YORK’S science and technology festival has lined up its biggest range of seminars and speakers.

Venturefest Yorkshire, organised by York Professionals, expects to attract 1,500 delegates when it takes place at York Racecourse on February 28.

The event, in its tenth year, has been refocused to concentrate on its core audience of science and technology exhibitors, rather than a business-to-business exhibition, and will integrate partners and small businesses into the main exhibition.

Venturefest Yorkshire chairman Tony Hardy said: “This year’s programme is all about sharing the real-life experiences of some incredibly inspiring and successful entrepreneurs.

“Our entire workshop and seminar programme this year is led by entrepreneurs who have ‘been there and done it’ themselves, and we have also altered the event format, moving away from an exhibition in the traditional sense of the word and replacing it with ‘interaction area’.”

He said over the last decade Venturefest had supported more than 200 young science and technology businesses, helped create an estimated 1,287 jobs in the region, and generated almost £28 million for the regional economy.

The main keynote speaker will be Charles Cecil, chief executive of York games developer Revolution Software, which is ranked among the top 50 most successful development studios in the world and created the Broken Sword adventure game series.

He will host a discussion on the technical and social developments in the games industry and his interactive session will also look at emerging opportunities for the sector, including crowd funding.

Author Richard McCann, who tells how he turned his life around from drugs and prison, in his book Just A Boy, will also speak at the event. The book has been translated around the world and sold close to 400,000 copies.

Richard is now a sought-after motivational speaker, having helped thousands of people in the business community change the way they think and act, and is the subject of a BBC film.

Prof Hardy said: “As well as hearing from Charles Cecil and Richard McCann, delegates will be able to pick up DIY techniques for getting their websites noticed, learn 20 ways to make more money online, find out how to deliver a successful pitch, discover how to exploit social media in their businesses and find out how best to negotiate an equity deal.”

The event is also offering prizes worth £50,000 for the winners of the Investment Competition and Innovation Showcase.

The highlight of annual York science and technology exhibition Venturefest Yorkshire is the showcase of local technology companies. Businesses will go head to head in two competitions, the Investment Competition and the Innovation Showcase, to win prizes worth a total of £50,000 of business support. Julie Hayes, business editor, meets some of these innovative businesses

Passion for electronics

Seggy Segaran, former managing director of York PAT testing equipment manufacturer TeleProducts, will showcase his new venture in the Innovation Showcase.

Seggy handed the reins to Andy Gurnell, the new managing director, last year to take a more technical role in the business.

He said: “My real passion is electronics. Running a company takes up a lot of time.”

But the launch of small and affordable computers last year by the not-for-profit Raspberry Pi Foundation, which aims to encourage young people to experiment with electronics and computer programming, persuaded Seggy to get back into business.

“I have set up a small company called S F Innovations Ltd and the plan was to do some technical publications and small hobbyist products – a small scale operation to keep me busy,” he said.

But Raspberry Pi, which expected to sell a few thousand units, has now sold hundreds of thousands and there is a lot of additional interest in programming and kits.

Seggy’s Custard Pi range will provide add-on boards for the Raspberry Pi, which will enable the computer to switch lights and heaters on and off from any computer in the world. It’s speculative and fun and one of the problems of UK industry is de-skilling.

“Youngsters aren’t coming through with the necessary skills and the whole idea of the Raspberry Pi Foundation is to get teenagers interested in electronics and programming at a basic level.”

Dogged on designing

A GRADUATE product designer from York St John University will showcase his latest household designs at the exhibition.

Dave Turner, of Scruffy Dog Designs, will showcase his new range, including lights and a coat stand, in advance of opening an online shop, which he hopes will be later this year.

Designer Dave, pictured, has also made a name for himself designing beer gardens, first designing the York Tap’s platform garden at York Station and now working for Gibson’s in Micklegate on a garden made of pallets.

He is also working on re-engineering the inhaler with academics and is known for his other business Pump’kd, in which he uses his artistic flair in carving pumpkins.

Staying lucky

Jo Blackburn set up Sona Creative Marketing after doing freelance marketing for two years. Sona, which means “lucky” in Gaelic, manages companies’ social media, design and print marketing.

Based in the Phoenix Centre, Jo has been working with clients including Yorvale and London company United Bio-source, holding day-long social media and marketing workshops. She also won a pitching competition held as part of York St John Business School's Enterprise Day.

Fashioning a clothes application

A web application, which aims to address the physical gap between the customer and buying clothes online, will also exhibit in the Innovation Showcase.

Pinsure, founded by Yuvaraj Eswaran, has developed an e-commerce business with a Virtual Dressing Room application to enable customers to get more of a feel for the products they are buying.

The company already trades as Cross Culture Fashion, and sells fashion and lifestyle products sourced from brands around the world.

Through the new technology, which will be launched this summer, consumers can use their computer and webcam to see how a piece of clothing looks on them before deciding whether to buy it.


Testing time for previous winners of competition

Two Venturefest Yorkshire prize winners from previous years have joined forces on a £2 million project to revolutionise medical testing devices.

Aptamer Solutions, winner of the 2012 Venturefest Yorkshire Investment Competition, is working with the winner of the 2004 People’s Prize, Forsite Diagnostics, on a feasibility study funded by the Technology Strategy Board (TSB), to evaluate how aptamers, molecular devices which can be used to replace antibodies in life-sciences research, can be incorporated into its tests, and asses their potential for mass manufacture.

The collaboration between the two businesses, both now based at the Sand Hutton Applied Innovation Campus, could speed up the diagnosis of food toxins and human diseases using portable testing kits, known as lateral flow devices.

Dr Arron Tolley, chief executive of Aptamer Solutions, said: “Forsite Diagnostics has vast experience in the development of lateral flow devices using antibodies. We have unique skills, knowledge and production capabilities to develop novel aptamers for the detection of biomolecules.

“Aptamers offer an alternative to antibodies in medical research, testing and diagnosis that are faster to manufacture and do not rely on animals for their development.

“This project aims to harness the respective strengths of our two businesses to investigate the feasibility of using aptamers routinely in lateral flow devices to identify food toxins and human diseases.”

Chris Danks, director of Forsite Diagnostics, said: “The project compares an existing antibody-based test with a test using aptamers.

“While there are examples of this technology in scientific journals, we are unaware of any lateral flow test device on the market that uses aptamers and these trials will assess whether the technology can offer realistic benefits in the marketplace.”

Venturefest Yorkshire chairman, Prof Tony Hardy, said the project illustrated the sort of collaborations Venturefest was set up to encourage.

Aptamer Solutions will talk about “life after Venturefest” at the event’s networking breakfast this year.