Need help bringing your business idea to fruition? This virtual event could be for you

One of the leaaders of the fight against single use plastics is among the speakers

Pioneering businesses in the county are crucial to help the area and the whole country to recover from the economic impact of Covid-19, and Government support is available to help them do it. This is the message from the UK’s innovation agency, Innovate UK, which brings funding and knowledge transfer partnerships to pioneering small businesses across the UK. In Kent and East Sussex alone, almost £14m has been awarded to small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) over the past three years, with support given via 77 grants.

Working alongside the South East Local Enterprise Partnership (South East LEP), New Anglia Local Enterprise Partnership (New Anglia LEP) and the universities of Kent, Essex and East Anglia, Innovate UK is today holding a free, virtual Innovate East conference and exhibition, at which it will be possible to find out more about the innovation that is already taking place in their area, as well as how to access funding and support. It starts at 8.30 in the morning, but visitors can access it throughout the day.

Howard Partridge, Innovate UK’s regional manager for the East and South East of England, says: “When I’m asked what gives Kent and East Sussex their innovation strengths, I always say that it’s the breadth of the businesses capabilities and the collaborative networks that connect and support them. 

“The fact that we have pioneering businesses and research organisations that are at forefront of helping to fight challenges such as Covid-19, in so many different ways – from life sciences to manufacturing – is testament to this.

“The Innovate East event has been designed for the owners of innovative businesses, or those with the ambition to start one, to find out how they can bring their ground-breaking ideas to market. There will be access to the area’s many business innovation networks, as well as to businesses that have already benefitted from Innovate UK’s funding. Virtual attendees will also be able to gain practical support, such as a round writing bids and pitches.”

For more information about the Innovate East event, please visit


The Kent-based entrepreneur on a mission to replace single-use plastics

One of Innovate UK’s Women in Innovation winners, Dr Fanya Ismail, is the founder of Sol-Gel Materials & Applications (SGMA), a Gillingham-based enterprise which has developed a barrier coating for fibre-based packaging, which has the potential to help make single-use plastics at thing of the past.

The coating, which is extracted from sand, provides a biodegradable, compostable and recyclable alternative to plastic packaging. Material can be used to more widely replace single-use plastics.

Fanya Ismail will be speaking at the Innovate East event, explaining how it is possible to make a huge difference through innovation. She will also be able to answer any questions around female entrepreneurship, and how being involved in Innovate UK’s Women in Innovation initiative helped her on her journey.


David Buckley

Dave Buckley is a career journalist. “I once went painting girders for a week and discovered I didn’t like heights,” he says. “Apart from that it has always been journalism for me in one form or another.” Past local weekly publications he has worked for include: the South-East London Mercury* covering the Borough of Greenwich as a junior reporter; Orpington-based News Shopper as a sub-editor; and the Kent Messenger when based in Larkfield, Maidstone, as deputy chief sub-editor. He has also worked for the following dailies/nationals: Daily Express, Today*, News of the World* and Hong Kong Star*. All those marked with an asterisk no longer exist (trend emerging?). He owned and edited a Thailand-based property magazine before returning to England and currently works as a production editor on a car fleet magazine. His first foray into property ownership saw him move from London to Rainham (the Gillingham, Kent, variety). He has subsequently lived in Chislehurst, Petts Wood and Orpington in the Borough of Bromley (which he still regards as being in Kent). In more recent years he owned three different properties on the Kings Hill (West Malling) development.

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