back to article Hey Brit taxpayers. You just spent £4m on Central London ‘innovation playground’

The UK confirmed its global leadership in the burgeoning Innovation Consultancy industry with the opening of a "Digital Catapult Centre" in King’s Cross, London. The Digital Catapult at King's Cross The taxpayer-funded venue cost £4m, we’re told, and aims to “unlock four major challenges in the data value chain, helping …

  1. Tom 38 Silver badge

    Dear Sirs

    This Steve Bong article seems to be missing any reference to Garland of Flowers?

  2. Buzzword

    Sign me up!

    So how does this work? Can I just move my company in and get free rent and free high-speed internet? Where do I apply?

    1. Phil Endecott

      Re: Sign me up!

      > Can I just move my company in

      Yes, you can move your company in. Unfortunately you can't move your family in as you can't afford to live in London.

      1. Fungus Bob

        Re: Sign me up!

        You say that like its a bad thing.

    2. Frankee Llonnygog

      Re: Sign me up!

      What makes you think the government would equip a digital innovation centre with high speed internet?

    3. We're with Steve

      Re: Sign me up!

      You will have been told how to connect to the OBN at public school. GravyTrain2.0 is only available to former users of GravyTrain. Proles may not apply.

    4. proud2bgrumpy

      Re: Sign me up!

      No I suspect this is just so a bunch of neo-creatives can have a place to hang out, funded by the Tax payer since they couldn't hold down a job in the real world - typical Quango, then...

  3. dogged

    Austerity.

    Right.

    1. edge_e
      Facepalm

      Wasn't there also a promise to get rid of Quangos?

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KMftbFdyzx0

      1. Captain DaFt

        Well stone the crows!

        Here I've been believing that 'Quango' was some tongue in cheek snidery for 'Idea to separate idiots from their money' similar to 'Bunko' , but it actually stands for: 'quasi-autonomous non -governmental organisation'?

        Oh... wait... Or was I right and that's just a backronym that was added later?

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Look for a Catapult near you.

    I certainly will as they will have jobs going with job titles that roughly translate into "this gravy train's next stop is easy street, no dress code and expensive coffee is required".

  5. Semtex451
    Pirate

    "Broadband means most networking, collaboration, knowledge sharing and "showcasing" already takes place on the internet."

    On the upside, this way my flying monkeys only have to target one place.

  6. Maty

    The rich aroma of BS

    So the digital centre will 'unlock major challenges in the data value chain', with 'meaningful engagement' and 'collaboration solutions'. Looks as if this was written with a buzzword generator.

    http://www.1728.org/buzzword.htm

    This team-oriented explicit implementation is actually a user-facing projection of multi-channelled tertiary budgetary management typical of an objective-based innovation infrastructure. A paradigm of an assimilated executive system engine in fact.

    See? Anyone can play. Now where to I apply for my £3bn?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The rich aroma of BS

      CAN I PLAY?

      Question: A Transparent Wall Maintenance Operative?

      What's this in 'old money'?

      1. mark 63 Silver badge

        Re: The rich aroma of BS

        I belive the correct title for a squeegee pusher these days is:

        "Transparency Enhancement Facilitators"

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: The rich aroma of BS

          I be live you ar wright, and you win hour 'Star Prize' of a brand new gleaming up vote.

  7. Jeroen Braamhaar

    Why do I think a better investment is another kind of catapult ?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9seapca1Vh0

    hmm .... fling digital innovators with daft ideas over a grassy field instead of having them burbly pointlessly or gaze out of windows like some overpaid politico ...

  8. Steve Todd
    Stop

    Firstly

    £4M is a tiny amount when it comes to public spending. If it's done in the name of starting new companies and creating jobs then I'm in favour of it.

    Secondly modern electronic coms can only take you so far, and often chance meetings with other folks nearby can spark ideas, so there is still plenty of need for physical startup offices.

    1. Bloodbeastterror

      Re: Firstly

      Simplistic.

