Bringing exhibitions to life

April 24, 2020


The future is digital. This much we know. For businesses, the question is how to maximise the opportunities that come with it. Richard Dawson takes a look at how Dynamo is working with entertainment operators across the region to uncover these opportunities and give tech SMEs a helping hand

When you think about digital entertainment, museums are not the first thing that come to mind. You’re probably thinking about things like video games, streaming services, online gambling and mobile entertainment.

And with companies like Tombola, Ubisoft, Bede Gaming and a whole string of gaming SMEs, the North East has a strong global presence in these areas.

But, because digital touches everything and everyone, it’s essential for all entertainment providers – and not just the ones that we typically associate with digital – to think about how they can use technology to improve the customer experience, learn more about their audiences, streamline operations or improve efficiency.

That’s why Laura Kemp, digital entertainment cluster lead at Dynamo, has put together a string of events with different entertainment operators, to identify problems that technology can solve.

The first of the Innovation in Entertainment series was held at The Alnwick Garden, a business that is already utilising tech with a great website, a strong presence on social media, and an augmented reality (AR) app for visitors.

Laura says: “The Alnwick Garden would be the kind of business that you look at and think they’ve got tech nailed. However, I’ve been with my family and they weren’t collecting data from me in advance or helping me plan my visit. They weren’t necessarily encouraging me to move around the site in any particular way or using the app to drive any commercial revenue and there was no follow up once you’ve left.

“Obviously, I’m reeling off the negatives there; it was really good as well!”

There were representatives from a range of tech SMEs at the event – from data, app development, augmented reality, user experience and digital marketing – who sat down and discussed what the experience at Alnwick could be if digital was implemented in new and innovative ways.

The second event, titled What does the Museum of the Future Look Like?, was held at Newcastle’s Discovery Museum and challenged attendees to think about what museum goers of the future will want, how to bring exhibitions to life with digital and how tech could be used to add value.

Laura says: “What’s come out of both events is that what we fundamentally need to do is get a better understanding of our audience.

“In Alnwick’s case, if they had encouraged visitors to install [their app] when they bought tickets, they could pinpoint their exact location and ask information from them in advance to be able to tailor the experience.

“Museums are also beginning to think about their formats. Just because it’s always been a room with exhibits doesn’t mean that it always has to be.”

These events are designed to encourage entertainment operators to think about how they can better implement digital in their businesses but they’re also an important opportunity for SMEs to pitch their services.

Funded by the European Research and Development Fund (ERDF), Dynamo has an express mandate to support SMEs in the North East by encouraging them to innovate new products and services that are not yet available on the market. Bringing SMEs together to help solve challenges in the entertainment industry is a crucial part of this mission.

Laura explains: “Bringing these SMEs together and potentially encouraging collaboration between them to develop a product or service and then have the entertainment operator implement a new innovative product or service, it ticks all of those innovation boxes.”

One of the pushbacks from SMEs at these events is what’s to stop an entertainment company from taking their ideas and employing someone else to deliver them.

But Laura is keen to reassure tech start-ups that the operators Dynamo is working with have been handpicked because they are passionate about the North East. She also says that the best way to safeguard against outsourcing is for multiple SMEs to collaborate on one idea, combining their expertise to create a new product or service.

“Collaboration between two or more SMEs is the ideal”, she says.

“It then makes it more difficult for an entertainment venue to go elsewhere.”

Dynamo’s next event will be held at Northern Stage, where the focus will be on the theatre production process rather than customer interaction or audience experience. This shows the diversity of challenges that tech could solve.

Laura is clear that she wants to see tangible progress coming out of this digital entertainment cluster. She concludes: “We want to be developing something out of these. We’re not just going through the motions. We want some innovative ideas developed and we’re strongly encouraging the entertainment operators to work with SMEs.”

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