Future could be bright for North East businesses

 NORTH East businesses must innovate if they want to grow, according to a leading futurologist. 

 James Woudhuysen, professor of forecasting and innovation at De Montfort University in Leicester, said the region has the chance to stand out through invention and innovation, and to take advantage of huge opportunities that exist across sectors including IT, energy, construction, pharmaceuticals, retail and leisure. 

 Prof Woudhuysen will talk to businesses about where he believes these opportunities lie early next month, when he speaks at Business Exchange North East, a free event expected to attract 2000 business-people from across the region.

 He said: “I firmly believe that we’ve not seen anything yet in a number of sectors and there are vast opportunities out there for businesses to take advantage of.  For example, we’ve seen the introduction of self-service checkouts in supermarkets, but there has been no real breakthrough in the way retailers operate.  The opportunities for companies that can create a ‘new future’ are vast.

 “Businesses must have the audacity to take risks and employ long-term blue skies research, and it is this ‘think big’ approach that will help move these sectors on.”

 Prof Woudhuysen also believes that if businesses are to advance, they must have strong leadership.  He said: “Leadership means setting an example, taking the initiative, bringing people on.  Around innovation, it means taking personal responsibility, taking risks, and taking new science and technology more seriously than new business models. 

 “In medicine, for example, some of the great doctors of the 20th century operated on themselves – not psychologically, but physically. We need that kind of heroic leadership today.”

 Prof Woudhuysen will present to businesses from a range of sectors and of all different sizes at Business Link’s Business Exchange North East, supported by the North East Chamber of Commerce (NECC) and Service Network.  The two-day event, which runs on March 8 and 9 at The Sage Gateshead, will give businesses the chance to learn new skills and network, as well as hearing from speakers including Rosie Smith, the Bank of England’s agent for the North East.

 The event is free to attend and attracted more than 1000 businesses last year.  To book a place at Business Exchange North East visit www.eventsnortheast.co.uk/exchange to reserve your place online.

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