Interview with Rob Stead, Founder of AutoSens about the new AutoSensMATCH brokerage event taking place on Monday 14th September as part of the AutoSens agenda.
So, Robert, how did this session come about?
With our flagship event taking place in Brussels, the heart of the European Union, I have always been looking for ways to make the most of those Europe-wide connections, and leverage the power of the full continent. I was made aware of the brokerage event concept by my local Department of International Trade (DIT) representative, Andrew Mapstone, and explored how this might be possible in Brussels. I was very pleased to connect with Virginia Gómez Oñate, who works with hub.brussels and the Enterprise Europe Network Brussels (EEN) (co-financed under the European Union´s programme for the competitiveness of SMEs) to organise 1-2-1 networking events. Virginia proposed to include a ‘Innovation Hunters’ section, designed to connect large companies with smaller companies or start-ups who have a potential solution to offer. I thought it sounded like a great fit for AutoSens, and the initiative snowballed from there.
Who is involved, and how will they benefit?
Participants are grouped into two categories – Innovation Hunters and Participants. EEN gathers Problem Statements from the Innovation Hunters and they are listed on the website to attract interest from Participants who might be able to help resolve this specific challenge. The Problem Statements can be narrow or broad in focus, but they need to identify a particular technical area where the large company could potentially benefit from working with an outside organisation with a high level of expertise. There are some great examples listed for AutoSensMATCH, and I’m pleased to see companies like Ford, BMW, IBM, Panasonic, Hitachi and Zoox listed among them. Best of all, this year the service is totally free for all participants!
How will the meetings be organised?
Once the Innovation Hunters have submitted their Problem Statement and registered on the platform, the whole network of EEN representatives in each nation state across Europe goes to work to share these challenges and source relevant experts to help with solutions. It’s a coordinated effort across many offices even beyond Europe, for example, with support of EEN USA via the European American Enterprise Council and also the German-Canadian Centre for Innovation and Research, and each national office has a great network of contacts in the SME and start-up space. There’s lots of desk research to try and identify organisations with relevant expertise. Once identified, these potential solution providers are invited to register on the platform and submit a meeting request with the Innovation Hunter. Everyone has the change to review meeting requests (for a 20-minute 1-2-1 discussion) and accept or reject them based on relevance. There’s a high level of acceptance because EEN have already done the hard work to find good matches. All the meetings are managed via a digital calendar to ensure a smooth process.
Is it a challenge to host this session online rather than in person?
Well, just like the rest of the world is adapting to home working, the b2match platform that’s used to manage these brokerage events had adapted and facilitated an online meeting space. It’s just like most video 1-2-1 platforms so it’s very easy for participants to get reminders about meetings, login and have the discussions from the comfort of their own home or office. What we miss out in the extra chemistry of a face-to-face interaction we make up for in the broader reach and ease of participation for all, helping us to maximise the benefits.
What lies ahead for AutoSensMATCH?
This is our first year, and I’m very happy with how it’s going so far, we have 12 Innovation Hunters and over 90 participants registered in total and that’s growing daily, with a wide range of countries represented as you can see below. Everyone is busy scheduling meetings and I’m sure we’ll have a flurry of activity over the next couple of weeks as the summer holiday season comes to a close and everyone hurries back to work.
|Korea, Republic Of||1|
I’m very encouraged by this uptake this year, and Virginia tells me the numbers are very good for a launch year. So, I hope next year we’ll see another good list of Innovation Hunters with a fresh set of challenges, and hopefully we’ll be back to running physical events by then so we can have a hybrid brokerage event with face to face and online meetings running concurrently.
Is there still time to get involved in this year’s session?
Absolutely! Time is running out, but there’s still a window of opportunity to get involved. And it’s totally free to participate. You can view the list of Innovation Hunters and their Problem Statements here, and register online here. Meeting slots are filling up quickly, but I think this is a great opportunity to explore industry collaborations and I’d encourage everyone to take a look. I’m looking forward to hearing about the fruitful connections made here – who knows, we might even hear about them in the main conference agenda next year!