2021 West Yorkshire Innovation Festival: Innovation now – opportunities for business and universities to work together

Learn more about how working with universities can benefit your business. The opening plenary explores business resilience and opportunities in the face of the pandemic, presenting a range of insights and an overview of available business support initiatives and programmes. Explore opportunities for collaboration with universities on initiatives across healthcare, inclusive creative industries, textiles and low carbon heating and cooling in the breakout sessions.


14:00Welcome and introduction to the plenary

Professor Shirley Congdon, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Bradford and Chair of Yorkshire Universities

14:15 – Panel presentations
Where business is now: perspectives from Yorkshire’s universities

Collaborative regional initiatives in support of pandemic recovery – including the Place Based Economic Recovery (PERN) and the West Yorkshire Economic Recovery Framework
Professor Andy Brown, Divisional Director of Research
(Leeds University Business School)

Recovery toolkit and analysis of survival strategies for businesses across the region
David Spicer, Director of Business and Community Engagement
(School of Management, University of Bradford) Presentation

Opportunities for university based business support in higher education “cold-spots”
Natalie Allen, Business Development Manager
(Calderdale University Business Centre, Leeds Beckett University) Presentation

Support for skills and investment opportunities for business start- ups during pandemic
Claire Newhouse, Director of Centre for Apprenticeships, Work-based Learning & Skills
(AD:Venture, Leeds Trinity University) Presentation

What are the current conditions for entrepreneurial innovation?
Harrison Evans, Collaboration Manager
(Nexus, University of Leeds) Presentation

14:50 – Interactive Q&A

15:10 – Collaborate to Innovate Breakout Sessions

Hosted by Leeds Beckett University

Join us to explore the challenges and opportunities for innovation in Health. This session will give an insight into the innovative research and development in the region, showcasing the latest in health research, medical technology development and collaborative opportunities. We will hear from a number of speakers from across the region discussing key topics relating to innovations in response to Covid, white-box machine learning in healthcare, and opportunities for digital innovation surrounding the safety of medicines and the supply chain. 

Session chair:
Dr Duncan Sharp
Dean of the School of Clinical and Applied Sciences, Leeds Beckett University


  • Professor Karen Ousey, Director for the Institute of Skin Integrity and Infection Prevention, University of Huddersfield
  • Professor Stephen Smith, Department of Electronic Engineering, University of York
  • Dr Liz Breen, School of Pharmacy and Medical Sciences, Faculty of Life Sciences, University of Bradford


COLLABORATE TO INNOVATE – Inclusive Creative Industries
Hosted by the University of York

The University of York is leading on enabling and supporting collaborative R&D for the creative sector across the region including immersive and interactive storytelling and the UK gaming sector. Come and find out more about our work through our interactive and visual case studies. Meet the people leading the research and businesses we have worked with and find out more about the different funding and engagement opportunities available to your business.

Session chair:
Professor Damian Murphy
Director of XR Stories, University of York


  • Dr. Sondess Missaoui, Research Associate, Digital Creativity Labs, University of York
  • Lucy Hammond, Marketing & Projects Producer, Pilot Theatre
  • Kate O’Connor, Industry Consultant, XR Stories & SIGN


Hosted by the University of Huddersfield

Interactive session exploring challenges and opportunities for collaboration relating to innovation in the textiles sector. The audience will learn more about current initiatives in technical textiles and the Future Fashion Factory Programme. The participants will also have an opportunity to inform a new study which is seeking to map the innovation landscape for textiles in the region; and identify key priorities for future industrial collaboration. 

Session chair:
James Devitt
Industrial Collaboration Manager, University of Huddersfield


  • Professor Simon McQueen-Mason, Centre for Novel Agricultural Products (CNAP), Department of Biology, University of York
  • Professor Stephen Russell, Future Fashion Factory, University of Leeds
  • Professor Parik Goswami, Technical Textiles Research Centre, University of Huddersfield
  • Jonathan Hobson, Director of Perspective Economics

COLLABORATE TO INNOVATE – Low carbon heating and cooling
Hosted by the University of Leeds

Interactive session exploring opportunities for collaboration and the co-development of strategies for sustainable low carbon heating and cooling. Perfect for businesses involved in the heating and cooling of their buildings or the supply chain side of electricity and heat generation.

Session Chair:
Sandra Piazolo
Professor in Structural Geology and Tectonics, University of Leeds


  • Fleur Loveridge, Associate Professor of Geostructures, University of Leeds
  • James Van Alstine, Associate Professor of Environmental Policy, University of Leeds
  • Stephen Thomas, Founder and Managing Director, OGI Groundwater Specialists Ltd
  • Martin Fletcher, Research Fellow, Leeds Beckett University
  • Vincent McCabe, Programme Lead (Clean Growth & Innovation), Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (LEP)
  • Paola Zerilli, Department of Economics, University of York


16:15 – Closing remarks, signposting and next steps

Dr Peter O’Brien
Executive Director of Yorkshire Universities

Sue Cooke
CEO of 3M BIC Innovation Centre, University of Huddersfield

16:30 – Finish



  • Student placements & projects
  • Graduate internships & employment


  • Knowledge Transfer Partnerships
  • R&D Collaborative Projects
  • Access to facilities and testing services

Specialist Expertise

  • Academics acting as non-execs/advisers on Boards
  • Consultancy

Business Support Eco-System

  • Innovation & Business Centres
  • Innovation Programmes & Workshops


Leeds Beckett University: GrowMedTech@leedsbeckett.ac.uk enterprisesupport@leedsbeckett.ac.uk

Leeds Trinity University: business@leedstrinity.ac.uk

University of Bradford: business@bradford.ac.uk

University of Huddersfield: business@hud.ac.uk

University of Leeds: hello@nexusleeds.co.uk

University of York:




How Yorkshire’s universities will help region recover – Shirley Congdon

“If the pandemic has shown us anything, it’s that we need to change the way we do business. As with any major upheaval, there have been winners and losers.” (19 March 2021, Yorkshire Post)


This event was part of the West Yorkshire Innovation Festival, a week-long series of events being held between 15th-19th March 2021.

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