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Back in November, our Regional Cross Sector Lead, Ashley Burnhope, attended VentureFest North East at St James’ Park in Newcastle. VentureFest North East is part of the Innovation SuperNetwork programme which works with innovative businesses, investors and experts across the North East of England. Ashley shares her experiences of the day, from taking part in valuable networking sessions to hearing inspirational speakers. 


When I first heard about VentureFest North East, I knew it would be beneficial for the EIC to attend. As Regional Cross Sector Lead, I felt it would be a great opportunity to broaden my knowledge of the funding opportunities available for regional development, and to make new connections with innovators, investors and academics working in the North East.


The event was very well organised and I got to meet some brilliant people. The day began with a networking session, following which there were a number of workshops attendees could pick between including: ‘Climate Change Emergency: Rural Decarbonisation Challenge’, ‘Innovation Skills and Leadership’, ‘Seven Stories of Innovation’ and ‘Innovation Grant Funding Landscape’. 


I attended the workshop on the ‘Innovation Grant Funding Landscape’ as this fitted perfectly with my role at the EIC. This was a really informative session, detailing some of the funding opportunities available from Innovate UK. The workshop included talks from:


  • Aidan Brierley, Project Engineer at Transmission Dynamics, who discussed a project they delivered in the rail industry using Innovate UK funding, and how this helped to accelerate the project; 

  • Ben Watts, Innovation & Solutions Director at ENGIE, sharing information about the funding they have to offer;



After a lunch break and a little more networking, afternoon workshops began. Again, there were a wealth of interesting talks to attend, including ‘Accelerating Innovation to Encourage the Adoption of Electrical Vehicles’, ‘Preventing Infections and Reducing Antimicrobial Resistance’, ‘The Psychology of Innovation or ‘the ‘F’ word’ and ‘Data Analytics for Business Growth. 


With well-being and mental health being a topic very close to my heart, I opted to attend ‘The Psychology of Innovation or ‘the ‘F’ word’. The session was absolutely fantastic, with brilliant speakers from companies such as ‘Our Minds Work’ and ‘Talk Works’. 


The workshop explored the different parts of the brain and how they function when innovating, highlighting the importance of maintaining a healthy brain in order to innovate successfully. We looked at a pressure/stress vs performance chart which displayed the levels of stress that we should be under in order to innovate most effectively; explored the optimum stress levels needed in order for us to perform at our best; and found out how certain stress levels can cause mental health issues and cause the parts of the brain we need in order to perform, to shut down. 


Overall, the event was a fantastic opportunity to make more connections with businesses in the North East, and find out more about the funding initiatives available within the region. I met several great companies who offer support and funding to innovators, further adding to the EIC’s knowledge and awareness of potential funding opportunities for our Innovation Community within the North East. 


Follow Ashley on LinkedIn here.

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Achieving net zero targets is one of the biggest challenges facing the energy and utilities industry, but by innovating together we can drive change and deliver a decarbonised future. Our industry partners are always looking for innovative new solutions to the challenges they face, including net zero, which is why we provide a platform where innovators like you can respond to the latest innovation opportunities and challenges, and submit your innovative ideas. Our expert team have an extensive knowledge base, allowing us to consistently help our partners to address challenges, and to support our innovation community. This enables innovators and industry to come together and build a strong innovation culture and streamline innovation processes.