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Sold-out attendance for Glasgow Tech Fest 2023

With a sold-out attendance and record number of exhibitors, Glasgow’s own Tech Fest aims for bigger goals in 2024.

The crowd at the sold-out Glasgow Tech Fest 2023. (Photo: Vincent Tan)

The University of Strathclyde’s Technology and Innovation Centre was abuzz on Wednesday (19 March) as delegates crowded to talk tech and innovation at the second annual Glasgow Tech Fest.

The one-day event, organized by Glasgow City Innovation District (GCID), saw 600 attendees registered for the event, with 19 exhibitors mainly comprising tech start-ups based in and around Glasgow.

Organised under the auspices of GCID, GCID’s Project Director Alisdair Gunn said the 2023 edition had garnered a great response from attendees.

David Sime (left) and Damian Pike (centre) check out Digitalnauts’ VR googles, with Digitalnauts’ founder and CEO Charles Seguin explaining their technology. (Photo: Vincent Tan)

“This year we had a record number of 19 exhibitors, from all the various stakeholders who are involved in developing Glasgow’s tech ecosystem,” Mr Gunn said.

The Tech Fest will also undergo a format change next year, he added, with “Glasgow Tech Week” instead in 2024, to help bring in more organisations involved in Glasgow’s tech community.

“We will still be running Tech Fest next year. June will be the anchor conference,” he added, noting that there was no other city in Scotland running its own tech week, while the most notable one in Britain was London Tech Week.

“But next year, we’re being bold, and that’s one of the values at Strathclyde University that we have, so we’re going to be bold in delivering that next year,” Mr Gunn said.

GCID’s project director Alisdair Gunn explaining plans for next year. (Photo: Vincent Tan)

One highlight of the event was an appearance by Spencer Kelly, the presenter for the BBC’s technology programme “Click”. Regaling the audience with some of his zanier experiences shooting for “Click”, Mr Kelly highlighted the advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics.

This included discussing other countries’ technological solutions to problems faced, such as jellyfish-hunting robots used to shred swarms of the invertebrates clogging up South Korean nuclear plant water intakes.

Mr Kelly’s address on tech solutions also went into current problems such as climate change, from the challenge of extracting greenhouse gases (GHGs) from the atmosphere, to using the same GHGs to culture algae as a source of nutrition.

The address also delved into the topics of robotics advancement and artificial intelligence (AI), and possible impacts for the environment and future employment.

“What I find interesting is the confusion between robots and artificial intelligence…because despite everything you’ve just seen, robots are dumb.

“They are just the bodies, they don’t learn, that’s AI,” Mr Kelly said in his “whistle-stop tour” on the current trends in science and technology.

Undergraduate computing student Somaya converses with Digitalnauts’ experiential reality strategist Lina Srebrova at Glasgow Tech Fest 2023 (Photo: Vincent Tan)

The events list for Glasgow Tech Fest 2023 was a packed one, as Mr Kelly’s address was followed immediately by a fireside chat between Gillian Docherty, the University of Strathclyde’s Chief Commercial Officer and Alison Porter, Portfolio Manager for global asset management group Janus Henderson.

During this chat, Ms Henderson called for a “marketplace” to better connect entrepreneurs to venture capitalists and investors, and for a more dynamic system than the current banking model which was based on historic banking structures.

Other talks also focused on developing Glasgow’s tech ecosystem, with the keynote by Bayile Adeoti, the incumbent president of Scottish Women in Business, during which she shared her experience as a Black woman breaking into the tech sector.

Somaya Chauhdry, a first-year undergraduate studying at the University of Strathclyde, said her aim for attending the tech fest was to hear more about AI in the tech industry, such as the current dialogues on ChatGPT and its applications.

“I was also fortunate to have a conversation with him [Spencer Kelly] about it [ChatGPT], and really ask him about the way information is generated by AI software, whether it is correctly referenced.”

Kay Bamigboye (left) conversing with Lisa Gibson from the Glasgow City Council’s business development arm at the Tech Fest. (Photo: Vincent Tan)

“That was really a question I had deep in my mind, and I wanted to clarify, so it was good to find out,” Ms Somaya said.

For community manager Kay Bamigboye, the tech fest was an opportunity to network. “I’ve met a lot of amazing people: government officials, start-ups, founders, it’s a very wonderful experience so far,” Mr Kay said.


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