#VFS22 event is festival of innovation among Hampshire businesses

INVENTIONS ranging from an AI-powered assistant for clothes shopping to sustainable wooden bicycles were highlighted at a celebration of innovation.

Around 1,000 people were at Southampton’s Ageas Bowl for the #VFS22 Festival of Innovation, with more than £1billion in support, funding and investment on offer from partners of organizing Venturefest South (VFS).

VFS is a partnership-led, year-round program where partners, exhibitors and sponsors fund promotion and exhibition space for innovators and entrepreneurs across the south.

This year, 47 innovators received funded places, more than 50 innovators entered a Battle of the Pitches competition for the chance to win £10,000, and 12 entered open mic events.

Five innovators presented business proposals to a judging panel in a Battle of the Pitches competition, for a top prize of £10,000 from headline sponsor CATAX.

The top prize went to Gil Satchwell from powerQuad, to help grow his business, which makes battery-powered alternatives to the diesel generators used at events.

He said: “I’m thrilled that our innovative powerQuad technology has won this fantastic prize from CATAX at the brilliant #VFS22.

“We will invest the prize funding to help not only our business to grow, but to support the community and our eco-system.” The other finalists in the Battle of the Pitches were Everessence, KCC Packaging, Labl.It and Portsmouth Distillery Co. Paul Foley, director at innovation funding specialist Catax, who specializes in research and development tax credit claims, said: “It was a tough fought battle but we were thrilled to award the £10,000 prize to Gil and his team. Helping business uncover innovation funding is what we do every day and it was a pleasure to be involved again at VFS.”

Other award winners were Sean Larsen, Kyle Wilks and Rhys Wilks of Labl.it for Innovator of the Year; Laura Liddell and Jessica Jobson of Journally for Early Stage Innovator; Aimee Dobson, Carrie Lomas and Sarah Bennett for Sustainable Innovation Leader; and Charlie Gray and Ben O’Nion for the Open Mic event.

Ed Gould, #VFS22 creative director at Carswell Gould and a founding partner of VFS, said: “Now, more than ever, the type of entrepreneurial and creative innovation we’ve seen at this year’s VFS22 is vital to the resilience and success of the UK.

“The collaboration between large-scale business, education and start-ups shows a willingness to pull together to make great things happen. Once again, I’ve been inspired by the delegates, partners and innovators at this year’s event who are bold and ambitious in supporting our region’s flourishing eco-system.”

Matt Chinn, head of platform systems for headline partner Dstl, said: “There was really positive energy at the event and we had great feedback from everyone we met. It was a really uplifting and productive day making new connections.”

#VFS22 board member Sarah Duckering, director of research and innovation services at the University of Portsmouth, said: “VFS22 is really instrumental in supporting the burgeoning local innovation and supports the region’s future prosperity, which is so important during this current economic climate.”

Independent business support was available from the Solent Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP) Growth Hub team.

Southampton City Council leader Cllr Satvir Kaur said: “Southampton is a hub of innovation – forward-facing and future-ready.

“It’s important that we grasp future growth areas and take advantage of opportunities they can bring for our city and region, which makes events like these so important.”

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