YORK hosts its 11th Venturefest next week, showcasing the region’s innovative young businesses and entrepreneurs at the annual science and technology exhibition. Business editor Laura Knowlson takes a look at what lies in store this year.

FOR a one-day event, Venturefest’s programme offers a packed showcase of futuristic creations from the science and technology sector. As well as exhibiting groundbreaking developments the event, organised by York Professionals, offers £49,000-worth of prizes for young businesses, as well as line-up of inspiring speakers and thought-provoking seminars.

The keynote speaker for this year’s event, which is being held on March 13 at York Racecourse, is Rohit Talwar, a global strategy adviser who helps firms to survive, thrive, spot and manage emerging risks and develop innovative growth strategies in the decade ahead.

Mr Talwar is joined on the list of speakers by Julie Kenny, chairwoman and chief executive of security system manufacturer Pyronix Limited; business and marketing professional Lyndon Nicholson; serial entrepreneur Roger Stoker, who co-founded technology businesses Capture Projects and IMtelligence; the creator of the largest privately owned storebrand pharmaceutical company in Europe, Graham Leslie, who is also the founder chairman and creator of the world’s first 25,000 all-seater stadium in Huddersfield, and health sector specialist Simon Hudson, who formed Cloud2.

Also speaking is York’s Sophie Jewett, founder of the award-winning York Cocoa House, which last year won a national Business Accelerator competition. Ms Jewett will be speaking about managing growth.

The event sees the return of two competitions, the Innovation Showcase and the Investment Competition, which are both designed to support young businesses.

The Innovation showcase has seen SCY, formerly Science City York, whittle entries down into a shortlist of up to 20 of the region’s most promising innovative young science and technology companies, who have been awarded heavily subsidised exhibition space at Venturefest.

The business with most promise will then receive more than £15,000-worth of business support to help it move forward.

In the Investment Competition, five entrepreneurs will be chosen by Yorkshire Association of Business Angels and GrowthAccelerator to present and pitch their business or idea to a group of proactive angel investors who will question the finalists on their proposition.

The winner, who will be awarded a prize package valued in excess of £30,000, will be selected in a secret ballot of voting angel investors.

The shortlisted businesses are Wind Power Performance, Teams Talk, Fast Form Systems, Social Analytics & Performance and Natural Technology Developments.


Innovative enterprises get chance to shine

SOME of Yorkshire’s brightest businesses are preparing to shine as the shortlist for The Innovation Showcase is revealed.

The companies appearing in the 2014 Innovation Showcase are based in Yorkshire and have been chosen by SCY for pushing the boundaries in their respective fields with pioneering products, services and ways of working. Exhibitors this year represent industries as diverse as pharmaceuticals, IT & Digital, food and drink and renewable energy.

The company which is judged to have the most innovative product or service and the business model with the most growth potential will be crowned the winner of the Innovation Showcase, taking home a prize package of business support worth £13,000. The prize will be awarded at the Venturefest Dinner.

Tom Hiskey of The Law Wizard, winners of the 2013 Innovation Showcase, said: “Winning the Innovation Showcase in 2013 was a tremendous boost for The Law Wizard. Since then, our client base has quadrupled, and the business has gone from strength to strength.

“The award proved hugely valuable to us not only for the variety of free services that came as part of the prize, but also for the exposure and for the impression it made on our clients and contacts.”

This year’s Venturefest will also see the introduction of Fab Lab, new for 2014, which will sit alongside the Innovation Showcase as an add-on exhibition of the latest technological developments.

The Fab Lab will feature one of only two pairs of the Google Glass wearable computer in the UK, which are set to revolutionise the way we use technology to interact with the world around us. Delegates will be invited to demo the Google Glass themselves, using the optical head-mounted display to surf the web, take pictures, play games and more.

The Fab Lab will also feature the latest developments in 3D printing, including 3D pens that will allow delegates to “draw” sculptures in thin air; paving stones which generate electricity from the kinetic energy of pedestrians’ footsteps and more.


Innovation Showcase Exhibitors:

• Crystec: an innovative pharmaceutical company looking to improve the performance of medicines through application of the latest supercritical fluid technologies.

