VentureFest North East
VentureFest North East
Jamie Hardesty

Big names couple with new opportunities as innovation conference VentureFest North East hits milestone

Annual North East innovation conference Venturefest will return to the North East next week, we take a look at what’s in store as the event reaches its fifth anniversary.

What is Venturefest?

A conference dedicated to helping the region’s businesses use innovation to remain relevant, competitive and profitable, Venturefest brings together hundreds of businesses, entrepreneurs and investors to generate valuable connections.

Hundreds of businesses, entrepreneurs, investors and experts are due to descend on St James’ Park, Newcastle next week for what promises to be the busiest VentureFest North East to date.

The fifth annual innovation conference takes place on Tuesday November 14 at St James’ Park, Newcastle. Organisers say a range of new features mean it will also be their broadest-ranging event.

Speakers to look out for

Well known North East tech advocate Paul Smith heads a list of keynotes speakers, now working with revolutionary transport system Hyperloop One.

Also speaking is Phil Kite, the former Chief Executive of Reece Group who is preparing to take part in the world’s toughest rowing race onboard a vessel featuring innovative North East products and services.

Joanna Feeley of Newcastle-based trend agency Trend Bible, Simon Thorpe, an angel investor, coach, mentor and owner of Delta 2020 and Sarah Stewart, Chief Executive of NewcastleGateshead Initiative (NGI), complete the billing.

New opportunities

New programme highlights include a series of ‘live’ innovation challenge sessions which give businesses the chance to win work from organisations who are seeking input into real projects.

These include the Great Exhibition of the North, Northumbrian Water Group and The Water Hub, a new collaborative initiative between Durham University, Durham County Council, the Environment Agency and Northumbrian Water to help businesses identify and develop innovative and practical solutions to challenges in the North East water sector.

Professor Louise Bracken, Scientific Director of The Water Hub, said: “The Water Hub is all about harnessing the talent and technology of the North East business community to solve real challenges that affect us all, in areas such as water efficiency, water cleaning and flooding.

“We are really excited to be launching this ambitious initiative at VentureFest and look forward to sharing lots of valuable opportunities with businesses we can work with in the near future.”

Programme evolution

A new people’s choice theme looking at dealing with change will provide a horizon scan of global innovation trends, including digital disruption, and will provide practical tools to help start-ups and growing companies develop a successful business model.

A series of sessions will also focus on issues relating to workforce development including the future of work in a robot economy.

Estelle Blanks, Deputy Director of VentureFest North East delivery organisation the Innovation SuperNetwork, said: “We’ve worked closely with the business community to evolve this year’s programme to ensure it reflects the key issues and opportunities facing the region’s businesses right now.

“The aim is to provide them with an innovation toolkit of practical information, valuable ideas and useful contacts to help them reach new customers, raise finance and overcome barriers to growth.”

Female entrepreneurship

Other new strands of activity in the VentureFest agenda include a series of sessions designed to shine a light on women in innovation and the cost to businesses and the economy of undervaluing 50 percent of the population.

A panel of experts will provide their insight and practical tools to tackle this thorny issue and Innovate UK is bringing on tour its ‘infocus women in innovation’ photography exhibition created with Getty Images to highlight the role of female innovators.

Old favourites

Tried and tested programme features back by popular demand, according to the organisers.

Sessions include the Innovation Showcase, a show-and-tell by some of the region’s most innovative businesses, a drop-in business clinic Growth Hub Live, and Why My Business Failed and What it Taught Me, a frank and open discussion with entrepreneurs who share their experiences to help others.

VentureFest North East is free to attend. Registrations are now open at

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