Leicestershire Innovation Festival launches at Space Park Leicester event

The Leicestershire Innovation Festival kicked off with a raft of speakers at a busy event at the Leicester Space Park.

The two-week activities began with a morning dedicated to innovation and sustainability.

Leaders of the public sector, private sector and universities described the region’s opportunities for positive change amid rising levels and Net Zero.

Dr Nick Kotech OBE, chairman of the Leicester and Leicester Enterprise Partnership Innovation Council (LLEP) and founder of Morningside Pharmaceuticals in Loughborough, said innovation was open to businesses of all sizes – and Leicester and Leicestershire’s economy was built mainly on SMEs.

He said: “It’s very important because when we talk about innovation, we have to look at our target audience.

“Innovation happens every day, and it’s about how we report it.”

Dr Kotecha, recently appointed chairman of the CBI East Midlands, spoke about “beacons” – economic clusters in key local sectors – and their role in empowering people to design and manufacture the products of the future.

He also described the government’s interest in innovation as a means of improving productivity and global competitiveness.

He said: “The government has noticed the innovation and we need to make sure Leicester and Leicestershire are shouting about it so we get some of the funding available.”

In conclusion, Dr. Kotecha outlined the priorities of the Innovation Council, which included identifying innovations, indicators of funding opportunities, removing barriers, and collaborating between public, private, and academic innovators for the benefit of all.

He said the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine is an example of what can be achieved if the three are combined.

Julian Bowry, regional manager of Innovate UK, described Leicester and Leicestershire as a “happy hunting ground” for his organization in awarding prizes in support of innovation projects.

But he said the East Midlands is still not a place where Innovate UK suggests it could be in terms of project support, adding: “Research and development research is at the heart of the upswing.”

Dennis Haiter, head of external relations at Loughborough University, Intelligent Energy, said working with companies such as Suzuki and London Taxi Co. to develop and test the world’s leading projects to use hydrogen fuel cells for transportation.

This included cars, scooters and drones, and the next challenge was to find a way to make this technology ubiquitous in trucks, large airplanes, trains and other vehicles.

He said: “We will be here to help reach the 2050 target for Net Zero.”

This theme was continued by Robert Evans, CEO of Cenex, a consulting firm on low-carbon and fuel cell technology, which is also based on the campus of Loughborough University’s Science and Enterprise Park (LUSEP).

Its non-profit organization, established in 2005, works between industry and customers to introduce new fuel cell technologies into common transportation.

Describing his view on the common transport hubs of the future, he described how by 2050 batteries should be used by almost all light vehicles with hydrogen technology in at least half of trucks and buses.

Next came Peter Ware, head of the Midlands Engine’s Environmental Growth Council, noting that the Midlands’ £ 250 billion economy is larger than Denmark’s.

He outlined his 10-point growth plan based on three themes: “Place”, “Energy” and “Enterprise”.

Net Zero transport has once again become part of the plan, along with sustainable buildings, low carbon, smart energy and nature restoration.

The next steps in the green growth strategy are to consider what green business financing should look like, to form the Midlands investment portfolio and to launch the Green Growth Assembly for Youth in the East Midlands.

The event ended with a question and answer led by Charlotte Harobin, Make UK Membership Director and a member of the Midlands Engine Operations Board, which directed questions to the audience about cyber, skills and effective communications on a panel of nine people.

Speakers at the event were joined by Will Wells, Commercial Director of the University of Leicester, Sue Tilly, Head of Business and Innovation at LLEP, and Business Gateway Growth Hub Manager Rachel York.

Describing the work carried out at the University of De Montfort, including as the only accredited institute of the GCHQ, Helen Donelan spoke about the importance of communication and networking.

She said: “Innovations come in all shapes and sizes and they are everywhere – we have this festival to celebrate it.”

The Leicestershire Innovation Festival runs until 25 February. The events take place both online and at the venues in Leicestershire and Leicestershire. Anyone can register to participate by clicking here.


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