MORE than 1,000 people gathered at a celebration of innovation to hear how they could share in more than £1billion of support and investment.

The #VFS21 Festival of Innovation was held at the Ageas Bowl, Southampton, and online.

It was Venturefest South’s fifth annual innovation showcase and attracted more delegates than ever before.

Maritime UK Solent hosted a Navigating Net Zero summit at the event. Participants found out more about what Solent businesses are doing to reduce carbon emissions.

Stuart Baker, managing director of Maritime UK Solent, said: “This summit was exciting, productive and very well timed, coming just ahead of the COP26 global climate change conference and in the same week as the government announced its Net Zero Strategy. 

“We discovered a real desire among those who participated to work together at both regional and national level to inspire positive climate change action and work towards a Net Zero future.     

“We hope the Navigating Net Zero summit hosted by Maritime UK Solent, and the launch of the Solent LEP’s framework for a ‘Ten Point Plan to Build Back Greener in the Solent’ at Venturefest, will both act as catalysts for real progress in the region.”

Headline partner Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) shared details of an extra £1bn UK science and technology research over the next four years.

Matt Chinn, head of platform services division at Dstl, said: “Dstl is accelerating efforts to modernise the armed forces, develop world-leading capabilities, and to keep the UK safe from evolving threats. We love nothing more than seeing small innovative organisations deliver a big impact for UK defence and security and have made some brilliant connections at Venturefest.”

Another headline partner, BAE Systems’ Innovation Labs, helped delegates explore partnering and funding opportunities.

The University of Southampton had funded support on offer for collaborative research and development, while the University of Portsmouth gave delegates access to its new initiatives, including the Creative and Immersive Extended Reality Centre and the Centre for Enzyme Innovation. Both universities are VFS partners.

Other highlights included business support for start-ups from partner Portsmouth City Council’s economic growth team.

Funding and research and development specialist Catax, also a sponsor, was on hand to give companies the right support to access an estimated £16bn in tax credits owed to businesses in the south.

An open mic pitching competition was one by Human Beauty’s Millie Flemington-Clare, while Maverick Aviation was named Innovator of the Year, Acoustic Black Holes won the Early Stage Innovator Award and Oxto Energy was named Sustainable Innovation Leader.;

Ed Gould, creative director at Carswell Gould, a #VFS21partner, said: “What a fantastic comeback for Venturefest South’s Festival of Innovation after last year’s pandemic hit us so hard.

“We’ve seen a record number of registrations and presented a stunning display of business creativity. and had great feedback from our partners and sponsors who had a productive day making new connections and promoting the opportunities for funding and other support they have to offer.”