Lead Partner Interview: Chris Evans

Chris Evans is the Assistant Director of Regional Impact and Innovation at the University of Exeter. Chris talks Venturefest South West 2019. The University of Exeter is one of Venturefest SW’s Lead Partners.

Why is Venturefest SW important to the region?
We are a large region and opportunities to get our entrepreneurs and innovators into the same room with both funders and the best university researchers do not come along that often. Looking at the challenges that face government – low productivity, a need for innovation and a need to act more sustainably – events like Venturefest bring together the kind of people who will be critical to finding answers.

Why are you supporting Venturefest SW?
This is a real chance to both showcase the great work we do here in the region already and to use the event as a catalyst for new contacts and new ideas. This will almost certainly be THE big networking event of its kind this year here. The last event was excellent and we need to ensure that events of this kind become the norm so as university we are delighted to be a sponsor.

What three pieces of advice would you give to a technology innovator?
Just one – you are not on your own – there are many more great businesses out there along with innovating networks and a surprising amount of support – come and talk to us here at the University and SetSquared Exeter!

What’s the most exciting piece of tech you have come across in the region?
There are so many and such a variety, from eCow to VSimulators, to the amazing potential of the Space Sector in Cornwall – about which we are leading a panel session at VentureFest. I personally would bang a drum for the role of the Environmental Futures and Big Data Impact Lab – they provide deep technical assistance to SMEs that have a big data and/or environmental futures opportunity to help them grow to the next level.

What tech do you think will have the biggest impact on the region in the future?
We need to recognise that automation, robotics, artificial intelligence and the adoption of big data analytics will transform the way we work and the skills we need. We have to see technology as empowering and not enslaving. So I’d say our capacity to be comfortable and confident with data – at all levels – is the big challenge and the area that if we get it right – we can have the biggest impact… it is why the Greater Exeter region has the Data Analytics Skills Escalator. I also expect to see growing moves to harness technology to tackle the environmental challenges of our age – so smart transport and sustainable energy usage should be key. We have a Panel session on how a circular economy for plastics in the south west might work, and the opportunities it could present for producers, retailers and waste management businesses.