Innovation Birmingham runs UK-wide competition to discover the brightest clean-tech talent

Innovation Birmingham has hosted the UK heat of the European-wide CleanLaunchpad competition, where the eventual winners and two runners up will collectively receive €17,500 to develop their clean-tech products/services. The competition is one of the initiatives being run by Innovation Birmingham’s Climate-KIC team.

The competition entrants for the UK heat were located across the country. Cambridge-based bio-glue manufacturer Cambond has come out as the overall winner of CleanLaunchpad UK. The company, which makes adhesives from biomass feedstocks (including algae), using a low-carbon, cost effective process will now progress to the European-wide final in Valencia at the end of October.

Cambond will be joined by the UK joint runners-up; Derby-headquartered Adaptavate and London-headquartered Desolenator. Adaptavate has developed a natural compostable plasterboard, suitable for use on heritage buildings and traditional homes, while Desolenator has produced a solar-powered means of desalinating water.

CleanLaunchpad is Europe’s largest clean-tech business idea competition. The UK is one of 10 countries taking part, along with The Netherlands, Hungary, Germany, Spain, Italy, Poland, Cyprus, Greece and Denmark. As well as the cash prize, the winner of the European final, which is held annually, will also receive a place on Climate-KIC’s Accelerator programme.

Catherine Shelley, Innovation Birmingham’s Climate KIC Programme Development and Delivery Officer said: “Many of the innovative concepts that came onto the CleanLaunchpad competition at the beginning of the process have made genuinely impressive progress with developing their products, plans for reaching the mass market and the quality of their pitching. We are confident that Cambond, Adaptavate and Desolenator will do the UK proud in the final, and I really hope that all entrants keep developing their ideas.”

CleanLaunchPad is a Climate Knowledge Innovation Community (Climate KIC) project, which Innovation Birmingham is a delivery partner for. Climate KIC is the EU’s main climate innovation initiative, and was one of the first Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs) created by the European Institute of Innovation and Technology (EIT) in 2010. The EIT is the European Union body tasked with creating sustainable European growth and jobs while dealing with the global challenges of our time.

iCentrum, Innovation Birmingham Campus

City planners give iCentrumTM the green light as waiting list grows for space at the Innovation Birmingham Campus

Birmingham City Council has given the green light for Innovation Birmingham’s iCentrumTM building. The scheme will enable much-needed expansion of the Innovation Birmingham Campus, located off Holt Street, next to Aston University.

Funding is in place to ensure work can start on site within weeks, ensuring the 4,097sqm (44,000 sq ft) tech incubation facility can be open in early 2016. The new businesses in iCentrumTM will create 400 high-value skilled tech jobs, generating £25 million of GVA to the local economy per annum. The building will be the first to start on site within the Greater Birmingham & Solihull LEP’s Enterprise Zone, which features 26 sites within central Birmingham.

The Innovation Birmingham Campus is wholly owned by Birmingham City Council. A commercial loan for the £7.5m construction and fit-out costs for the new building has been secured from the Council. As a result of an OJEU tender process, iCentrumTM will be delivered by Stourport-on-Severn headquartered Thomas Vale Construction Ltd, which is part of one of the world’s leading construction groups, Bouygues Construction.

Dr David Hardman MBE, CEO of Innovation Birmingham said: “I am delighted that Birmingham’s Planning Committee had such praise for iCentrumTM when awarding the consent. We have a waiting list for space at the Innovation Birmingham Campus, and this new state-of-the-art incubation facility – which will be located next to our landmark Faraday Wharf building – will drive a new generation of tech business for the city and create 400 high-value skilled jobs for the local economy.

“Several years ago, a redundant industrial building that occupied the iCentrumTM plot was cleared, so we are hopeful for a very swift start to the build programme. In order to pave the way for new development activity, we have recently invested heavily in our communications infrastructure to enable future occupiers to benefit from broadband speeds of 30Gbit/s, equaling the fastest internet connection available anywhere in the UK. Everything is in place to ensure this will be the first Birmingham Enterprise Zone scheme to start on site and open for occupation.”

The top floor of iCentrumTM will feature a range of self-contained, highly flexible office suites for growing entrepreneurial tech companies. The first floor will be home to Innovation Birmingham’s ground-breaking Serendip incubator, which will deliver a rich blend of disruptive innovation across four key sectors, closely aligned to the Smart City agenda.  This highly creative environment will promote cross-sector serendipity to drive new innovative enterprise, relevant to a city of the future. The key sectors Serendip will support are; ICT/ Digital Gaming; Built Environment, including Low Carbon and the Green Technologies; Digital Media; and Intelligent Mobility.

The ground floor and mezzanine level of iCentrumTM will be the place to meet, be innovative, do business, and launch a new tech start-up in Birmingham – an innovation marketplace. The building is designed to have an international reach from the day it opens. It will be a magnet for physical and virtual communication; the lighthouse for Birmingham’s Smart City Agenda.

