What really is innovation?
29 Sep 2016
29 September 2016
By Estelle Blanks, Executive Director at the Innovation SuperNetwork North East England
As an ‘outsider’ to the region, I am well aware that innovation is not the first thing that comes to mind when Newcastle or the North East of England is mentioned and unfortunately this perception is hard to shift.
Despite 20 years of living in this region and a career focused on economic development through innovation and regeneration, I still get the same intrigued and slightly cynical look as the one I got from colleagues in Sophia Antipolis, France, back in 2001 when we started discussions with the then largest European Science and Technology park about how their networks could help to support high-tech businesses from the North East.
The traditional statistical data don’t help either. In 2008, the OECD found that the North East was ‘below average’ against most key metrics (R&D expenditure or patent applications sought) and this is still the trend.
And yet, over the years and during my time at Newcastle Science City and now with the Innovation SuperNetwork, I have seen some tremendous examples of innovation through highly creative SMEs, leading-edge research and larger corporate open innovation practices. Some highlights have been:
So, somehow, we are getting quite a few things right in the region when it comes to innovation. We have some real strengths and we have to work hard to leverage those assets.
From my experience, long-term vision and planning, partnership working, effective national and international networks and good communication and PR channels which promote existing innovative businesses, risk taking, novel practices and good role models will help us grow our innovation assets and our presence on the innovation map.
We have to be realistic – there is still some way to go. A couple of weeks ago I heard stories from colleagues at Generator which indicate that even our local market place does not source existing innovative solutions in the region… because they don’t know it’s there.
We need to be more visible and promote all kinds of innovation to ensure North East companies benefit from local, national and international opportunities.
This is what we are aiming to do through VentureFest North East and the Innovation Showcase.
We want to give companies the opportunity to demonstrate what they can do and expose the great innovation that is taking place here and now. Large corporate organisations, small start-ups and anything in between are welcome to take part. You don’t need to give away trade secrets and we can help you promote what you do efficiently.
Last year we showcased everything from a seaweed farm to fingerprint biometric readers and wheelchair adaptations to 3D scanning booths.
Register your details and one of our team will be in touch with you shortly.