North East Innovation: A Reflection on VentureFest 2017

North East Innovation: A Reflection on VentureFest 2017

What is VentureFest?

VentureFest is an annual event centred around helping local businesses use innovation to remain relevant, competitive and profitable. This year was the largest North East event yet – and larger than many other regional VentureFest events – highlighting the continued vibrancy and commitment to innovation throughout the North East business community.

What did the day provide?

The full conference included several keynote speakers as well as a programme of events covering “People and Innovation”, “Dealing with Change” and “Women in Innovation”.

Regular features included the Innovation Showcase: a show and tell held by some of the region’s most innovative businesses and a drop-in business clinic by Growth Hub Live – part of a wealth of support for businesses at the ‘scale up’ stage.

A series of Live Innovation Challenge sessions gave businesses the chance to win work from organisations seeking contributions to open projects – including the Great Exhibition of the North and Northumbrian Water – reinforcing the commitment to innovation and partnership of some of the region’s biggest organisations.


VentureFest North East


I attended the Innovation Trends and Digital Disruption session as well as the keynote speaker sessions in the afternoon. The message was clear; whilst there is an abundance of exciting new technologies with huge potential, to be truly innovative you must take a systematic approach to innovation, identifying opportunities from a multitude of sources. Technology can undoubtedly create huge change, but huge change takes time. Rather, the continuous innovator, with a commitment to the purposeful creation of value, is likely to get ahead and stay ahead.

We need to standardise and industrialise our innovation networks

Perhaps unsurprisingly, most successful continuous innovators in technology, science and business drive innovation by working with others. Diversity in views, experience and knowledge create a multi-faceted picture of the world in which inspiration rises, ideas germinate quickly and potential value becomes clear. Community is truly at the heart of innovation and what was obvious from the day is that the North East innovation community is thriving. The key challenge, after the VentureFest dust settles, is turning the principle of collaborative innovation into a reality, hooking into networks in a consistent, structured and valuable way.


Innovation Showcase


It is easy to comprehend the notion that collaboration breeds ideas. However, what requires greater effort is breaking the culture of zero-sum thinking and nurturing an innovative attitude, open to search for mutual benefit and prepared to launch a sustained search for value.  Once over this hurdle, businesses of all sizes must take a systematic, structured approach to the creation of innovation networks, knowledge and communication pathways.

The catalyst to innovation is attitude and behaviour

This need for an innovative attitude was demonstrated perfectly by Paul Smith, Global Field Operations Manager of Hyperloop One. In his keynote speech, he asserted repeatedly that they still have no idea if the project will be a success. However, “even if it ultimately fails it will be worth it. The technology, learning, networks and energy created as part of the process outweighs any negatives by orders of magnitude.”


Paul Smith of Hyperloop One


Sometimes, to create progress, you just have to dream.

(All images taken from


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