Last night was my very first Norfolk Network. I really wasn't sure what to expect. Most events that I attend, even the networking ones, tend to be predominantly orientated around digital technology or infrastructure. The Norfolk Network is more straight business focused and is run by the superb Lucy Marks. Tonight was a panel discussion on innovation in Norfolk with a panel consisting of:
- Matthew Jones, the new COO for the Norwich Research Park and ex head of strategy and corporate planning at Lotus Cars Ltd.
- Simon Coward, Director for innovation and enterprise Norfolk County Council and Director of Hethel Engineering Centre
- Anthony Denny, Publishing Director of East Publishing
- Jane Chittenden, Founder of copywriting business Format Words and guest editor of Suffolk IoD Magazine
- Rob Halden-Pratt, producer, journalist, communicator and project lead for MakerSpace Norwich
and chaired by Lucy. I knew Rob Halden-Platt reasonable well from his involvement in SyncNorwich, but the rest were new to me. All we're very interesting and knowledgably. However, I really wasn't able to grasp how much innovation there really is going on Norwich or how much real money there was about. Norfolk businesses do not pay well and, in my opinion, need to invest more in people to get the best of local talent, which is sparse as it is.
The panel discussion lasted about 40 minutes and then the audience was able to get involved for the final 20 minutes. I'd like to have seen the audience brought in sooner and/or there to be more time for it at the end. This is probably because the right opportunity to mention SyncNorwich didn't materialise, despite the fact it was mentioned by Rob and Lucy a number of times.
The real jewel in the Norfolk Network crown is the networking that goes on after the main presentation. I'm used to networking from SyncNorwich and the countless other events I go to, but this was difference. There's more enthusiasm and people seem very keen to help and get involved. I made some good contacts and I'm hoping something will come of them in the next few weeks.
After paying £26 to attend, as a non-member, I came away thinking I definitely wanted to join. However, having looked at the website and found that it will cost me around £175, as an established business with 1 to 5 people, I think I need to experience a few more events before I buy to make sure I'm going to get real value.
I'm already looking forward to the next one.