As we celebrate the success of Hays’ and Empact Ventures’ 2021 Super Connect for Good competition, we catch up with Kim Johnston, Regional Partnerships Director in the North for CityFibre.
Hays’ and Empact Ventures’ 2021 Super Connect for Good was a resounding success. The virtual final, which took place in November, saw the regional winners go head-to-head by pitching live for the Super Connect for Good 2021 Overall Champion. We spoke to the Regional Judge for the North in 2020 and 2021, Kim Johnston, Regional Partnerships Director in the North for CityFibre.
Johnston’s background is predominantly in construction, and business development, having worked for Leeds City Council, the Chamber of Commerce and a Fibre Optic equipment manufacturer. She also recently completed a PhD in Public Health, researching the impact of integration teams within the English health and social care system. “This gave me an excellent understanding of collaborative working within private, public and third sector organizations,” she explained. As a strong advocate for the community, digital inclusion and partnership, Johnston was compelled to apply for her current role at CityFibre, as she felt it combined so many of her experiences and interests.
CityFibre is the UK’s largest independent Full fibre infrastructure platform. It provides digital infrastructure that enables its wholesale customers to provide ultra-fast, reliable and futureproof broadband, ethernet and 5G services to homes, businesses, schools, hospitals, GPs surgeries and anything else that needs connecting.
It is currently in the process of rolling out its £4bn Full fibre network, which will serve a third of the UK by 2025. Eight million homes, 800,000 businesses, 400,000 local authority sites, 250,000 5G access points will all be connected with its Full fibre service. As the nation’s only 100% Full fibre wholesale network, CityFibre is trusted by major Internet Service Providers and mobile operators, including TalkTalk, Three, Vodafone and Zen.
Startups to scaleups
This is the second year that Johnston has judged the Super Connect for Good competition. “I find all the entries to be interesting and dynamic, while also mindful of their aims to provide sustainable, world enhancing technology for the future,” she said. “The breadth and depth of areas covered by the applicants from the North region were fantastic, from innovative financing for the construction sector to a gamification product to support visual impairment.”
When asked what makes a great scaleup, Johnston said: “For me, I think having a robust strategy that addresses a specific need or want is key; and combine that with passion and networking, and you could well be onto a winner.”
When a startup moves into the process of scaling up, Johnston notes that “scaling up can be a huge challenge and concern; however, with the right support, network and vision, it is entirely possible. It is also important not to underestimate the need for promotion and marketing of the product or service to ensure longer-term funding. Keeping an eye on what’s working and what’s not for the competition doesn’t go amiss either.”
Johnston has observed that even now, Covid-19 continues to shape the medtech industry. “Whether it is through telemedicine, robotics or diagnostic artificial intelligence, innovation and adaptability have been key throughout the pandemic, and will continue to be so throughout 2022.
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Kim Johnston is an experienced senior manager with a breadth of experience in the private, public and charitable (third) sectors. In previous employment, Johnston was the Business Development Officer for the Health and Wellbeing Service within Leeds City Council, developing national and international health initiatives to support schools. Johnston has also worked in the past for the Chamber of Commerce and a fibre optic transmissions manufacturer (COE). She enjoys the challenge of creating and developing projects, ensuring that they are sustainable over the long term.
As part of her PhD, Johnston researched the impact of the integration of care within the English health and social care system. Johnston also has a degree in Civil Engineering with Architecture and a Master’s degree in Public Health. She tries to learn something new every year, and in addition to academic studies, last year she had a go at wild-foraging and blacksmithing.
‘I am delighted to be working with CityFibre to bring Full fibre connectivity across the north of the UK. I am a strong advocate for community engagement, digital inclusion and partnership working to help make the region the best area to live, work and visit.’