In addition to flexible office space, a wider membership offering will be provided at iCentrumTM. This will be open to regional tech and engineering-based SMEs and corporates, professional service providers, entrepreneurs and micro-businesses, in order to promote a cross-sector innovation exchange, generating new products and services across Greater Birmingham’s enterprise community.  The design ethos of the building is focused on ‘Generation Z’; the cohort of people born after the Millennial ‘social media’ Generation, in order to create the place for Birmingham’s future entrepreneurs.

The Innovation Birmingham Campus represents the gateway to Eastside, with the iCentrumTM site and the rest of the two-acre Campus development zone accessed off Holt Street and Love Lane. A total of three to five new buildings are proposed in total, delivering 120,000sq ft (11,148sqm) of purpose-designed space for Birmingham’s tech community. The latter proposed future buildings are anticipated to attract larger tech companies and house additional innovation functions.

Being allocated within the Enterprise Zone will enable future occupiers of Innovation Birmingham’s development zone to benefit from Business Rates relief.

118 companies are currently based in the Campus’ thriving 46,000sq ft (4,274sqm) Faraday Wharf building, which opened in 2001. Innovation Birmingham’s tenant portfolio includes software and digital gaming specialists, mobile app developers and search engine services.

Leigh Purnell, Petalite with prototype

Innovation Birmingham Campus-based Petalite launches campaign to raise £30,000 for production of portable, eco-friendly smartphone battery

Innovation Birmingham Campus-based start-up Petalite is gearing up for the launch of its £30,000 crowdfunding campaign on indiegogo.com. Over 600 people have pre-registered to order a portable, smartphone life-extending Petalite battery when the first batch comes off the production line next year.

The pocket-sized battery provides 2,600mAh of power, enabling the charge of any USB compatible device on the go. Once depleted, it recharges in only 15 minutes. The eco-friendly invention – which has received initial investment from Innovation Birmingham’s Low Carbon Accelerator programme – enables Smartphone owners to prevent their devices from going flat, prolonging battery life and extending overall lifetime.

From Monday 3rd November, people will be able to pledge money on indiegogogo.com in return for a reward from Petalite, to be dispatched in spring 2015. Portable batteries, together with mains-powered rapid-charging docking stations, will be available to order from £20. A day one promotion will see the batteries sold for the cost price of £15.

Leigh Purnell, founder and inventor of Petalite said: “The concept of rapid charging has fascinated me for a number of years. Having worked with a number of manufacturers to develop the Petalite prototype, it’s been really rewarding to receive people’s initial reactions; everyone with a smartphone says they want one!

“Now we have to turn that enthusiasm into thousands of pre-orders. If we don’t hit £10,000 of sales in the first two days, and a total of £30,000 of sales throughout November, the campaign will have failed and we wont receive a penny. That’s the risk you take when raising finance through crowdfunding, but in our case, we also have to be utterly mindful of minimum order thresholds.

“We have fine-tuned every aspect of the design of the product to enable pricing to be set at what you would typically pay for a branded mains-powered phone charger. However, a Petalite battery offers so much more flexibility, smartphone life-extending attributes, together with the panic-free lifestyle benefits of knowing you wont run out of charge.”

Petalite is one of nine start-ups to receive a share of £100,000 from Innovation Birmingham’s Low Carbon Accelerator programme, which is part of the European-funded Climate-KIC initiative. The grant funding is being used by Petalite to continue development of the prototype battery and docking station. The start-up has also recently taken office space at the Innovation Birmingham Campus to accommodate the staff required to support the month-long indiegogo crowdfunding campaign.

Katharine Fuller, Innovation Birmingham’s Senior Project Manager for EU Projects said: “Leigh is a natural entrepreneur, who has the ambition and determination to make a success of his invention. Although there are other products with some similarities on the market, Leigh can instantly demonstrate how the Petalite battery is so much more efficient, eco-friendly and cost-effective.

“Innovation in hardware has been the big trend in the low-carbon and tech sectors this year, which Petalite perfectly epitomises. It is one of the stand-out products across our European-wide Low Carbon Accelerator programme.”

To receive notifications regarding Petalite’s crowdfunding campaign, register onhttp://www.petalite.co.uk/ .

Michelle Rayner, John Cooke and David Hardman - all from Innovation Birmingham - website

£230,000 awarded to Innovation Birmingham for new programme to develop tech CEOs

Innovation Birmingham has been awarded £230,000 by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) to deliver a coaching and mentorship programme designed to accelerate the growth of entrepreneurial tech companies.

The new initiative – called e4f Inspire – will work with the CEOs of tech companies based at the Innovation Birmingham Campus that have been established for over a year. In addition, a series of keynote events designed to inspire company growth, will be open to over 100 leaders of businesses located in Greater Birmingham.

