In June 2019, the inaugural LAUNCH Great West awards were held in Bristol. LAUNCH GW celebrates scientific and deep-tech innovation emerging from the South West and Wales. The event provided the opportunity to showcase the scientific commercialisation activity in universities, as well as the growth of scientific start-up ecosystems across the region.
The term “Great West” refers to the regions of South West England and South Wales, as defined in the Life Science Sector Deal, part of the UK Industrial Strategy. This influential report highlights the Great West’s blend of fast-growing scientific industry and infrastructure, SME ecosystems, and world-leading research. Added together, these ingredients define a community that is primed to realise two ambitious goals: to become one of the best places to start and grow a business and to help build the world’s most innovative economy.
Until recently, the region has not been renowned for science innovation and has lagged behind the activity seen in London, Oxford, and Cambridge. However, as infrastructure to support science-driven and high-tech companies has developed, we have seen rapid growth in the numbers of these companies in a short space of time. The introduction of engineering and wet lab facilities has lowered the barrier to entry, enabling the community to thrive and gain some traction, while news stories of the incredible successes of some of the more established spin-out companies have really drawn the spotlight to the area. We decided that this rapid increase in commercialisation activity deserved some recognition. We spotted that there are many award ceremonies championing technology and start-ups but that there was no regional platform to celebrate science and deep-tech. This, along with our desire to unite the new community and raise the profile of the region as a burgeoning hot-spot for innovation, inspired the award ceremony.
The awards themselves honoured the achievements of start-up and spinout companies commercialising scientific research across all scientific disciplines, in eight categories that recognised achievements from recently incorporated ventures to those companies that have secured noteworthy fund-raises and exits. Support from organisations and members of the community, instrumental in the start-up journey, was also recognised. Award application statistics revealed that more than half of all award nominations were submitted by companies incorporated within the last two years, displaying the impact that the developments and investment into infrastructure for this industry have had in fueling the formation of science-driven spin-out and start-up companies and accelerating the growth of this industry.
LAUNCH Great West is set to be an annual event, celebrating the achievements in science innovation across the region. It will take place in other cities across the South West and Wales in subsequent years. We look forward to seeing how the Great West evolves as an innovation hub and celebrating the achievements and successes of this community as it gains momentum and the companies grow to have a real impact in the world.
LAUNCH Great West