YESTERDAY was the Innovating Future Business 2017 event at MediaCityUK which saw a host of sporting and business delegates converge to discuss the future of sports consumption, then watch as students from all over the country pitched their business ideas in an attempt to win some investment.

In partnership with University Alliance, the event was split into morning and afternoon; the morning focusing around the theme “90 minutes to 90 seconds; the future of sports content consumption” while the afternoon was given over to the Dragon’s Den-style pitchers.

If you couldn’t make it, you missed a great event! But here are some of the key points from the day…

90 Minutes to 90 Seconds

The sports environment is one that is changing daily; not only is it about watching players, athletes and competitors compete in their discipline anymore but it is becoming about the whole experience. People don’t want to just turn up, watch an event, then go anymore; they want to feel involved, they want to know the stories, they don’t want to miss anything from anywhere and thus the way we consume sports is having to keep up with that need to know.

“You can see how people consuming it want to be a part of it,” stated Professor Andy Miah, a VR and tech enthusiast.

When it comes to discussing technological evolutions and advances, there are few people who speak with more passion than Andy (who I have seen a number of times), and yesterday he focused around the integration of the digital world with sport, and the benefits that is bringing with it.

That need to be a part of “it” is really driving the opportunities for innovators as they continue to find ways of connecting consumers with the sports, and Virtual Reality is the key concept in this at the moment which also provides the added bonus of still having that physical element.

“There’s a desire to integrate the digital with the physical, and make it accessible,

“Pokémon Go was a great example of how you can integrate physical activity with digital!”

“The tech companies working in elite sports are looking at how they can integrate their technology with physical activity, which is very exciting!” – Prof. Andy Miah

Digital is also changing traditional sports by providing alternate economic models, in particular the rise of E-Sports which is set to generate £1bn of revenue in 2020, however there was a stark warning at the end of Andy’s session:

“If we see sports as entertainment, it risks reducing its viability and that’s one of the things we need to guard against…”

Following on from Andy was a panel hosted by our Sports ICZ lead Geoff Thompson discussing digital and sport in the community, which had many different points of interest that centered primarily around accessibility whether that be access to facilities, or access to watch and consume sport.

“My main point for consumption for football and sport is Twitter, because I can consume lots of different things and in different ways!” – Prof. Simon Chadwick

Professor Simon Chadwick put forward the point that access to watching sport limits communities’ ability to get involved and interact, using the example of Anthony Joshua who came up from a lowly background, but a lot of people were unable to watch his win against Wladimir Klitschko because it was behind a paywall, although that didn’t stop people consuming what was going on because of platforms like Twitter.

This was supported by a final thought from Alex Lever – production coordinator for the Offside Rule podcast – who suggested that digital was positive because of the way it can still put you in a moment, using the example of Usain Bolt at the Olympic Games when only a handful of people could have been in the stadium, but there were tens of millions who could still feel a part of that moment by watching it on TV, online or mobile.

“90 seconds of engagement can lead to 90 minutes of engagement. There’s a trend, then a movement.” – Geoff Thompson

The final part of the morning was the keynote from Head of BT Sport, Simon Green, who discussed how BT are trying to engage with the next generation and be more than just a linear TV broadcaster.

“My kids don’t like consuming content the same way as I have done in the past.

“What we have started to think about is new ways of moving 90 minutes of football into products that can be consumed by the next generation.”

Again the discussion centered on the incorporation of custom angles and VR into ordinary television viewing, and without giving too much away, BT certainly look like they have the potential to establish themselves as the leading sports broadcaster…

Innovating Future Business Competition

The afternoon session saw 11 student enterprises from all over the country gather and pitch to five investors their businesses, hoping to secure some investment to help their ventures move on.

It was great to see the range of ideas and offerings on show, but in particular the passion from some of the candidates for their products was clear to see and seven of the 11 enterprises left the afternoon with some financial reward, but all of the teams will certainly have taken more from the feedback from the judges, and their expertise and help.

“We’re looking for people with nous and drive who believe in what they’re doing!”

There was some added significance to the event taking place in Salford too with the city being named one of the leading places in the United Kingdom for start-ups this year, mainly thanks to MediaCityUK which is attracting ever more digital and tech-based start-ups.

Of the 11 enterprises, five were digital-based and four of those were awarded funding by the investors which just re-emphasises that digital is becoming the basis for future innovation, which is probably a good point on which to wrap this up.

Congratulations to all who took part yesterday, and thank you to everyone who helped organise and run the event! It was thoroughly enjoyable, and if you missed it, make sure to come down next year! It will certainly be interesting to see how much things have moved on from where they were this year, and indeed if any of the innovations discussed have taken further steps…