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Looking back at Innovate 2015

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Earlier this month, we had a fantastic two days at Old Billingsgate in London, at our Innovate 2015 event.

Much more than an innovation showcase

The Innovate events are co-hosted by Innovate UK and UK Trade & Investment (UKTI) to provide a global spotlight on UK innovation. For both Catherine Raines and me, it was our first such event… and what an event it turned out to be.

Dr Ruth Mckernan CBE, Chief Executive, Innovate UK at Innovate 2015
Dr Ruth Mckernan CBE, Chief Executive, Innovate UK at Innovate 2015
Dr, Catherine Raines, CEO, UK Trade & Investment
Dr, Catherine Raines, CEO, UK Trade & Investment

This year was the best ever. Total visits over the two days were an incredible 3,481 - more than any of our previous seven events. On Monday morning we trended on Twitter UK in an amazing third place, demonstrating huge interest from our audiences. It is more than just a showcase; it is innovation and trade in a day where companies make connections, partnerships are made and deals are done.

Exhibitors at Innovate 2015 2
Exhibitors at Innovate 2015

100 companies exhibiting their innovations

It was brilliant to see so many of the companies we have funded showcasing their products and services. In all we had around 100 innovative companies exhibiting, most of them micro and small businesses working hard to grow and scale.

Oaktec – winner of the Peer to Peer awards

We thought it would be great to get some feedback on companies from people attending Innovate 2015, so this year we introduced a ‘Peer to Peer’ award. We provided attendees with some ‘innovation notes’ and asked them to think like an angel investor, ‘funding’ the companies they believed were most deserving.

After counting them up, the very worthy winner was Oaktec, designer of the world’s first small, highly efficient gas engine. Oaktec received £220,000 funding under the Energy Catalyst programme run by Innovate UK and EPSRC, to test the feasibility of its Pulse-R engine system, which can use untreated gas from landfill sites to power a self-supercharged biogas engine.

Innovate 2015 2

Best use of design award

We also asked an expert panel, including Sebastian Conran, to judge the exhibitors for the best use of design in innovation. Getting design thinking right from the beginning is vital, as our new design strategy launched at the event explains. This award went to Arctic Shores, whose gaming-based process for recruitment is already getting some big clients – including Deloitte, which has become the first major company to use a game-based personality assessment as part of its selection process in the UK.

Innovate 2015 was packed with inspiring and informative talks. There were around 60 sessions across the main stage and our four themed rooms – Make Connections, Grow Faster, Go Global and Get Funding.

Sajid Javid - Secretary of State – on Day 1

Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills at Innovate 2015
Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills at Innovate 2015

The Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, Sajid Javid, was able to join us on the first morning. In his keynote he spoke about the importance of government support for innovation - because ‘innovation is what powers our economy’. He also launched the call for expressions of interest to participate in the Science and Innovation Audits which were announced earlier this year – and confirmed plans to set up an independent hub for expert advice on “Smart Specialisation” in England, which would work closely with Local Enterprise Partnerships.

Facebook, Cobra Beer, Microsoft amongst others

Other great speakers included Nicola Mendelsohn of Facebook; Dave Richards of Microsoft; Lord Bilimoria, founder of Cobra Beer; Chris Aylett of the Motorsport Industry Association; Sherry Coutu of the Scale-up Institute as well as Innovate UK’s Chairman Phil Smith and many, many more.

Lord Bilimoria at Innovate 2015
Lord Bilimoria, Founder of Cobra Beer, at Innovate 2015
Nicola Mendelsohn VP EMEA, Facebook at Innovate 2015
Nicola Mendelsohn VP EMEA, Facebook at Innovate 2015

You can see videos of the main stage talks on the Innovate 2015 website, and there are interesting views from around the event on our Innovate 2015 YouTube playlist.

Happy 40th to Knowledge Transfer Partnership!

KTP Awards at Innovate 2015
KTP Awards at Innovate 2015

The two days ended with the 40th birthday party of the Knowledge Transfer Partnership programme, and this year’s KTP awards. I was struck by stories of the difference KTP has made - to businesses, universities and individuals involved. I presented the final award of the event – the Best Partnership – which went to Signal Media, University of Exeter and KTP Associate Miguel Martinez-Alvarez. Signal Media have grown dramatically in the last couple of years, helped by KTP, and we’ll be hearing more from them in the future.

In the end, our annual Innovate event is all about opportunity; forging new partnerships, making deals and starting projects. I would love to hear the outcome of some of the 174 one-to-one meetings which took place over the two days.

We have already started to think about Innovate 2016, which we are planning for Manchester next November - and we hope to see you there!

See more on Innovate 2015 website

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