Leicestershire Innovation Festival launches from Space Park Leicester

Business leaders, influencers and innovators from across the region headed to Space Park Leicester for the launch of the Leicestershire Innovation Festival on Monday.

This year’s 11-day festival – a ‘celebration of solving problems by thinking differently’ – will run to Friday 25 February 2022 and kicked off with a special launch event at the University of Leicester’s flagship space research, innovation and teaching cluster.

LeicestershireLive Innovation Awards, of which the University is also a joint headline sponsor, will take place on Thursday 24 February.

The University of Leicester has been heavily involved with the Innovation Festival from the very start, and works in partnership with Leicester and Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership (LLEP), De Montfort University and Loughborough University, Innovate UK Edge, Midlands Engine and the Business Gateway.

Dr Nik Kotecha OBE, Chair of Leicester Innovation Board and CEO of Morningside Pharmaceuticals, formally opened the festival with a keynote speech to assembled guests from across the region’s innovation industries. He said: “We’ve been holding an Innovation Week for three years now, but this is the first year we’ve held a Festival over two weeks; and that’s because there are just so many people wanting to get involved.

“We know that people in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland are already talking about innovation – but what this shows is that they’re also involved in going out and doing it, and that’s where success comes from.

“98% of the businesses in our region are SMEs – less than 50 employees – and it’s important that people recognise innovation can happen in any business. Anyone can innovate to make their businesses better and these events demonstrate it’s about using the right tools to do exactly that.”

Other speakers included Julian Bowrey from Innovate UK, Intelligent Energy’s VP of Business Development, Dennis Hayter, Cenex CEO Robert Evans and Peter Ware of the Midlands Engine.

Charlotte Horobin, Regional Director of MAKE UK and Midlands Engine Business Forum, also hosted a panel discussion and Q&A with the experts, highlighting the role of the 42,000 small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) in Leicestershire alone.

Will Wells, Commercial Director at the University of Leicester, later led guests on a tour of the cutting-edge facilities at Space Park Leicester, ahead of the cluster’s formal launch in March. He added: “Space Park Leicester is gaining real momentum in hosting events such as this, and it’s good to see so many people here.

“You’ll find big, multi-national corporations with funding and existing programmes in research and development will be looking to capture specific, high-end research capability and expertise at a University such as Leicester. At the other end of the spectrum with SMEs, the truth is that R&D is expensive.

“That’s why Space Park Leicester combines that well-established research capability with innovation programmes like the STAR Accelerator or SPRINT to enable innovation in a cost-effective way, in a truly collaborative environment.”

Co-location partners at Space Park Leicester include global brands such as Rolls-Royce and AST SpaceMobile, to start-up operations like the European Space Agency (ESA) Business Incubation Centre-supported Skyfarer.

Much of the University’s Innovation Festival activity is led by the team at the Leicester Innovation Hub, which has a strong track record of working closely with industry to collaboratively turn Leicester research expertise and business ideas into innovative products, services and processes.

Further Innovation Festival events hosted at the University include a special Innovation Friday event on Friday 25 February, held at the School of Business’ newly-refurbished Brookfield campus. Entrepreneurs, businesses and other key stakeholders from across the region will head to Brookfield to share expertise in funding innovation.

Rajinder Bhuhi, Innovation Hub Manager, added: “The Innovation Festival is always a highlight of our calendar. Beyond the obvious opportunities to network with business brains from across our region and share the University’s expertise, the events serve as a real celebration of innovation in the region.

“We’re so proud to have played our part in getting Leicestershire’s Innovation Week off the ground – and to see the programme go from strength to strength and now grow to an 11-day Festival is hugely encouraging for business and enterprise.”

See the full schedule and sign up for individual events on the LLEP’s Business Gateway website.