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LEP spearheads innovation in the South and highlights the regions inspirational women entrepreneurs

17 March 2021

We have been showcasing the area’s incredible talent for innovation and the huge range of support on offer at the Innovate Local: Southern Pioneers virtual event.

Innovate Local: Southern Pioneers was developed as a joint collaboration between the Solent LEP, Venturefest South, Innovate Local and KTN to bring together pioneers, entrepreneurs, and all businesses in the region involved in cutting edge technology.

Committed to ensuring a gender balance in all aspects of business, but in particular on International Women’s Day (8 March), we LEP wanted to make sure that there was an equal representation of speakers at the event and that women in business feel supported, and are aware of the opportunities available to them.

On the first day of Innovate Local: Southern Pioneers, we invited Caroline Nokes, MP for Romsey and Southampton North to open the event. She is also the Chair of the Women and Equalities Select Committee and a strong advocate for women in business. She kicked off the event by welcoming over 750 attendees and commending the fantastic innovation ecosystem that the region has to offer, especially its women entrepreneurs and innovators.

Caroline commented: “Innovate Local: Southern Pioneers was a really great opportunity to celebrate all of the work that has been going on via the LEP to encourage entrepreneurs and innovators in our area.

“As chair of the Women and Equalities Select Committee it is crucially important to me that we continue to make sure that women are holding their own in the boardroom and in business. The Solent has a really proud history of innovation and we must pull together as cities and the wider region to ensure that there are opportunities for everyone to innovate, grow and develop new products which are so exciting for our region.”

Following the opening of the event, Anne-Marie Mountifield, our Chief Executive Officer presented a keynote speech. An inspirational woman business leader, Anne-Marie clearly conveyed how the Solent LEP is pioneering new approaches to growth and creating a business environment which fosters innovation.

As well as being CEO and leading on the development of the strategy for the area and the roll out of the Solent £1bn Capital & Infrastructure programme, Anne-Marie is a ‘Women in Maritime’ Ambassador. She was also recently named the winner of the prestigious New Chartered Director award at the Institute of Directors (IoD) London and South’s annual Director of the Year Awards.

Our Business Engagement and Growth Hub Manager, James Ford was joined by beneficiary John Bland, Managing Director of Tecsew to illustrate what support is available. The discussion focussed on how to unlock business growth with the Solent Growth Hub and how the funding and support which Tecsew received helped the business to adapt and grow.

Another one of our beneficiaries, Karen Lucas, CEO of Vikoma was invited to speak about inspiring innovation through local networks.

Kate Cloud, our Local Growth Programme Manager joined the 'Investment to Scale and Grow' panel session to enlighten attendees on how they can access different financial forms of support including grants, loans, R&D tax credits and wider investment.

Catalyst South, a strategic alliance of six Local Enterprise Partnerships of which we are a part, hosted an insightful panel session on 'Unlocking Business Intelligence through AI'. The expert panellists included representatives from the LEPs and allowed the audience to take a deep dive into how AI is helping them to bring forward the full potential of the region's women innovators.

Brian Johnson, our Chair said “As a group, Catalyst South’s ambition is to unlock the South’s economic power to supercharge the UK’s recovery and growth, and Innovate Local: Southern Pioneers was the perfect place to enhance our impact and influence, boosting enterprise and innovation across the South. It was a great couple of days and we’re looking forward to meeting with and supporting more businesses following the event.”

An inspirational example of local innovation included the University of Portsmouth’s Centre for Enzyme Innovation (CEI) that is expanding to create the CEI Industrial Engagement Hub. To make the required expansion in facilities and capabilities possible, the Solent LEP awarded the University of Portsmouth £1 million in November 2020 through the ‘Getting Building’ fund. The CEI Industrial Engagement Hub will launch in 2022. It doubles the current floor-space of the CEI and creates three new specialist laboratories and an innovation suite.

With more than 20 different sessions and workshops, Innovate Local: Southern Pioneers was a great opportunity for anyone interested in learning about the latest innovation support on offer, both locally and nationally. 

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