The first Innovate Tees Valley Festival attracted over 250 delegates to Middlesbrough FC’s Riverside Stadium.
The biggest innovation event to take place in the area, the Festival brought together 17 expert speakers and 35 exhibitors for a full day of activities.
Speakers included local and national experts on innovation, product development, finance and business growth. With sessions hosted by Tees Valley Combined Authority and Teesside University, delegates were able to learn about the innovation work going on in the area and the breadth of support available to local businesses.
Speakers such as James Robson MBE and Alastair Waite shared their journeys from start-up through to multi-million pound businesses, highlighting how earlier stage businesses can follow in their footsteps.
In addition, 20 local organisations who have been involved in successful innovation projects were invited to show off their work to the Festival audience, with the help of Horizonworks.
These included ambitious businesses such as Stockton’s Fine Equinity, developer of what is essentially a Fitbit for horses, Billingham water treatment company Biochemica and pump manufacturer Tomlinson Hall, which is still coming up with new product ideas despite having been in business for 97 years.
Bringing together so many individuals at one event led to conversations that would not happen through other channels.
Andy Stevenson, director of Darlington-based engineering and design company Ardmore Craig, said: “The event has been extremely beneficial in allowing the business to showcase its existing products and services to a wide audience.
“The bigger benefit though is in facilitating access to expert advice regarding funding for the new technologies we wish to develop and bring to market next year”
The Festival closed with almost 100 meetings between Tees Valley businesses and investors, with the aim of securing the finance local companies need to grow. Investors travelled from across the country, including from London, Birmingham, Yorkshire and the North West, to see the exciting opportunities available in the Tees Valley.
Abu Ali, corporate finance director at Evolution, who helped to run the investor sessions and was surprised by the innovative businesses getting involved, said: “It’s fantastic to meet businesses that would normally fly ‘under the radar’ but are developing great ideas.
“To me, the Festival was a way to break down the boundaries between innovative businesses, professional advisors and investors for the benefit of all.”
Innovation is a key element of the Tees Valley’s strategy for growth led by the Tees Valley Combined Authority. Neil Kenley, Business Director at the Combined Authority, outlined future plans at the Festival. “To unlock further growth, we need to be better connected and provide a supportive business environment. Innovate Tees Valley, the Business Compass and our investment activities are ways in which businesses can benefit in a practical way. It’s now up to them to take advantage of the support on offer.”
Following the success of this year’s inaugural event, the organisers are determined to make the Festival an annual fixture in the Tees Valley business calendar. They have already started to approach speakers for 2017 and plan to announce details early in the New Year.
The Festival is part of the £6.5m Innovate Tees Valley programme, led by Teesside University with partners NEPIC, the Materials Processing Institute and DigitalCity.
Innovate Tees Valley has been established to help over 275 Teesside businesses access funded support to achieve growth through service and product innovation.
The programme gives access to innovation expertise and facilities, helping to test new concepts, develop them into deliverable products and services and tackle new markets at home and overseas.