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Innovisions 2011 - Driving Innovation in Business and Education towards a Better Future

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NEF held its annual conference Innovisions 2011 on 1 December at The Royal Society in London. It was a chance for leading industrialists and educationalists to come together and discuss the importance of STEM Innovation at the Heart of Wealth Creation.

Professor Sa'ad Medhat opened the conference with an insight into NEF and it's passion to promote STEM in FE institutions. He highlighted that the NEF work with over 230 FE colleges and are supported by over 400 businesses, but raised the question of how do you get from where you are to where you want to be? The NEF have influenced Government Policies such as Tripartite Gov Working Green Skills Group and have led a number of STEM national and sector strategies (e.g. Innovation Nation). One thing that came from the entire day is the benefit that institutes such as The NEF's Institute of Innovation and Knowledge Exchange (IKE) can have on bringing industry and education together to think about the solution for the future of STEM.

Tony Moloney from the National Grid got the day off to a fantastic start with his presentation which focussed on understanding the needs of the future and how to devise partnerships with employers and other civic leaders. Mel Stride, the MP for Central Devon and PPS to John Hayes, the minister for Further Education, Skills and Lifelong Learning delivered a stirring speech about the importance of opportunities being given to young people in education. He emphasised that knowledge was key and that the government continues to invest in innovation and the importance of bringing education and industry together.

From the motoring sector Jo Lopes (Jaguar Land Rover) spoke about the importance of skills for sustainable mobility, and the skills gap within the automotive industry for qualified engineers. Mike Pilbeam of EMC Computer Systems delivered an inspirational presentation on Cloud Computing and its importance in various sectors, whilst Marc Saunders of Renishaw engaged the audience with his delivery on Three Dimensional Printing, in particular Additive Manufacturing. The round of industrial presentations were brought to an exciting end by David Hughes from E.ON who gave an insight into the changing face of engineering. Before drawing the morning session to a close, Alun Francis, Principal from The Oldham College gave a stirring speech about the role of the college leadership in rejuvenating local economies.

A panel session, chaired by Kerry Eustice from the Guardian Newspaper, saw Tony Moloney of the National Grid, Stephen Uden - Microsoft, Hazel Elderkin - Unilever, Graham Schuhmacher - Rolls Royce and Dr John Chudley of the National Apprenticeship Service debate the future of Higher Apprenticeships. The floor was opened for the audience to express their views and opinions and ask any pertinent questions which could be discussed further during the break. Before adjourning for lunch, the audience heard from Richard Balfe, an engineering apprentice who explained the importance and value apprenticeships have in society today. Richard concluded that he was grateful to organisations such as the NEF for their developments in STEM.

The afternoon saw presentations from leaders in the FE community such as Dick Palmer of City Norwich College who discussed closing the STEM training gap through college autonomous status. Wendy Wright OBE from Macclesfield College and Karen Sekula, Assistant Principal of Sheffield City College highlighted new approaches in STEM curriculum development. Malachy McAleer from South West College, Northern Ireland discussed creating a vignette for driving economic and social well-being, and used Innotec - the colleges Innovation centre - as a key example of how to make it work.

An awards session followed which gave Mel Stride, the Minister's PPS, the opportunity to honour the Fellows of the NEF's Industrial Fellowship Scheme. One key point to mention from the day was the impact that social media could have on education. Bryony Taylor, a social media expert, opened the eyes of many industrialists and academics to the importance of using social media and smartphones for both industry and education.

The day ended on a high note with three case studies from IFS fellows. Kim Howes from Midkent College introduced the audience to the requirements of the commercial construction sector to reduce production of CO2; Brian Doran from Buro Happold and David Balfe from Stockport College gave a riveting video account of David's placement at Buro Happold and the effect on Stockport College and the surrounding area, and finally, Patrick Lawlor of Forth Valley College gave an insight into his placement at Roslin Cells, which undertakes stem cell research.

Professor Sa'ad Medhat closed the conference by thanking everyone who attended. The NEF is very grateful to all who came to Innovisions and who supported NEF throughout 2011. The NEF look forward to seeing everyone again at Innovisions 2012.

Written by @RoyWoodhouse

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