Could the south of England be on the verge of challenging San Francisco’s dominance in the tech innovation arena?

That was the question posed as the region’s biggest thinkers convened at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton for the annual Venturefest South.

This year’s event, the largest to date, highlighted the South’s increasing significance in the global innovation landscape.

The 1,200 people who attended the event included representatives from Southampton City Council, the University of Southampton and Solent Partners - formerly Solent Local Enterprise Partnership.

The day kicked off with a speech by Ed Gould, Creative Director at Carswell Gould and the event’s curator.

Speakers took to the stage to debate and share ideas around some of the biggest themes affecting and driving innovation, entrepreneurship, and business growth.

The event featured the Entrepreneurs Zone, a platform for new inventions, innovations, and budding business concepts.

Other highlights included the festival’s newly introduced Space Zone. Giving NASA a run for its money, local organisations included Ettera Space Systems Limited, KISPE Space, GlobalTrust LTD, and Woodrow Scientific.

Those attending the event included Dr Kathryn Graham, a senior system engineer at KISPE.

She said: “We were given the opportunity to have a free slot to exhibit. As a small company, we thought it was a fantastic opportunity that we couldn’t miss.

“The day itself was hugely interesting and quite different from a lot of events we go to.

"We usually end up seeing the same people time and again. However, at VFS23, we encountered people from a variety of industries, which was a refreshing change.

"Most importantly, we've discovered there are overlaps between our fields, leading to more opportunities and conversations that we hadn't anticipated having before.”

Reflecting on the success of the event Mr Gould said: "VFS23 has once again surpassed expectations, proving that the South is not just a contender but a major force in the global innovation scene.

"This event has shown that our region's vibrant mix of creativity, technology, and entrepreneurial spirit can rival that of San Francisco's renowned tech landscape.

"Bringing together large-scale businesses, academia, and budding start-ups has created an ecosystem that mirrors the dynamism and innovation synonymous with Silicon Valley.

"We've seen some incredible talent and ground-breaking ideas this year. It’s a hugely exciting time for the South's growing influence and its capabilities in the tech and innovation sectors."