Businesses and organisations in Wales which develop ground-breaking products, services and processes are being urged to open their doors this summer to show off their ideas and expertise.
The aim is to help embed innovation as a major engine of Welsh economic growth, with the potential to increase national earnings by hundreds of millions of pounds each year and create thousands of new jobs.
Following the success of the pilot Wales Festival of Innovation in 2014, in which around 40 firms and university technology teams took part, it was announced earlier this year that an enlarged festival will take place throughout June 2015.
During this month-long ‘celebration’ of new ideas and achievements, workshops, exhibitions, open days, demonstrations, lectures and conferences will be held across the country to give business people, students and the general public an insight into the wealth of ground-breaking work being done by scientists and entrepreneurs in Wales.
Plans for the second Wales Festival of Innovation were outlined to leading-edge businesses gathered in Cardiff last month for the first 2015 meeting of the Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN), who organise the Festival in partnership with ESTnet, the electronics and software technologies network for Wales and the Welsh Government.
Organisers say the initiative is designed to inspire more businesses and individuals from all sectors involved to bring forward and developing new ideas and also to establish Wales in the eyes of potential investors and the wider business world as a hotbed of fresh thinking.
In addition it facilitates contacts and the exchange of ideas that will create collaborations and spawn a new generation of innovative products and solutions.
Said Festival spokesman Idris Price: “It’s important that people know about the huge range of world-class innovation already taking place here. Much of it is behind the scenes because it involves enabling technology which makes possible the higher-profile products on the market, particularly electronic devices and software systems. By showcasing this ground-breaking work we will build confidence in Wales as a place where profitable new developments are part and parcel of the culture.”
He pointed to the UK Innovation Survey which found that just over 40% of Welsh firms with more than 10 employees were ‘innovation ready’ and that 22.5% of Welsh company turnover is currently generated from new or significantly improved products.
Mr Price said the second and enlarged festival this summer would be another milestone in the task of building Wales’ reputation as a ‘land of innovation.’ It follows the creation in October of the Innovation Advisory Council for Wales, a public and private sector partnership which will advise the Welsh Government on how to help industry to exploit its knowledge and expertise in line with emerging market trends.
He added: “There is enormous potential to generate additional wealth and jobs by breaking new ground, developing new intellectual property and registering new patents on home-grown products, services and processes. The festival will not only encourage new thinking and highlight Wales’ strengths but will bring together like-minded individuals and organisations to collaborate on exciting and profitable new projects.”
Steve Welch from the Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN) said: “The idea of the Festival is to capture the totality of what’s happening in Wales, which is so rich in innovative companies. By bringing all these events together in June, we can grow the potential of the activity and give the participants an opportunity to show everyone what is going on. We also want the festival to be as broad and inclusive as possible.”
Among those reporting business benefits from last year’s festival was Cardiff-based specialist wafer manufacturer IQE. Director Chris Meadows said the firm’s “OpenIQE” open innovation event held in North Wales as part of the festival, had yielded several new opportunities and potential partnerships which are now developing leading-edge products for the electronics industry.
Ian Menzies, co-chair of the new Innovation Advisory Council for Wales, encouraged businesses at the ESTnet meeting, held in the Swalec Stadium Cardiff, to get involved in the festival.
He said: “Innovation is changing the way we live. We need new ideas to stay competitive, new technologies to improve lives, and new insights to lead the way. The Wales Festival of Innovation showcases what's coming next, and how Wales is already leading the way.”
Businesses, universities and other organisations can register to organise or host events during the festival by visiting: festivalofinnovation.org/get-involved.html