Brighton business incubator brings in UN expert to boost innovation

Posted On 01 Sep 2021 at 7:16 pm

A Brighton business incubator has recruited a United Nations expert to help new firms innovate and grow.

Tanya Popeau

Tanya Popeau, 41, has become the first head of innovation and consultancy at the Sussex Innovation Centre.

The Innovation Centre, owned by Sussex University, has helped hundreds of start-up businesses founded by students at the Falmer campus – and also helps small businesses to grow or “scale up”.

Many of the founders have been research students looking to turn their ideas into money-making ventures.

Ms Popeau, who reports to the Innovation Centre’s chief executive Nigel Lambe, 51, is expected to develop Sussex Innovation’s consultancy and support programmes, with a focus on innovation and sustainability.

Her role will involve helping growing businesses to develop innovative products and delivering tailored support for purpose-led businesses whose founders want to have greater social, environmental and economic impact.

Ms Popeau has previously worked as a consultant and adviser at the forefront of the UN’s strategic focus on innovation.

She said: “I’m looking forward to joining Sussex Innovation at a very exciting time.

“There is a very clear direction and desire throughout the company to make a positive change in the world, while continuing to focus on the team’s skills and expertise to help businesses throughout the region develop pioneering ideas into commercial successes.

“It’s going to be exciting to play a part in driving that agenda.”

During her work for the UN, Ms Popeau oversaw the development of the international agency’s first innovation fund in the Asia-Pacific region, addressing challenges from climate change to gender-based violence.

She has carried out research on ways to boost innovation in international development for the British innovation agency Nesta.

She has worked in partnership with organisations such as the BBC, Amnesty International and Procter and Gamble while working at Royal Holloway University of London.

Nigel Lambe

Mr Lambe said: “The past 18 months have brought extraordinary circumstances for business, particularly the ambitious start-ups and SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) we work with.

“Throughout the pandemic we’ve consulted with both our members and the wider community to understand their challenges and what support they need most.

“While we’re lucky to have a great team of experts who specialise in delivering insight, strategy and marketing expertise for innovative businesses, we’ve heard from lots of companies who have been forced to radically rethink their business model, products and market.

“We know that we can offer a lot of value by helping established business owners encourage more of an innovation mindset and manage change effectively within an already successful company – a need that Tanya is uniquely qualified to help us fulfil.”

Her appointment comes a few months after Sussex Innovation appointed a director to run its new centre in Brighton, in the New England Quarter, near the station.

Claire Pasquill, previously the head of programmes at the Sussex Innovation Centre in Falmer, was given the job, eight years after joining the organisation and having previously run an events management business.

Claire Pasquill

As well its premises in Brighton and Falmer, the Sussex Innovation Centre also has a hub in Croydon.

The organisation was set up 25 years ago and has been wholly owned by Sussex University since 2008.

Those helped by the centre include product design graduate Lucy Hughes who won a £10,000 prize for creating a business with the most potential to bring about positive social change.

Her invention, Marinatex, fabricated from fishing waste products, is intended to provide a sustainable alternative to plastic film for the packaging industry.

The centre also hosts Virtual Doctors, a charity which enables doctors in Britain to help sick patients abroad in places such as Zambia and Malawi. Learn more about the Virtual Doctors here.

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