This post is an excerpt from Skift’s 2018 report How UK Cities Excel at Hosting Conferences in Advanced and Creative Industries, in partnership with VisitBritain. Download the full report for free here.
Bristol, England illustrates the level of innovation sweeping across the UK in regional cities. Ben Trewhella — a local software developer who launched a mobile app company over a decade ago, before shifting his focus to virtual reality — started a meetup for local VR developers in 2014, which led to developing a VR conference in 2015. Last spring, Trewhella’s 3-day VR World Congress 2017 attracted 1,200 delegates from 37 countries, tripling attendance from the year prior.
“Nowadays, there’s an evolutionary explosion of different types of technology being created in Bristol and all around the UK, from simple things like web platforms to advanced industries like blockchain, AI, self-driving cars, and the Internet of Things,” says Trewhella.
“What we’ve learned in Bristol, just plugging things together in new manners can create new products and services, and therefore new business models. There’s also a much greater awareness here now that international conferences bring a lot of value to Bristol to discuss new opportunities in tech to compete with the rest of Europe.”
Aside from running VR World Congress, Trewhella founded the Bristol Games Hub to support local VR developers, and he just launched the Bristol VR Lab in partnership with the University of Bristol, University of West England, and the Watershed “digital creativity” venue. The mission of the VR Lab is to connect and pool the resources of local industry and academia to further propel Bristol’s expertise in digital media.
Other UK cities have approached Trewhella to bring VR World Congress to their regions, but he says the conference is staying in Bristol because of its knowledge base.
“We have all the key players in digital and tech here, from industry to academia to all of the people in between, and to recreate that anywhere else would require an enormous amount of effort,” he explains. “Whereas in Bristol, we can pull together leaders in government, industry and academia in fairly short order, and make things happen.”
Last month, we launched a new trend report, How UK Cities Excel at Hosting Conferences in Advanced and Creative Industries, brought to you in partnership with Skift. Above was an extract from it. You can download the full report here for all the insights.