Connecting Industry, Innovation & Investment

The inaugural Venturefest South West was a showcase of the cutting edge innovation and entrepreneurship coming out of Devon, Cornwall and Somerset. The event brought over 600 entrepreneurs and businesses together with innovators and academics to fuse business ideas with novel research and opportunities for funding.

The day saw nearly 80 speakers share their collective knowledge with market leaders sharing their sector insight plus success stories from trailblazing entrepreneurs. Venturefest South West truly celebrated the region’s most exciting innovators as well as facilitated new interactions, collaboration and investment.

The day’s activities were grouped into three themes; Innovate & Grow, Finance & Invest and Show & Tell. Each provided opportunities for knowledge exchange and networking, some of our highlights are listed below but see the programme page for full details.

Finance & Invest

Pitchfest Finals
Venturefest South West hosted the finals of Pitchfest which provided technology innovators with a platform to pitch their business ideas to potential investors.

Access to Finance panel
The audience met finance experts from crowdfunding, grants, lending, business angel and venture capital as well as exploring a case study from Ashwoods Automotive who used a variety of sources to fund their recent growth.

Keynote speakers
Expert speakers such as Darren Westlake, Crowdcube and Neil Bellamy, RBS/NatWest graced the main stage in the Exeter Suite over the day with smaller seminar style talks from Richard Eckley, Crowdcube; Simon Walker, Crowdfunder and John Hutchings, RGF Grant Funds from Plymouth University who all be explained how they could support business growth.

Show & Tell

Sector spotlight
Venturefest South West gave a platform to a number of specific sectors which are flourishing in the South West: Marine Technology, Satellite Applications, Digital Health, Photonics, Agri-tech and Big Data. There were nine different breakout sessions over the day looking at the technology in these industries and the huge advances South West businesses are making.

Innovation Showcase
The Innovation Showcase at Venturefest South West hosted 39 companies at all stages of growth exhibiting their innovative products, services and technology in an interactive area giving delegates the chance to touch, try and experience the latest designs from the region.

Innovate & Grow

Keynote speakers
A number of high profile speakers attended Venturefest South West to give their insight into innovation in their respective areas, notably; Professor Roy Sandbach, Newcastle University; Paul Garner, BT and Elizabeth Kavanagh, Stride Treglown. Mark Hedley of the China-Britain Business Council spoke on opportunities for growth with China and the UKTI led a panel discussion showcasing South West export successes. In the smaller breakout sessions Oxford Innovation ran workshops on innovative thinking, SWMAS on launching new products and Michelmores on protecting your IP.

Networking Cafe
The busy cafe gave delegates an opportunity to meet with new and old contacts, have a bite to eat and check out the Venturefest Quorum, a highly immersive and interactive visualisation of the event where social media commentary, motion capture and digital experience collided.

Games For Better
Following on from the Games For Better game jam, a hackathon-style event where teams competed to build a game, from concept to implementation, in just 48 hours, this session saw each of the winning teams presenting their project and explaining the relevance of the gaming industry to innovation in other sectors.

1-2-1 meetings and surgeries
On the day the UKTI, Innovate UK, the KTN, EEN, Catapults network and the Academic Health Science Network held one to one meetings and drop ins to support individuals with questions around export, funding, market access and much more.

HackFest is a county-wide competition for young technology enthusiasts and innovators of the future to come together to create product prototypes that respond to the issues of the future. Venturefest South West gave a platform for the innovations these youngsters created with a stand in the Innovation Showcase and a presentation in the County Suite.

Follow @VenturefestSW on Twitter to keep up to date with the latest news on Venturefest South West.

Venturefest South West is proudly sponsored by Innovate UK, for more information on the national Venturefest network visit or download the latest Venturefest Network Review 2015.

Meet the organisers

Martin Brown

Chair of Venturefest South West

Martin has a background in software and high-technology. He works with early and mid-stage technology based businesses to help them grow revenues and scale. Martin was part of the leadership team of ChangeBase, a UK software business, which exited to Quest in the US. He is a board advisor at Digital Shadows, an award-winning British cyber security company now jointly headquartered in London and San Francisco. Prior to working in the early stage arena, he led a series of businesses within large technology companies such as Symantec and Sun Microsystems. Martin sits as a Non-Executive Director on the Heart of the South-West LEP.

Adrian Dawson

Head of GAIN Partnerships and Projects – Plymouth University

Adrian works in Plymouth University’s Research and Innovation Directorate where he heads up the Growth Acceleration and Investment Network (GAIN) – which aims to build partnerships between innovative businesses and the University, creating opportunities for collaborative research, student experience and helping businesses achieve their growth potential. He has a background in economic development research and analysis and prior to his current role Adrian led SERIO – a commercial research and consultancy unit at the University providing specialist social, economic and market research, analysis and intelligence for public, private and third sector organisations across the South West and beyond. He has also worked as a private sector consultant specialising in programme evaluation and economic analysis, and has held a number of influential roles in the South West region with a number of institutions.

Public Profile

Francesca Crickmere

Project Officer – GAIN, Plymouth University

Francesca is an experienced project manager having coordinated various events, campaigns and partnerships during her time at Plymouth University as well as in previous roles with the RNLI, the RSPB and Scott Dunn. Francesca has been a central point for all communications regarding Venturefest and has overseen the cultivation of the programme, marketing strategy, website, sponsorship and event planning with the support of the steering group and One Voice Media.