Within the convention SxSW produces a “start up cities” strand with a focus on places where there is something interesting happening, they share my belief that innovation clusters away from the capital city often have the most dynamism.
Bristol was approached to be the UK representative (other cities included Atlanta, Bangkok, Brussels, Fukuoka, Tampere, St Petersburg, Rotterdam) and in keeping with the theming of the main event I focused on values, culture and collaborative innovation, rather than solely on accelerators or investment.
The wider programme roamed widely from architecture to process design, healthcare to environmentalism. In that last aspect in particular there was an interesting tension played out between those advocating radical disruptive change immediately, and those taking a more pragmatic and persuasive incremental approach.
The convention being part of Frankfurt Motor Show only highlighted this tension. As protestors sought to disrupt, the car companies tried to highlight that all of the new models shown were electric. An industry at a clear and challenging inflection point.
(Interestingly there was almost zero presence of autonomous vehicle technologies, the thousands of men (all men) attending unlikely to be the audience… Plus it always feels to me like a Silicon Valley solution looking for a problem solved elsewhere by public transport systems, let’s hope the associated innovation has secondary uses).