Record crowds who gathered at St James' Park for the fifth annual VentureFest North East have heard that innovation is vital to the survival of a business.
The message of this year’s event was that businesses must innovate to remain relevant, profitable and competitive in a global economy, and attendees heard from a range of respected experts who donated their time to support the region's business community.
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."
The full day conference was the busiest yet, and featured a range of new programme themes as well as tried and tested features.
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 popular features at the event 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).