BCIMO Hosts Innovate Local Event

Engineering Industry News

The Black Country Innovative Manufacturing Organisation (BCIMO) was delighted to host the half-day Innovate Local – West Midlands event at its unique venue in the Black Country on Tuesday 12th March, bringing together local business owners, innovators, researchers, and policymakers to explore opportunities, share insights, discuss funding opportunities and lessons learned.

The event, organised by Innovate UK Business Connect (the new name for Innovate UK KTN) and the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), was held in the venue’s Exhibition Hall and Auditorium, part of its recently launched Meeting & Event Spaces.

The day kicked off with a warm welcome from Kezia Williamson, Head of Place at Innovate UK Business Connect, who also skilfully steered proceedings throughout the day, ensuring a dynamic flow of conversation among the 140 delegates in attendance.

Kezia was followed by Neil Fulton, CEO of BCIMO, who set the stage for the day’s discussions with an opening address, highlighting the significance of hosting such events at the Very Light Rail National Innovation Centre (VLRNIC) and sharing BCIMO’s vision for propelling innovation within the rail industry.

Delegates then heard from a panel of three guests; Mike Wright – Chair of WMCA’s Innovation Board, Ian McLaughan – Head of Business Growth West Midlands and Dr Steve Welch – Director of Place, Skills & Knowledge Transfer at Innovate UK Business Connect. The panel discussed their top priorities for the innovation ecosystem in the West Midlands and how innovation can be made to work for the many and not just the few, as well as the need for collaboration between further education, government, and the investor community.

Following the panel, Corin Crane, CEO of the Coventry and Warwickshire Chamber of Commerce, took to the stage to give an inspiring presentation about how businesses can future proof their talent and emerging technologies. Corin took questions from delegates which sparked conversation between business owners about the importance of embracing technology.

Pam Waddell OBE – Director of the Innovation Alliance for the West Midlands, hosted the final panel of the morning which bought together local businesses to discuss their innovation journeys and offer practical advice to delegates.

Pam was joined by Les Gill – Chief Operations Officer – Director at Global Nano Network (one of the Clean Futures Accelerator Cohort 1 winners based at Coventry University) Hilary Smyth-Allen – Executive Director at SuperTech WM, Mandeep Athwal – Founder & CEO of School of Coding, Nikki Ayton – West Midlands Health Technologies Cluster and Phil Ward – MD at Eskimo Design.

From funding challenges to insights on navigating the innovation landscape, the panellists provided invaluable perspectives, igniting conversations on the accessibility of support and funding for businesses.

After a short refreshment break, delegates heard from Nigel Walker, Deputy Director of Lending and Investor Partnerships at Innovate UK, about how Innovate UK is investing in businesses beyond grant funding products.

The final part of the event’s agenda concluded with a quick-fire round of 11 pitches from different funding providers and support programmes within the West Midlands and the opportunity for delegates to network with the providers over lunch. Delegates heard from:

1.            Business Growth West Midlands – Catherine Bray

2.            Innovate UK Business Growth (the new name for Innovate UK Edge) – Rachel Cheetham

3.            Innovate UK Business Connect – Steve Welch

4.            Connected Places Catapult (lead partner on the Clean Futures programme) – Harriet Muscroft

5.            High Value Manufacturing Catapult at WMG, University of Warwick– Zoe Mobberley

6.            Energy Systems Catapult – Summayyah Hussain

7.            Business Energy Advice Services – Peter Grant

8.            Create Growth Programme – Emma Cooper

9.            Innovation Alliance for the West Midlands – Iain Mansell

10.         Battery Training for the Workforce – Pritti Shoker

11.         Further Education Innovation Fund – Pat Carvalho

The event was well received by attendees and organisers alike, who had this to say:

“Great to be a part of Innovate Local talking about the importance of innovation for businesses across the West Midlands.” (Nikki Ayton, West Midlands Health Technologies Cluster).

“It was great to learn about how business support is working together across the West Midlands to help businesses innovate and grow.” (Donna Watkins, Business Growth West Midlands).

“Really interesting talks at Innovate Local and great to be back at BCIMO.” (Sion de Garis, Innovate UK Business Connect).

Discussing the event, Helena Davies, BCIMO’s Events Manager, said: “It was a pleasure to host the Innovate Local – West Midlands event and open our doors to inspiring conversations between businesses and supporting organisations.

“We hope that the event led to new relationships and also gave delegates an insight into our unique facilities, including our Rail Development & Test Site and brand-new Meeting & Event Spaces, which can be utilised by both local and national businesses.”

For more information on the UK’s innovation agency please visit the Innovate UK website.

For more information on BCIMO please visit the BCIMO website or Contact Us to make an enquiry.