      One project £4m. Multiply by the many similar wastes of resources - billions. Squandered. Lost. To no purpose other than to enrich a few individuals.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Firstly

      You're right that if this is proves to be a productive an investment then it's cheap as chips. However the problem I have with it is that it's not clear (at least from this article) how that success will be monitored and how failure might be addressed (and from Andrew's earlier articles on this sort of innovation funding, Lily Cole et al, I don't expect there really is such feedback - instead it's "meaningful engagement with 10,000 innovators and SMEs", which Humphrey Appleby will smoothly explain can be met by a mailshot inviting them round for coffee). And without any feedback then spending can steadily ramp up - if coffee in a nice room is synergistic then how about some snacks? rent one of Google's chefs? someone to do the shopping for the innovators so they're not distracted? hookers & champagne? More than one company has wandered down this slope of escalating perks, but as private concerns they're answerable to their owners and shareholders. This is the State (and one allegedly wedded to austerity), so it should be laying out the rationale for this investment in such terms that a steely-eyed investor would advance the money with a clear conscience.

    3. Ben Norris

      Re: Firstly

      I think your chances of meeting a real innovator in a place like this are slim to none. BS spewing wannabes, plenty.

  9. Irongut Silver badge

    All I see is lots of wasted space and uncomfortable seats. One of the worst working environments I've seen since Google's beanbags.

  10. Bloodbeastterror

    Toss...

    Funny how we can afford crap like this when people are living in cardboard...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Toss...

      If only those people living in cardboard could "Exercise world-class innovation to develop potentialities within the data value chain", they'd have a new place to crash!

    2. batfastad

      Re: Toss...

      ^ This!

      Or high speed train sets. Or underwater nuclear death cocks. Or sports days regenerating depressing areas of London into depressing gigantic retail opportunities, encompassing modern lifestyles in the heart of one of London's most vibrant... F*ck off!

      Something's wrong with democracy when so much money appears to be spent at the whim of a select group of blazer tossers.

      Basically more money for London, lucky lucky London. And I live in it. Honestly the investment gap between London and everywhere else seems embarassing.

      £3bn could have made a decent dent on a nationwide FTTB/P roll-out. InnovateUK my arse.

  11. Natalie Gritpants Silver badge

    Thay can meaningful;yy engage with me anytime

    £100k and I'll say whatever they want.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It contains a "data sphere"?

    And if you rub it, what does it show you?

    1) A post-post-industrial Britain, of fabulous wealth, equality and sophistry (something like the Culture in Iain M Banks novels), all facilitated by "innovation" quangos.

    2) Or maybe just a post industrial society, with worse inequality, poorer than previous generations, relentlessly crushed under the deadweight of debt approaching 300% of GDP, with the money having been frittered on crap by successive governments who couldn't control either public finances, the wider economy, or the financial services sector.

    1. Gordon 10 Silver badge

      Re: It contains a "data sphere"?

      Not that I disagree with your sentiments but its nearer 90% of gdp.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: It contains a "data sphere"?

        "Not that I disagree with your sentiments but its nearer 90% of gdp."

        Gross debt is around 264-275% of GDP. You're thinking of public debt, I suspect, but when there's too much debt it really doesn't matter who owes it.

        1. Ossi

          Re: It contains a "data sphere"?

          A meaningless number. If I borrow a £1 million and then put £1 million then put it in the bank, gross debt has gone from £0 to £1 million. Net debt, however, is still zero.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: It contains a "data sphere"? @Ossi

            "Net debt, however, is still zero."

            In your fatuous example, it is true that the net debt is zero and there's no wider economic impact. But in your rush to make a point, you've overlooked why in the real world things are so painfully different, and that's because the vast majority of debt is not left sitting in a bank account minding its own business, but is actually used for something, either current consumption or investment.

            Problem is that at these levels of gross debt (and associated near zero interest rates) too much investment is mal-investment, and too much of the current consumption is on cr@p "public services that we can't afford. Look at the debt-fuelled building investment bubble that trashed the Spanish and Irish economies. Or the debt-fuelled infrastructure and public spending bubbles that has trashed the Greek and Italian economies (France isn't far behind). The UK has nearly trebled its government debt in fifteen years, and we have NOTHING worthwhile to show for that - no vast new infrastructure projects, no shiney new cities, no 100% renewable, 100% reliable energy industry, no tech sector jobs boom, no modern renaissance of knowledge or art. We don't even have well equipped armed forces. Instead, close on a trillion quid has been borrowed and spent on "benefits", a sclerotic and useless health service, foreign aid, never-ending hobby wars.

