At the beginning of the year, when planning our busy and exciting calendar of events, no-one could have foreseen how quickly things were about to change.
Like others who have been in business a long time, I am hard-pressed to remember anything similar; it is no exaggeration to say that we are living through unprecedented times.
For my part, I was in France the evening lockdown there was announced and, as I scrambled to arrange my journey home, it struck me that the world of IT and communications would need to play a vital role in the management and operations of business – and perhaps even of life itself.
Several weeks on, we’ve all had to adjust to new ways of working – video calls, shared folders, Zoom conferences, virtual meetings – all these have become the new normal. And the sectors that PICTFOR represents – Internet, Communications, Technology and the Digital industries – are right at the heart of it all, delivering this new normal to the nation and helping to navigate the crisis successfully.
PICTFOR’s legacy as a key influencer at Westminster began over 30 years ago and we continue this relationship, creating unique opportunities to exchange ideas which enhance Britain’s competitiveness as a digital economy, whilst championing those members of the tech sector who have a social purpose.
Nowhere is the combination of these values better illustrated than in the PICTFOR COVID-19 Stakeholder Input Report which has been sent to government to feed into the national effort to support business throughout the pandemic. The report highlights both PICTFOR members’ and non-members’ contributions to the national effort, from aiding the NHS front-line in treating acute cases of COVID-19 to communications initiatives to help vulnerable communities; from enabling virtual schooling through on-line classrooms to providing in-kind credits to SMEs to facilitate business recovery.
We have been proud to facilitate such a comprehensive response to what has become an unprecedented challenge for the UK. In these dynamic and challenging times it is more important than ever that we champion solutions and innovation and do everything we can to support SMEs and the nation.
PICTFOR provides its members with invaluable opportunities to engage with Westminster through bespoke, members-only events that parallel the legislative agenda, covering relevant topics at critical times. With an event every month, membership guarantees you a regular audience with engaged parliamentarians, Government and Opposition spokespeople to help inform future policy.
During the current crisis, as you would expect, PICTFOR has moved our events to a virtual setting; we are nonetheless still able to offer our full programme which engages both Government and Shadow Cabinet speakers and parliamentarians across both Houses and all parties.
Our members play an essential role in shaping the events that we hold – selecting discussion topics, providing relevant speakers and sharing their perspectives on the issues of today and tomorrow. The 2020 programme is set to cover many important issues including Online harm, Connectivity, Investment, Diversity and many more.
Our industry members comprise a wide range of companies including some of the most well-known tech and digital companies in the world, as well as national media and communications organisations. We’ve been proud to work with some of the most rapidly growing innovative UK-based companies, accelerator and incubator programmes, significant membership organisations and excellent universities, who all play a role in shaping events and informing policy. Our tiered membership system is designed to make sure that membership is accessible to all.
Our annual programme consists of different types of events across the year including panel events, roundtable discussions, Parliamentary briefings, a Summer Reception, CEO Forum roundtables reserved exclusively for corporate-level members and a high-level Annual Dinner.
None of us can foresee how quickly we will get back to the ‘old’ normal – or indeed, if we ever will. But our sector has always harnessed and embraced change; we are good at it. Perhaps elements of the ‘new’ normal will prove attractive enough to become permanent as we move forward and recover from this crisis. In the meantime, PICTFOR will continue to facilitate the discussions between the tech sector and Westminster over the coming weeks and months through our exciting programme of virtual events and parliamentary contacts and activities.
Please keep safe and well, and I look forward to seeing you all again, as soon as the situation allows.
Simon Blagden CBE
PICTFOR Industry Chair