A note from Director Marty Reid: The untapped potential of regional business and universities

The middle of summer is often when we get to catch our breath in the world of Engine Shed. During holiday season, the pull for events, workshops and programme sessions tends to ease for a few weeks and we have some time to think and plan through our priorities for the next 12 months.  

Last week, however, I came back from a week in the sun to find Engine Shed in full swing – with teams of researchers brought together by the Bristol Doctoral College spread across the hub prepping for the final pitches of an Innovation Lab. 

Innovation Lab event at Engine ShedInnovation Lab are three-day sessions, where early career researchers from a whole variety of disciplines and skill sets are grouped into teams to work with an innovative SME on a live business challenge. We provide support to refine the challenge areas and provide the facilities, business toolkits and mentors to support the process. Previous editions have focused on areas like cyber security, while last week teams were looking at business issues in proptech, fintech and green energy.  

These events always feel like a “win-win” – the research participants get vital business experience at an early stage of their careers and perhaps even some inspiration to help take their work towards commercial applications. The businesses get facilitated access to innovative thinking and proposals to support and challenge their internal process. Company representatives are always blown away by just how far the thinking of a high calibre research group can go in such a short space of time.  

More broadly, it was a reminder of the untapped potential of broader engagement between the University of Bristol and our regional business community.  

Another example that broadened my own perspective was a talk from the University of Bristol’s recent Festival of Enterprise. Professor Genevieve Lively is a classicist and narratologist (an expert in the power of storytelling!) who delivered the wonderfully titled “Classics, Cyborgs, and Cyber Security”, sharing details on how her research is being used to develop strategy for organisations as diverse as DEFRA and the National Cyber Security Centre by considering narratives for the future. 

While there are lots of great case studies, engaging with universities can often be a daunting prospect from the perspective of a commercial business, particularly if you are an SME. For more information on how to engage with the University of Bristol, you can go to https://www.bristol.ac.uk/business  or email red-enquiries@bristol.ac.uk  and they will help you get to the right person. 

If you are interested in registering as a business to our Innovation Lab as you have a project or challenge you are struggling with, or an idea that’s been on the backburner, technical or people focused, please register here. We are currently planning Innovation Labs themed around healthtech and Net Zero and they will be free to join apart from a few hours of your time, so why not give it a go?