Stay Connected with Digi Rail

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Alec Gillham
Alec Gillham

Alec Gillham, Business Engagement Manager with the Digi-Rail project, outlines why it’s important to stay connected as we emerge out of the Covid-19 lockdown, and how SMEs in the Midlands region can take advantage.

Here in the Digi-Rail team we have been making efforts to keep in touch with the SME community so we can lend our knowledge and experience to the supply chain and help our clients deal with the specific issues faced by SMEs during times of uncertainty. To help with this we put together semi-formal Stay Connected roundtable workshops using what must surely be one of the UK’s favourite platforms, Zoom.

Who is Stay Connected for?
Anyone is welcome to join the Zoom call but we are aiming to reach the SME community across Coventry & Warwickshire, Birmingham & Solihull and the Black Country.

The series, which will initially consist of 6 one hour fortnightly webinars, are delivered via the Zoom platform and will focus upon such thematic areas such as Developing a Post Covid-19 Recovery Strategy, Innovation & Funding Landscape and How to Digitise your Product Development Process. This week’s theme was on innovation and funding, drawing on Steve Mills’ blog from last week and where we discussed issues including why innovate, accessing support and funds for your innovations and, importantly, areas of growth in the rail sector. To find out about what these are, please contact me via digi-rail@ccontacts.bham.ac.uk.

Why run these events?
The main objective for the Stay Connected webinars are participation and group discussion around the concerns within the SME Rail community and to engage with businesses who are seeking to develop innovative digital product solutions that can achieve market penetration and commercialisation. The Stay Connected series has been well received since conception with around 6o+ SMEs participating to-date. The Stay Connected series includes guest speakers on specialist subject areas and also offers businesses participating in the Digi Rail project the opportunity to share Best Practice throughout the webinar dates.

Stay Connected is very much a team effort. My colleague and supply chain expert, Rachel Eade, hosts these with me. You can read a number of Rachel’s earlier blogs on recovery post-lockdown which she wrote in the run-up to our first Stay Connected event, just after Easter. Each event includes a discussion with invited panellists from across the region, where participation creates a lively focus group to give us valuable market intelligence on how the SME community is dealing with the topic on hand. This, in turn, helps us set the future themes and agendas for the next events in the Stay Connected series.

Is it worth it?
We are convinced that the opportunity to discuss and air opinions on what SMEs are finding important is vital for us to be able to offer something valuable to our client base. As the world starts to open up again, recovery strategies and plans are going to make or break each company across the supply chain. The Digi-Rail project is here to support the innovation and development agenda within these strategies so that the regions’ SMEs come out stronger and better-positioned than ever before.

And we’ve been successful: to date we have successfully engaged 7 new businesses via Stay Connected. These have signed up to participate in the Digi Rail programme on such areas as Automation and Robotics, Project Management within Rail and Development of Industry 4.0 Solutions for Data Collection and Manipulation.

Our next session is taking place on Thursday 9th July from 10am – 11am with a focus in Product Development in Rail.  Register your spot here: www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/stay-connected-product-development-in-rail-tickets-110988180636

To find out what the Digi-Rail project can do for you, contact me on digi-rail@contacts.bham.ac.uk and there are a few details on the project at www.birmingham.ac.uk/digi-rail.

Digi-Rail logo
Digi-Rail logo

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