The record number of delegates who attended the region’s innovation conference at St James’ Park, Newcastle, learned how Innovation Challenge has been developed to act as an ‘innovation ecosystem’ for the region’s business community - with smaller businesses providing solutions to larger organisations.
The project, delivered by Innovation SuperNetwork, which is also behind VentureFest North East, brings together the needs of big businesses with the skills, services, talent and technological ability of the North East to maximise the growth of the region.
Launched online this summer at supernetwork.org.uk, Innovation Challenge provides a quick and simple way for companies and entrepreneurs to see at a glance operational challenges that could be turned into commercial opportunities for their business.
At VentureFest North East delegates had the chance to meet face-to-face with a range of organisations that are currently seeking solutions to specific issues including Northumbrian Water, ENGIE and Durham County Council and discuss how their business might be able to help.
Caroline Hopkins, UK & Ireland Development and Innovation Director of ENGIE, spoke to businesses about their potential to provide a range of solutions for the global energy and services group including how to improve air quality.
Caroline said: "The North East is a hotbed of innovation and we’ve always known that the business community here has the skills and talent to help us tackle our operational challenges. The Innovation Challenge project provides us with a simple way to tap into this intelligence and provide us with the best chance to find the best solutions."
Anu Chandra, a former strategist at Nokia who moved from London two years ago to set up Durham-based data analysis company Rylore, was among the many businesspeople introduced to potential new clients on the day.
He said: "The Innovation Challenge project is very exciting for a business like ours that employs six people and is looking to grow. It not only gives us access to very large companies with very interesting problems but it also helps us to form quality relationships with the people behind them. The additional insight provided by the Innovation Challenge team means we can really understand what companies are looking for before we suggest how we can add value."
Keynote speakers at the event included: Nigel Mills, Entrepreneurs' Forum, Gilbert Corrales, Leaf Music, Lucy Armstrong, The Alchemists and Ian Campbell, Innovate UK.
Estelle Blanks, Deputy Director at Innovation SuperNetwork which delivers VentureFest North East, said: "What a phenomenal event this has been to celebrate and showcase the innovative spirit of the North East. To have attracted our largest crowd of innovators to date is testament to the wealth of ideas being generated by the region and a sign of the scale of ambition here."