• Digital Customer: an automated mobile lead management, marketing and follow up service, allowing users to track ROI and build a database of qualified leads.

• The Marketing Lab: the developer of Mercury IDM, a combination of web technology & methodology.

• Mitrefinch: software developers of a new rostering solution.

• Moving Food: a firm which looks at innovation in the food and drink sector.

• Panoplia: a security lab company.

• PDM: producers bio-fuels and renewable energy services for farming and the food industry.

• Real Hub: a property research and data analytics company.

• Nature’s Laboratory: producers of evidence based herbal medicines, and medicines from bee products.

• S3 ID: an international company specialising in solutions for personnel tracking in hazardous areas.

• Smarter Business Processes: a firm helping client businesses to implement smarter business processes.

• Vital Network Solutions: an IT firm providing clients with technology rich, online brand solutions.


The Fab Lab Exhibitors:

• Fall Detection Technology: technology designed to reduce falls and help maintain safely independent living.

• Google Glass: wearable computers which are designed to be worn like a pair of glasses.

• Go Print 3D: a 3D printing specialist which will be showcasing a selection of 3D printers as well as 3Doodlers – 3D pens which create works of 3D art from thin air.

• Swarm and Humanoid Robotics: The University of York’s department of Computer Science will be demonstrating their swarm and humanoid robotic systems. Swarm robots are small, self-repairing robots designed to play a role in future planetary and deep-sea exploration, as well as search-and-rescue operations.

• Pavegen: developers of paving stones capable of converting energy from footsteps into electricity.

• Woof 2 Wash: producers of specially adapted washing machines to assist disabled people maintain independence.


The app-liance of creativity

VENTUREFEST also features the finalists in the Apptitude initiative, a new addition for 2014.

The APPtitude process was designed by Innovate York to create a new way for large public-sector organisations to engage companies in a dynamic way.

City of York Council and Visit York are each looking to develop an app which will provide new ways for them to engage with their customers.

The Innovate York team said they were overwhelmed by the number and quality of proposals received, and a shortlist of developers have been selected to pitch their ideasat Venturefest.

The developers who will be pitching at the event are Appware, The Distance, McKenna Consultants, Plump Digital and Control F1 Limited.

The judging panel will consist of members of the Innovate York project team, from SCY and the City of York Council, and will also be joined by Nick Appleyard, head of digital at the Technology Strategy Board.

Richard Eaton, of Appware, said: “Appware are delighted to be exhibiting at Venturefest this year. So much so we’ve even developed an App specifically for the event that we’ll be showcasing on our stand.”

Anthony Main, of The Distance, said: “I’m really excited about APPtitude, I love the way York is trying to disrupt the procurement process, making it less formal and more transparent.

“It’s going to be a great way for smaller, and more creative, businesses to engage with bigger companies and deliver innovative digital solutions.”

Ian Graham, of the Innovate York programme, said: “From the quality of proposals received, we hope to get a terrific app that will offer great value for both the council and the winning developer.”

The APPtitude competition at Venturefest is being sponsored by Irwin Mitchell Solicitors and BHP Chartered Accountants.


• The Programme:

7.30am - 9am (room 3): Breakfast
9am - 11am (room 3): Innovation Showcase, Fablab and App Cave
9am - noon (room 2): The Investment Competition
9.30am - 10.30am (room 1): What’s Next for the Internet
11am - noon (room 3): Networking
11am - noon (room 1): Yorkshire Talking Heads 1: Julie Kenny
Noon - 3pm (room 3): Innovation Showcase, Fablab and App Cave
12pm - 1pm (room 2): Spotlight: Cutting Edge Law
12pm - 1pm (room 1): Yorkshire Talking Heads 2: Graham Leslie
1pm - 2pm (room 2): SME Funding, Dos, Don’ts and Gotchas
1pm - 2pm (room 1): How to be in the top 6 per cent
2pm - 3pm (room 1): The Future: surviving and thriving in a constantly changing reality
3pm - 4pm (room 1): Managing Growth
3pm - 5.30pm (room 2): Apptitude
3.30pm - 4.30pm (room 3): Networking
4pm - 5pm (room 1): From Concept to Commercialisation
6pm - 9.30pm (room 3): The Venturefest Yorkshire Dinner and Awards