AT THE 'BUSINESS END' OF #BUSINESSFEST
While our Futures Stage speeches have been grabbing the headlines during the International Business Festival’s opening week, its less flashy cousin – the Knowledge Hub – has been quietly making things happen for businesses of all sizes.
Content on this second stage broadly falls into three categories – access to finance, market opportunities and leadership & skills – with delegates able to pick the brains of expert speakers after the sessions.
Serious stuff it might be. But it’s far from stuffy, with a relaxed TV studio feel and the Wayne Hemingway-designed overhead drapes adding a splash of colour and creating a cosy atmosphere.
The Hub has been packed for sessions on topics such as HSBC’s Doing Business in China and a Blockchain in Real Estate masterclass delivered by DWF Law’s property specialists.
And the law firm’s head of solar energy Catherine Haslam said there had been strong interest in the session she delivered on Renewables in Africa.
“We really wanted to do this because the strength of the Festival’s international element made it the perfect platform to talk about a report we commissioned on the sector,” she said.
“There’s massive potential to do projects in Africa but trying to get finance is really hard because lenders aren’t comfortable with the risks, so we spoke about potential solutions such as crowdfunding, building protection into your legal documents and forming strategic alliances with people in-country.
“Afterwards, a couple of people who were developing renewable energy projects approached us and we were able to connect them with one of our clients, Yingli.”
Sanmi Lajuwomi was one of them. His company Winock Solar was on the verge of signing a $2bn deal to fund off-grid power for small businesses in Nigeria when financial backers pulled out.
“The Knowledge Hub session was great because it confirmed what I was thinking, which was that I needed an innovative approach to fundraising.”
He’s now putting together a new strategy targeting a niche group of investors across Europe to pool funds.
“Coming here has been really worthwhile. I’ve met plenty of people in the energy sector, tested the idea and people have responded well.”
Another satisfied visitor was Clement Cesarine, who attended a Masterclass in Distributed Power Generation delivered by Alex Marshall, of Sustainable Energy Day partner Clarke Energy.
“It was really interesting,” said Mr Cesarine, who had travelled from Bournemouth to be at the Festival. His company, Spherea Test and Services, provides modular testing solutions for electronic systems.
And he said: “It’s been great to speak to the technical guys at Clarke Energy to find out how they work. Gathering information like this can always lead to something in the future.”
As with most areas of the Festival, there’s a strong international flavour to the Knowledge Hub where overseas trading organisation have been offering delegates the inside track into markets.
Vladislav Ognyanov, of cloud computing specialist R & D Solutions, travelled to the UK as part of a Bulgarian IT delegation attending London Tech Week and touring the Liverpool area while at the Festival.
He watched John Munnery and Omourtag Petkov describe the benefits of his country’s low-tax environment during the Bulgarian British Business Association’s Knowledge Hub presentation.
Afterwards he said sharing this knowledge internationally was crucial. “We’re hoping to make some good contacts,” he said. “We’ve already arranged to meet a Liverpool tech company – AlgoLib – while we’re here, as well as the local chamber of commerce.”
For more information about the Knowledge Hub, see each day’s programme.