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Blog: Silverstone Technology Cluster Annual Conference 2021 highlights

Silverstone Technology Cluster (STC) ran their first in-person annual conference since 2019 on Tuesday 5th October; and attendees were delighted by an impressive speaker line-up featuring keynote speakers from BAE Systems and Amazon Web Services (AWS), as well as interactive sessions and expert panels.  

The event saw business owners and industry experts come together at Horwood House in Milton Keynes, delivering on STC’s mission to bring together and support Advanced Engineering, Electronics and Software businesses in the area. Their dedication to supporting these businesses by providing a platform for them to collaborate and grow is exemplary and plays an important role in the growth of these industries in the UK. 

Amazon's Empty Chair Rule

AWS, the newest member of the STC, highlighted their culture of innovation in their keynote speech, promoting their Digital Innovation Programme which is run in collaboration with STC. This online workshop takes place on Thursday, 18th November at 10:00-12:00. This session “will introduce business leaders to Amazon’s peculiar, customer-centric approach to innovation, provides examples and approaches for how has used technology to accelerate innovation, and engages with customers who want to experience Amazon’s innovation mechanisms, working backwards from their end-customer.” 

You can find more information on the event and register on their website. 

Speakers Stephanie de Albuquerque, Territory Manager, and Rob Hodges, Head of Digital Innovation also spoke about Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos empty chair rule. Bezos insists an empty chair is set up in Amazon meeting rooms (and even a permanent fixture in his own office) to be a visual representation of the most important stakeholder in any meeting – the customer. This provided a powerful segue into an AWS exercise – the backward sprint.  

This way of working supports Amazon’s fervent ‘customer first’ approach. 

 This exercise starts with a written press release, which outlines customers needs, desires, and identifies any frictions in their daily life. With this clear view of who the customer is, it is then far easier to develop a product or service to suit their needs – an approach which also ensures clear communication between developers and marketing in Amazon’s case, meaning a product can be designed and launched seamlessly. 

Be The Business Mentoring Programme

Another fantastic pair of speakers took to stage in the morning – Denica Lundberg and Sheena McDermott from Be The Business, talking about their aim to boost UK productivity through helping business owners and leaders improve the performance of their business.  

With a wealth of support on offer, their mentoring programme was the focus of their talk. The programme connects leaders from SMEs with executives from some of the UK’s leading companies, who then act as a sounding board for ideas and challenges over either a 12 week or 12 month programme. Receiving rave reviews from STC members who have taken part as mentees, mentors – or both, this programme is well worth investigating. 

You can find out more or sign up for this excellent programme on the Be The Business website. 

The Oxford to Cambridge Arc Super Cluster 

After lunch Roz Bird, Commercial Director at MEPC, took to the stage to announce the formation of a ‘super cluster’, made up of nine high-profile business clusters across the Oxford to Cambridge Arc.  The super cluster network will give the region’s high-tech business community more opportunity to break down barriers and collaborate, becoming more competitive in the process.  

The business clusters involved are: 

Cambridge Cleantech, which “connects innovators, corporates, academics, SMEs and investors for a smarter, more sustainable future.” 

Cambridge Network whose mission is “to encourage collaboration for shared success.” 

Cambridge Wireless, which “is the leading international community for companies involved in the research, development and application of wireless and mobile, internet, semiconductor and software technologies.” 

Colworth Park which is “the UK’s leading food and beverage R&D cluster…providing a supportive environment for open innovation where networking and collaboration are integral to the campus culture.” 

MKAI, which is “an inclusive community of diverse thinkers that together are shaping the future of Artificial Intelligence.” 

One Nucleus “seeks to enable members to maximise their performance” 

Oxford Innovation are “experts in supporting the growth of early stage and start-up business” 

Oxfordshire GreenTech is “the business network supporting the growth of the low-carbon sector in Oxfordshire.” 

Silverstone Technology Cluster “exists to help Advanced Engineering, Electronics and Software businesses in the wider geographical area surrounding Silverstone.” 

Leaders from five of these clusters joined a panel discussion on the results of a live poll, which asked delegates how they hope the supercluster would benefit their business. 

Answers favoured networking opportunities and the creation of business collaborations with other SMEs, which the panellists were very supportive of. The idea that businesses become more competitive by collaboration was repeated throughout the session, with speakers highlighting the collective mission of the super cluster, as well as highlighting ways to get involved. 

The whole event had a real focus on collaboration, with the super cluster creating so many opportunities for SMEs in the Oxford to Cambridge Arc. This will enable businesses to collaborate to become more competitive, driving innovative activity in these industries forward and supporting the Government’s Grand Challenges. One key takeaway for me was Amazon’s empty chair rule, which reinforced the importance of considering your customer when making any business decision

Samantha Wildman Head of Business Development, MPA

All in all, a fantastic event with inspiring speakers and delegates alike. We look forward to the STC Annual Conference 2022. In the meantime, if you’d like to get involved with the STC, you can find information on membership and regular events on their website.