Oliver and I realised that there's a lot of tech activity in Milton Keynes, but we didn't feel it was as well connected as it could be. We also didn't know the full breadth of what tech assets and tech organisations were in Milton Keynes. We discussed an ecosystem analysis and suggested that we might be able to do one for MK, to understand its strengths, weaknesses and opportunities from a tech perspective, and the assets that we have here, but also what's needed for the tech ecosystem to grow here.
We put together a proposal and, as we have done with ecosystem analysis in other cities, sought a number of different sponsors to support the project. The reason for doing this is that we want a range of organisations behind it; we've got a steering group of them that are helping us move the project forward, made up of Milton Keynes Council, MK College, the Institute of Technology, Santander, the Open University, the University of Buckingham and Mazars.
What's the aim of the report?
The aim of the report is to understand the tech sector, and the assets and strength of tech, in Milton Keynes today, but also to ask some challenging questions to the sector. What is it that we need to do to move the sector forward and to be a real hub for the future? What's missing today? What are we missing in terms of what's required to grow MK as a tech sector, whether that's, for example, accelerators for tech organisations, funding support or the supply of talent into MK? It's really to put a snapshot together looking at today but with opportunities listed and recommendations of how Milton Keynes moves forward.