Other activities to be run throughout the 15 month programme will include a series of workshops, entrepreneur dinners, off-site visits, funded internship/apprenticeship placements, and peer group sessions.  The e4f Inspire launch event will take place at the Innovation Birmingham Campus on 12th November 2014, with a keynote speech from Jeff Grout; former business manager to Sir Clive Woodward.

To coincide with the launch of this new initiative, Innovation Birmingham is extending the duration tech start-ups can stay on its highly successful Entrepreneurs for the Future (e4f) incubation programme, which is also part-funded through ERDF. The free package of mentoring from an Entrepreneur in Residence, access to finance, visiting expert sessions, wifi, telecoms, meetings rooms and office space, will now be provided for up to nine months to circa 25 tech start-ups per year.

Dr David Hardman MBE, CEO of Innovation Birmingham said: “The e4f Inspire programme will provide tech companies in the early years of growth with the type of specialist coaching that CEOs of the biggest organisations can normally only benefit from.

“CEOs of small tech companies can easily fall into the trap of being far too engrossed in day to day client work, or tech development activities, and putting a management team in place is easier said than done with the knife-edge finances of a growing business. However, putting aside time each month to challenge the status quo and work on achieving the next stage of growth – alongside peers from the same sector – is a model that has proven results. E4f Inspire will ensure tech businesses located here have access to the type of support that has helped the UK’s fastest growing companies.”

The E4f Inspire workshops, peer group sessions and dinners with CEOs of large tech businesses will be private events, each involving up to 20 tech CEOs, drawn from businesses located on the Innovation Birmingham Campus. In contrast, the keynote events with high profile speakers will be widely publicised to attract over 100 leaders from across the GBSLEP area.

The E4f Inspire programme has been devised by John Cooke; one of Innovation Birmingham’s Entrepreneurs in Residence. John spent the first 18 years of his career working in a business development capacity for Microsoft and IBM. On leaving Microsoft, he became an entrepreneur and has established two successful businesses.

For more information, please visit www.innovationbham.com

Heritage & Culture Open Data Challenge Data Workshop (in London)

This is a free workshop next week…  Tuesday, 21st October, 2014 – to register and find location go to this Eventbrite page.

The Open Data Challenge Series invites you to take part in the Heritage & Culture Open Data Challenge Data Workshop. The Heritage & Culture Open Data Challenge will invite participants to use open data to create solutions addressing problems or issues in this sector.

Over the coming weeks, we will compile a bank of open data related to heritage and culture. This bank of open data will form the main ‘raw material’ for the challenge and will be drawn from data.gov.uk, individual organisation websites and personal recommendations. Once the data is compiled, the session on 21st October will explain how we have rated the data, how it will be used in the challenge and will give data publishers some pointers on how they could improve the quality and rating of their open data.

This session is designed to be practical – particularly for those people in relevant organisations who work directly with the data, preparing it to be shared. After the session, we hope to build ongoing relationships with data owners to ensure the improvements made to the data continue to be shared with potential participants in the challenge and to enable them, as data owners to have oversight of the ways in which your data is being used.

Contact – If you have any queries, please feel free to get in touch by tweeting us @ODChallenges or drop us an emai at opendata@nesta.org.uk

Hat tip Simon Whitehouse.




Funding for tech ideas/companies run by tyoung people in Birmingham

iDEA is a funding programme/competition to help young people develop either their digital skills or their digital business ideas, or both.  It’s supported by the Nominet Trust (a charity we’ve worked with before at Podnosh and had a fantastic experience) with the backing of the Duke of York.   They say:

Entrants will gain essential digital enterprise and entrepreneurial skills through the competition and can further develop these skills through our online library of industry endorsed badges. The three winning business ideas in the competition will be awarded £15,000 funding and accelerator support for further development. The project aims to recruit 10,000 young people into the competition in the next few weeks

Schools can get involved – and indeed are very welcome to use it as a way to develop digital skills.  Come on brum – make the most of this!

Go here to find out more:  www.onemillionyoungideas.org.uk/.

Share PSI workshop in Lisbon – call for papers

Following its first workshop on Samos during the summer, the Share PSI network are preparing for their second meeting in Lisbon. This will be 3-4 December at the National Laboratory for Civil Engineering.

The second workshop is entitled “Encouraging open data usage by commercial developers” which is a subject of some interest to Data Unlocked, and so I’m really pleased to be going there to represent Birmingham.

