We've had a great year at ForrestBrown, and we think that part of our success is due to throwing ourselves headfirst into the creative, exciting and inspiring tech scene that's beginning to blossom here in the South West of England.

We’re always eager to share our knowledge, and to learn from other people, so we’ve been to and spoken at our fair share of SME meet-ups, lectures, workshops and seminars. Inevitably, they’ve been fantastically rewarding and extremely energising for us as well as for the company representatives who have attended.

They’re great for innovation – both explicitly and in terms of getting enough bright sparks in the same room to start a fire – which also makes them interesting places for us to be.

So whether you’re a startup, microbusiness, entrepreneur or a long-established SME heavyweight, here’s our guide to great SME meet-ups and networking events in the South West.

TechSPARK

TechSPARK is all about face-to-face meetings and real opportunities. Not aimed at the established SMEs out there as much as the startups, but a rich variety of people with the skills to create and innovate. Any SME can get a huge amount of actionable information from TechSPARK Bristol. Exciting regular meet-ups, including ‘Techie Brekkies’, make TechSPARK an essential group to get involved with.

SouthWest Founders

South West Founders is a monthly meet-up with a no-nonsense and exclusive focus on being useful for, well, founders.

This is another meet-up with a focus on growing rather than established SMEs, but as long as you’re there to learn and chat rather than hard sell you’ll do well in the casual atmosphere.

SETSquared Workshops

SETSquared Workshops are a great offering from the SETSquared Partnership, a collaborative enterprise in support of business from Bath, Bristol, Exeter, Southampton and Surrey Universities.

SETSquared is arguably the most successful business incubator in Europe, and we’ve greatly enjoyed the privilege of speaking at a SETSquared Workshop on R&D tax credits in the past.

MARIC

The Marine Innovation Centre or Marine Innovation Centre (MARIC) at Plymouth University is a fantastic institution, with similar strengths to research and education institutes in the Solent region that we’ve discussed here in the past.

They have taken pains to highlight the importance of research and development to innovative businesses,  and hold free seminar events to help support the South West’s thriving marine sector.

Check out what’s on at the MARIC here if you’re in the area – upcoming events won’t necessarily be at the top, though.

SWUX

The South West User Experience (UX) meet-up is a niche but necessary meet-up as digital user experience becomes ever more crucial to startup success.

With welcome plans to expand beyond Bristol in the future, keep an eye on SWUX, as they’re an invaluable resource for web designers and developers.

BrisTech

BrisTech is informal, informative and spin-free. If you’re involved with a technical startup with a dependence on programming and an interest in best practice, powerful design patterns and effective abstractions, these frequent and tech-heavy meet-ups could be for you.

Talks often challenge industry shibboleths without knee-jerk reactions or over-correction.

South West Aero Hackers

South West Aerospace Hackers is a great idea and initiative, connecting the South West’s creative strength, sense of a strong community, and continuing depth of talent within the aerospace industry.

The hacking attitude is the key aspect – you don’t necessarily have to be a disruptive SME to attend, as long as you are enthusiastic about aerospace and changing the industry for the better.

Bristol Media Tuesdays

Of course, for everyone from web designers to animation studios, Bristol Media Tuesdays are must-attend events.

Members can go free, while non-members will pay £5 on the door – but don’t let that put you off! Bristol Media Tuesdays are more than worth the price of admission.

What Did We Miss?

We’re always eager to hear of more events, so get in touch if you run or attend an equally excellent entrepreneurial event.

If you’re already running the sort of innovative business that thrives at these events, you could be eligible for R&D tax credits – get in touch for a free chat and we’ll see if you can claim!

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