            And that's the problem with excess gross debt, that current consumption loads the debt on the future (to be painfully repaid or defaulted on), and mal-investment destroys the balance sheet of the lenders and at the same time squeezing out good investment projects.

            Internationally the difference between gross and net debt is also important. The UK has an approximate balance of international debt. Problem is that our banks are owed money by to55pot countries and companies that are more likely to default than the UK is. When RBS come home crying because Italy leave the Eurozone and tell RBS they aren't paying their dues, who do you think will be on the hook for that? And RBS and others only have the money to play in risky investment markets because quantitative easing has given them access to billions of quid of free money, to gamble as they see fit.

  13. Elmer Phud

    Binary Trebuchet?

  14. Julian Bond

    Will the catapult help create Fliegende Kinderscheisse? fnord ...

    1. h4rm0ny

      Yes. And all <fnord> parts of the catapult are being specially manufactured in Barvaria by Weishaupt Industries.

  15. Mr Spoons

    Getting very bored of taxpayers money being spent directly to make a very few people potentially rich. What happened to the dog-eat-dog red in tooth and claw world of capitalism? You want it, you risk it.

  16. Warm Braw Silver badge

    In a neighbourhood near you...

    ... you will likely find a not-for-profit organisation that provides sustainably low-cost business space for start-ups on easy-in, easy-out terms.

    Around every 10 years, an "initiative" will come along that builds expensive, high-spec office space in their catchment area and offers it at an unsustainably low initial rent to businesses in the fad-du-jour sector.

    Businesses that want a swanky new office start to move, threatening the long-term viability of the otherwise sustainable incubator. And then the "initiative" comes to and end, the rents in the new office space are unaffordable and the project closes and the space gets turned over to solicitors or government agencies.

    And the not-for-profit that has been clinging on in the meantime by reducing its maintenance budget and pruning its staff tries slowly to rebuild its small business support infrastructure.

    A lack of "initiatives" would be widely welcomed by people who actually have some experience of helping start-ups get off the ground and grow.

  17. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

    Welcome...

    to the Vomitorium.

    Pity us poor sods who work for a living in the real IT world, and pay taxes to support this crap.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    UK.gov investing in the future of IT. IT people up in arms...

    This may not be the best thought-through example of government spending…but FFS guys - seeing our government invest in the long-term future of our industry - really good to see and something our grandchildren will thank us for! It always makes me sad when I see places like Germany and even the US who do a much, much better job than we do of making strategic investments for the future.

    4M is nothing in the scheme of things - I just hope that they don't peanut butter this throughout the country and actually give us the opportunity to create some genuine centres of excellence. Doubling down on Cambridge might be a good place to start…although my northern-ish roots do make me wish that somewhere like Manchester could move from whining on about how different and special it is to actually doing something that makes it different and special…

    Posted anonymously and cowardlily because my employer is in tech and my views may well not represent theirs...

    1. Phil Endecott

      Re: UK.gov investing in the future of IT. IT people up in arms...

      > seeing our government invest in the long-term future of our industry

      Nope.

      "Investing in the long-term future of our industry" might be, for example, giving the money to some good universities to spend on research, or on training the next generation of smarties. This, in contrast, is just a load of people who are good at buzzword bingo.

      1. Malcolm Weir

        Re: UK.gov investing in the future of IT. IT people up in arms...

        I was going to just upvote Phil Endecott, but decided that the point was so apt it deserved applause.

        The real places where innovation has spawned are those where the smart, industrious, creative, inventive individuals _already are_. For instance, one individual we know as engaged in "graduate study in computer science at Stanford University on a graduate fellowship from the National Science Foundation"... and there's a reason that the world's most successful CPU manufacturer is based in a swamp in East Anglia!

        (When I say "we know", I mean we all know. Google him!).

  19. emmanuel goldstein

    SOMEONE PLEASE REBOOT REALITY

    As if box-ticking bullshit like this is not enough, free speech itself is under attack (see Theresa May's speech today).

    I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it any more.

