STEM Foundation

Innovisions 2012 - A Huge Success

An atmosphere of excitement and enthusiasm awaited delegates of the 2012 Innovations conference,   held on 5th December. Sponsored by EDF Energy, National Grid, EMC2 and BASF the   event provided UK leaders from industry, education and Government with a forum   for how to stimulate innovation to drive growth and continuous   improvement.

Despite a cold morning, over 160 senior executives and academics were welcomed by Professor   Sa’ad Medhat, Chief Executive of the NEF. In his opening address Professor   Medhat highlighted the need to close the gap between the economic requirements   of business and the resources provided by education. Referencing key   achievements made by the Innovation Institute its first year, he looked towards   truly collaborative innovation between industry and education. His address   encouraged those attending the event to consider the different ways that they   each viewed innovation and to share their perspectives with one another   throughout the day.

Keynote speakers Michael LeGoff, CEO of Plessey – once a world renowned UK electronics   manufacturer, and now rising from their ashes to become a leader in the   development and manufacture of semiconductors, and the Rt. Hon Patricia Hewitt,   former Secretary of State for Trade and Industry, now a Senior Independent   Director for BT – addressed the conference, delivering their ideas about the   essential components of innovation that allow for growth and new   enterprise.

Michael LeGoff focused on the need for government-led industrial strategy that builds on the   existing strengths of UK business, giving real commitment and support beyond a   five year election term. Although most believe progress and technologies are   driven by inspired invention, it is the competitive market which truly drives   innovation. Citing examples from history, he showed how the ability to market an   idea and make it usable determines its lasting success. As collaboration is   considered a driver for innovation, creating opportunities for collaboration are   vital. These opportunities exist between industry and education, but also   between competitors. He determined that there is an important role for   government in facilitating the conversations that help these collaborative   opportunities to arise.

The Rt. Hon. Patricia Hewitt considered the importance of striking a balance between   regulation and innovation, showing through the well-known example of the world   economy that while regulation can limit innovation, unchecked innovation is not   always the best course. Comparing innovation to an ecosystem where universities,   entrepreneurs, businesses and governments all play critical roles as they   collaborate to achieve new ideas. She went on to consider the current nature of   international markets, looking at the importance of collaborations between   British companies and new enterprises in the East, which can move together into   new markets while drawing on the strengths of both cultures and economies.

The two enquiry sessions allowed for interesting ideas and points of wisdom from panels drawn   from key UK businesses, and from leaders in industrial collaboration with   education. Each of the enquiries looked at what steps are being taken to drive   innovative practice within business and within further and higher education,   leading to plenty of opportunity to take key ideas from the meeting and for   ideas to feed into the networking sessions.

The day ended on a high, with BBC presenter and longstanding friend to the NEF, Maggie Philbin,   presenting the Industrial Fellowship Scheme awards, followed by the Innovation   Awards. These awards were created to encourage and develop academic   collaborations with industry. The 2012 first prize was awarded to Alan Crooks of   City College Plymouth, for the development of new training resources and   teaching materials on energy saving technologies based on intelligent building   control. City College Plymouth has now created a new qualification on use of   these technologies, which will enable their graduates to directly meet the needs   of employers.

The remarkable mix of attendees at the event ensured a true meeting of minds, as senior   representatives from different UK industries including the energy, automotive   and healthcare sectors, mingled with academics, knowledge transfer experts,   participants from the charity sector and young people on industrial   apprenticeship and internship schemes. This melting-pot supported the day’s   themes of collaboration and participation, leading to enthusiastic networking,   where the rooms buzzed with conversation as people met, exchanging thoughts and   ideas with others from very different fields.

The day brought a real opportunity for people from a range of backgrounds to share ideas about the   best ways to take innovation and collaborations forward, through hearing from   speakers in formal sessions and through informal connections and learning. There   is little doubt that this first Innovisions conference will become a calendar   feature, inspiring individuals from many different sectors with new ideas,   collaborations and, hopefully, innovations for the coming year.

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STEM > Innovation Driven Education