Global brands, with an inspirational story to tell, came together with local businesses on Tuesday (May 22) to share expertise and learning at VentureFest Tees Valley, which took place at Wynyard Hall.
Attracting more than 400 delegates, the region’s innovation conference hosted brands including Vodafone UK, where head of contact transformation and optimisation, Sarah McMann delivered a breakout session focussed on building better customer relationships by using artificial intelligence and smart technology.
She said: “Technology increasingly gives brands the opportunity to interact with customers and clients more efficiently and effectively.
“The expectation that queries should be resolved quickly and via a range of platforms presents businesses with customer satisfaction and retention challenges that can be solved by the adoption of smart tech, chatbots and increasingly AI.
“At Vodafone we’re continuously questioning how effective our customer relationship processes are and introducing new ways of interacting with customers.
“It’s been a pleasure to meet with businesses from Teesside today to discuss some of the challenges we all face managing client relationships, alongside the opportunities found through digitisation.”
Mark Chapman, engineering director of the Bloodhound Project, the 1,000mph world land-speed record attempt, delivered an inspirational keynote, which encouraged the audience to question everything, take part in open innovation projects and adopt new ideas from other sectors.
He said: “BLOODHOUND is a truly collaborative project that constantly tests, and causes us to rethink, the approach we’re taking to reach our goal of building the ultimate jet and rocket powered car.
“We’ve taken the best tools and ideas from the automotive and aerospace industries and showcased them in this supersonic car.
“Because BLOODHOUND is bespoke and pushing technology to the known limits, there’s real opportunity for the innovations we’re demonstrating to be reapplied in commercial sectors and adopted by engineers working in many other fields.
“I hope the message delegates at VentureFest Tees Valley take away with them, is that it doesn’t matter what sector you’re working in, we can all learn from each other’s successes and failures.”
Other brands represented at the event included Tees Components, led by general manager Sharon Lane, who talked about the challenges and opportunities of growing a global business from Teesside.
Tim Ryan, from life sciences company Epigem, discussed the journey to access international market share.
Providing an overview of the national innovation landscape was Steph Morris from Innovate UK.
Meanwhile Bill Morrow, the founder of Angels Den, provided insight on working with investors, with Mark Wilcockson from the British Business Bank shedding light on how to access the £400m Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund.
Simon Green, director of VentureFest Tees Valley, said: “VentureFest centres on bringing together innovators, experts and businesses who wouldn’t normally have the chance to meet.
“Our speakers have provided an inspirational backdrop against which we hope many new connections and conversations were started.
“We’re very much looking forward to hearing about some of the success to come from VentureFest Tees Valley in the coming weeks and months.”
VentureFest Tees Valley’s founding partners are Innovate Tees Valley (the innovation support programme led by Teesside University with partners NEPIC, the Materials Processing Institute and Digital City), Tees Valley Combined Authority and the Knowledge Transfer Network.
The event receives funding from the £6.5m Innovate Tees Valley programme and is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund.
• Pictured above (left to right): Jamie Ollivere (RTC North, sponsors of the Innovation Showcase), Bill Morrow (Angels Den), Steph Morris (Innovate UK), Simon Green (VentureFest Tees Valley), Prof Jane Turner (Teesside University), Mark Chapman (BLOODHOUND SSC).