Next in our video series of FinTech talks, we report on our interview with Chris Sier, the FinTech envoy to the North of England and Director of FiNexus Lab in Leeds.
FiNexus Lab brings together a start-up incubator, a corporate sandbox and academic research. It aims to be the first incubator going beyond the provision of space and mentoring to provide access to key technologies such as Blockchain, Cryptography, Internet of Things, Cyber-defence, etc.
The Lab’s users will have everything necessary to rapidly build a prototype or design a solution to a specific problem in an experimental fashion.
For corporate teams it is an opportunity to get away from a traditional setting and bureaucracy. Start-ups can access tools and expertise without giving away equity in their business.
Chris is passionate about problem solving for the benefit of consumers and, he is not a fan of the equity model, which in his view might undermine the drive of the entrepreneur. So the lab will operate on a fee-only and non-for-profit basis, and will provide the following: 1) contacts within the industry; 2) access to the key talent and 3) access to the FinTech tools/techniques and advice on how to use them. Like in any incubator/accelerator environment, it will also give the zeitgeist of the like-minded people.
The FiNexus Lab aims to attract three groups of potential users:
1) People who have a business idea, but are not technical and might not have worked with technology before. They will benefit from the access to local talent and technology advice.
2) Teams (whether these are start-ups or teams from larger corporates) who have a specific problem to solve and they need to test their idea by building prototype before making serious investment in technology and new product development within their own companies
3) Companies or organisations who identified a problem, and want to invite other teams to help them to solve that by putting a tender through the lab. Chris has mentioned that he has already got some organisations that are ready to offer scholarships.
While the 6-storey high and carbon-positive lab building is still under construction, the FiNexus already has proof of concept – 2 projects in distributed ledger and one in data analytics. It is expected that FiNexus Lab with full facilities will open its doors at the beginning of 2018.
Choosing Leeds as a location was a non-brainer for Chris. This region is already
the largest financial services centre outside London, with strong data and digital credentials, leading universities and an attractive cost base. The Leeds infrastructure is undergoing a significant makeover with new transport links and new housing being built in anticipation of rapid economic growth.
This month, Chris, among other speakers, will be presenting at the FinTech North 2017 conference, which aims to generate collaboration and knowledge sharing across the financial services and technology community, and to create tangible economic benefits for the North region.
As we see Leeds rising up as a new FinTech hub in the UK, London is about to host a number of FinTech events to showcase the sector’s successes, attract more investment into the country and share global regulatory expertise, among which are :
- Innovate Finance’s Global Summit (April 10-11)
- the government’s first International FinTech Conference (April 12)
- Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) International Innovate Seminar (April 12)
While Brexit raises lots of debates about potential advantages and disadvantages for the UK economy, the FinTech community strongly believes that Britain will stay a great place to do business. The FiNexus Lab is a great example of why that may be the case.