Innovation experts to converge on Middlesbrough for first Innovate Tees Valley Festival

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22 Nov 2016

Innovation experts to converge on Middlesbrough for first Innovate Tees Valley Festival

Organisers of the inaugural Innovate Tees Valley Festival today announced the speaker line-up for the event, which takes place at the Riverside Stadium, Middlesbrough on Thursday 8 December. Based on the successful VentureFest conferences run across the country, the Festival will bring together over 200 innovative businesses, investors and experts.

Speakers confirmed for the Festival include successful local entrepreneurs Alastair Waite and James Robson MBE. James Robson founded and grew Exwold Technology in Billingham and Hartlepool to a company employing nearly 100 staff and with turnover in excess of £8 million. He is also involved in a number of innovative and ambitious businesses based in Tees Valley. Alastair Waite is CEO of Altec Engineering Group, one of the region’s fastest growing engineering businesses. He led the management buy-out and growth strategy of Onyx Group, who are the largest and most profitable IT company in the North East. Onyx was sold in June 2016 for £65m.

Alongside local success stories, Festival delegates will hear about the latest in innovation thinking from leaders in new product development and commercialisation, from finance experts about how to fund a fast-growing business and from local organisations who offer help to ambitious organisations.

Neil Kenley, Business Director at the Tees Valley Combined Authority, welcomed the announcement as a major boost for the area. “Innovation is a key element of our strategy for the Tees Valley, as it allows increasing productivity, business growth and expanded employment opportunities for local residents. TVCA strongly supports the Innovate Tees Valley programme and I’m looking forward to speaking at the Festival about the support available to our local businesses.”

The Festival is part of the £6.5m Innovate Tees Valley programme, led by Teesside University with partners NEPIC, the Materials Processing Institute and DigitalCity. Innovate Tees Valley has been established to help over 275 Teesside businesses access funded support to achieve growth through service and product innovation. The programme gives access to innovation expertise and facilities, helping to test new concepts, develop them into deliverable products and services and tackle new markets at home and overseas.

“We’re really keen for businesses to come along to the Festival to find out about the innovation support available to them”, commented Laura Woods, Director of The Forge, Teesside University’s business hub. “We’ve been working closely with the event organisers to ensure the day is as practical as possible, providing tools, ideas and expertise that businesses can directly apply in their operations. Innovation is crucial to growth in the Tees Valley and the Festival is designed to bring together the people across the area who can make it happen.”

In between talks from 16 confirmed speakers, delegates can meet with investors who are looking to provide finance for innovative businesses, and see examples of Tees Valley businesses who have already secured success through the development and marketing of new ideas. The Festival is free for local businesses to attend and registration is open now at

Notes to editors

Innovate Tees Valley is receiving up to £3.8million of funding from the England European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020. The Department for Communities and Local Government (and in London the intermediate body Greater London Authority) is the Managing Authority for European Regional Development Fund. Established by the European Union, the European Regional Development Fund helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community regenerations. For more information visit

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