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Business & Economy

VentureFest 2017 to be the busiest and broadest yet

Hundreds of businesses, entrepreneurs, investors and experts are due to descend on St James’ Park, Newcastle next week for what promises to be the busiest VentureFest North East to date

The fifth annual innovation conference takes place on Tuesday November 14 and organisers say a range of new features mean it will also be their broadest-ranging event.

The full-day conference is dedicated to helping the region’s businesses use innovation to remain relevant, competitive and profitable by providing practical tools and valuable connections.

New programme highlights include a series of ‘live’ innovation challenge sessions which give businesses the chance to win work from organisations who are seeking input into real projects. These include 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.

Professor Louise Bracken, Scientific Director of The Water Hub, said: “The Water Hub is all about harnessing the talent and technology of the North East business community to solve real challenges that affect us all, in areas such as water efficiency, water cleaning and flooding.

“We are really excited to be launching this ambitious initiative at VentureFest and look forward to sharing lots of valuable opportunities with businesses we can work with in the near future.”

Other new strands of activity in the VentureFest agenda include 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 will provide their insight and practical tools to tackle this thorny issue and Innovate UK is bringing on tour its ‘infocus women in innovation’ photography exhibition created with Getty Images to highlight the role of female innovators.

A new people’s choice theme looking at dealing with change will provide a horizon scan of global innovation trends, including digital disruption, and will provide practical tools to help start-ups and growing companies develop a successful business model. A series of sessions will also focus on issues relating to workforce development including the future of work in a robot economy.

Estelle Blanks, Deputy Director of VentureFest North East delivery organisation the Innovation SuperNetwork, said: “We’ve worked closely with the business community to evolve this year’s programme to ensure it reflects the key issues and opportunities facing the region’s businesses right now.

“The aim is to provide them with an innovation toolkit of practical information, valuable ideas and useful contacts to help them reach new customers, raise finance and overcome barriers to growth.”

Tried and tested programme features back by popular demand include 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 include: 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).

VentureFest North East is free to attend. Registrations are now open at

VentureFest North East is part of the wider Innovation SuperNetwork programme, developed with around 50 partner organisations to support innovation in the North East. Led by the VentureFest North East team, the SuperNetwork is supported by Innovate UK, the North East LEP, Northumbrian Water Group, Reece Innovation and North East BIC, with part-funding from the European Regional Development Fund.