Leicestershire Innovation Festival 2024 launches at Space Park Leicester

February 6, 2024
min read
Leicestershire Innovation Festival 2024 launch at Space Park Leicester

Leicestershire is ‘leading the way’ in promoting regional business innovation, says the National Chair of the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB).

Speaking after delivering the keynote at the sold-out launch of the Leicestershire Innovation Festival 2024, Martin McTague OBE said:

The festival is evidence that this issue is taken seriously here and it’s very encouraging to see for other parts of the UK. There’s a real can-do approach – people here are not put off by the barriers that exist and which we’ve talked about today.

Leicestershire Innovation Festival is an annual celebration of ideas and improvements for organisations of all sizes operating in Leicester and Leicestershire.

The sixth annual festival launched on Monday at Space Park Leicester, with a theme of ‘Small Change, Big Impact’ for more than 20 events taking place over the next fortnight.

Guests were welcomed by Professor Phil Baker, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Research and Innovation, University of Leicester, and the Chair of Midlands Innovation, as well as a message from Dr Nik Kotecha OBE DL, the Chair of the LLEP Innovation Board.

The event was hosted by Julian Bowrey, Regional Manager for Innovate UK, and Rachel Tidmarsh, MD of Bluesky International and LLEP Innovation Board member.

Mr McTague’s speech addressed barriers to small business innovation, offered potential solutions, while praising the efforts of those who are encouraging change that enables business growth.

Leicestershire Innovation Festival 2024 Martin

Senior Policy Manager for Innovation, Chris Russell, followed to discuss findings from the FSB’s recent Tech Tonic report, which researched small business innovation in the UK.

Other speakers at the sold-out launch event included:

  • Dr Chris Owen, MD of Owen and Partners, and Programme Director for Made Smarter East Midlands, on competitiveness as a measure of productivity;
  • Will Wells, Deputy Director, Research and Enterprise Division, University of Leicester, on the new VentureVersity programme for building innovative business ideas;
  • Dr Kate Broadhurst, Senior Lecturer in Innovation and Strategy, Loughborough University, on her Pathways to Productivity research of regional SMEs;
  • Helen Donnellan, Director of Research, Business and Innovation at De Montfort University, on the small business support ecosystem.

A detailed panel discussion also took place with audience questions answered by:

  • Ashraf Attia (pictured below), CEO of Leicester-based fintech company Predictiva;
  • Chloe Sproston, Creative Director of Ashby-based office design specialist Blueprint Interiors;
  • Byron Dixon OBE, CEO of Leicester-based biotechnology company Micro-Fresh;
  • Sachin Vasani, Director of Leicester-based marketing company Vencha Apps.
Leicestershire Innovation Festival 2024 Ashraf

Key themes across the speeches and panel discussion included barriers to innovative practice between small businesses, availability of support, the opportunity of peer networks, and use of accessible language to encourage participation.

Now in its sixth year, the festival is led by the LLEP Business Gateway Growth Hub. For the first time in 2024, the Growth Hub will also lead the Leicestershire Innovation Awards.

LLEP Board member Chas Bishop, CEO of the nearby National Space Centre, said: "The Leicestershire Innovation Festival is always a really exciting time.

"The launch was a great event with great speakers and was great at showing what Leicester and Leicestershire is best at – innovative businesses thinking creatively."

Leicestershire Innovation Festival 2024 is sponsored by Brewin Dolphin, Cross Productions, De Montfort University, Exemplas, Freeths, Howes Percival, ITS, Loughborough University, MIRA Technology Park, Novartis, and University of Leicester.

The launch was the first of more than 20 free events taking place both online and at venues across the city and county between February 5 and 16.

Nominations are also being accepted until 18 February for the Growth Hub-led Leicestershire Innovations Awards 2024.

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