Innovation amidst gloom - a hopeful 6th Kent and Medway Business Summit

A picture of Lord Hastings presenting at the Kent and Medway Business Summit

The 6th Annual Kent & Medway Business Summit was held on Friday 13 January 2023 at our award-winning Sibson Building, featuring presentations, panel discussions and a keynote speech from Lord (Michael) Hastings of Scarisbrick CBE (pictured above).

The event, attended by 202 delegates, was sponsored by British Business Bank, KAYO Digital, Lower Thames Crossing and Social Enterprise Kent, with supporting sponsors Betteridge & Milson, Holiday Extras and Spark Productions. Artist Scribe Yak completed a poster of sketch notes throughout the day. KM Media Group was media partner.

Enjoying locally produced refreshments and a sumptuous Kentish lunch with local wine, ticket holders had the opportunity to socialise and network with key players in business within Kent.

The day, hosted by Deborah Turner from the Federation of Small Business, started with a presentation from Shane Weller, Deputy Vice Chancellor of Research and Innovation before Professor Marian Garcia, Dean of Kent Business School introduced the guest speakers.

Leader of Kent County Council, Roger Gough, presented a positive idea of how innovation is helping the county of Kent to thrive. ‘The strengths of the University drive forward not just the frontiers of knowledge but specific opportunities for us in the county,’ he said.

‘There are significant strengths and opportunities to build on…we set out our aim to enable innovative, creative, productive businesses.’

Roger Gough presenting in a lecture theatre
Roger Gough

Roger was followed by Deputy Chief Executive of Medway Council, Richard Hicks, who gave an upbeat and exciting account of the changes being made to Medway. An area that he said is ‘the largest urban area outside of London’.

Richard explained how the county was growing larger, with 17,000 new jobs on the horizon and a series of expansion and improvement plans, particularly in Chatham.  Innovation, Richard explained, is at the heart of investment in the area.

Richard Hicks of Medway Council
Richard Hicks

‘Business is booming in Medway,’ he said. ‘The government talk about us as being one of the fastest growth areas in the UK.’

Eagerly awaited Kitty Ussher, lead economist at the Institute of Directors was up next, with a presentation that summarised a realistic picture of the economy and food for thought when businesses are operating amongst negativity.

‘Inflation is probably at it’s peak right now, but then falls sharply,’ she explained.

Kitty Ussher
Kitty Ussher

‘I would think really, really carefully about what extent you and your colleagues are affected by the mood rather than the reality of the business environment. If everyone is really pessimistic, does that mean your competitors are? Can you steer them to make some decisions to ensure you are ahead of them?’

The presentations of the morning concluded with Adam Bryan, Chief Executive Officer at Southeast LEP, who spoke about economic development and growth in the Kent and Medway area.

Delegates watching a panel discussion at the event

Panel debates were next up covering Skills, Placemaking, Sustainability and Productivity, featuring a mix of Kent Business School academics and key businesspeople.

As panels came to a close, a presentation ensued from Kent Business School’s Professor Kathy Kotiadis and Timothy Van Vugt from the Dover Harbour Board about the Business School’s Knowledge Transfer Partnerships with the organisation that have enabled advanced modelling techniques to be applied to check in and border infrastructure.

Over 200 delegates attended the Summit this year

Last up was a keynote speech from the prestigious Lord (Michael) Hastings of Scarisbrick CBE who took attendees on a journey of how seeds of innovation are sewed in the most difficult circumstances.

His presentation, peppered with humour, offered up the analogy of the ‘bluebird’ a surprise unforeseeable event that can bring joy amid economic gloom.

‘Whatever you have gained through the course of this business conference, what is your bluebird? Taking a bold step in the midst of a gloom environment.’

Scribe yak created a poster summarising the event
Scribe Yak’s final sketch notes of the event

Using the historical account of how the bicycle was created on the backdrop of volcanic eruption that caused ecological disaster, his words left listeners feeling enlightened and hopeful.

‘Out of a strange, tragic, unfortunate event came an invention so significant that we see it in all corners of the world…. We have to ask ourselves, does the gloomy environment, the complexity of the environment around us, restrict our ability to drive change?’

As delegates flowed through to the atrium for lunch, networking, a ‘Quiz the Experts’ area and pitching sessions, many reflected on what they had heard throughout the day.

A photo of two men networking at the Summit
Delegates enjoyed opportunities to network

Jaideep Deshmukh runs iConnect Digital Solutions, a software development company. He said: ‘I came here to make new connections and to learn what is happening in Kent. It was really interesting to learn what’s going on. Kitty Ussher’s speech was incredibly hopeful, which I liked.’

Marketing Strategist Susie White said: ‘I first learned about the Summit when I took an MBA here, through coming here as an MBA student. It helped to keep me in the know as to what’s going on in my local area.

‘My favourite talk so far was Richard Hicks, from Medway Council. I was drawn to his energy. I live in Northern Kent and there is a lot of historic negativity about Medway towns. I actually thought ‘how can I go work for this guy?’ he is just so impressive. My main take away was feeling good vibes about investment into Kent. It makes me feel like I am part of something.’

Olch Miroshnychenko works for a project run by the United States International Development Agency in Ukraine. The project is assisting with companies in Ukraine to develop consulting, grant assisting and networking.

‘I came here hoping to establish connections and I’ve had really interesting conversations with the staff at Kent Business School about the opportunities to engage business school students. I really enjoyed the keynote speech from Lord Hastings – I loved the depth of his knowledge and the lightness of his humour – when he speaks he has the whole room in awe.’

All event partners would like to thank sponsors British Business Bank, KAYO Digital, Lower Thames Crossing and Social Enterprise Kent without whose financial support the Summit would not have been possible, as well as from supporting sponsors Betteridge & Milson, Holiday Extras and Spark

Productions. Thanks also go to our official media partner KM Media Group.

Friday 12 January 2024, 09:00 – 14:30

University of Kent, Canterbury Campus, CT2 7NZ

Super early bird 50% off until Monday 22 January 2023. Sign up now for next year’s event!

Last updated