A note from the CEO, Peter Birkett
Fri 4th November 2016
Earlier this year, the Science Park opened its latest building, 5 Benham Campus. The occasion provided the opportunity to combine the event with Nucleus Expo in order to demonstrate the Science Park working at its best. Whilst the building and the technology on show were exciting, for me the most compelling experience was that of seeing the power of networks in operation. The intrinsic value of a network is something that is inherently difficult to quantify or measure; it is only in the experience that the true benefits emerge. This was strongly in evidence at the event, where the intersection of multiple networks created a rich tapestry of interaction sometimes referred to as an ‘innovation ecosystem’. As Sir Vince Cable observed in his keynote address at the opening, “an innovation ecosystem can create real commercial success for UK businesses”. For this reason I have made the expansion of networks a key priority in the development of the Science Park.
Nucleus demonstrated some valuable examples of networks in our region. These ranged from clean technology and musculoskeletal medicine to cyber security and innovation within the NHS. The gathering of diverse communities in these sectors, combined with the stimulus of pre-established networks formed by organisations such as the University of Southampton’s Institute for Life Sciences (FortisNet), Wessex Academic Health Science Network and Greentech South, created an enriched environment for mutually beneficial interaction which spanned several different spheres. Indeed anecdotal evidence suggests that the coming together of innovative scientists, engineers, entrepreneurs, investors and business leaders across traditional divides such as business/academia and large corporate/SME was one of the major successes of Nucleus.
An event such as Nucleus does not just support the development of individual sector networks. It also facilitates cross-pollination between diverse disciplines which in turn can act as a spur to innovation. For example, developments in robotics, simulation and augmented reality, which have been driven by requirements emerging in a defence context, have found applications in various branches of medicine. At Nucleus, it was particularly exciting to see a wheelchair-bound patient walk round the exhibition using a robotic ‘exoskeleton’.
So where do I see our networks taking us in the future? The Science Park community will no doubt continue to grow and develop with the expansion of the Park itself. The connections made here are maintained long after companies or employees move on to different locations and new ventures. What remains at the
Science Park is a hub of rich relationships which proceeds to feed novel ideas for technology and new business opportunities – in essence, the heart of an ‘innovation ecosystem’.