Published: December 10, 2019 | Updated: December 10, 2019

Spark event helps shine the way ahead as Dorset’s growth challenges are debated

By Andrew Diprose, editor

Sparks flew – but for all the right reasons – when businesses, students and academics came together to try and solve some of Dorset’s growth challenges.

Sixty people took part in Dorset Spark 2.0, a collaboration of Dorset Growth Hub, Dorset LEP, Bournemouth University (BU), which hosted the event, and Arts University Bournemouth (AUB).

They were formed into multi-generation, multi-sector teams with the aim of finding practical, innovative solutions to enhance economic growth.

The students ranged from first years to masters and came from a range of departments and subjects including law, journalism, cyber security, costume design, marketing and psychology.

They were matched by an equal number of representatives from Dorset businesses.

The event began with Rich Burn, of Dorset Growth Hub; David Wakeford, Bournemouth University, and Dorset LEP’s Finn Morgan outlining how ideas from the day-long session could feed into the local industrial strategy.

Four speakers/judges followed by setting the scene and giving insights into their experiences as they mounted three challenges:

  • Ross Thornley, of Adaptai, covered adapting to new technology specifically automation, digitisation and Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the workplace, pointing out that more change is to come in the next ten years then in the last 100 years.
  • Toni Taylor and Ben Applin, from RISE, talked about what Dorset businesses can do to attract and retain the right talent while also giving practical tips to students looking for jobs.
  • Sukanya Ayatakshi, Senior Academic in Entrepreneurship at BU, discussed improving prosperity for all with a more inclusive and sustainable approach, encouraging businesses to look at inclusive and sustainable growth as their competitive advantage.

The attendees were then split into six teams and given a brief with challenges to solve surrounding the three themes spoken about by the speakers.

Two hours were allowed to collate their ideas and solutions into a five minute pitch to convince the panel (Ross, Toni, Sukanya and Nick Gregory) that their idea would be a success.

The judges then chose the winning teams as well as the person who made the best contribution of the day. AUB student Caitlyn Powell won a £50 voucher from Hall & Woodhouse to spend on a meal for two.

Rich Burn, Dorset Growth Hub’s Digital Projects Manager, pictured right, said the day had been “inspiring, insightful and connected.”

He added: “All the participants who attended had equal amounts to learn and gain from the day.

“I saw at first-hand how the interaction and generation of ideas in our challenge activities were equally beneficial to the BU students but also the business owners.

“It was a pleasure for us to host and co-ordinate an event that is the beginning of a series of Dorset Spark initiatives that can not only help students and businesses but also inform Dorset’s economic strategies going forward.”

Finn Morgan, Dorset LEP’s Business Engagement and Dorset Gateway Manager, pictured left, pointed out that Dorset’s emerging Local Industry Strategy identified challenges and opportunities for the local economy over the next few years.

“A key area of focus is around developing skills as well as attracting and retaining talent in the region.

“The Dorset Spark event is a great example of how we can collaborate with a range of stakeholders to try and address the challenges and capitalise on the opportunities to provide a brighter future for those who live and work here,” he said.

Mark Painter, BU’s Centre for Entrepreneurship Manager, pictured right, said feedback to the day had been “incredibly positive.”

He added: “The format works really well and we certainly seemed to have created some real momentum with these events.

“It is clear all those who took part thoroughly enjoyed themselves. I was particularly struck by the positive, enthusiastic and upbeat atmosphere throughout the day”

It’s now hoped to hold Dorset Spark 3.0 in June 2020, during Poole Maritime Week.