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Somerset businesses urged to collaborate and innovate to succeed

Posted: 21/5/12

Innovation and collaboration were the hot topics at this year’s Somerset in Business Conference, which took place on 17 May at the Westland’s Conference & Leisure Centre in Yeovil.

Organised jointly by inward investment body Somerset 3D and the Somerset Chamber of Commerce, the sixth annual Conference was entitled, ‘Somerset in Business Conference – Innovate to Succeed’. The Conference attracted over 250 delegates who were eager to learn more about the exceptional opportunities available for innovation when businesses collaborate, both within and outside the county.

Chair of Somerset 3D, Cllr Anne Fraser MBE, introduced the Conference, “Somerset businesses must remain alert to the changing and challenging economic landscape. Businesses need to be open to improved ways of working in order to remain competitive within individual sectors and within the wider world. Not only should we look within our immediate business surroundings but we also need to consider ways of working innovatively and collaboratively with others to ensure our competitiveness.”

Luxury leather goods retailer, Mulberry, was announced at the Conference as the latest brand supporting Somerset 3D and delegates saw the premier of a video case study explaining why the brand loves being based in the county. The Conference also saw the launch of Somerset 3D’s latest promotional video, which shows how well connected the county is and the many business opportunities that exist in Somerset.  Both videos can be viewed online at www.somerset3d.co.uk.

Conference delegates heard a range of viewpoints – from keynote speaker, Professor John Bessant from Exeter University, who discussed the role of innovation in today’s businesses to Nick Ames, MD of Supacat, who provided practical examples of the application of innovation and collaboration within business.

Commenting on innovation within businesses in the UK, Professor Bessant said, “It is not enough to think innovation is just bright ideas. On its own, a good idea won’t guarantee successful innovation. Innovation is like a jigsaw puzzle, and the bright idea is just one piece. Other parts of the puzzle include sharing knowledge, which creates the opportunity, and the customer. It is important to listen to the customer, but often the market doesn’t know what it wants – that’s where innovation comes in! When you start pulling these elements together, then you begin to have the basis of effective management of innovation.”

Other keynote speakers included Andrew Jupp, a Partner at Smith & Williamson Accountants, who presented information about sourcing funding and support for innovation and Roger Hall from Plymouth University, who introduced the Open Innovation project for Somerset, which aims to encourage innovation in the county through a series of events and workshops. Roger commented, “We are looking for individuals and companies who would like to explore collaboration and innovation in more depth to discuss the ways in which Open Innovation can be developed in Somerset. It is very encouraging to see so many businesses keen to explore how innovation can help them to be more successful. We are proud to have been associated with this conference and we look forward to working with the Somerset Chamber on future innovation initiatives.”

Further speakers at the event included, Andrew Knutt, Chair of the Somerset Design Enterprise Network, who talked about encouraging business growth through co-creation, Al Goodwin, Commercial Partner at Foot Anstey, who presented his five step guide to successful collaborations and Rupert Cox, who outlined the recent successes of the Somerset 3D project.

EDF Energy has been working with both the Somerset Chamber, to develop a robust supply chain to support its £10billion investment in Hinkley Point C, and with the Somerset 3D team to encourage inward investment from companies who wish to relocate to win business on their own or in collaboration with Somerset companies. Chris Squires, the Supply Chain Manager at EDF Energy, completed the presentations by explaining how important collaboration is for Somerset businesses seeking to win contracts with the Hinkley Point C project.

Rupert Cox, CEO of Somerset 3D and the Somerset Chamber, thanked the conference sponsors for their support, which enabled the conference to be a sell-out event, with over 30 exhibition stands, eight high profile speakers and five afternoon workshops. The Open Innovation Initiative, Smith & Williamson Accountants, Foot Anstey Solicitors and EDF Energy all contributed towards Somerset’s premier business event.

For more information about the many varied opportunities that Somerset can offer, or for advice and guidance on setting up a business in Somerset, call on 0845 1222 066 or visit www.somerset3d.co.uk.