If you are interested in attending there are several ways in which you can participate:

  1. Lead a session. This entails facilitating a discussion. It may begin with a very short set up presentation but 90% of the time should be allocated for discussion. Proposals should not be academic papers but descriptions of the discussion you would like to lead and the experiences you have to offer. These are expected to be 1 or 2 pages in length and will fill slots in the Open Track.
  2. Give a plenary talk. Longer papers, up to a maximum of 5 pages in length, are invited for consideration as the basis of a plenary presentation of which no more than 3 are expected to be presented at the workshop.
  3. If you would like to attend but do not wish to lead a session or give a plenary presentation, please outline your interest in a short position paper. The intention is to make sure that participants have an active interest in the area, and that the workshop will benefit from their presence.

I really enjoyed the first workshop. The network has some strong partners involved and the standard of presentations was really high. We’ve changed the format around for the second workshop so there’s more opportunity for participation by delegates, with both pre-programmed and open sessions planned. We are also running the workshop in parallel with the LAPSI 2.0 and LIDER projects giving lots of networking opportunities.

The call for participation closes on Sunday, so if you want to come along you’ll need to be quick.

SMARTSPACES “Project to Watch” by the United Nations

Big Data Climate challenge

SMARTSPACES has been named a “Project to Watch” as an innovative energy reduction project by the United Nations’ Big Data Climate Challenge. The Big Data Climate Challenge, hosted by UN Global Pulse and the Secretary-General’s Climate Change Support Team, aims to unearth data-driven climate solutions and evidence of the economic dimensions of climate change. It is aligned with the UN Climate Summit which was held in New York on 23 September 2014, where the Secretary-General convened world leaders from government, finance, business and civil society to catalyse climate action.
The SMARTSPACES pan-European consortium of Bristol, Birmingham and another 9 pilot sites in 8 countries investigates ways to reduce energy in public buildings using ICT. The project is part-funded by the European Commission’s ICT Policy Support Programme at DG Connect and coordinated by Empirica.

Click here to read the full press release.

ICTPSP logoEU logo Smartspaces_Logo  MBGr Stamp (2)

Alex Chudnovsky and Dixon Jones of Majestic SEO lr

Innovation Birmingham Campus-based Majestic links up with Aston Business School to develop innovative big data analysis tools

Majestic – world leaders in distributed web crawling – maintains one of the world’s largest indexes of URLs on the web. The company, based at the Innovation Birmingham Campus, is entering into a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) with Aston Business School, aiming to develop a suite of new innovative big data analysis tools. The tools, known as Majestic Analytics, will allow non-programmers to draw previously unavailable inference and insight from large data sets of internet usage and company orientated data.

As a leading source of rich internet link data for search engine optimisation (SEO) specialists and web marketers, Majestic has identified an opportunity for competitive advantage through the partnership. Majestic Analytics will offer users previously unavailable insights and quantitative metrics of clients and markets. For example, where someone may see the Twitter account, email address and name of a friend and know they are all related to the same person, a computer does not see the direct connection. By using leading edge statistical methods, relational distance and probability, these relationships can be assumed by understanding the underlying connections and use this to build up much better views of the data.

The interfaces will be sold commercially, allowing companies to improve their digital marketing efforts by more accurately profiling and better understanding clients.

Dixon Jones, Marketing Director of Majestic said: “We are really looking forward to working in partnership with Aston Business School and being able to access the expertise available to help us develop our business further. We hope that this KTP project will provide our clients with valuable insights in their digital marketing efforts.”

Dr Graham Leask, Lecturer at Aston University commented: “Working with Majestic aligns with Aston’s mission to support regional SMEs through impactful research. This project gives us opportunities for new research trajectories, new student projects and case studies for undergraduate and post graduate programmes.”

Paul Howe - Serious Games Studio, Pia Pearson - Innovation Birmingham & Sarah Bowers - Coventry University Enterprises

Coventry’s Serious Games Studio strikes up new partnership with Innovation Birmingham’s LAUNCH Digital Gaming event programme

Coventry University’s Serious Games Studio has signed up as a partner of Innovation Birmingham’s LAUNCH event series for digital gaming and mobile app developers.

LAUNCH is the biggest event programme of its kind outside of London, connecting and supporting the region’s burgeoning digital gaming sector. The highlight of the annual programme – which is now in its fifth year – is a two-day conference for over 300 indie games developers, held during November at the Innovation Birmingham Campus. The Serious Games Studio has signed up as a partner ahead of the conference on 20th -21stNovember 2014, in order to promote the ERDF funded support available to West Midlands-based gaming companies needing to develop a proof of concept.

Features of LAUNCH’s November conference include a ‘grads in games’ programme by industry recruitment specialists Aardvark Swift, as well as a dedicated session from Microsoft on cloud gaming.

Pia Pearson, Digital Marketing Manager and Head of LAUNCH at the Innovation Birmingham Campus said: “Working alongside Coventry’s Serious Games Studio is a natural expansion of the LAUNCH programme and a great way to promote the support on offer to indie games developers based within the West Midlands.

A place to share ideas and developments for a Smarter Birmingham


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