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Norfolk Business Awards 2018

Norfolk Network marks 15th anniversary with celebration of academic partnership

Karen Jones, chancellor of UEA, speaks at the Norfolk Network's 15th anniversary event at St George's Works in Norwich about her career in hospitality. Picture: Loe Lenton

Karen Jones, chancellor of UEA, speaks at the Norfolk Network's 15th anniversary event at St George's Works in Norwich about her career in hospitality. Picture: Loe Lenton

Joe Lenton

A Norwich-based networking group has marked its 15th anniversary with a pledge to “stay relevant” in an evolving business environment and maintain its links with local students.

Lucy Marks, managing director of Norfolk Network, at the group's 15th anniversary event at St George's Works in Norwich. Picture: Joe Lenton Lucy Marks, managing director of Norfolk Network, at the group's 15th anniversary event at St George's Works in Norwich. Picture: Joe Lenton

The Norfolk Network was founded in 2003 and has grown to an organisation with more than 100 members, including a raft of businesses from the city’s tech, design and marketing scenes.

In 2006 it began a partnership with the University of East Anglia (UEA) which has seen students volunteer for the network and eventually join with their own businesses, members giving talks to students, and the network sponsoring one of its members to undertake an MBA course at UEA each year.

Managing director Lucy Marks said its “unique” relationship with UEA would be important to its future.

“It is a time of reflection but also looking to the next generation, keeping it relevant and being part of the local business community going forward,” she said.

Fiona Lettice, pro-vice-chancellor for research and innovation at UEA, speaks at the Norfolk Network's 15th anniversary event at St George's Works in Norwich. Picture: Joe Lenton Fiona Lettice, pro-vice-chancellor for research and innovation at UEA, speaks at the Norfolk Network's 15th anniversary event at St George's Works in Norwich. Picture: Joe Lenton

“It was a different world when it started, before social media and smart phones – it was just about speaking to each other.

“Back then networking was awkward and male dominated. We were more like a bunch of friends coming together.

“We have always tried to share interesting topics and we want to continue to be a platform for that.”

The Norfolk Network’s 15th anniversary celebration, at its base at St George’s Work in Norwich, saw a celebration of its strong ties with the UEA, first forged in 2006.

Pro-vice-chancellor of research and innovation Fiona Lettice compered the evening, which saw UEA chancellor Karen Jones as keynote speaker.

As co-founder of Café Rouge, former chief executive of the Spirit Pub Company and now chairman of the Hawksmoor steak restaurant chain and executive chairman of Prezzo, Ms Jones shared a wealth of experience about entrepreneurship, a theme she is keen to bring to the fore at UEA.

For her, the desire to have her own business was “unshakeable” – but the journey had not been a smooth one.

“Young growing companies should not feel like comfortable places to be,” she said. “They should feel like they are going too fast and the wheels may fall off because you are pushing the company – and you need to.”

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UEA academics discuss some of the key research at the university which will be demonstrated at the Royal Norfolk Show next week.

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