A brand new, £8m initiative, designed to re-invigorate UK high streets, has been announced by Science and Universities Minister, David Willetts, today.
The initiative, a funding competition run by the UK’s innovation agency, the Technology Strategy Board, will allow businesses to compete for funding awards, in order to trial innovative ways of addressing the challenges facing UK high streets.
BCSC has issued comment on the announcement as follows:
Edward Cooke, BCSC Director of Policy said: “Today’s announcement shows Ministers are listening to BCSC and the industry on the need to explore how online and digital technology can add real value to the town centre experience, and encourage shoppers back to their much maligned high streets. We’re looking forward to collaborating with government, and the Technology Strategy Board, on this competition and particularly the outcomes of the projects that receive money.”
Robin Bevan, Distressed Property Taskforce member and Director, Javelin Group said: “Technological innovation should be seen as much an opportunity as a threat to vibrant town centres. There are plenty of examples from other countries where mobile digital technology, an area where the UK still lags behind despite its strength in most areas of multi-channel retail, is helping to drive shopper footfall to their town centres in search of good deals and experiences. As such, we are pleased with today’s announcement from Ministers, especially as this was a key area of opportunity that we focussed on in our recent Beyond Retail report.”
The competition is seeking innovative technology solutions to boost the high streets by exploring new approaches to retailing/services, logistics and travel and traffic.
Minister of State for Universities and Science, David Willetts said: “Technology plays a vital role in people’s everyday lives and has the ability to influence our movements and shopping habits. By developing innovations to regenerate the retail sector we will be able to breathe new life into the UK’s high streets.
“This competition will encourage exciting new developments that could change the way business is done across our high streets. Giving shoppers and businesses real time information that they can use to their advantage will make a real difference in helping to boost the UK economy.”
High Streets Minister Brandon Lewis said: “Britain’s shopping culture is changing with online shopping pushing town centres to evolve and exploit new technology to prosper and attract people to their local high street.
“This government is committed to supporting high streets and this competition will challenge them to come up with exciting and innovative ways to be at the forefront of change. “It builds on the £1 billion support package of new tax breaks for shops and sensible changes to planning and parking rules. That investment combined with strong local leadership can help high streets remain at the heart of communities for decades to come.”
Technology Strategy Board Chief Executive Iain Gray said: “There is real appetite among business and consumers to come up with new ways to regenerate our high streets. This competition is aimed at encouraging businesses of all sizes to come up with innovations that address key challenges, such as ways we can combine both physical and virtual shopping or develop real-time parking information.”
Up to £2 million will be available for feasibility studies in phase 1 of the competition called Re-imagining the high street, and those successful projects will then compete for a further £6 million in phase 2.