    1. emmanuel goldstein

      Re: SOMEONE PLEASE REBOOT REALITY

      Not to mention that utter cunt, George Osbourne, ripping off, with no discernable sense of irony, dialogue from "Trainspotting". What a fucking cunt.

  20. Jamie Jones Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    London

    When it was suggested they spend this money in a place with overflowing traffic problems, expensive land, and somewhere which already gets a disproportionate amount of *UK* tax spending, did the government miss the sarcasm?

  21. Anomalous Cowshed

    Mr. Lewis Page will be happy about this latest news

    He's campaigned for steam-powered catapults to be installed on HM's new aircraft carriers. The government has been slow to respond, but here you are, a prototype is being built: a digital catapult, in Kings Cross. It's different from a steam catapult, granted, but if you focus on the word 'catapult', and take certain substances, the difference can appear trivial. I believe it won't take long, in geological terms, for the real thing to materialise. It's a way of taking a step in the right direction and lining the pockets of some marketing gurus and consultants, at the expense of those mean and pesky taxpayers; everyone's a winner!

  22. Paul 87

    So, £4m, to service 10,000 over 5 years.

    That's on average 7.9 people per working day, at a cost of £3200 ish a day, or £400 per person served.

    Seems a load of bollocks really.

  23. PleebSmash

    Wouldn't a WiFi-enabled café work just as well?

  24. All names Taken
    Paris Hilton

    Trouble is...

    ... that in the UK we are taxed to fund the fekn thing then pay to use the fekn thing we invested in in the first place and most folks smuggly ask for their r's to be kicked just for the sake of it?

    How did you get in to that mess?

  25. NeilPost Silver badge

    London FFS

    Why the fuck is this in London again ?? No wonder London is imploding under insane house prices, crippling transport issues, high costs of living... blah, blahhh - whole reason bollocks like HS2 is supposed to be needed to devolved jobs and commerce to the regions - if they stopped fucking building it in London in the first place...............

    Why not in Cambridge, associated to the University with all their wealth of Computing Knowhow, of Dundee, Edinburgh with their tech quarters, or basically anywhere that is not London, and is a decent university town - that has as much of a tech and creative talent pool as wanky expensive, ignorant and filty London.

    1. Spiracle

      Re: London FFS

      Yeah, move to Cambridge to get away from those insane house prices, crippling transport issues and high cost of living issues.

      1. NeilPost Silver badge

        Re: London FFS

        Carlisle then :-)

      2. dotdavid

        Re: London FFS

        "Yeah, move to Cambridge to get away from those insane house prices, crippling transport issues and high cost of living issues."

        I understand this must be sarcasm, considering Cambridge is Britain's sixth most expensive city, at least according to Halifax who did a survey a couple of years ago.

    2. Michael Strorm

      Re: London FFS

      "Why the fuck is this in London again ??"

      Because it's a vanity project created by those same "wanky and ignorant" up-their-arse types living in London who probably didn't even *think* of siting it elsewhere.

      Why Kings Cross anyway? Don't they know that new media funded-by-trust-fund-from-Daddy hipster Internet businesses are all located in Shoreditch and Hoxton?

      They're so out-of-touch, they've even got what is (by this point) a ludicrously overused and dated cyber-cliche on the wall, i.e. an "Internet tunnel" with 1s and 0s on the wall:-

      http://regmedia.co.uk/2014/09/30/digital_catapult_window_time_w650px.jpg

      It's not 1996 any more (and "Hackers" might not have been an accurate representation of what breaking into a corporate network with your 133 MHz Pentium and 28Kbps modem would *actually* have looked like anyway, guys). Are they going to have an animated spinning globe GIF on their new-fangled web page as well?

  26. Frankee Llonnygog

    On the bright side

    It will be cheap to convert it into a Premier Inn - the decor is halfway there already.

  27. Buster
    Big Brother

    And they say I'm cynical.

    The main problem with springboard, catapult, pogo stick startups is that if by chance one does come up with the next big thing --that will allow the masses of web serf to generate income for the owners of the platform by letting the web serfs do web shit and advertising to them-- then it is going to be folded into (insert web corporation here). Even if it did not it would only generate a handful of jobs because the whole point of the thing is to be automated (computers are good at that) so SFA payback for the economy. The clever bod who owns the rights to the whole shebang (see copyright is useful) will be anointed with a big pile of fuckoff money and will indeed fuck off, with all looking on in awe and the shear wonder of the size of the fuckoff pile. The other clever bods who actually did the work will find a vista of opportunities opening up at their feet that will be about as welcome as Vista. Since said Web Corp pay SFA tax there is SFA payback for the economy.

