Tees Valley Twenty: Innovation-Spearhead Interactive

Tees Valley Twenty: Innovation-Spearhead Interactive

The Innovate Tees Valley Festival has been launched in a bid to connect businesses with the networks they need to innovate and continue growing. Spearhead Interactive, an emerging technology agency, is one of the businesses showcasing at the event. Managing director Dan Riley caught up with BQ to tell us more…

Describe your business in no more than 100 words

Spearhead Interactive is an award-winning Technology Agency; an ideas and solutions company providing a diverse range of services in strategy, consultation, technology, digital, and interactive software to corporate and commercial clients regionally, nationally and internationally.

We have significant knowledge surrounding legacy, current and future technologies, with in-house access to drones, 3D printers, IoT sensors and more, however our business specialises in the development of immersive / interactive content; repurposing technology from the games industry to create PC, mobile, Augmented and Virtual Reality software, enabling our clients to explain justify, train, de-risk, plan, sell or test any aspect of their processes and activities.



Which particular products and/or services make your business innovative?

Spearhead Interactive believe innovation comes through the analysis and refinement of processes; reviewing, upgrading or replacing particular tasks or operations in order to make improvements. In order to do this, data and information on the areas of the process is required.

As such, governments, organisations and companies of all sizes have invested in big data technologies and have often found themselves both overwhelmed and unable to consolidate the information in an easy to understand way. This has led to the multi-billion dollar industry in dashboards.

We see three issues with dashboards:

-          Data is visualised in ways that are thousands of years old – graphs / charts etc

-          Businesses are now overwhelmed with dashboards - ERP / CRM / stock control / robotics / website analytics etc.

-          None of the dashboards are connected, ergo meaningful data is unobtainable or lost.


There needs to be a way in which we can contextualise data; presenting and conveying information in a visual way, integrate the information, systems and processes required to enables faster and easier understanding and decision making.

This is what we do at Spearhead Interactive. Overlaying animation, functionality, data and systems onto 3D models of products, components, plant, site, equipment and cities in order to meet pre-defined objectives.

By enabling access to the final software using a variety of bleeding-edge technologies (including Augmented and Virtual Reality); we are able to provide innovation to our clients in both the solutions we offer and also in the way they are experienced.



What proportion of your service offer comprises new (under 3 years old) products, materials, technologies etc?

We have been fortunate to work on more than 60 different projects for clients across more than 16 different sectors since the business was established in 2013.

Each client has a different requirement and our solutions are bespoke based on the sector and the purpose of the project. Whilst we are able to repurpose and edit elements of previous work on other projects, there is always an element of R&D in engineering technology to work in ways that were not originally intended, whether that be a hardware or software solution.

As such, we continually build libraries of code and 3D assets, receive hardware (we have funded 100+ Kickstarter technology campaigns) and evolve ideas and strategies based on our creative and intellectual capital as well as the needs and requirements of our clients and their sectors.



To what extent have the innovations enhanced the sales of your other products/services or led to future opportunities?

Organisations do not have procurement budgets for solutions that they do not know exist. Every contract we have secured at Spearhead Interactive has been attained through some level of exposure based on our activities to promote the technology we use.

We have leveraged conversations and project outputs in order to demonstrate the innovation surrounding our solutions; this has led to Spearhead Interactive speaking at regional, national and international events across the UK, Japan, Brazil and Singapore, meeting with embassy and government officials representing Australia, Tunisia, the UAE and the US, turning questions and enquiries into fully developed solutions.



What new skills have been acquired by (and retained within) your company as a result of the innovations?

Each project we work on provides us with the opportunity to learn new skills and drive innovation into other areas of the business; conducting R&D where required in order to meet the brief set by the client and using and expanding on our knowledge in order to identify additional applications, and enhancing our capability.

As well as the investments we have made in access technologies – particularly in the areas of Virtual and Reality solutions, we have also invested in technologies which allow us to work faster, cheaper and smarter. An example of this is the use of drones in order to capture reference material for architectural projects. Whilst this helps to optimise our development pipeline and generate more reference material, we are also able to offer this service to meet more traditional demands, i.e. agricultural or petrochemical surveys, enabling us to develop additional revenue streams and expand our capability as a by-product of innovating our own processes.



How do you innovate in the way you run your business?

We endeavour to raise the bar with every client and every project we work on, often spending time enhancing or adding additional functionality out of scope in order to push our own knowledge and provide benefits to the end solution, as well as expanding our library of functionality in ways we would ordinarily not be able to.

In many cases this additional functionality serves not only to delight and strengthen the relationship between Spearhead Interactive and our clients, but also provide us with new leads and avenues to explore as we see potential for the solutions across different industries to complement and enhance their current activities.

We also maintain a position at the forefront of the emerging technology sector by investing in hardware, connecting with peers and keeping on top of the latest trends, identifying ways in which we can affect or disrupt traditional processes in engaging, exciting and immersive ways.

With Industry 4.0, factories of the future and smart cities becoming a significant concept and driving much of the innovation within the IoT sector, our research and development into the integration of data and sensor information onto 3D models is providing additional routes to conversations with businesses of all sizes, form regional SMEs to global multi-nationals.

For Spearhead Interactive, developing solutions using emerging technology is not about connecting dots, it’s about bringing specific knowledge surrounding dots close enough together that they can be connected.




What are your biggest professional achievements to date?

The business has been incredibly fortunate to have achieved and experienced much since inception in February 2013. Within 10 months of trading we had won a UKTI (now DIT) exporting for growth prize and were listed as one of the UKs top 100 start-ups.

We have endeavoured to capitalise on this success by accepting invitations from the Japanese government to explore international expansion and leveraged these conversations to move towards support for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, with this leading us to make two market visits to Brazil in 2014 and 2015 for meetings with the IOC and other organisations representing trade and industry.

Whilst the commercial success is still to happen at the level required to enable us to truly reach our full potential and enable us to develop our planned 3D content distribution platform and our VR training centre, we have managed to survive and grow organically to a team of six, with additional partners and networks assisting to promote and bring work into the business from London, Japan, Brazil and Singapore.



Where do you see your company in five years time?

Ideally, Spearhead Interactive will be much expanded, with multiple teams of developers working on a range of projects, small and large. In addition, we hope to open sales offices demonstrating the capability and potential of the technology to businesses in major cities across the UK, alongside an office in at least one international territory.

We expect to be fully operational with a North-East based VR training centre, with a hardware side of the business developed to sell, lease, maintain and repair hardware for organisations wishing to bring their training solutions in-house. 

The globally accessible software distribution platform will also allow us to generate revenue from interactive B2B content, which will be expanded to allow for server-side rendering and live streaming of 360 degree video and images.



What advice would you give to aspiring innovators?

Think about the purpose of what you are trying to achieve, whether tangible or intangible and define an end-game. Working backwards, the iterations and roadmap developed with no doubt change along your journey, but with defined, goals, objectives and milestones, you’ll always have something to aim for and celebrate when all the hard work and effort comes to fruition.


Spearhead Interactive will be showcasing their innovations at the Innovate Tees Valley festival in Middlesbrough on 8th December. Tickets for the event are available free of charge - book your place now at http://innovatefestival.tv/



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