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We’re at unbound 2016 London – the big digital innovation festival – and people, including the British Royal Family (Prince Andrew – Duke of York) are buzzing about ‘interface’ being a big buzzword for 2017.  And it’s not only what you think.

Yes, there’s a lot of talk of new human-technology interfaces – voice, haptics, AI, VR, AR. If you’re in the old legacy business of putting or selling pixels on a traditional mobile or PC screen, then it seems you’re now in a high-volume but low-margin commodity business and it’s time to offshore or move on.

But the interface that has people buzzing here is not a technology interface. It’s a business interface. It’s the interface between brands and startups – think Kite, Evol8tion, Brand Garage re-booted. No it’s not new news, but traditional consumer brands, as well as tech brands are now realising that they are brilliant at scaling up, but not starting up. So acquire or partner with digital innovation, don’t invent it.  Just as Uber is an interface connecting drivers to passengers, there’s an opportunity for the Uber of innovation connecting brands with startups.

The British royal family has been getting in on the interface act – and presenting today – with Pitch@Palace – an interface for connecting brands with entrepreneurs – effectively a Dragon’s Den/Shark Tank with a royal crest. Okay, so this is not new news for tech brands, which have been connecting the startup community since startups started starting up, but the new news is that big traditional brands are looking to do the same.

So two TL;DR takeaways.

What is a brand in 2017? Answer – An accelerator.

What’s the digital mantra for 2017?  Answer – Be the interface.