Attending OSEF 2020 was a great way for new Enterprising Oxford team member Andrea to learn more about Oxford’s entrepreneurial community, as well as the very latest developments in entrepreneurship from a global – or should that be universal – perspective. She writes here about her experience of this year’s Conference:
OSEF is a one-day conference, held annually by the University’s Saïd Business School to promote entrepreneurship and innovation. This year’s keynote sessions, panel discussions and exhibition space were focussed around the appropriately-for-2020 theme of Space and Beyond. Participants were therefore encouraged to think about ‘pushing the boundaries’ of science and technology and, in this way, stretch their imaginations to infinity and beyond!
As the newest member of the Enterprising Oxford team, below are 5 of my own highlights of OSEF 2020’s programme of lively keynotes, presentations and discussion, which featured some of the most exciting current and boundary-breaking ideas around the future of enterprise and innovation:
- XPrize CEO Anosheh Ansari got the day off to an inspiring start with her morning keynote, describing to a spellbound lecture theatre the ways in which her childhood dreams of space travel influenced her incredible achievements in this field. Anosheh emphasised her belief in our ability to break boundaries through the application of our imagination. She also made sure to add that well-defined goals and lots of effort were essential in order to successfully ‘reach for the stars’.
- I was also able to attend a fascinating morning panel discussion which focussed on human immortality and the quest to remain healthy for as long as possible. There, I got a sense of some of the pioneering innovation currently in development to try to keep people in good health for longer, including the UK SPINE project. This session also gave delegates an insight into exactly the kind of ethical questions that those working at the cutting-edge of medical innovation often face.
- Anosheh Ansari’s definition of herself as a ‘lifelong learner’ had been a memorable moment earlier in the day’s proceedings. During his afternoon keynote, Olivier Robert-Murphy (Chief of Possibilities, Universal Musical Group) also acknowledged the need to be highly adaptable in the face of change. He used a series of state-of-the-art examples to show that a willingness to experiment with new approaches is essential in navigating the contemporary entertainment industry.
- An afternoon panel session on Unconventional Investing: the search for moonshots, complemented the highly impressive pitching competition that followed it. Both of these sessions illustrated the value of combining creativity with precision and dedication. As someone new to the world of the entrepreneurial pitch, the competition participants gave me a fantastic introduction to communicating your overarching vision in an accessible way, no matter the complexity of the scientific and technological concepts that underpin it.
- My final highlight was the constant buzz of activity around our very own Enterprising Oxford stand, staffed throughout the day by colleagues. Delegates learned more about the many ways in which EO helps to connect entrepreneurs and those who support entrepreneurship at every stage of development, as well as the diverse range of up-to-date regional resources available for both brand-new and experienced innovators to tap into.
Delegates also had ample opportunity to enjoy networking during the informal between-session timeslots that form such a fundamental part of OSEF. By the end of the day’s busy programme, new ideas and connections were still forming during the evening reception. It was clear that organisers had achieved their aim of inspiring Oxford’s entrepreneurial community, as well as cultivating much wider networks.