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.

Digital Birmingham – part of the Share PSI network

Share-PSI 2.0 is “the European network for the exchange of experience and ideas around implementing open data policies in the public sector”. It consists of 44 partners from 25 countries, including Birmingham City Council. Through my work with the West Midlands Open Data Forum I was invited by Digital Birmingham to attend the kick off meeting in April and then the recent workshop which formed part of this year’s Samos Summit.

The Share PSI Network Logo
The Share PSI Network

The Samos workshop had the title “Uses of open data within government for innovation and efficiency” and consisted of a wide range of presentations, a mini-bar camp and a project meeting. Amanda Smith from the Open Data Institute has already written a post about the workshop and an extensive report of the proceedings has been written up by Phil Archer, the project’s technical co-ordinator from the W3C.

So, instead of a report back, here are just four of the things I took away from the Samos workshop:

  • Data quality, or a lack of it, is still a significant issue for many public sector organisations. It can both be a reason for not publishing as well as something that can be improved through publication, especially where feedback mechanisms are provided. In Birmingham, when Open Street Map volunteers created a gritting map from the city’s data they were able to feedback anomalies to the city, which improved their data.
  • We need to get a lot better at telling stories and helping others to tell them. Open Data evangelists aren’t always great at communicating their work. This can mean that the potential impact of our work is not always reached and/or recognised. At the workshop, Julia Hoxha reported that, in Albania, every “domestic media organization has published or quoted at least once the reports released in the Open Data Albania or Spending Data Albania platforms”.  This has been a result of the Open Data Albania project actively working with the media both inside and outside the country.
  • Good case studies of the benefits of open data are needed to encourage ongoing publication. Bart van Leeuwen’s presentation on “Experiences with Open data in the fire department” [pdf] was a highlight of the conference for many. Bart was able to give a range of practical examples of the benefits of open data for him and his colleagues working as firefighters in Amsterdam. It’s heartening to hear such examples as somebody who promotes and uses open data and it provides great material to share with people who want to know the purpose of publishing open data.
  • Everyone wants to know where crime is happening. Amanda Smith gave a very well received paper about the ongoing development of Police.uk. The site has 60m visits since January 2011 and continues to prove a popular resource (Data Unlocked download data from the site, and Mike Cummins recently used police.uk data in a presentation to the Civic Foundry‘s Skill Share week). Knowing what your popular open datasets are likely to be is really useful. I’d like to see more sharing of this between people working in local government. The work that Hampshire Hub are doing in this area could be really valuable, and it’s well worth following.

The next workshop is going to be in Lisbon in December. It’s topic area is Encouraging data usage by commercial developers, an area of obvious interest to us at Data Unlocked =0) The call for participation is already open. I’ve agreed to be on the organising committee and we’d really like to hear from people who are interested in presenting a paper at the workshop. I can certainly recommend taking part, as I gained a lot from the Samos workshop.

Radu Judele, founder of ScoPerks

Innovation Birmingham Campus start-up launches customer-focused price comparison site with seven million products

Innovation Birmingham Campus-based ScoPerks has launched a new price comparison site that has been 12 months in the making. Seven million products from over 600 retailers are featured on the site, which is focused on rewarding customer loyalty.

While online price comparison sites are becoming commonplace, beta.ScoPerks.com is differentiated from the competition by giving a proportion of each retailer referral fee to the customer. It does this by tracking order transactions and enabling customers to withdraw the credit placed into their ScoPerks account as cash, or use it towards the purchase of their next item.

Electronics and electrical goods account for the largest product segment on the site. Retailers with the most comprehensive product range on beta.ScoPerks.com include Amazon, BHS Direct, Currys/PC World, Dabs.com, Debenhams Plus, Disney Store, eBuyer, Halfords, Homebase, Marks & Spencer, Microsoft Store and Ticketmaster.

Radu Judele, Founder of ScoPerks said: “There is no doubt the prevalence of online comparison sites is rapidly increasing. We have spent the past 12 months developing a huge search engine of live products, with multiple ways that customers can filter the search, including length of warranty, ‘click and collect’, preferred retailers, vouchers and other perks, as well as the price. Once customers have made their decision and the transaction is processed, they receive a credit back into their ScoPerks account.

“The site is free to use, and with the money back credits it actually saves people money, compared to buying products direct from a retailer’s website.”

