NWBLT Chair opens #NWInnovation 2018

Juergen Maier, Chief Executive Siemens UK, and Chairman of the North West Business Leadership Team (NWBLT) was the key note speaker at Innovation 2018 an event run by Innovation UK and in partnership with NWBLT and STFC.  The event took place today (8th Feb) and created a fantastic atmosphere for SMEs, academics, large businesses and a wide range of organisations to come together and show the business potential that innovation can bring to the North West.

However, one of the biggest barriers to business innovation – particular for SMEs has always been lack of access to finance. From the enthusiasm shown by all in attendance, there is a clear appetite for innovation in the North West, however there is often lack of awareness of the tools that will enable productivity. Richard Carter, Managing Director, BASF and lead on Productivity for the NWBLT, gave a closing speech at the end of the conference.  Richard has previously explained the importance of including SMEs in discussions around productivity – and reiterated this message at the conference.

Richard Carter on the need to improve productivity for all sizes of businesses:

“Productivity is not about big companies, it’s about every size of company. We want to reach out to smaller companies and ensure that they have access to the tools so that we can increase productivity.”

 In addition to the discussions at the conference, the NWBLT are currently working with Innovate UK on a data led project that will hopefully explain why the funding barrier to innovation is so acute in the North West compared to other parts of the country. The North West receives low levels of funding from Innovate UK relative to the size of our business population. Finding out why this is the case may give us some insights into how we can spur on more business to access funding for innovation and thereby possibly increase our region’s overall productivity.

As a way to build on the innovative atmosphere of the conference there was also the offer for delegates to take a tour STFC Sci-Tech Daresbury laboratories. By underscoring these assets the conference really drove home the message that the North West has huge potential to be an innovative region. Juergen Maier explains here:

“The North West has always been a good place to innovate it was at the centre of the first two industrial revolutions and we have some of Britain’s great universities in the North West; the universities in Manchester, in Liverpool, in Lancaster, in Cheshire. So there are lots of great ecosystems. We’ve also got some real core strengths in some of our innovation centres. Like for advanced materials in the Royce Institute, we have Daresbury where there’s some great innovation happening around big data and the Internet of Things. So it’s that ecosystem that is created in the North West and with the historical culture of innovation that makes it a great place to engage.”

 The event proved that there is a strong desire in our region to innovate; it also showed that there is an awareness of the need to collaborate to overcome the barriers that may be holding innovation back.  Events like this will go a long way to creating an innovative and collaborative culture in the North West.