BBC broadcaster, Tanya Beckett, gave a great opening speech, which was followed by keynote interviews by the CEOs of NS Reizigers, Nuovo Trasporto Viggiatori and the MTR Express. One of the most interesting talks followed. It was delivered by Elodie Bongrain of Fjord (an Accenture company), who spoke of the 11 types of mobility segments they have identified through the lens that a one-size approach creates challenges that cannot be easily overcome. At a roundtable discussion that morning. lead by Rhianne Montgomery, Programme Manager – Rail Innovation for Innovate UK, it was really useful to hear that Innovate UK has a steering committee which helps to frame their funding calls and competitions. This provided reassurance that the technology or new products created as a result of Innovate UK funded projects will be of suitable interest to the market.
All aboard the innovation train
The conference’s exhibition space was housed in the main hall and walking around the stands, I came across a broad array of exciting new technologies from around Europe and beyond. I came face-to-face with The Train Brain’s feather boa clad flamingo (don’t ask), almost toppled off Roll Tech’s electric scooter and had a coffee with John-Peter from Ximedes; an ICT vehicle architecture company. I was also delighted to catch up with several colleagues from the Catapult’s own SME network, who had been specially selected by us and Terrapinn to exhibit at the conference – Nick from Tomorrow’s Journey, Chris from PassageWay, Iñigo from Meep and David from InMotion Group.
In the evening we headed to the Kanarie Club – a bar in an old tram shed (much cooler and glamourous than it sounds), where we got to continue our conversations in a more informal setting.
SME engagement: Setting the standard
During day two, I had the privilege to lead a roundtable discussing the ‘evaluation of new technology on the horizon and leading the way on SME engagement’. Noah Kimmel, Integrated Transformation Executive – IBM, stressed the importance of business transparency. He said: It’s important for SMEs to tell me the problem they’re solving upfront. Tell me what you can do and what you have done”. This got me thinking and I spent the next forty minutes guiding discussion around the advice we would give to businesses trying to get a foot in the door with larger players in the market.