iNets South West launched at UWE

Issue date: 07 February 2011

Over the next three years five iNets or 'innovation networks' will have a significant impact on the South West region by making links that foster creativity and knowledge exchange supported by funding that will act as a springboard for innovative new products and services.

The five iNets for the South West region will be launched at a special event entitled 'Accelerating Innovation' at the University of the West of England's Exhibition and Conference Centre (ECC) on Thursday 10 February 2011. Special guest Communities Minister, Baroness Hanham from the Department for Communities and Local Government will address 150 delegates from private and public sectors from all over the region.

Communities Minister Baroness Hanham said, "We are committed to creating real opportunities for people in the South West, and it is easy to see from the entrepreneurs and businesses what a difference a support network like this can make to the local economy. The iNETs project is helping local businesses realise their potential through sharing expertise and knowledge and opening up life-changing opportunities for many people. European Regional Development Fund support will contribute to the regeneration of the South West region, helping local businesses create links with innovative local industries and allow them to realise their full potential. As the Government moves to cut the deficit, private sector growth is vital, particularly in the small and medium enterprise sectors, and these businesses will play an important part in enriching their local area."

The iNets will have a dramatic impact on businesses and projects in a wide spectrum of arenas including advanced engineering and aerospace ,biomedicine, creative industries, the environment and microelectronics. Each will help businesses transform ideas into new products and services that will drive growth in these five sectors that have high growth potential in the South West region.

Bringing together academic researchers with regional industry, businesses and public sector organisations, the iNets will spark innovation and create spin outs, start ups, knowledge transfer partnerships and collaborative projects that share a common aim to bring about economic growth in the South West. The keynote speaker at the launch is John Telling, Group Corporate Affairs Director from MITIE, who will give a talk on 'What will drive innovation in the South West?'

iNets are part of a wider government support for business entitled Solutions for Business and are supported by £12.5 million of funding from the South West Regional Development Agency (RDA), the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) (£6.1 million) and partner investments.

Professor Steve West,Vice Chancellor, said, “UWE is proud to be leading three of the five iNets – potentially we have a unique opportunity to galvanise people from organisations that do not yet have links and come up with some very exciting outcomes that could have international impact.The iNets represent a really exciting opportunity for businesses, innovators, inventors, organisations and academics to come together, pool ideas, knowledge and expertise. The idea is that the iNets will encourage groups to form, working towards common goals that result in new products or ways of doing things that will benefit the wider community locally, nationally and internationally. “

Nigel Howells, Head of Competitiveness for the European programme said, “These projects aim to promote knowledge transfer and business start-up between the university and businesses, making the South West prosper from a combination of ideas and skills.”

Jane Henderson, Chief Executive of the South West RDA, said, "I am delighted that the RDA's resources enabled the iNets to be launched. This is the result not just of money, but of three years of hard work and the expertise of a lot of people in the Agency and in our partners. Transforming ideas into new products and services is essential to secure the growth we need. This is precisely what the iNets are about. By bringing together businesses, sector organisations and universities across five high growth potential sectors, we are creating a leg up for the region's forward thinking businesses. I am proud that the iNets will be part of the Agency's legacy for the south west."

Catherine Howie, iNet Project Manager from West of England Aerospace Forum (WEAF), said, “Most of the companies that the Aerospace and Advanced Engineering iNet are currently working with in the region have taken up similar opportunities to engage with research and development centres of expertise in Bath, Bristol and Exeter. Such engagements typically form part of a wider action plan that has been specifically developed with each company to help them grow, and frequently include the provision of information and support from other highly respected public and private sector organisations and networks.”

Rick Chapman, Project Director of the Microelectronics iNet, said, "We are fantastic at technical innovation in Microelectronics across the South West, but innovation is about more, connecting with new markets, concepts and business models and engaging new opportunities and forging new collaborations. The Microelectronics iNet is all about stimulating innovation and fostering growth and is looking forward to active engagements across the region and also, significantly, between all five iNets."

“Nico Macdonald from South West Screen, Project Director for the Creative Industries iNet, said, “As economies mature, products become more complex, and services come to the fore, we increasingly need the kind of creativity that approaches problems laterally, understand people's needs and desires, share ideas effectively, and helps us imagine better futures. We look forward to encouraging this kind of creativity, whilst complementing and enhancing the other iNets.”

David Dawson, Project Director for the Biomedical iNet, said, “The South West has a strong background in life sciences, food and health, represented by our consortium partnership of 10. The Biomedical iNet will help to transform exciting ideas developed in businesses, universities and the NHS into new products and services. This involves accelerating uptake of ideas, assisting with any technical issues or market understanding and helping products reach international markets.”

UWE is leading the iNets in Biomedicine, Microelectronics and the Environment. The iNet in Advanced Engineering & Aerospace is led by the West of England Aerospace Forum, and the Creative Industries sector is led by South West Screen. UWE is also involved in the Advanced Engineering and Aerospace iNet.

FFI: Jane Kelly or Mary Price, Press Officers


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