Agenda item

Somerset Innovation Exchange - Outcomes and Opportunities.


This matter is the responsibility of Executive Councillor for Economic Development, Planning and Transportation, Mike Rigby.


Report Author:  Gordon Dwyer, Economic Development Specialist.




Executive Councillor for Economic Development, Planning and Transportation, Mike Rigby requested that this item was heard earlier on the agenda as he had a prior engagement at 7pm.


The Chair asked the Committee if this was acceptable, and they unanimously voted in favour.


The report author Gordon Dwyer, accompanied by Lisa Tuck did a presentation to the Committee, which included a video made on the day of the Innovation Exchange. The slides can be viewed here.


Questions from the floor were as follows:-

·       Cllr Habib Farbahi asked what policies and plans were going to be taken forward as a result of the Innovation Exchange? In the past (2018) when he convened a similar conference there were clear policies and outcomes for Taunton, which would tap into the potential growth and levelling up funds? Cllr Rigby responded that this expo had not been established to deliver policies as this would ultimately rest with the New Somerset Council. It will feed into existing strategies, will encourage investment and networking. The successful results of this were already being realised as groups from different business sectors were already starting to meet and collaborate. Some of the delegates were starting to drive this themselves. Cllr Rigby asked that Cllr Farbahi pass on any relevant contacts so that these can be followed up by the team.

·       What are the plans for the Nexus Site on Junction 25? What is the potential for growth in Somerset and in which sector?

Somerset Council will be looking to establish an innovation hub here. There is no limit to what might be achieved working within Somerset Council. SWT has already managed to lever in funding from various sources such as Heritage England and the High Street Fund. That energy does need to be transferred into the new authority and sustained.

·       What would be done differently if a future conference was planned? The internal arrangements within the venue may be changed to encourage more people to visit the workshops and trade stands. The split arrangement over two floors meant that some delegates didn’t experience all that the conference had to offer. There was also a marked difference to the venue and what was happening there, as opposed to the main Taunton Town. The use of the automated vehicle through the town did encourage interest but this could be expanded for a future meeting, to include the businesses in the High Street.

·       Cllr Lloyd asked how many delegates attended?

180 delegates were present which was a combination of elected members, businesses from various sectors, education providers and the invited speakers. Most of the invitees were representative of Somerset as a county as it was relevant to draw investment in. The marketing was done in a variety of ways, by both using an external marketing company and drawing on the networks in the team. There would be future lessons learnt around this if another event is planned.

·       Cllr Lisgo applauded the strong local political leadership which became apparent in the video and interviews on the day. She asked if invitations had been sent to MPs to try and include Westminster into the talks, because it was imperative that political will was driving this?

The team had invited a Minister from Westminster to be a key-note speaker but that request had been declined. It was also difficult to pin down the MPs although Rebecca Pow had been invited. Cllr Farbahi echoed Cllr Lisgo’s point and said it was vitally important that MPs needed to drive this forward from the front.


The Chair thanked the Portfolio Holder and officers for a very informative presentation. They subsequently left the meeting.

Supporting documents: