Since April 2016, Whitecap has been involved in shaping the vision and strategy for an exciting addition to the digital landscape in the Leeds City Region, which will play a key role in the development of the digital Northern Powerhouse.
The FiNexus Lab is a multi-stakeholder initiative that aims to build and fund a Leeds City Region based innovation laboratory and digital hub that is founded on three key pillars:
1. An industry lab environment focusing on test & learn for the ecosystem consisting of access to advanced technologies (e.g. IoT, AI, blockchain / DLT, robotics, machine learning, data analytics), “facilitation” technology providers, sandbox, hackathons (where industry meets start-ups), compliance protection, as well as UX testing tied into a free school / city user base.
2. A startup ecosystem that feeds into the wider economy focusing on FinTech/ HealthTech/ GovTech consisting of an accelerator (mentors/networks/space), financing (angels/VC/debt), PS (banking/legal/accounting) and competitions (e.g. the Singularity University Grand Challenge).
3. A knowledge exchange hub for both physical and virtual networking and info depository consisting of events (e.g. FCA, catapults), conferencing, flexible meeting space, idea exchange, speed dating, collaboration, social platform, e.g. for academic research /corporate problems.
The key strategic objectives for the FiNexus Lab are to leverage the UK’s global leadership in FinTech building a counter-balance to London, and to create innovative and integrated e-government, SMART City & HealthTech solutions as well as wide-ranging digital transformation skills and solutions.
The vision is to create a balanced and safe ecosystem that is jointly led by its stakeholders with a focus on developing advanced technologies for commercial, social & economic advantage that will:
1. Enable to feed targeted regional incubators, accelerators and other infrastructure.
2. Support startups and SMEs that use new technologies as part of their business models.
3. Bring together 1) entrepreneurs with ideas that need to be tested and built, 2) organisations of all sizes that have problems to solve and a desire to exploit new technologies, and 3) experts skilled in new technologies who are looking to test & prototype their solutions.
Creating the FiNexus Lab and developing potentially game changing technologies in Leeds will attract future investments, companies and jobs for the region and will further advance Leeds’ international reputation as a hub for digital and technological innovation, help with the digital skills gap through development of the next generation of technologists and align the Leeds City region to the UK government’s Northern Powerhouse strategy.
The FiNexus Lab will be hosted in a new and state of the art facility to be built by Munroe K with advanced engagement and collaboration from large FS and tech businesses, HM Treasury, Leeds City Council, the LEP, Singularity University, IBM Watson, the UK government, UK academia, industry groups and aggregators driving this project forward. The chosen location at the White Rose Office Park is already hosting regional HQs for several national businesses and plans are in place for a train station to link the Office Park to Leeds City Centre using the already existing rail network.
The Leeds City Region is an ideal location for the FiNexus Lab as it hosts the UK’s largest economy and population centre outside of London, generates 5% of England’s total economic output, £62 billion, offers a world class location in data management & analytics and is home to the highest concentration of higher education institutions across Europe.