Research and Enterprise

Leeds Beckett University makes an impact at the biggest digital festival in the north

Leeds Digital Festival celebrates the cities thriving digital sector, its innovation, successes and annual growth. Collaboration is key, and as a city we seem to get better at it every year. The Festival is an open platform affair, which means anyone can run events over the busy two week period. And with over 250 events, 2019 was the busiest year to date.

Leeds Beckett University, renowned for its business support across the SME market, took advantage of this open platform festival to showcase some of its key offerings in the digital space.

Kicking off with a workshop from the online learning team, David Spark one of Beckett’s instructional designers covered the importance and use of innovative online learning materials. Addressing the different approaches to online development, the role of the tutor in the online environment and the needs of the learners. The University’s Director of Distance Learning, Edmund Hewson commented

‘As a University, we are very aware of the growing digital sector in Leeds, and are increasingly keen to support the festival’.

The University also ran an immersive environments for absolute beginners session, which illustrated how to capture and share delegate environments using 360-degree photography, immersive video and 3D scanning. There were discussions on how VR headsets can be used to transform surroundings and how to use mix reality to combine the real world with the digital.

The Employer Engagement Team, led by Debbie Adams, organised an event to inform and educate local digital businesses about the support Beckett can provide around recruiting students, graduates and apprentices. With a range of speakers and case studies, the session was run as part of the universities ongoing drive to retain talent in the region and address the tech skills shortage.

2019 saw the first fringe events of the Festival across the Leeds City Region, with Leeds Beckett’s Ad:Venture team hosting a Business Breakfast at the University Business Centre in Halifax. Aimed at the digital startup community in Calderdale, the ‘Bootstrap Marketing’ session covered the importance of marketing regardless of your budget. Deb Hetherington, Business Engagement Manager in the Research & Enterprise team at Beckett, as well as steering group member for the Festival, commented:

‘It’s exciting to see the Festival also growing geographically year on year, which ties in nicely with the University’s strategic partnerships across the region. There are a lot of exciting startups hidden away in the likes of Calderdale, and giving them the platform to hold their own events as well as attend can only be a positive thing going forward.’

The Ad:Venture team at Beckett also partnered with Empact Ventures to run a super connect pitch day over at creative co working space Duke Studios. The full day session saw emerging tech startups and scale-ups from around the region engage and connect with decision makers at larger organisations.

The AD:VENTURE programme delivers ERDF funded growth support to existing businesses in their first 3 years of trading and for people planning to start a business within the Leeds City Region.

The two week Festival not only allowed Leeds Beckett to run events, it gave the students chance to interact with industry in a range of exciting and practical ways. Student attendee numbers were high throughout the two weeks, illustrated impressively at the inaugural Women in Leeds Digital (WiLD) conference aimed at encouraging soon to be graduates into digital roles.

Events Management Lecturer Mel Ellyard volunteered several of Beckett’s master students to assist in the running of the WiLD conference, and had this to say about the full day event

‘It was a WiLD day, so much energy, talent and positivity in the room! It was such a privilege to support the event with our students.’

Also exhibiting during the conference were Leeds Beckett’s Digital Leap, Code First: Girls and our Apprenticeships team.

With 2020 being the completion year for the University’s £80m creative arts building, and the Festival predicted to be even bigger, we can only imagine that Beckett’s impact will grow in parallel.

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By University Research Development Team
13 Feb 2023
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