NOT even icy weather conditions could daunt the crowds from converging on Venturefest Yorkshire at York Racecourse.

Early indications were that yesterday’s seventh annual get-together of the region’s entrepreneurs with investors, was going to beat the previous year’s attendance of 2,000.

Even before the doors opened, 1,200 people had registered to attend the free event – hundreds more than last year.

Another good auger: The early morning networking breakfast with a presentation by mobile phone music service Musicode, winners of last year’s Venturefest Yorkshire investment competition, was packed with 70 people.

Visitors crowded around 100 stalls – ranging from technologists, educationalists, accountants, solicitors, patent lawyers – everyone who could help ventures turn ideas into profit.

It set the scene for an event designed not only for mature ideas, but also to encourage the next generation to become entrepreneurs.

To that end, 25 primary and secondary schools took part in the Enterprise Inspirations showcase, displaying a spectrum of innovations.

The event was the backdrop to a number of launches.

They included the unveiling of a scheme by Professor Nicola Spence, the new chief executive of Science City York, designed to help innovators turn their ideas into commercial successes. A trio of scientific and commercial experts will steer brilliant ventures to success over the next three years.

Highball Climbing, a climbing equipment company used Venturefest to launch a scalable training wall which can be fixed to a door in climbers’ homes.

There were also the usual competitions, again with a big emphasis on youth and the up-and-coming innovators.

The biggest test was the Investment Competition in which eight companies pitched to a panel of judges to win a prize package worth more than £28,000.

One of the firms trying to impress the Investment competition judges was North Yorkshire-based Chillipeeps Ltd with its new award-winning invention – a pre-sterilised teat, spout and pourer which enables babies to be fed directly from a carton of ready-to-feed formula milk without decanting the liquid.

The Innovation showcase, designed to find rising stars among young businesses, was being judged by the Venturefest organisers. They were competing for a £15,000 business support package.

The finals of the Regional Enterprise Awards – the best spin-out companies from universities across Yorkshire battled it out for a £5,000 cash prize, plus £5,000 worth of support.

Among the eye-catching stands in the University showcase area was Professor John Robinson’s automatic object analysis system. The technology, which was devised at the University of York, identifies human faces through digital images.

Another big attraction was Catwalk Genius, the York-based website where fashion fans can interact with designers and get rewards for their support, either by buying direct from designers or investing in collections for a share of the profits.

Professor Tony Hardy, chairman of Venturefest York, said: “The buzz is greater than last year.

“We got 2,000 through the door last year and we were in recession, but there definitely seems to have been a new level of optimism that augurs well. There is a clear recognition that we in the business world in Yorkshire are ahead of the game.”

A new innovation introduced by Prof Hardy and his tream was a Venturefest networking website.

He said: “The whole object was to ensure Venturefest Yorkshire was not just a one day in the year event, but an ongoing process. As a result, this year business people arrived with a list of appointments in their pockets as a result of opportunities found at

“We hope and expect that a lot more deals will have been done this year."

Entrepreneurs land funding

AN inventor has smoothly negotiated the bumpy road to massive success at Venturefest York.

David Batterbee was winner of the Investment Competition – gleaning £28,000-worth of business advice.

His Mr Shox company will soon be marketing his revolutionary electronically-controlled mountain bike suspension system, using Ferrari-style systems which continually monitor and smooth out road bumps.

Mr Batterbee’s victory was announced at the Venturefest awards dinner in the Voltigeur suite at York Racecourse last night.

The eight finalists of the Investment Competition, pitching to Dragon’s Den-style judges, were of such calibre that one of the sponsors, Business Link Yorkshire, added another £5,000-worth of consultancy vouchers at the last moment.

This was won by regenerative medicine company Neotherix, based at the Research Centre, York Science Park. Its tissue repair and regeneration product speeds the process of wound-healing, particularly in surgery for skin cancers.

Also honoured was Gaist Location, an information service designed to allow councils to manage and host a range of geographic data online.

The Ilkley company’s service, which helps utility companies to better co-ordinate with traffic management and produces public information road maps, won the Innovation showcase for its “greatest future growth potential”.

Its prize: £14,700-worth of business support.

Youthful enterprise also received its just reward at the dinner.

Pupils from Easingwold School won the Griffin’s Nest competition, beating five other schools in a “little Dragon’s Den-style pitch and winning the £1,000 first prize donated by the York Merchant Adventurers.

The team produced t-shirts, mugs and bags, promoting healthy living.

The money which will be invested into the school’s enterprise education programme.

All competitors were challenged to create a prototype or product which would benefit their local community.

Regional Enterprise Award winner was Ice Furniture Designs, a company formed by Danielle Dawson, a design practice undergraduate at York St John University.

Her range of contemporary furniture design, which contains storage space for snowboards, earned her a £5,000 cash prize and £5,000 in consultancy fees from Brighter Marketing.

She beat ten other contenders, all graduate businesses which had been trading for less than a year.