Spiders’ webs and neurons: innovation ecosystem

04 July 2019

Estelle Blanks, Innovation SuperNetwork

By Estelle Blanks, Executive Director at Innovation SuperNetwork

The ENGIE Innovation Showcase a real-life analogy to innovation ecosystem in action.

When I was preparing for my keynote speech for the ENGIE Innovation Showcase, I looked for clever ways to explain Innovation Ecosystems. So, when ENGIE descended on the Newcastle Helix on 19th June as part of their Innovation Week, it became very clear to me that the best analogy was what was happening right before our eyes: people, ideas and solutions coming together to address innovation challenges. So what made the day so special?

The theme of the event was “connected places”.

As Steve Caughey (Director, National Innovation Centre for Data) eloquently highlighted in his keynote speech, the event location – Newcastle Helix – is symbolic of past, present and future innovation in Newcastle and the North East. The result of over a decade of partnership working between the public, private and education sectors. ENGIE’s presence on the site through this event, but also their work on the low carbon district through a 40-year partnership deal, means the Helix will provide an innovation hotbed for years to come.

Connections was central to the event, and the partnership between the Innovation SuperNetwork and ENGIE actively demonstrates the importance of networks for a healthy innovation ecosystem.

The event itself illustrated this very well:

  • The market place exhibition connected solutions providers, business support intermediaries, large organisations and academia.
  • The BIG Pitch was the result of months of work to identify 5 potential solutions to ENGIE’s “Connected Places” challenge. I had the privilege to be part of the judging panel to identify the winners and support the start of long-term partnerships between ENGIE and innovative companies. It is great to know that Zeetta, the overall winner, have accessed £10,000 to develop a solution with ENGIE.
  • The Innovation roundtable debates on energy communities, smart buildings, green mobility, sustainable regeneration and data science for smart cities started new networks and sparked new ideas.
  • ENGIE’s commitment to innovation was also very visible through the awards session celebrating staff and teams coming up with new ideas that can really make a difference to the business and the communities it serves.

So, in the end, there was no need for clever analogies to explain what successful innovation ecosystems look like. It was visible for all to see at the ENGIE Innovation Week real time, live and in action!

But don’t take my word for it, the video produced by ENGIE highlights all of this really well.


Credit to Nicola Lovett (CEO, ENGIE UK&Ireland), Ben Watts (Innovation and Solutions Director) and Holly Stockbridge (Innovation Manager) for making this happen. We, at the SuperNetwork, are looking forward to our ongoing partnership and helping you make connections in the North East of England.

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