ScoPerks was accepted onto Innovation Birmingham’s Entrepreneurs for the Future programme in 2013. The programme’s Entrepreneurs in Residence have assisted with the development of the business plan, and the start-up has received some early-stage investment from a local angel investor.

Dr David Hardman MBE, CEO of Innovation Birmingham said: “ScoPerks is a great example of a tech start-up that has developed an innovative platform within a marketplace that is competitive, but has significant growth potential. The founder’s ambition, commercial drive and technical ability is exactly the combination we look for when welcoming new ventures onto the Entrepreneurs for the Future programme.”

The Entrepreneurs for the Future (e4f) business incubation centre, provides bespoke mentoring and business planning to achieve investor readiness, as well as free telephone usage, 20Gbit/s broadband and office space for six months; a package which has a monetary value of £10,000. Part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund, e4f is unique to Birmingham and is specifically designed to harness and support the city’s burgeoning tech community.

PS Vita web

Creative England and PlayStation® open accelerator programme

Innovation Birmingham Campus – based Creative England has launched GamesLab Campus, the exciting new Incubator and Accelerator programme ran in association with PlayStation®.

Creative England’s GamesLab Campus programme will invest a maximum of £250,000 into five Games companies (up to £50,000 each) from across England to support the development of new and innovative entertainment experiences on PlayStation®3, PlayStation®4 and PlayStation®Vita. The successful studios will also receive a package of mentoring, support and technical benefits including the provision of PS3®, PS4® & PS®Vita Dev Kits2.

Jaspal Sohal, Head of Games and Digital Media at Creative England, said: “GamesLab Campus is a fantastic opportunity that combines investment with the invaluable industry support from a major platform holder. Whether you’re a start-up or an experienced developer, we’re looking for exciting and innovative projects that really demonstrate the technical and creative gaming talent we have in England.”
Andrew Parsons, Director of Publisher and Developer Relations at Sony Computer Entertainment Europe, said: “We are working hard to make PlayStation the best place to develop, publish and play games. This excellent program organised by Creative England is a great opportunity to support the innovative talents of UK independent developers and we’re delighted to be a part of this.”
For full guidelines on how to apply and for further information on Creative England’s support for games developers, visit http://www.creativeengland.co.uk/games or follow GamesLab on Twitter at @CEGamesLab. Applications close at 9am on September 24th, to apply click here.

BBC Birmingham plays host to U18’s Coding Club

YRS BBC Coding Club

Young Rewired State Festival of Code 2014 hailed a success once again, and what’s even better is that several teams from Birmingham were shortlisted in the finals! See more info here  http://festivalofco.de/

BBC Birmingham’s Coding Club will commence again on Saturday 30 August 2014 (last Saturday of the month thereafter). The club runs from 1pm to 4pm and will take place at BBC Birmingham in the Mailbox (B1 1AY).

Coding Club is open to all under-18s with an interest in coding – prior knowledge is helpful but not required.  Coders aged 13 and under must be accompanied by a parent/guardian.

All coders need to bring their own hardware and software – wifi is available.

For more info or to book a place, email codingbrum@bbc.co.uk

£100,000 to be shared across 9 low carbon start-ups on Innovation Birmingham’s accelerator programme

£100,000 to be shared across 9 low carbon start-ups on Innovation Birmingham’s accelerator programme

£100,000 of initial investment cash is being shared across nine start-ups on Innovation Birmingham’s Low Carbon Accelerator programme, which is part of the European-fundedClimate-KIC initiative.

A total of 16 low carbon start-ups pitched for the investment funding, in front of a panel of three industry judges. The process was facilitated by Innovation Birmingham’s Climate-KIC team and two of the Entrepreneurs in Residence.

The grant funding – circa £11,000 for each of the nine start-ups – will be used to pay for research and development, and other activity to enable the low carbon products and services to be launched to market in an accelerated timescale.

The three judges awarding the finance were: Paul Adams, an entrepreneur and environmental specialist, appointed by the University of Birmingham as a BSEEN Programme Adviser; Ian French, investment director at Finance Birmingham; and Glenn Barrowman, a Project Manager at Built Environment Climate Change Innovations.

Katharine Fuller, Innovation Birmingham’s Senior Project Manager for EU Projects said: “Early stage grant funding makes such a difference to start-up businesses. The timetable required for an entrepreneur to launch their product or service to market is critical, and the funding available through the European Climate-KIC initiative enables the best businesses starting up in the low carbon sector to receive a helpful grant.

