Pictured: Mandy Ridyard (Produmax), Tracy Brabin, Sir Roger Marsh and Jeremy Ridyard (Produmax).

The West Yorkshire Innovation Network gains momentum with support from the Mayor of West Yorkshire and announcement of new Chair

The Mayor of West Yorkshire has marked the official launch of the West Yorkshire Innovation Network with a visit to aerospace manufacturer, Produmax, in Baildon, as part of her pledge to support local businesses and demonstrate a commitment to boost innovation activity, productivity and collaboration across the region.

The visit came as Mandy Ridyard, Produmax’s Finance Director, was announced the new Chair of the West Yorkshire Innovation Network. Through her current roles as LEP Board member, Business Economy and Innovation Committee member, co-chair of Local Digital Skills Partnership and Chair of Space Hub Yorkshire, Mandy already champions innovation, business growth and skills across the region.

The West Yorkshire Combined Authority established the West Yorkshire Innovation Network (WYIN) in June 2020 as a direct result of the West Yorkshire Devolution Deal and has since been gaining momentum to encourage a greater propensity for businesses to engage in innovation activity.

The West Yorkshire Innovation Network is coordinated by the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership (the LEP) in partnership with the Combined Authority, and its aim is to create a collective place to help businesses access support, encourage and nurture innovative ideas and position the region as a hub for innovation. Through improved partnerships working across local, regional and national innovation players, the WYIN can deliver the national and regional ambitions for innovation and economic growth by ensuring the right support is available and driving up demand for it.

There is already a significant innovation support offer across the region to help businesses to do more, and go further and faster.

The LEP’s current innovation programme, Connecting Innovation, provides an access point for businesses into all this support available. The WYIN strengthens this even further to give businesses a more joined up platform to access the support they need, should this be for academic research, product prototyping, specialist expertise or funding.

Through its first collaboration, the WYIN launched the first ever West Yorkshire Innovation Festival in 2021 to shine a spotlight on the extensive support available and raise the profile of Innovation West Yorkshire. In 2022 the festival will be back, bigger and better, focusing on how to drive diversity in innovation.

The Leeds City Region Business Survey 2021 showed that 31% of West Yorkshire businesses believe Innovation/R&D to be more of a priority after the Covid-19 pandemic, while 25% report an anticipated skills gap in Innovation/R&D over the next 12 months. These figures further demonstrate the important role the Network can play in bringing together an effective environment for businesses to have access to the expertise and support required to innovate.

The Mayor of West Yorkshire, Tracy Brabin, and chair of the LEP, Sir Roger Marsh OBE DL, marked the official launch of the West Yorkshire Innovation Network at Produmax as they met with colleagues at the manufacturer to learn more about their products, company and its contribution to the region and the wider aerospace.  

Tracy Brabin, Mayor of West Yorkshire, said: “Innovation is a key driver of economic growth and our recovery. The West Yorkshire Innovation Network is our way of driving that spirit for invention and creativity forward across our region. It cements our partnership with organisations and how we can work together to deliver on our regional priorities, all while developing the most inclusive and diverse ecosystem where innovation truly is for everyone.

“The Network has made a bright start in launching the first West Yorkshire Innovation Festival and delivering a collaborative response to the Government’s national innovation strategy. There is so much potential in our region and as part of my pledges to support local businesses and to prioritise skills and training, the Network has my full support.”

Sir Roger Marsh OBE DL, chair of the Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership and NP11 Group of Northern LEPs, said: “Our region has a wealth of budding innovators who we want to nurture, inspire and support. The West Yorkshire Innovation Network brings together the innovation ecosystem – the support providers and business representatives – not only to align the innovation offer but to ensure businesses receive the right support, whether it’s financial investment, specialist expertise or product development.

“The Network’s collaborative ambition is to increase innovation activity and provide opportunities to anyone wanting to innovate, so we can establish West Yorkshire as an innovation hub to drive investment and growth.”

Mandy Ridyard, Finance Director of Produmax and new Chair of the West Yorkshire Innovation Network, commented: “I am delighted to be part of shaping a stronger network for innovation and working together to improve access to support and engagement from businesses – and drive diversity across the sector. As Chair of the West Yorkshire Innovation Network, I hope that my real-world business experience along with my role on the Business, Economy and Innovation Committee can help guide and influence the future direction of support to better align with business needs.”

Cllr Shabir Pandor, Chair of the Combined Authority’s Business, Economy and Innovation Committee and Leader of Kirklees Council, said: “I welcome the establishment of the West Yorkshire Innovation Network as a key means of delivering inclusive innovation, where we are broadening participation and engagement with businesses. Greater diversity across the ecosystem means the right support is provided to a range of budding innovators and entrepreneurs, ensuring new products and services are fit for a diverse marketplace.”

The West Yorkshire Innovation Network brings together organisations, partners, stakeholders and private sector businesses which will underpin regional innovation activity. It will link with sector initiatives, such as the Healthtech Catalyst and AMPI, while also responding as a collective lobbying voice on national Government’s policy; all of which sets out the pivotal role that West Yorkshire can play in helping to deliver the ambitions of the national innovation strategy and wider programme to level up the regions.