3 August 2017

FiNexus Labs: Leeds's "Digital Woodwork Shop"

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Jane Lambert

When he addressed the FinTech North event at Leeds Digital Festival on 26 April 2017, Christopher Woolard, Executive Director of Strategy and Competition at the Financial Conduct Authority said:
"We’re especially interested in areas where ‘Fin’ and ‘Tech’ collide, that is, areas that have both strong financial centres and a technology presence, often backed by strong relationships with local universities.
We’ve mapped these and we see two specific locations where we think we can add value to emerging hubs – namely in the Edinburgh-Glasgow corridor and the Leeds-Manchester area.
In Leeds, the development of a FiNexus Lab – a collaboration between local government, industry and central government – will be key to creating a fertile ground for FinTech firms to grow"
(see  his speech "The FCA's regional FinTech engagement" 26 April 2017 FCA website).

The FiNexus Labs is now inviting enquiries. It is described by its managing director, Christopher Sier, as a "digital woodwork shop" or, as the website puts it, "a multi-stakeholder project that will build a Leeds City Region-based digital innovation laboratory and hub on three key pillars ..... industry lab environment, startup ecosystem [and] centre for academic research." A graphic on the "About" page shows how the project is supposed to work.

"- An industry lab environment focusing on test & learn for the ecosystem consisting of access to advanced technologies, sandbox, hackathons (where industry meets start-ups), compliance protection, as well as UX testing tied into a free school / city user base
- A startup ecosystem that feeds into the wider Leeds economy and consisting of a fintech incubator
- A knowledge exchange hub for both physical and virtual networking and info depository consisting of events, conferencing, flexible meeting space, idea exchange, speed dating."
All this is expected to bring benefits for industry, academics and entrepreneurs. The enterprise is to be housed in a building under construction on the White Rose Office Park near Beeston. Its landlord, Munroe K is one of the project's partners together with Zerado and Singularity Universiy of the USA. The rest of the website is rather bare except for a blog with a few posts and a reference to a "Grand Challenge" and invitation to get involved,

It is not clear whether FiNexus Labs has attracted any businesses yet.  As you can see from the table in my article, Protecting FinTech Innovation  27 April 2017 NIPC Law there does seem to be a lot of fintech accelerators and incubators about nowadays but it would also appear from the DIFC's press release on the Dubai accelerator that demand for places in incubators and accelerators greatly exceeds supply (see FinTech in Dubai 3 Aug 2017 NIPC Gulf).

In my FinTech page, I noted that there were at least three sets of legal issues for fintech entrepreneurs:
  • data protection particularly from next May when the General Data Protection Regulation takes effect;
  • intellectual property issues as software, methods of doing business and the presentation of information are excluded from the definition of patentable invention as such, and
  • regulation of the industry.
It is in this last regard that the Financial Conduct Authority is showing considerable flexibility and indeed originality with its regulatory sandbox. In his speech to FinTech North Mr Woolard promised to "work with the local authorities, development partners and firms in those locations, as well as the Scottish Government and the Treasury's digital envoys ..........  to encourage the emergence of more innovative firms, whether home grown or inward investors."

That leaves IP and data protection.  As I said in How far (if at all) is it possible to protect Innovation in Financial Technology? 12 Aug 2014 IP protection of fintech products and services is not easy but there are things that businesses can do. I shall follow this venture with great interest and will always be glad to help. I have been working in this area of law ever since I was legal advisor to VISA International for Europe, the Middle East and Africa in 1983 and contributed much to the early literature of fintech law,

Should anybody wish to discuss these issues, call me on 020 7404 5252 during business hours or send me a message through my contact form.

Further Reading

03 Aug 2017
Jane Lambert
03 Aug 2017
Jane Lambert
12 Aug 2014
Jane Lambert
IP Yorkshire