Ongoing since 2015
Venturefest provides entrepreneurs, investors and innovators with a chance to meet, engage and exchange ideas for co-operation and collaboration, particularly in the fields of science and emerging technologies. The free one day conference and exhibition at the NEC is a chance to engage directly with high growth entrepreneurs and service providers offering products, services, advice and support. Running alongside Venturefest West Midlands each year is Pitchfest, a pitching competition for business owners, giving a unique opportunity for businesses to raise their profile both in the West Midlands and in front of a national audience of investors. Business owners were invited to present their ideas in a pitch for investment and stand a chance of winning one of several awards. The wider Venturefest WM programme always features industry leaders delivering insightful, challenging and inspiring keynote and panel discussions. Running alongside these sessions are interactive workshop sessions delivered by expert partners and a vibrant exhibition space.
Venturefest West Midlands was initiated in 2015 as part of a national network of Venturefests, with the Innovation Alliance WM (Birmingham Science City as it was then) leading the development, alongside the universities leading on Pitchfest. Venturefest WM has continued to thrive beyond the initial support from Innovate UK by garnering support from local by business, universities, science parks and business support organisations. This partnership model has enabled Venturefest to be a highly regarded event in the regional calendar, with typically about 400 people attending each year. Feedback from 2019:
The transition from the early years with Innovate UK support was the biggest challenge, but Venturefest WM has survived for two years beyond that so far with partner and sponsor funding, and by partners taking on considerable additional work load themselves. A further challenge has been attracting the right balance of participants, in particular more innovation businesses and investors. Moving forward we have a new source of underpinning funds (see below) which allows us to concentrate on evolving the programme to have an ever-stronger focus on growth businesses and exposing them to the full range of innovation support, including investors.
In the Future
For the next three years, at least, Venturefest WM will be part of the new WM Innovation Programme (funded by the West Midlands Combined Authority) and will be more integrated with a range of other activities to strengthen the WM innovation ecosystem. This will also provide some underpinning funding, that will be added to by partner and sponsor funding. Together with the increased involvement we have seen from the LEPs, the involvement of the Combined Authority will allow Venturefest to support better the regional growth plans and the aspirations of the WM Local Industrial Strategy.
“The Innovation Alliance for the West Midlands has played a pivotal role in the development and continued success of the annual Venturefest West Midlands events. Now in its 6th year, the Alliance continues to drive all of the event logistics and secures the programme and speakers for VenturefestWM. The last of these draws heavily on the very essence of the Alliance, its network of associates that are actively willing to support and promote the Innovation Agenda in the West Midlands. To be honest without IAWM there would not be a West Midlands Venturefest offer.”
– Dr David Hardman MBE, MD Bruntwood SciTech – Birmingham (formerly Innovation Birmingham)