We’ve been delighted to sponsor the Thinking Digital Conference this year. The UK’s leading technology conference takes place at the inspiring Sage Gateshead in May every year, whereby some of the world’s most interesting technologists, designers, scientists, researchers and digital creatives are invited to present on their latest work and innovative ideas.

And here are a few reasons why we’ve supported this year’s conference:

1.  Emerging talent

With the North East facing a very real skills challenge, as Accenture Managing Director Bob Paton alluded to at the conference, helping emerging talent is a key way for Leighton to ensure we can continue to deliver high quality work for our clients. New talent is the lifeblood of the company now and in the future.

The Emerging Talent Fund, which we supported at the conference, may not necessarily deliver us with new members of staff, but it does give rare talent a chance to be inspired, moved, motivated and energised by immersing themselves in the full conference programme with a travel bursary thrown in.

We really are proud to be able to support this and very much believe that in this instance, what goes around comes around. By supporting people to achieve their goals, others will take the chance to help our company achieve ours.

We’d like to wish the winners of the Emerging Talent Fund the best of luck.

Emerging Talent Fund

2.  World class inspiration

As a digital company, we live and die by our ideas. The quality of the ideas we use to help us work better internally, and those we implement on behalf of our clients to help them achieve digital excellence, matter a great deal to the success of the business. Therefore, the more we open ourselves up to innovation from around the world, the more we can evolve and improve our offering and our practices.

Thinking Digital offers the perfect environment to be inspired by experts from a huge variety of backgrounds and digital disciplines.  This opportunity is perhaps summed up best by medical robotics expert Catherine Mohr who said during her own excellent talk at this year’s conference “The disruption in my field will not come from within.”

With Leigton’s Digital Marketing team all attending the three day conference, the following are just a selection of our highlights from yet another great Thinking Digital:Andy Stanford-Clark Edit 2

Andy Stanford-Clark, an IBM Distinguished Engineer, gave a brilliant talk on the potential of the Internet of Things (IoT) – specifically on how he’d automated his house to boil the kettle and to tweet, whilst sharing more of his experience on the rich potential of IoT and how it could drastically improve the lives of millions of people.

Simon Lynen Edit

Simon Lynen of the University of Zürich detailed his involvement in the latest work of Project Tango, a smartphone and tablet project by Google’s Advanced Technology and Projects group (ATAP). The resulting prototype is an Android smartphone-like device that tracks the 3D motion of the device and creates a 3D model of the environment around it.

This technology will enable a huge leap forward in the use of smartphones for user generated data – such as the mapping of complex public buildings including airports or railway stations, or the ability to model the inside of your house for better interior design / use of the space. A project with huge potential, it is, Lynen claimed, “the first human scale understanding of space and motion”.

Ian Wharton Edit

Ian Wharton, Creative Director at AKQA, gave a fascinating presentation on something so many of us slip into without really thinking: moving forward with our creative ideas only if we can see a genuine ROI; tangible, guaranteed results at the end.

Ian argued that creativity was often stifled by an obsession with the end product and took time to remind us about children’s approach to life, which is to think in the moment, as well as that “creative people have the gift of agility” and need to “explore your creative breadth”.

3.  Digital pride in the North East

Put simply, to have such an event on our doorstep is a huge privilege. World class speakers in an inspiring venue with music, culture, networking and catching up with many other passionate, digital colleagues and contacts thrown in – Thinking Digital truly is an event for all of us based in the North East to be proud of.

To sponsor the conference – alongside other North East based businesses including the likes of Sage, Accenture and fellow Emerging Talent Fund sponsors Virgin Money – enables the magic to continue and nails our colours to the mast.

4.  Developing our networks

One further benefit of a room full of like minded digital professionals is the potential for making new connections. Whilst not a particular goal of the conference itself, the opportunity to network (in a friendly, shared interests style) should not be overlooked. We added numerous interesting contacts to both our personal and company networks – both in the room and online – and look forward to seeing where those opportunities might lead us.

5.  “Zoom out before we zoom in”

Project Tango researcher Simon Lynen said something profound about his work that will ring true for a lot of people in their everyday work and also nicely sums up Thinking Digital. He believes that for Google’s Project Tango to truly succeed in 3D modelling our world (zooming in), his team must first look more generally at the world around them and evaluate why such a tool is necessary (zooming out).

Thinking Digital itself is a process of zooming out. It is two days of downing work tools (whilst staying in work mode for most delegates) to explore new ideas and expand our thinking.  With such an eclectic mix of speakers, examples and experiences, you can’t help but relate those to the challenges, projects and aims at work. Working in digital and not doing so would be looking a serious gift-horse in the mouth.

Congratulations to Herb Kim and his dedicated team on another great Thinking Digital. We’ll see you next year!

Photographs courtesy of official Thinking Digital photographers Thomas Jackson & Enna Bartlett.