A Stepping Stone to Success: How to Go from Innovation Alley to Smart Factory Expo
Innovation Alley is one of the highlights of the Smart Factory Expo, held as part of Digital Manufacturing Week in Liverpool, and it’s no coincidence that the alley is at the very center of the show.
In partnership with the Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN) and Innovate UK, Innovation Alley provides a space each year for young digital technology innovators to showcase their offerings to the thousands of manufacturers and industry leaders who attend the flagship event. of manufacturing in the UK.
A natural progression for many of these companies, as they prosper and grow, is to become full-fledged exhibitors at the Smart Factory Expo. Here, we talk to three such companies about their own experiences at Innovation Alley and how it helped them establish themselves in the manufacturing sector.
Smartia is a provider of scalable AI solutions that connect and transform industrial data into actionable insights
A first foray
First exhibiting at Innovation Alley in 2018, Smartia is a provider of scalable AI solutions that connect and transform industrial data into actionable insights. MAIO, Smartia’s industrial intelligence platform, combines edge computing, big data technology and AI-driven applications to provide a complete digital solution to the manufacturing and engineering industries.
Company co-founder and CCO Asim Majid reflects on Smartia’s first visit to Innovation Alley: “Innovation Alley provided our first opportunity as a start-up to showcase our technology and services at a manageable cost. for the fledgling company that we were just a few years ago, we hadn’t seen anything like it at another event, and we still haven’t.
“Due to the nature of the companies exhibiting on the aisle, it attracted the most people as it showcased the latest technological innovations in the field of Industry 4.0. The aisle is centrally located, so attendees should cross it as they move through the event room. Smartia had also included a speaking slot so that we could introduce the company and the technology to a captive audience. This resulted in follow-up meetings and opportunities with well-qualified prospects.”
For start-ups who may be unfamiliar with the landscape, the costs associated with exhibits can clearly be daunting and prohibitive in some cases. However, Innovation Alley offers early-stage companies the opportunity to dip their toes in the exhibition waters while still being in front of the people they need, as David Thompson, project manager at the technology specialist, explains. lean manufacturing systems, Iter Digital: “Innovation Alley gave us the perfect platform to see if exhibiting was right for Iter Digital. The layout of the space allows you to exhibit with very little investment, while having access to all event participants.Despite the smaller surface area, it brings you closer to passers-by and encourages interaction.
“Innovation Alley is a very cost effective option for getting involved in events. Expos can be expensive and there are several things that as a start-up you are not aware of in terms of what is needed to exhibit successfully. Innovation Alley has given us a safer and more efficient environment to interact with people and have a presence at the show,” adds George Hancock CGO and Director of Business Development at the machine learning application provider, The Data Analysis Bureau.
An essential role to play
Innovation Alley is unique in terms of events focused on the manufacturing and industrial sectors. And the Smart Factory Expo is the most important event on the calendar for tech companies looking to break into the manufacturing space. Therefore, for many start-ups and SMEs, it is vital that they are there to present themselves and the ally provides the perfect space for start-ups and SMEs to present their products/services with no capital outlay. important.
“Having a distinctive space for SMEs and start-ups sparked some great conversations and allowed us to be visited by very interested attendees,” says David. “Innovation Alley helped us as a start-up company to talk to people and understand what they wanted, look at market maturity and understand what the trends were,” adds George.
Despite the fact that its proposal was still a work in progress when the company first visited Innovation Alley, the show still allowed T-Dab to focus on really specific use cases for industry, and to talk about relevant case studies to every customer who visited the supporter.
George adds: “We were talking to several machining companies, for example, and we were able to discuss how they can use the data for predictive maintenance, anomaly detection, condition monitoring, etc. So we were able to refine our message and improve the conversations. with customers. And we had a wide range, from start-ups to enterprises. So it’s a great starting point for building those relationships.
“Our prospect list was very diverse in terms of various industries represented, as well as a number of attendees from various educational institutions. We’ve had people from local and national manufacturing facilities and even visitors from Europe,” adds David.
If you meet Innovation Alley’s criteria and are new to exposure to such events, it’s a great springboard to gauge reaction to a product/service and understand what’s going on in the exposure and if it’s good for your business.
It may also look like basic marketing, but it’s also important to be proactive, targeted, and send a clear message so visitors understand what you’re offering. “Make sure it’s engaging,” adds George. “People may think it’s fancy, but you need something to draw people to the bar. Also, get involved in the discussions as they play an important role in promoting the brand, building your credibility and capabilities, and engaging more people.
Asim adds: “To quote Nike, ‘just do it’, especially if you’re targeting the manufacturing technology sector, you have to be there. The added bonus is that attendees are generally well-qualified, so most will be the ideal leads you want to speak with.
Switch to SFE
The natural progression for the many companies that have cut their teeth at Innovation Alley is to step out of the dedicated start-up zone and become a full-fledged Smart Factory Expo exhibitor. The aisle offers a graduation of sorts (companies being allowed to exhibit for a maximum of two years) and is therefore the next step in terms of returning to Digital Manufacturing Week, allowing companies to move into a larger, thereby maximizing customer engagement and recognition. on the living room floor.
“We met many manufacturing companies that were considering Industry 4.0 technologies, especially around IIoT and AI, which are our specialties,” adds Asim. “These companies varied in size, but most were medium to large companies and came from all over the world. Being part of SFE has helped put Smartia on the map of UK technology providers. »
David adds: After considering what our space at Innovation Alley gave us, we felt the exhibits suited us, and the number and quality of leads we captured more than justified wanting to return with a designated booth.
“At SFE, we saw that there were high-quality leads, comprised of both decision makers and influencers within their organization, and we saw success with those leads post-show. Despite COVID, we found the attendance for the 2021 event to be really good and the flow of visitors felt pretty consistent throughout the two days.
Next for 2022
Thoughts for all three companies are of course now turning to Digital Manufacturing Week 2022, as Asim adds: “The main objective of exhibiting and presenting at SFE is to generate new business opportunities, to speak to many potential customers in a short period of time, showcase our industrial intelligence technology and services, and be seen as a growing player in the Industry 4.0 scene.
“We did that to some extent when we were on Innovation Alley, but now we have a lot more impact as a main exhibitor. Many attendees will have seen us over the years and watched our business grow and our technology mature; continuing our association with SFE helps cement our brand in the minds of attendees.