Inspiring the Future with Jane Harrington & Caroline Thompson

Here at Moon Consulting, we work closely with Leaders in Business and Academia to help develop talent and to inspire the next generation of Entrepreneurs. With Moon Consulting supporting both the hugely successful University West of England's Distinguished Address Series and acting as Business Mentors at Entrepreneurial Spark, the world's largest free business accelerator for early stage and growing ventures, Head of Executive Search, Simon Quinn, talks with Jane Harrington, Deputy Vice Chancellor and Provost at University West of England and Caroline Thompson, Natwest's Entrepreneurial Development Manager, about the huge opportunities their respective organisations offer, exploring how technology can help inspire the leaders of the future.

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I begin by asking Jane what is on her current horizon; 'With regards to technological innovation, from a University perspective, we are "at a moment in time" Jane begins, 'exciting innovations are breaking down traditional boundaries. For example, the World of Robotics is a fusion of disciplines (engineering, science, bio science, psychology, philosophy, computer science) which have come together to create something special.' Jane has seen a similar thing happen in media and the visual arts, where technology, gaming, music and arts came together, 'UWE has a 'City Campus' concept that helps us form genuine partnerships with other organisations such as the BBC, Watershed, Arnolfini and Aardman,' and Jane points out that, 'this creates bigger possibilities to inspire more people by working across the old traditional boundaries'.

That word 'inspire' also comes up time and again in my conversation with Caroline Thompson, 'Entrepreneurial Spark powered by Natwest provides a collaborative working environment that accelerates businesses and inspires future leaders by bringing together businesses, entrepreneurs, investors (e.g. business angels) and business advisors (e.g. solicitors, accountants) who have a collective interest in growing businesses. We achieve this through our Hatcheries across the Country and also via our hugely successful 'Opportunity Knocks' events that we have run at locations such as Edinburgh, Leeds, Brighton & Birmingham. Opportunity Knocks is an educational day that focuses on alternative finance, the importance of mentors and building a great team and the content of the day will be delivered through seminars, keynote inspirational speakers, panel Q&A session, speed mentoring and a pitching competition. Opportunity Knocks will be coming to Bristol and Cardiff early in 2017.'

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Caroline continues, 'To enable us to take the Entrepreneurial Spark programme and expand this to more businesses, we are piloting a hybrid (virtual/physical) support model in Inverness and the surrounding area. Work has started where we will explore, scope, validate and test a virtual support model which will enable us to reach a substantially larger number of entrepreneurs across the UK. This 12 week pilot will be offered to up to 40 entrepreneurs.  The programme will include a 2 day 'boot-camp', fortnightly online enablement (via skype), 1 day 'Acceler-8' leadership course and a celebratory awards event.  This programme will be complemented by business mentoring such as provided by Moon Consulting and locally run events by all partners.'

To help inspire people in University and see talent move on to accelerator programmes such as Entrepreneurial Spark, Jane is a huge supporter of degree apprenticeships. 'These programmes genuinely shape the future and ensure students have a high skill level as well as a qualification.  By working with employers these types of programmes ensure proper partnership working, where the University is actively working with the community and employers to embed a positive culture into the City and provide for the needs of the region by collaborative thinking and working.'

Jane also believes that technology is now moving to a level where it can have a genuine impact on lives and cites the 'Pee-Power Toilet' which was years of work but has now received funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and can really save lives. 'There is a growing health tech area as well that can help with assisted living' continues Jane, 'and this is supported by hospitals, doctors, trusts and private health companies - the impact of which can be profound in the coming years.'

So, from my conversations with both Jane and Caroline it is obvious to me that we must use partnership, collaboration and inspiration to help harness technological advancements to develop both the products and the services that we really need to shape our future. By exciting children in schools and students in further education, as well as the next generation of entrepreneurs via programmes such as Entrepreneurial Spark, we can drive a life cycle that leads to new disciplines such as the fairly new world of robotics. Of course, as Jane rightly points out, 'There are dangers - it is not cheap and the Government must stay engaged with funding. At the end of the day, science is global and it is imperative that the best minds come together. A society develops by investment in R&D and so we must ensure we continue to lead this development.'

Moon Consulting has a wealth of experience in supporting start-up and scale-up businesses as professional trusted Advisors, providing talented executive and non-executive Board leaders and supporting directly by mentoring key stakeholders as they grapple with the challenges of early growth. If you own a business that could benefit from our confidential consulting service, contact Moon Consulting at www.moonconsulting,co.uk or on 01275 371 200.

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