Advantage Creative

Posted on 25/11/16 Innovate 2016

I recently attended the Innovate 2016 conference and exhibition at Manchester Central.

The event is organised by Innovate UK and the Department for International Trade in November each year to showcase the very best in UK innovation.

It is the “must-do” event each year for UK innovators seeking partnerships, support and funding for R&D, growth and export, and those that have an interest in supporting them.

Advantage Creative is constantly seeking out innovative businesses and new partnerships, and Innovate UK does a great job in helping funders and businesses connect.

If you have never attended before, this blog will give you an idea as to what you can expect from the event.

After a very quick and efficient registration at the Reception Desk, I was met at the entrance to the exhibition hall by two robots eager to engage me in conversation.      The central area of the exhibition hall was given to eye catching exhibits bristling with new technology, including a driverless car and numerous motorcycle and cycle innovations, and opportunities to meet with product developers.   Explore a little further, and smaller stands showcased an impressive array of product and IT innovations, each stand hosted by a representative of the business who knew their products inside out. An immersive tech zone provided interactive opportunities to learn about the latest in VR and immersive technologies.

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I am especially interested in wearable technology, and one product that caught my eye in particular was the Doppel device worn on the wrist to keep you calm. I was especially impressed by the founder’s success in launching the product with a crowd funding campaign.

There is an extensive conference programme with presentations, talks and seminars staged throughout the day on the main stage and three breakout rooms, so it’s important to look at the agenda in advance and plan which sessions you want to attend, as you can’t possibly get to them all.

Some of the sessions repeat over the two days, so if you can’t get to everything you want to see in one day, then book for both days and you should be able to cover all of the sessions you want to attend.

It’s also important to arrive at the sessions in the smaller breakout rooms a few minutes ahead of time, because some of them are so popular that people have to be turned away once the room is full.

I attended the Innovation Clusters presentation on the Main Stage which provided an insight into how the Northern Powerhouse was founded and how partners work together to support innovation. This included debate on how best to create a climate in which government, universities and businesses can work closer in partnership to stimulate innovation and make the case for how this helps drive the UK economy.

We also learned the importance of building on existing networks, partnerships and activity. The chances are, that if you try to create an innovation eco-system from scratch, it will fail because it does not have firm foundations on which to grow.

Lunchtime provides further opportunities to explore the exhibition area, network, talk with specialist advisors, and grab a bite to eat from the catering points at each end of the exhibition hall.

As you explore the exhibition area further, you will find a Support Zone where businesses can book appointments or drop in to talk with support , and it was great to see the UK Business Angels Association there along with many others providing advice on funding, tax, export, and business support.

A wide range of Universities and the Innovate Catapult Centres were well represented with excellent stands and very professional and helpful teams. Naturally, the Northern Powerhouse had an impressive stand showcasing a wide selection of current innovations they are supporting.

I was particularly drawn to the Manchester Madlab stand where the team of mad scientists were demonstrating their fun and engaging approach to involving people in designing and making. I especially liked their use of improvised technology for people with sensory impairments and had a go at dipping my hand in custard to feel the music! I learned a lot here that I will share with our partners at the design, learn and make space in Staffordshire, Wavemaker.

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In the afternoon I attended an Investment Showcase, which included presentations from a panel of equity investors and businesses that had successfully secured funding. The session included debate between the panel and a Q&A and we gained an insight into the respective challenges that investors and businesses face in finding the right investment partnership and making this work.

There was also a brief but informative presentation on Venture Capital investments, which focused our minds on the statistics that illustrate that VC investments are on average £1m for early stage or £2m for grow-on funding. These stark statistics stimulated some of us to debate the UK eco-system for start-ups, and how this compares with that in the US.

I also attended one of the workshops on How to Pitch and Win, which included a fun and inter-active session with live 1 minute pitches from business owners, which were scored by an expert panel with considerable input from a noisy audience.

The Innovate 2016 website has video footage and downloadable presentations from the session programme that you can view after the event, or if you couldn’t get there in person.

I returned to the exhibition hall for a last-minute scoot around the stands to make a few more connections and exchange business cards, and then departed at the end of the day wishing I had booked for both days.

Written by John Holmes

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