IoT Tribe © | 5 Nov 2020

“Now more than ever I believe in the power of collaboration between the startup community and large businesses”

Geraldina Iraheta, a senior digital leader, technologist and strategic thinker with a global career.

She has excelled in a variety of roles spanning technology, commercial and service areas and is passionate about turning innovative ideas into concrete solutions.

We have had the pleasure to chat to Geraldina from Digital Catapult, ahead of our upcoming Connected Places accelerator programme this winter.

She shares about why she believes innovation needs to be on the top of people’s minds and why the UK is a thriving place for technology.

With an impressive career spanning two decades, tell us about what drives you and how you got to where you are today.

I’m a computer engineer by background and I’ve always been interested by technology, particularly what it can do within a business. Technology is a critical enabler for transformation within any organisation in any industry, and innovation with technology really brings this to life; it’s how you implement innovation that will really make the difference to your business in the long term.

I never take no as an answer – there’s always a creative way to approach a challenge or address an opportunity.

I am passionate about inclusivity. Not only is it really important to me to create an inclusive approach to innovation, to bring in voices from different backgrounds and consider different cultural views, diversity of thought is key in addressing challenges faced by businesses and society at large. Innovation, both laterally and vertically in organisations, wider industry and society, can only truly succeed in this way.

Digital Catapult’s mission is to drive the UK economy through the practical application of digital innovation. Why is that now more important than ever?

There’s a long history of innovation in adversity, and what’s happening in the world right now is forcing almost all of us to think in new ways – whether that’s from a personal perspective or in a business environment.

We’ve seen leaps forward in using advanced digital technologies over the past 6-8 months that would usually have taken years. This ranges from a wholesale shift of meetings and events online, to using technologies like IoT and AI to deliver more remote capabilities.

Now more than ever I believe in the power of collaboration between the startup community and large businesses, to unlock value and address challenges with Innovation. The importance of startup and corporate collaboration really cannot be underestimated – startups bring fresh energy and creativity, and an outside perspective that’s really valuable for larger organisations, and the bigger players have the knowledge, market capability and money to help nurture startups’ growth and help them find a market for their solution.

As we all know, in recent years UK tech investment has been absolutely booming, what are you predictions for the UK as technology hub over the next 5 years? 

Crystal ball gazing is always a difficult thing! Who would have predicted all that has happened in 2020?

Investment in early-stage businesses has certainly suffered this year but the UK’s startup community is one of its greatest resources and assets in this country, and I would hope for this to continue – in five years’ time I hope large or traditional businesses will have discovered the benefit of working in partnership with disruptive digital startups and scaleups.

We firmly hope that 5G will have rolled out widely to a commercial audience and be in use across the country. The potential of this technology to change things cannot be underestimated. Working in tandem with internet of things, AI and virtual reality, this new networked world will represent a fundamental shift in how businesses operate – boosting productivity, automation, optimisation and efficiencies – as well as changing our personal lives by complementing the way we learn and work, as well as shifting how we interact with cultural experiences such as music and theatre.

We see a lot of companies turning their focus to Smart Building technology and Connected Places, why has this escalated over the last few years?

Remote operations is more important now than ever before – we are becoming more remote and virtual in the way that we work in general, and the technology needs to be in place to support that and allow seamless remote capabilities. The ability to remotely maintain assets is very appealing, especially when it comes to an industry where it is difficult or dangerous to gain access to the asset. Or in the context of today, for whatever local restrictions or lockdown that might be in place that prevents access to an asset.

What are the benefits of Connected Places and how will they impact the UK tech landscape?

The smarter an asset can be, the more you are able to remotely maintain it, as well as the more data you can gather to understand its health, condition for future repairs, and so on, which has knock-on effects in terms of flexible scheduling of workers and cost reductions. What’s more, the technologies that help us do this are applicable across such a broad range of sectors: we’re working on projects that impact everything from smart street lighting and smart traffic lights, to monitoring greenhouse growing conditions to measuring wind speed for a world record attempt. The potential is endless.

What are the biggest learnings from your career that you would want to share with the startup founder community?

There are four things: 

1. Get your business to join programmes like the ones Digital Catapult or IoT Tribe runs to help grow your business and explore the potential markets and applications for your ideas. 

2. Keep on top of the latest trends in whatever sector you’re in and/or you are targeting

3. Continue to develop products with the latest advance technologies. Keep going, keep innovating!

4. Maintain that laser sharp focus on putting yourself in the best position possible for investors and partners in order to get to the next level.

Keen to join our Connected Places programme

as a partner or startup?