Cisco: success of Commonwealth Games supports UK innovation

The success of events like the Commonwealth Games helps foster IT skills development, says Cisco UK CEO Phil Smith

Multinational events such as the Olympics or the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow can help drive more innovation and research on UK shores, according to Cisco UK and Ireland CEO Phil Smith.

Cisco has just completed a major deployment in support of the Commonwealth Games, providing more than 4,000 athletes, 15,000 volunteers, media organisations, officials and emergency services with rugged and robust networking infrastructure across 13 venues.

The total installed bandwidth for the 2014 Commonwealth Games amounted to 520Gbps, with firewalls capable of processing more than 25,000TB of data during the games, equivalent to 500,000 feature-length Blu-Rays.

Speaking to Computer Weekly in Glasgow, Smith said companies such as Cisco reaped the benefits from involvement in major sporting events in many ways, from demonstrating the potential of the network to customer prospects, to encouraging its own staff to get more involved in sporting activity and offer them a practical demonstration of the work they are doing.

Smith said: “If you’re an R&D guy sitting and writing some code somewhere and you don’t see what it’s for – it’s quite a hard thing. In the heart of the network, maybe the nuance of exactly what your little bit of code does can be a bit lost.

“What we do with our employees is try to inspire them as much as possible to see that the thing they’re doing is making a difference to the Games. We show them how that bit of code they developed made that particular set of data go much faster than it would have done in another environment.”

However, he explained, the high profile nature of major sporting events such as London 2012 and Glasgow 2014 helped raise the profile of Cisco UK & Ireland back at its US headquarters, and ultimately helped encourage investment both in the local business, and skills development and R&D.

“When we show that we can do things incredibly well in the UK we really impress the rest of the organisation. There is no doubt that we’ve had more investment in the UK, more innovation driven in the UK, and there’s a much greater focus on the UK overall,” said Smith.

“That’s great because the more investment we get, the more jobs we create and the more we grow, so I think the Commonwealth Games help bring a company together and say you need to think more about the UK – these guys are really good at doing this stuff, and maybe with some more local development resource they could do more.”

Smith, who is also involved with eSkills and the government’s Technology Strategy Board, added: “We have tremendous innovation capability in the UK and I think we need to champion that and champion it in the next generation as well.”

With greater focus now being placed on technological innovation and startups outside of London, Cisco’s Network Virtual Incubator (NVI) project – part of the BIG British Innovation Gateway scheme – has already been helping foster tech talent outside London for some time.

The scheme has a number of NVI nodes around the country and recently opened two more of them in Scotland at Dundee’s Abertay University and the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow itself.

The aim of the nodes is to link potential young entrepreneurs and technology innovators studying at Abertay and Strathclyde with like-minded people elsewhere in the UK, giving them access to a wider range of peers, ideas and collaboration opportunities.

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