Region’s Innovation Conference reaches 10-year milestone and heralds the role of Innovation in securing a sustainable, healthy future.

VentureFest North East will return 10-11 May 2023, where it will celebrate its 10th anniversary with an expanded two-day programme.
The conference has spent the last decade celebrating and inspiring innovation across the region. In 2023 the conference theme is ‘Our Future, Now’ with the event bringing together speakers with a global perspective on the challenges impacting society.It will also celebrate the local businesses that are making a real impact across communities and industries with their innovations.

Estelle Blanks, CEO at Innovation SuperNetwork, said: “Each year with VentureFest we try to ensure our programme is touching on critical themes where innovation can make a real impact. In our 10th anniversary year, we want to reflect on the journey our flagship event has been on and the impact regional innovation is having globally.

“At the same time, we can’t forget that we’re facing huge challenges in reaching our net zero ambitions with the impact not just affecting our environment but the health & wellbeing of communities across the globe. Innovation is key to making future progress, but we need to collaborate to ensure the technology that is available now can affect the change we so desperately need to see.

“As well as celebrating the innovative ideas being born right here in the North East, VentureFest 2023 includes an exciting line-up of speakers who are experts in tackling the critical issues we face. I can’t wait to see the two-day programme come together. There really is no event quite like it!”

The line up includes Assistant Director UK & Europe for international sustainability non-profit, Forum for the Future, Martin Hunt. Martin’s keynote address will draw on his experience and expertise in circular economies and sustainable construction.

The event will also include ‘pitches’ from renowned hydrogen expert Prof Nick Wright from Newcastle University and education futurist Prof Craig Gaskell from Teesside University, as part of a panel that asks, ‘what if we did things differently?’ in a variety of sectors.

Sharing her story ahead of the North East Innovation Awards will be local entrepreneur Judith McMinn, Founder of Rezon. Judith spent lockdown developing an idea she had been contemplating for over a decade to develop a headband that could revolutionise how we protect and manage our brain health when playing sports from a young age. Judith said: “I’m really thrilled to be asked to share my story with fellow innovators at VentureFest North East. As an entrepreneur, innovating can be a lonely experience, so events like VentureFest really help us to build connections, find support and identify opportunities. I hope hearing about my own journey will inspire others on the same path and I am really looking forward to seeing which businesses will succeed at the North East Innovation Awards.”

VentureFest North East first appeared in 2013 as the Innovate NE Conference, before growing into the large-scale event it is now. Simon Green, Founder and Chair of the Innovation SuperNetwork, worked with Estelle Blanks to develop the event with Newcastle Science City. They then built it through the SuperNetwork when it started operating in 2016. He said: “We had a vision for a conference that would bring regional businesses together to inspire more innovation in the region, but also connect innovators, enable collaboration and put the region’s talent in front of investors and market opportunities. We immediately saw the demand for a large-scale regional innovation event, with the 2013 version attracting far more delegates than we originally anticipated.

“Looking back on the last ten years, VentureFest has gone from strength-to-strength, launching the North East Innovation Awards in 2018 and evolving from a single day event into a two day offering in 2022. The region has seen an increase in the number of innovation active businesses, and the businesses we celebrate each year at VentureFest are testament to the status the region holds in producing leading innovators.”

As in previous years, the event will also include a networking exhibition and the Innovation showcase, which gives North East businesses the opportunity to display and demonstrate their ideas. Previous showcase participants have gone on to secure investment and take their innovations to market.

Andrew Hodgson, Founder of IF Vehicles, said: “I am a huge advocate for VentureFest North East. The team behind it and the event itself has been essential to the success I’ve seen in attracting funding and in building networks to bring my solution to the urban logistics market. I always enjoy the buzz of the event and, as a business founder, it can be hard to find the time to access support and build connections. Being able to achieve all of this and more via one event is really fantastic.”

Andrew Jenkins, Founder of Kinewell Energy, said: “Last year we took part in the first live Innovation Showcase since Covid and the experience was fantastic. We met so many great new contacts and were able to demonstrate our technology to some key stakeholders. Since then, we have accessed support from the Innovation SuperNetwork through their range of programmes, and we’re really looking forward to attending VentureFest again this year to explore the other ways in which we can drive our business forward.”

Tickets for day one of VentureFest (10th May) at Boiler Shop Newcastle, are FREE and available to book now: Programme details and how to book sessions taking place on day two (11th May) will be announced in the coming weeks.

VentureFest North East is delivered as part of the Catalysing Innovation in North East Clusters Project 2021-2023, delivered by the Innovation SuperNetwork and is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).