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VentureFest North East has confirmed details of its afternoon keynote, which features regional businesses whose innovations are paving the way out of the pandemic.

Opening with a keynote from acclaimed futurist and innovation expert Rohit Talwar, the session will take a closer look at four innovative regional businesses who have disrupted and pivoted throughout the last year, seizing opportunities arising from COVID-19.

The panel, chaired by Caroline Theobald CBE, Co-founder and Chair of FIRST, will include:

  • Jonathan O'Halloran, CEO and Co-founder of QuantuMDx. The company’s Innovative Q-POC technology is enabling rapid-testing for COCID-19 ensuring fast-tracked results are available in a range of industries.
  • Dr Arnab Basu MBE, CEO at Kromek. Innovate UK awarded a grant of £1.25m for Kromek to customise a biological threat-detection solution for the automated detection of all airborne viruses, including COVID-19.
  • Dr Lucy Foley, Director of CPI Biologics. CPI has been a central part of the Government’s vaccination taskforce since the onset of the pandemic last year.
  • Matthew Bedford, MD at Dräger. With support from the Innovation SuperNetwork, AHSN and North East LEP, Dräger secured a lucrative contract supplying the Government with respiratory masks.
  • Stuart Miller, Chief Technology Officer at Innovate UK.


Speaking about the session, Caroline said: “Rohit’s experience in strategic innovation and taking a futurist approach to business will form an inspirational backdrop to a panel that’s made up of truly forward-looking regional companies, who are all making their mark on our recovery from COVID-19.

“There is a lot we can learn from everyone involved in the session, with Rohit helping us imagine the future, and the panel sharing their stories about being prepared to pivot in times of crisis.”

An award-winning futurist speaker and consultant who leads Fast Future, Rohit advises global businesses, start-ups, NGOs, and national governments, with clients such as American Express, Microsoft, PwC, Pepsi, and Pfizer. He works with them to help anticipate and prepare for the forces and shifts shaping the emerging future and to explore the scenarios that could develop as a result.

He said: “The key to a successful futurist approach is to be alert to the changes shaping our environment and bold in imagining what the future might hold. It is important that businesses take a creative approach and use a combination of foresight and rapid experimentation to generate, develop, and test innovate ideas to drive future growth. This combination of foresight, vision, and creativity is vital to helping build a profitable, sustainable, and more resilient future.

“I’m really excited to be part of this year’s VentureFest programme. In the last year we have seen the critical importance of innovation in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, now looking to the future and innovating what's next are a critical part of our pathway to recovery.”

VentureFest North East takes place on Wednesday 17 March 2021. For more information and to register for your FREE place visit: https://supernetwork.org.uk/venturefest-north-east/

VentureFest North East is part of the wider Catalysing Innovation in North East Cluster Project delivered by the Innovation SuperNetwork. The SuperNetwork is supported by the North East LEP, Northumbrian Water Group, North East BIC and P&G, with part-funding from the European Regional Development Fund.

Kate Buckle
Article by Kate Buckle
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