The two week Leicestershire Innovation Festival drew hundreds of people to more than 20 events showcasing the best from the region’s brightest businesses.
Dozens of people were at the University of Leicester’s new Business School on the festival’s final day for its regular Innovation Friday event.
The previous evening had seen the fourth Leicestershire Live Innovation Awards staged at the King Power Stadium with Nemaura Medical named Innovator of the Year and Professor Kamlesh Khunti receiving the Lifetime Achievement Award.
Visitors to Innovation Friday, meeting at the newly-renovated Brookfield business school, heard from Byron Dixon, the founder of Leicester-based anti-bacterial product maker Micro-Fresh, who spoke via video link from New York.
Mr Dixon, whose business won the manufacturing and engineering category of the 2020 Innovation Awards, talked about how the university helped with lab space and expertise to support the development and commercialization of his idea.
He said: “The testing (prior to the University of Leicester’s involvement) was going to cost £500,000. I didn’t have 500,000 pence.”
Thanks to the university’s early help, Micro-Fresh’s growth is now a case study on the Help To Grow program currently being offered to small business owners at business schools around the country.
Julian Bowrey, regional manager for Innovate UK, and Lewis Stringer, senior manager at the British Business Bank, also appeared to talk about funding opportunities.
Manufacturing is still the biggest employment sector in Leicester and Leicestershire and Mr Bowrey said all three finalists in that category of the previous evening’s awards had gained Innovate UK support.
He said: “If you are an innovative company, then working with Innovate UK can help with growth.
“We are here to support successful companies in the region.”
There were then 20-second pitches and networking as visitors were introduced to representatives of organizations including the Federation of Small Businesses, NBV, East Midlands Chamber and the Sir Thomas White Charity, which provides grants and interest-free loans to support the development of local young entrepreneurs.
Meanwhile, Leicester Startups staged its fourth Demo Day as nine local entrepreneurs rounded off its seven-week accelerator program by pitching their idea to a panel of experts and investors – all in front of a live online audience.
More than 90 people registered for the event – making it one of the biggest that the city-based community interest company has staged to date.
A broad mix of sectors featured in the pitches, from a platform for organizing funerals through to a device to improve the mobility of patients who have recently undergone knee surgery.
Dr Nik Kotecha OBE DL, the founder of Loughborough-based Morningside Pharmaceuticals and chair of the Leicester and Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership (LLEP) innovation board, thanked all those who had led and attended events.
He said: “The range and quality of events at this year’s extended festival offered real practical insight for SMEs in Leicester and Leicestershire.
“The festival demonstrated not just the availability of opportunities for those who want to innovate in our region but also the huge number of ways they can gain free support to do so.
“I would encourage all businesses to take advantage, whether it is through help with funding, training or business development.”
SMEs can get free and practical advice about innovation support through the LLEP Business Gateway Growth Hub at https://bit.ly/LLEPBizGateway.