4iP, Channel 4’s fund to stimulate innovation in digital media, is launching in Birmingham this week. Anna Blackaby spoke to the man behind the initiative.
Birmingham is at the forefront of one of the most exciting media projects in recent times as Channel 4 starts its search for new ways to fufil its public services broadcasting remit in the digital age.
And Solihull-born Tom Loosemore is the man charged with steering Channel 4 into this new and uncharted territory and, in keeping with the broadcaster’s risk-taking ethos, he is looking to take a chance on Midland businesses with creative and public-spirited ideas.
“A big chunk of the people Channel 4 used to call its audience are now looking to have their needs fulfilled online,” said Mr Loosemore. “Channel 4 realised there were opportunities to inspire people to see the world differently and bring people outside the mainstream into the mainstream.”
The 4 Innovation for the Public fund – 4iP – has been set up invest in people and companies across a range of sectors who have big ideas on how to deliver services for the public on digital media platforms.
“We want to find incredibly talented people with exciting ideas to help people improve their lives.
“We’re talking about websites, games, stuff on mobiles – but not telly. We don’t want to create an enormous great website called 4iP, that’s not what it’s about. It’s all about having hundreds of diverse projects people can own.”
There are no strict definitions about the size or kinds of companies that can apply for funding from 4iP, Mr Loosemore said.
“We want to cross every border in town – there is no single sector we are focusing on. We are interested in web design, software, TV companies if they have a digital design department, games companies, as well as computer science and interactive media graduates. We want to give people a break and give them a leg-up at the small end but also we want to do some big ambitious partnerships as well.”
£10 million has been earmarked for the West Midlands and Birmingham, as the first national commissioning centre to be announced earlier this year, is playing a major role in delivering the fund.
4iP is appointing a Birmingham-based digital commissioner for 4iP who will be based in the Jewellery Quarter. Regional development agency Advantage West Midlands helped Birmingham to secure its position as the first 4iP hub by raising £5 million, a figure which will be matched by another £5 million from Channel 4.
Mr Loosemore said the choice to locate a key 4iP hub in Birmingham was influenced by the commitment show by its regional partners Advantage West Midlands and screen agency Screen WM to developing the digital creative economy in the area.
Mr Loosemore drew parallels between 4iP and the creativity and willingness to take a risk that caused so much excitement when Channel 4 was set up in the early 1980s.
“In a way you can make an analogy if you go back to the beginnings of Channel 4 in 1982. “When it was set up it took a real risk on some of the individuals making the early programmes.
“When you look at some of them, they were bonkers in retrospect.
“But thanks to that approach Channel 4 has created a generation of talented individuals that have benefited the UK economy creatively and economically.
“It’s the same ethos now with 4iP. This is risky for us - we are going into unknown territory here and we’ll certainly make mistakes but we will also learn from them incredibly quickly.”