QBME industry group: Venturefest South West

Blog by David Whitehouse, Jack Spencer, Jehangir Cama and Matt Anderson

As members of the QBME’s industry group (Matt Anderson, Jehangir Cama, Jack Spencer, and David Whitehouse), industrial engagement activities are an important aspect of our strategy. Venturefest, part of the Knowledge Transfer Network (Innovate UK), is an organisation that run events nationally aimed at bringing together industry, investors, and research. On Tuesday 17th June, along with Chrissie Walker, we attended the fourth annual Venturefest South West event at Sandy Park and this was one of our first external industry engagement activities as a group since Jehangir joined earlier this year.

The format of the day was based around panel discussion sessions addressing key issues in sectors including healthcare, agriculture, space, and the environment. This main focus was on addressing specific issues facing industry such as artificial intelligence, cyber security, blockchain, big data, and many more. This was a particularly interesting structure as it fostered revealing dialogue about the challenges and opportunities that each area has, as well as the consistencies between each sector. There were also a number of parallel sessions addressing questions concerning funding, grants, and investment opportunities. Whilst these were more tailored to SMEs and entrepreneurs, it was certainly still relevant in order to better understand the considerations of potential industry partners.

The event was (predictably) very useful from a networking point of view, and the day was full of constructive discussions with key organisations in the region. This includes the South West Academic Health Science Network (SWAHSN), which was one of fifteen organisations set up by NHS England to identify, adopt, and disseminate innovative healthcare research. QBME is currently planning a visit to their offices in August as part of their Breakfast Briefing series, where we hope to establish and further develop links with them and their partners. We also discussed ongoing plans to develop a partnership with SETsquared in relation to hosting events at the Science Park (akin to CBMA’s long-running academic drop-in events). In the afternoon we had a presence as exhibitors at the Innovation Showcase, promoting QBME’s research capabilities and activities. These conversations, as well as many others, meant for a very productive day!

As well as impromptu networking activities, we also had the opportunity to give talks as part of the parallel healthcare-themed sessions. Matt, Jack, and David ran a workshop, hosted by the SWAHSN, titled ‘Machine learning for big data & image analysis’. We covered a number of key technical concepts in relation to this subject, but its primary purpose was to advertise the potential for industrial collaboration with QBME. We also highlighted some of the work the group does, both in its academic research and its industrial partnerships. This included a case study of CSPINE, which is a project from the most recent seed corn round and has recently acquired an industry partner as part of an NIHR grant application. The workshop was very well attended with a broad audience, from academics (from a range of disciplines) and clinicians, to industry and investors. As a consequence, the Q&A period led to a number of exchanges that helped develop our understanding of the needs of industry in the region, whilst helping clarify the role of QBME in accelerating business growth in the healthcare sector.

Venturefest South West was a fascinating showcase of industrial activity in the region; it was encouraging to discover the breadth and depth of innovation and expertise on offer. The highlight was probably running the workshop on QBME’s research, but there were interesting and insightful moments throughout the day: it’s certain we’ll be back again next year!

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