Any business that wants to make positive change through new ideas and new ways of doing things, or has a forward-thinking approach to their work, is innovating. Innovation is crucial to building sustainable businesses in our region – it is a source of competitive advantage, it creates efficiencies, increases revenues and improves productivity.
The challenges facing business
The COVID-19 pandemic, combined with Brexit, has highlighted the importance of businesses doing things differently; having the agility to become more resilient, flexible and reactive to the economic changes and new ways of working.
If you’re an SME in Leeds City Region looking to develop a new product, have an idea for a new service or can see ways to improve your processes, yet feel unsure about the next steps or how to make it happen, we are here to help.
Our ambition, as part of the West Yorkshire Innovation Network, is to create an inclusive and collaborative environment for innovation to thrive, connecting businesses with the right support to make their ideas or projects become a reality.
Ideas come through collaboration and our innovation support programme provides funding for SMEs as well as connecting them with the right people, helping businesses through the ecosystem of innovation resources. Our team of Innovation Growth Managers are your brokers, coordinating your specific needs with relevant support.
The West Yorkshire Innovation Network
The West Yorkshire Innovation Network (WYIN) brings together the organisations (ecosystem) who provide innovation support to businesses in the region. This includes organisations such as the Leeds City Region Growth Hub, local universities, Innovate UK, Knowledge Transfer Network, Innovate UK EDGE and Catapult network.
By joining up the supply side, the aim is to better support our local businesses, creating a collective place which supports businesses to access support, encourage and nurture innovative ideas and to position the region as a hub for innovation. Through improved partnerships working across local, regional and national innovation players, we can drive up demand for the support available and improve the supply and provision for businesses.
Formed in June 2020, the Network has physical presence at two innovation centres, Nexus (part of University of Leeds) and 3M Buckley Innovation Centre (part of University of Huddersfield). Membership is open to all organisations involved in innovation in the region.
The Network is fully supported by the Mayor of West Yorkshire and forms part of her pledge to support local businesses, champion the region and prioritise skills and training to ensure everyone in West Yorkshire has the skills they need to secure work.
Tracy Brabin, Mayor of West Yorkshire, said: “Innovation is a key driver of economic growth and our recovery. The West Yorkshire Innovation Network is our way of driving that spirit for invention and creativity forward across our region. It cements our partnership with organisations and how we can work together to deliver on our regional priorities, all while developing the most inclusive and diverse ecosystem where innovation truly is for everyone.
“The Network has made a bright start in launching the first West Yorkshire Innovation Festival and delivering a collaborative response to the Government’s national innovation strategy. There is so much potential in our region and as part of my pledges to support local businesses and to prioritise skills and training, the Network has my full support.”
What is the Network’s purpose?
A strategic group that is bringing together key stakeholders to develop a joined-up voice for Innovation West Yorkshire. This has already been demonstrated through the development of the West Yorkshire Combined Authority’s Innovation Framework and input into the national Innovation Strategy from the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS).
Establishing an information sharing space including new initiatives, proposals and ideas to drive up innovation in West Yorkshire. An example of this is the work for Space Hub Yorkshire.
What are the aims of the Network?
The overarching aims of the network are to:
- Join up innovation across West Yorkshire and promote our collective story far and wide
- Create increased coherence between and across organisations to better improve the offer to businesses
- To raise awareness of opportunities available to businesses including support and funding streams
The Network will drive the vision set out as part of the region’s Innovation Framework:
A place that is globally recognised for developing an open, inclusive, thriving and coherent innovation ecosystem, where SMEs, budding entrepreneurs and individuals are inspired to innovate, and can easily navigate the support landscape and connect and collaborate with others to create new and better solutions for business growth and societal good.
The network co-produced the first ever West Yorkshire Innovation Festival in 2021 and will be back in 2022 with a bigger and better festival to profile innovation in the region and showcase the support available to help businesses innovate.
The West Yorkshire Innovation Festival
The inaugural West Yorkshire Innovation Festival in 2021 welcomed 1,500 people, attending 41 events by 21 organisers.
Created by the West Yorkshire Innovation Network and coordinated by the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP) in partnership with the West Yorkshire Combined Authority, the festival focused on raising the profile of innovation in our region and brought together innovative businesses, expertise, resources and innovation support available to help businesses with new ideas for products, processes or services.
The week provided insight into how as a region, we can work together to adopt innovation, the importance of a long-term view, a creative mindset and building businesses that can absorb and react to change.
In 2022 the festival is back and bigger than ever. Now with in person events alongside online events, blogs and media, key note speakers, the festival will be the place for local SMEs to discover all the support in the region for innovation.