Record attendances across Leicestershire Innovation Festival

Innovate UK CEO Indro Mukerjee with the LLEP Innovation Board

The University of Leicester-sponsored Leicestershire Innovation Festival attendances hit new highs as fresh records were set at the fifth annual event.

Several events sold out this year - including the flagship LeicestershireLive Innovation Awards - during a festival themed around increasing productivity among small businesses.

LIF2023 launched at Loughborough University Stadium on Monday 6 February, with more than 100 guests seeing Dr Nik Kotecha OBE DL unveil a new Innovative Leicestershire brand and website.

Dr Kotecha, the Chair of the Leicester and Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership (LLEP) Innovation Board, went on to summarise the Board’s new 10-point delivery plan.

The Plan sets out practical activity needed to embed innovation in all aspects of local businesses to improve productivity and create growth. 

In doing so, it will contribute to a regional uptick in productivity needed to grow the local economy at 5% above the national average.

Audience registrations across LIF2023 increased by more than a quarter year-on-year to top 1,200 over the course of the festival fortnight.

This was despite organisers of the LLEP-led festival reducing the overall number of events to 20 - down from last year’s 24 - so that delegates could more easily get from one venue to the next.

Sixteen of the events were in-person at venues across city and county, including HQ Recording, Charnwood Campus, MIRA Technology Park, and the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC).

Event hosts included Innovate UK, Leicester Startups, British Business Bank, BeGreat Consulting, and Ruth Coalson Consulting.

Meanwhile, a pre-festival event at the new Barclays Eagle Lab at De Montfort University had introduced the idea of Innovation Advocates, business influencers who can spread details of projects within their supply chains, peer groups, and SMEs.

LIF2023 concluded with the long-running Innovation Friday at the University of Leicester’s Brookfield Business School.

Dr Kotecha said: “A huge amount of work from all of our partners went into making such a success of this year’s festival and it has given us real momentum to start considering how we now move to year-round activity.

“The Innovation Board and Steering Group will now work on implementing the Delivery Plan as we move towards our objective of using innovation and increased productivity to grow the local economy at 5% above the national average.”

William Wells, Deputy Director Research and Enterprise Division at headline sponsor the University of Leicester, said the unique festival is now a well-established feature of the regional business calendar. 

He added: “Growing the adoption of novel processes and products is critical to maintaining and developing high quality jobs and businesses in the city and county.

“The festival is raising awareness, providing networking opportunities and sharing skills and insights. 

“We were delighted to host events at Space Park Leicester and Leicester University School of Business as part of the festival, as well as being a headline sponsor. 

“The crowning event, the awards, provided a great showcase for the diversity and depth of innovation taking place in our great county in fields such as Space, Life Sciences, and AI.”

Work done on bringing LIF2023 closer to the LeicestershireLive Innovation Awards paid off as the awards, organised by Reach PLC, received a record number of nominations.

The awards event itself took place at the National Space Centre on Thursday 16 February as Indro Mukerjee, Chief Executive of Innovate UK, delivered a memorable keynote speech.

Earlier in the day, Mr Mukerjee had toured Space Park Leicester with representatives of the University of Leicester. 

He then attended a meeting of the LLEP Innovation Board to learn more and the opportunities in the region.

Mr Mukerjee told audience members at the National Space Centre: “The activity I saw today by the LLEP and the universities in this region, as well as its entrepreneurs, is very impressive.

“There’s clearly a vibrancy and I got a sense of innovation and a great sense of local identity as well.

“These are great signals for optimism and the people and businesses I met today give me confidence for the future.”