As we head into 2023, the whole Sussex Innovation team and I would like to wish the members of our community a happy new year. It’s that time of year when we’re all busy making plans – from laying out our strategy for the year ahead, to setting personal goals and resolutions for what we want to achieve.

After celebrating with everyone at our Christmas parties and taking a long break, I’ve had some time to reflect of the successes of last year and begin refreshing our plans for the year ahead. But first, a recap of 2022 and what we as an organisation achieved.

Right at the start of the year, the BRAIN project came to a close. The programme has been running since September 2017 and sought to help SMEs overcome barriers to innovation through one-to-one business support and grant funding. Through this programme we were able to directly support more than 250 small businesses, as well as getting £150k in grants out to companies looking to protect their IP.

Work with the Community Renewal Fund took up much of the year. We collaborated with the University of Sussex Business School to blend some of the great theoretical expertise available on campus with our team’s own practical capabilities. We made a TV show – a new experience for us! – which gave us an opportunity to meet some amazing contributors and find out more about the innovative businesses around East Sussex.

Over the last few months we also worked on several ‘Hit Squad’ projects, which enabled us to work in a more sustained way with some of the larger SMEs in the region. It was also very rewarding for our team to have a ‘deep dive’ into some of the important social projects that are underway on our doorstep, and again, work closely with a few of the specialist researchers from the University to explore new ideas. In 2023 we’re looking forward to doing more to bring these academic and business communities together and work on these kinds of impactful projects.

I have always enjoyed working with our Bamboo Club of high-growth directors, as peer-to-peer mentoring and discussion is something that I have greatly benefited from throughout my career. We brought together more than 30 exciting businesses in 3 cohorts last year, ranging from technology to retail, construction to education. It was a joy to see these businesses from such different backgrounds discover their common challenges, transform and learn from each other.

Finally, last year also had us say goodbye to our ‘old’ Catalyst team. It’s always rewarding to see each group of young people graduate and fly the nest to build their careers after the year they spent with us. We have already welcomed a new fresh-faced and eager bunch who are joining us at the start of their career journey – I hope that your business will get an opportunity to work with some of them in 2023.

This year we plan to do more within the community and will be announcing a new schedule of regular events (both educational and social!) within the next few weeks. We’re also hard at work on planning our new suite of programmes and consultancy offerings, which we’ll be sharing more details about very soon.