“In addition to this grant funding, all of the businesses will continue to work alongside the three Entrepreneurs in Residence who have been specifically appointed as advisers to the Low Carbon Accelerator programme. The ultimate aim is to help to launch as many sustainable start-ups as possible.”

The nine low carbon start-ups being awarded grant funding are: Full Grown, which is working to change wasteful mass production processes; 5L, a water and energy efficiency business; Unicorn Power Ltd, specialising in clean energy and environmental mitigation; Libralato, a hybrid powertrain specialist; Alkali Solutions, which specialises in industrial symbiosis; WRK Design & Services Ltd, an alternative energy provider; Petalite Battery, which reduces carbon in manufacturing and the product lifecycle; Greengineering Ltd, which specialises in resource and built environment efficiency; and Civico Online Exchange Tracker, a waste prevention solution.

Read full press release on Innovation Birmingham Campus news page here>

wambiz - logo

Education Tech Start-Up Wambiz Secures £600,000 Investment

Innovation Birmingham Campus-based WAMBIZ, a start-up tackling the issue of student retention in further education, has secured over £600,000 of angel investment following its latest round of funding.

The business creates VENs (virtual engagement networks), which connect students with educators to deliver crucial course and student information via a channel they will regularly use.

Co-founded by Harry Jawanda and Andrew West – who met when playing hockey for England, the private social networks created by WAMBiz provide a safe means for students to connect, communicate and collaborate with peers, teachers and institutions in an engaging, yet controlled way.

The investment was made by Allan Murdoch, the former Executive Chairman of HIPCOM, a leading telecoms provider, who has created a consortium of investors to back new tech start-ups.

The group has already invested in such companies as Forge Special Projects which delivers technology to festivals and events, Stylect a shoe app and Shareight which creates a virtual high street on your mobile.

Harry Jawanda CEO and co-founder of WAMBIZ said:

“Institutions are losing millions in funding each year through students dropping out within the first three months of the school year. Much of this is down to a lack of initial engagement between the student and teachers and institutions. WAMedu offers a solution and bridges that gap. We help build engagement between these audiences through our understanding of how social networks have changed the way we all communicate. “

Read full article on the Innovation Birmingham Campus news page, here>

Developing intelligent and sustainable mobility

Vision of New Street Station and planned Metro
Vision of New Street Station and planned Metro (bigcityplan.birmingham.gov.uk)

Digital Birmingham attended the New Journey workshop at the end of June to help shape a shared vision for the New Journey – a new way of thinking about connecting places and people. This takes a smart approach on a journey towards individual, integrated and seamless mobility solutions, making public transport the natural choice for people’s journeys across the West Midlands. Ultimately the aim is to make the West Midlands a leader in developing and delivering intelligent sustainable mobility providing combined improved access to public and private transport movement across networks with wider ‘big data’ product solutions. Some great thinking and ideas flowed during the day and these were captured and presented by Centro in this brilliant New Journey Conference Mindmap – which has perfectly captured the discussion strands and themes of the day – certainly worth dipping in and out of to absorb all of the information presented here and great contributor to progressing the Smart City Roadmap actions

 

 

Birmingham, the smarter, greener city

British Science Festival, Birmingham 2014
British Science Festival, Birmingham 2014


BIRMINGHAM: THE SMARTER, GREENER SCIENCE CITY
Wednesday 10 September 2014, 2.30pm-8pm
Millennium Point, Birmingham

As part of British Science Festival 2014, this event will showcase research and innovation in the theme of smarter and greener cities.

The need for cities to work smarter and in more environmentally efficient ways is essential to ensure the wellbeing of citizens, and to help businesses reduce their impact on global warming.

Jointly hosted by Birmingham City University, Aston University, Millennium Point and the Smart City Alliance, Birmingham: The Smarter, Greener Science City will include an exhibition, site tours and a series of lectures throughout the day.

Our keynote speaker is Dr Rick Robinson, Executive Architect of Smarter Cities, IBM.

Registration is free, with an option to attend a drinks reception at the end of the day. Please note that limited places are available for the drinks reception. Tickets for the event available here

 

 

A place to share ideas and developments for a Smarter Birmingham

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