The UK Digital Retail Innovation Centre (UK:DRIC) will be officially opened on 20 May 2019 by the Minister for Digital and the Creative Industries Margot James MP and the Chair of GFirst Local Enterprise Partnership, Dr Diane Savory OBE. The launch of the new national centre for the future of the high street, city and town centres will also be attended by tech giants Google and IBM.
Attendees of the launch event will be able see a number of retail innovation projects being showcased in partnership with the UK:DRIC, and will also be able to take part in Google Digital Garage workshops to learn new skills in data, tech and digital marketing.
The UK:DRIC will be working with retailers large and independent to help them develop and apply best practice and upskill. It has been based in Gloucester as the city provides an exemplar location where solutions have been tested and resolved quickly. The GL Card was one of these solutions and in June 2018, won the hotly-contested ATCM (Association of Town and City Management) award for “Best Digital High Street Project”, beating off 40 other destinations.
As many towns and centres have suffered a decline over the years from the combined effects of out of town retail parks, internet shopping and a change in consumer behaviour, it has become increasingly crucial for retailers and place managers to examine technologies and solutions that will help shape the future of our town and city environments. Understanding the urgency of the situation Gfirst LEP has granted UK Government funding of £400,000 to the place making organisation Marketing Gloucester to launch the UK:DRIC to help develop innovative solutions to the challenges faced by the high street that can be replicated and scaled up across the UK.
Over the past five years the Gloucester has shown that it is proving to be a testbed and pathfinder for future city solutions and the ideal place to locate this national centre. Its successes in innovation include:
• Gloucester was one of the first in the world and the first city in the UK to adopt a three-in-one integrated solution with CCTV over IP, free high-speed WIFI across the whole city and 4G being installed simultaneously, winning the city prestigious Gordon McLanaghan Security Innovation Award. The approach has since been adopted by Cardiff, Glasgow, Nottingham, Leicester and Newcastle.
• Gloucester became the second destination in the world and the first in the UK to partner with Niantic Labs on the Google FieldTrip™ app, which allows virtual, location-based tourism information through smartphones, tablets and wearables. When Niantic was acquired by Nintendo they went on to develop Pokemon Go, the relationship with Marketing Gloucester began to pay real dividends to the city as much of the location data for Pokestops and Gyms was based on existing information uploaded for Fieldtrip™ and Niantic’s app Ingress™. Gloucester has an especially rich environment for Pokemon Go™ players which has attracted players from around the region, encouraging local businesses to purchase lures for outside their premises and boosting the local economy.
Two projects currently being implemented are those being developed by Rewarding Visits, which was granted £1 million from the UK Government, Innovate UK funding, and Maybetech, a solution that is being delivered as part of the DCLG, Great British High Street Project. Both of these are operating within the digital high street environment with the aim of encouraging purchasing to be made in bricks and mortar business rather than online.
Guy Chatburn of Rewarding Visits, comments “We chose Gloucester as the partner location for the third phase of the role out of our technology, primarily because alongside a great digital infrastructure, the city had a “can do” organisation like Marketing Gloucester that already had the trust of a wide range number of partners throughout the city which it could rally together relatively easily in order to enable our project to happen. They were especially good at helping us work with other organisations operating in complimentary areas such as Stagecoach and Trinity Mirror. There was also a much lower learning curve as Gloucester has a team with a understanding of the tech and the issues facing towns and cities, and that has definitely lead to us having a much stronger offering in a shorter period of time”.
Prof. Richard Cuthbertson of Said Business School, University of Oxford, examining Gloucester’s example as part of a Europe-wide study “In our research of European cities with a positive focus towards digital technologies, especially those involving small retailers, Gloucester is an excellent example. This city recognises the need for an independent, third party enabler… providing a long-term, single point of contact, developing the relevant digital and physical infrastructure with multiple means of access for customers and retailers, while utilising simple tools, all within a strategy for “place” that encompasses the individual flavour provided by local retailers and services.”