Venturefest North East welcomed a record attendance at the region’s annual innovation event, which took place at St James’ Park in Newcastle for the fifth time yesterday (14 November).
The necessity to innovate to remain relevant, profitable and competitive in a global economy was the common theme among the 700 businesses, entrepreneurs and innovators who gathered for an action packed day.
New programme highlights included a People’s Choice theme dedicated to helping businesses deal with changes to their environment, take advantage of new opportunities and adapt to new challenges.
A series of ‘live’ innovation challenge sessions gave businesses the chance to win work from organisations who are seeking input into real projects.
These included the Great Exhibition of the North, Northumbrian Water Group and The Water Hub, a new collaborative initiative between Durham University, Durham County Council, the Environment Agency and Northumbrian Water to help businesses identify and develop innovative and practical solutions to challenges in the North East water sector.
Other new strands of activity in the VentureFest agenda included a series of sessions designed to shine a light on women in innovation and the cost to businesses and the economy of undervaluing 50 percent of the population.
A panel of experts provided their insight and practical tools to tackle this thorny issue and Innovate UK brought on tour its ‘infocus women in innovation’ photography exhibition created with Getty Images to highlight the role of female innovators.
Features back by popular demand included Innovation Showcase, a show-and-tell by some of the region’s most innovative businesses, a drop-in business clinic Growth Hub Live, and Why My Business Failed and What it Taught Me, a frank and open discussion with entrepreneurs who share their experiences to help others.
Keynote speakers included: Paul Smith of revolutionary transport system Hyperloop One, Phil Kite, former Chief Executive of Reece Group who is preparing to take part in the world’s toughest rowing race onboard a vessel featuring innovative North East products and services, Joanna Feeley of Newcastle-based trend agency Trend Bible, Simon Thorpe, an angel investor, coach, mentor and owner of Delta 2020 and Sarah Stewart, Chief Executive of NewcastleGateshead Initiative (NGI).
Professor Alan Lowdon, Chair of the Innovation Board at the North East LEP, said: “The North East of England has a history of adapting to change and it’s more important than ever that our businesses stay ahead of the curve in today’s globally competitive environment.
“The region’s unique power of community gives us real competitive advantage. Today has been a demonstration of our willingness to work together and a joined-up support system that doesn’t exist anywhere else in the UK.
“By coming together at events like VentureFest the region’s businesses have a fertile test bed for new ideas and exciting new ways to collaborate with others across sectors.”
VentureFest North East is part of the wider Innovation SuperNetwork programme, developed with around 50 partner organisations to support innovation in the North East.
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