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.



Pitching your business to a potential partner, funder or customer is an essential part of building and growing any business. Venturefest South West partnered with Crowdcube, the UK’s leading investment crowdfunding site, to host Pitchfest.

Pitchfest offers the South West’s most exciting high growth potential, innovative companies the opportunity to promote their businesses through Venturefest South West and pitch to potential investors, industry leaders and those who can help grow the business. This opportunity is made possible through support from Exeter City Council for Pitchfest 2016. All applicants to the competition benefited from free local investor readiness and pitch days which helped these high growth potential businesses understand and prepare for investor readiness, learn how to pitch and why it matters.

From these workshops 12 pitchers went on to give a short pitch on the day of Venturefest in the Pitchfest Finals. An expert judging panel voted for the winners across a range of categories. Pitchers also had a stand space in the Innovation Showcase where they met fellow delegates, entrepreneurs and investors.

If you’re interested in applying to take part in next year’s Pitchfest please email to register your interest. We will be looking for businesses which are keen to make connections on the day and are seeking opportunities to grow.

Innovation Showcase

An exhibition of the most exciting start-ups and businesses in the region, come and touch, play and experience the latest technology and innovation from the South West.

Throughout the day the Innovation Showcase hosted 39 different businesses and organisations showcasing their ground-breaking innovations. It was a chance to meet the innovators and companies behind the technology and get up close to cutting-edge prototypes as well as finished products. The pitchers competing in the Pitchfest Finals were also available in the Innovation Showcase to talk to delegates after their pitch-off.

As well as the innovative entrepreneurs Hackfest and Games For Better, two competitions which ran in the lead up to Venturefest South West displayed the prototype games and products created over the course of the competitions with a chance to talk to the winning designers.

BitPod created a mini studio within the Showcase allowing companies to record mini pitches about their business. This free service at the event allowed delegates to come away with some video content to use on their own digital channels.

If you’re interested in applying to take part in next year’s Innovation Showcase please email to register your interest. We will be looking for businesses which are keen to make connections on the day and are seeking opportunities to grow. Stands should be engaging with products or prototypes to try out, technology to play with and opportunities to interact.


The Hackfest project was an exciting new project brought to Venturefest South West in 2016.

The project saw partners from across Devon – FabLab Plymouth at Plymouth College of Art, FabLab Devon and Devon County Council – working together to provide more than 200 students from all across the county with the opportunity to bring innovation to life by designing and building prototypes of their very own products.

Through a programme of hands-on, dynamic workshops focused on Design Thinking; Electronics and Coding; Lean Startup models; 2D Design; 3D Design and Printing; and Laser Cutting students gained vital insight into disruptive technologies and skills to equip them for future careers. Hackfest not only provided a means of stimulating design and digital making among young people, mixing a range of skills from art, design, engineering, science and technology but it also provided a hugely valuable youth enterprise and entrepreneurship element to Venturefest, inspiring the next generation of innovators.

After these workshops, 300 students, working in teams, competed in a series of Hackfest events in Exeter, Plymouth and Barnstaple at the end of September 2016. The aim was to build the best products in response to a challenge set by organisers that focused on addressing social issues through sustainable design and making.

The ‘winners’ of the Hackfest project were given an opportunity to showcase the products they designed and built during the Hackfest session at Venturefest South West as well as within the Innovation Showcase exhibition space.

For more information, please feel free to contact the project team lead Oliver Raud by email or by phone 07792 972505.

Games For Better

Games For Better is a 48 hour game jam organised by a partnership of local games studios and Plymouth University.

The 2016 Games For Better jam took place on the Plymouth University campus between Friday 30th September and Sunday 2nd October. The jam challenge focussed on tackling Antibiotic Resistance and was only revealed on the Friday evening at the start of event. The gamers were challenged to solve the rise of antibiotic resistance and the lack of public awareness through a “serious” game.

All of the entries to the jam were featured as part of a showreel at Venturefest South West, and the stand-out games were presented in the Games For Better session at the event. Delegates could also visit the Games For Better stand in the Innovation Showcase and play the games on the day.

Through this event, businesses attending Venturefest gained an understanding of just how effective games and interactive media can be in their work, as well as giving talented developers a chance to meet a wide array of South West businesses.

Games For Better was organised by So Good Studios and Sizeable Games , two local game development studios, in partnership with GAIN. The event was aimed at game developers interested in developing games with a purpose, and who were looking for an opportunity to get their work in front of potential collaborators and customers.

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.