Last week, the Sussex Innovation support team visited TEDxBrighton 2016. This year’s event celebrated the theme of impact with the title “We Can Be Heroes”, bringing innovators and individuals from across the country for an event discussing the stories, challenges and accomplishments of creating a meaningful impact on the world.

Various members of the team have attended TEDx Brighton over the past few years, but for the first time this year we were part of the event’s ‘Ideas Lab’, offering visitors advice, support and information to help them kickstart their ideas.

In our experience, the great thing about TEDx events is the way that they gather a congregation of thinkers, makers and doers all in one place, so we wanted to tap into that knowledge. We asked visitors the question “What do Brighton’s Innovators Need?”, to gain some insight from the collected minds of TEDx about patterns and possibilities – and what we might be able to provide for the local business community.

In the Auditorium:

The knowledge the team gained at TEDx was not just from the attendees, however – with over 15 speakers, both local and global, the event’s talks told of experiences with defeating adversity, challenging limitations and discovering new frontiers, and there was plenty for the team to take in.

Highlights included Sarah Giblin of Riut, who told of her journey from identifying a problem to validating it as an opportunity. “I liked Sarah’s passion for, and confidence in, making her ideas happen – and her ability to communicate that to her audience,” said Simon Chuter, Sussex Innovation’s Sales and Marketing Innovation Advisor.

Simon’s fellow Sales and Marketing Innovation Advisor, Claire Pasquill, was given food for thought by a talk from Richard Summers, founder of digital agency CrowdCat. “He shared his ideas on changing the purpose of education, which prompted me to consider further the educational activities I do at home with my daughter,” she said.

A few of the inspirational speakers were familiar faces to us at Sussex Innovation. Rachel Mortimer, founder of Centre members Engage & Create, gave an impassioned talk on her organisation’s work to improve dementia care. Do Something Different, who have collaborated with our Catalyst team on several research projects, were the leading topic of co-founder Karen Pine’s talk about breaking free from everyday routines.

In the Ideas Lab:

Back at our booth in the Ideas Lab, we asked visiting innovators to tell us what they needed most, in as few words as possible. Behind us was a board for attendees to share their responses, and throughout the day a map of their shared feelings and concerns began to emerge. During our discussions, we found that many people were trying to work on their ideas alone, and hadn’t considered connecting with others or building a team. Even those who were looking for a support network admitted they found it daunting to find good people who can provide trust, skills and reliability.

Many other visitors mentioned the ever-present concerns of not having enough time and money. The balance of this chicken-egg scenario for start-ups is obviously a concern – over 20% of submissions to the board mentioned these as problems.

A common roadblock to going from having an idea to pursuing that innovation is one’s personal drive and confidence in doing it – which was emphasised strongly during our discussions at TEDx. As Sussex Innovation Croydon’s Director Ben Holt explained, “sometimes all you need to give you the motivation to kick-start your idea is someone’s approval and confidence – feeling as though you’re not in it alone.”

Other members of the team encountered people with the same challenge; the “my idea is silly” feeling that many potential start-ups have to overcome to get off the ground. This was echoed on our booth’s board as over a third (37%) of submissions mentioned personal development factors such as confidence, motivation or direction, and nearly half of those highlighted confidence as an essential need for Brighton’s innovators.

What Did We Learn?

It was encouraging to see this emphasis on the personal and psychological side of entrepreneurship, and the recognition that many of an innovators needs aren’t external factors. A big part of the service that institutions like ours offer to members is confidence, motivation and direction; whether it comes from a mentoring relationship, the validation of having a sounding board for your ideas, or the added impetus that your community of fellow innovators can create.

As a direct result of the conversations we had at this year’s conference, we plan to organise a series of events in 2017 focused on resolving some of the challenges that Brighton’s innovators face. As well as opportunities to network and make connections to take ideas forward, we recognise a real demand for workshops designed to build business confidence and help people take that next step. If that sounds like something you’re interested in, leave your contact details below to be kept up to date with our plans.