  28. Spiracle

    Transparency

    As the glass floor that the window gazing chap is standing on will discourage anybody wearing a skirt from walking across it can we say that this place has been designed with its own glass ceiling?

    1. Adrian 4 Silver badge

      Re: Transparency

      People who work in glass offices shouldn't use catapults.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    " centre is “designed to highlight the fusion between creative and technology, offering space for technologists, creative"

    Yet again, we see a distinction between engineering/technology and creative. It has never occurred to me that engineering (or computer science) can exist without innovation and creativity.

    This insulting and restrictive cultural perception partly explains why so many students flock to product design courses, and why places on engineering degree programmes are unfilled.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Creative OR Technology

    " centre is “designed to highlight the fusion between creative and technology, offering space for technologists, creative"

    Yet again, we see a distinction between engineering/technology and creative. It has never occurred to me that engineering (or computer science) can exist without innovation and creativity.

    This insulting and restrictive cultural perception partly explains why so many students flock to product design courses, and why places on engineering degree programmes are unfilled.

  31. Kaffy

    Meanwhile the Guvmint pays organisations just £600 a pop to help a long-term unemployed person to start their own business. (New Enterprise Allowance - the £600 is paid only on results, too - at least six months of trading). This £4m would create 6666.66 jobs: instead it wibbles to 10,000 little middle-class Nathans. Mind the Gap.

  32. Stretch

    a lot of consultants made a lot of money of this

  33. John Styles

    Whilst this is irksome

    It is the 'Transport Catapult' that truly boggles the mind - in a country where we need to spend about 10 years doing a 'pilot' of tram-trains, something Germany has had for years. Clearly we are different, maybe g or Planck's constant are different here or something?

    1. ShadowDragon8685

      Re: Whilst this is irksome

      Re: Transpareny, I dunno. Think of all the opportunities for people to recreate that Red Nose spot with the Doctor, Amy and Rory getting the TARDIS stuck in the TARDIS.

      Re: Irksome

      Do remember that transport-wise, not every place is, in fact, identical. What works wonders in one place may be an utter flop in another, even if they are seemingly similar. Going all-in on something as major as transportation infrastructure, only to find out that it turns out poorly - or, indeed, as a complete unmitigated cock-up - would be, in a word, disastrous.

      Testing something out in a small scale before you go all-in with it would seem to be the prudent thing to do. Or would you prefer the UK go all-in with anything and everything that's "worked out alright" anywhere else without consideration?

  34. Snapper

    I know the area well

    Grid-locked most of the time.

  35. MachDiamond Silver badge

    Private industry

    In the US there's a chain of tech incubators that developers can join at techshop.ws. They stock machine tools, 3D printer, waterjet machines and hold classes to learn how to use off of the kit they have. If you are just knocking out another time wasting bird game for mobile phones, you can do that at home. If you have an idea for a product, something like TechShop is idea. And!, it's a for profit company. The cost is low considering the value of the machines and workspace. If a Gubbamint wants to get in to the game, they could provide some properties for companies like this in areas like Detroit that could use a boost. Even if somebody doesn't have a new product in mind, they could come in and take classes on how to use modern machinery to update their skill set.

    London isn't a good location for something like this. I envision that in a few years the project funding is going to get reallocated to something else and the building with a useless-for-business interior is going to be flogged off at auction, sit empty until vandalism and entropy make it a liability or a new "Greater London Farm Bureau" will be created to take over the space.

  36. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    "£4M is a tiny amount when it comes to public spending. If it's done in the name of starting new companies and creating jobs then I'm in favour of it."

    OK, give me £4M. I'll create so many jobs and companies!

    But seriously... don't be for or against something because of what they say the goal is; Quangocrats always have the best intentions but just don't know what they're doing (usually.)

    In this case, some big empty space with windows and very uncomfortable looking seats? How is that going to create jobs or business?

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