Innovation Birmingham prepares for 2015 launch of its €2 million Climate KIC programme

The West Midlands 2015 Climate KIC programme of activity will be launched on Tuesday 24thFebruary. Innovation Birmingham acts as the regional hub, which this year has been assigned €2 million to deliver a range of initiatives for Climate-KIC; Europe’s largest public-private partnership focused on tackling climate change.

The main programmes to be launched on 24th February are; Pioneers into Practice – a grant-funded European exchange programme for 50 low carbon specialists; the Low Carbon Accelerator Programme for 30 start-up businesses; ClimateLaunchpad – a programme enabling 10 business ideas to become a commercial reality; and a range of grant-funded education programmes aimed at students, professionals and organisations. Applications are being sought for all of the programmes, with the cut-off date being 23rd March 2015.

35 initial expressions of interest for the Low Carbon Accelerator have been lodged from across the West Midlands in the first few days of the application process being open. It is designed to accelerate the growth of early stage businesses, awarding up to €20,000 of grant funding to each company who successfully progresses through the nine month programme.

The recent growth of the Climate-KIC programme enabled Innovation Birmingham to create 10 new jobs during 2014. In 2015, in addition to the main activity programmes, Innovation Birmingham will also be responsible for the delivery of Climate-KIC’s annual Innovation Festival, which will be held at The ICC in October. The event attracts over 500 climate change practitioners from across Europe.

Katharine Fuller, Innovation Birmingham’s Senior Project Manager for EU Projects said: “There are only six Climate-KIC Regional Innovation Centres across Europe, so having one in the West Midlands is a significant asset to the regional climate change agenda. We will be spending €2 million during the course of this year on initiatives that will have a real impact on our environment and the economy.”

Katharine Fuller continued: “The significant increase in the Climate-KIC funding that we’ve been able to secure for the West Midlands is a reflection of the rapid growth of the region’s sustainable energy market. The low carbon agenda is capturing the interest of serial entrepreneurs, as well as prompting industry professionals to step away from a corporate career path and start their own business.”

Dr David Hardman MBE, CEO of Innovation Birmingham said: “Since the closure of Advantage West Midlands, we have been lobbying our European partners to increase the amount of funding for climate change initiatives across the West Midlands. We are delighted to have secured a record €2million this year to allocate across a number of low carbon projects – and amongst partner organisations – which will support the work of businesses, professionals and students.”

Innovation Birmingham’s Climate KIC West Midlands Regional Innovation Centre is one of six across Europe that are working to develop the low carbon economy within their regions. The other Regional Innovation Centres are located in; Valencia (Spain); Emilia Romagna (Italy); Hessen (Germany); Lower Silesia (Poland) and Central Hungary. The Centres are supported through the Climate Knowledge Innovation Community (KIC) project, which receives funding from the European Commission through the European Institute for Innovation and Technology.

To enquire about, or apply for any of the programmes, please contact Claire

Innovation Birmingham Campus-based Breaking Free Group named as a West Midlands winner of the Great Faces of British Business competition

Breaking Free Group; a digital healthcare business based at the Innovation Birmingham Campus, has been named as a West Midlands winner of the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills’ (BIS) Great Faces of British Business competition.

The competition, which attracted over 500 entrants, is run in association with BT. The national winner will be decided by a 50/50 combination of judging and a public vote, which is open until 23rdFebruary. The top prize is £30,000 worth of Government support.

Business Minister Matthew Hancock said: “I’m delighted to see the Great Faces of British Business competition celebrating the small businesses up and down the country that form the bedrock of economic growth. Breaking Free Group is a brilliant example of a successful small firm run by enterprising and hardworking people. We are backing them all the way and, with the advice and support on offer, there has never been a better time to start and grow a business in the UK.”

Breaking Free Group has created the world’s first online healthcare intervention programme in prisons, in partnership with the Ministry of Justice and NHS England. The product – Breaking Free Online – is an evidence-based addiction treatment enabling people to overcome alcohol and drug dependence. By tapping into the rapidly growing digital health market, the company aims to use its web-based treatment programme to complement existing healthcare services in the public sector, charity sector and beyond.

Clive Bawden, Commercial Director of Breaking Free Group said: “We are extremely pleased to be a finalist in BIS’ national competition for small businesses. Breaking Free Group was set up to deliver innovative and dynamic digital healthcare solutions, and this recognition testifies our principal focus of empowering people to address and overcome substance dependency and addition.

“At present, the Ministry of Justice and NHS England have specified the Breaking Free Online treatment programme for use in 10 UK prisons, but we are confident this number will rise as we continue to work with them to develop the service.”

To find out more about the regional winners, visit The national final consists of the regional winners from the competition’s three categories: best exporter, most innovative business, and best growth story.

The ‘grand prix’ winner, selected by a national judging panel, will be announced in March. The prize includes a bespoke creative advertising campaign worth £30,000, along with an iPad Air and unlimited BT Wi-Fi for 12 months, courtesy of BT Business. In addition, the winner will also receive a package of export support from UK Trade & Investment.

Breaking Free Group is one of 15 young companies receiving support from Innovation Birmingham’s e4f Inspire programme, which delivers a series of workshops, keynote events, entrepreneur dinners, off-site visits, funded internship/apprenticeship placements, and peer group sessions, in order to accelerate the growth of entrepreneurial tech companies.

To find out more about the Innovation Birmingham Campus and the innovative work its tenants are doing, visit its news page>

Why Birmingham Needs to Jam…


We’ve all been there, experienced a mediocre or poor service and felt that it could be delivered so much better if only they had thought about this or developed that. Unless you’re that super driven entrepreneurial type, rarely do we ever take these thoughts any further or find a space where we can build upon these ideas. Instead, we simply carry on and accept mediocre services that seldom solve the intended problem even though what we think or feel about these experiences are completely relevant and could actually be translated into something of real value if developed in the right environment.

The Global Service Jam is that environment and takes the form of a high energy, fun-filled 48 hour challenge where you work in a team and come up with ideas for services that actually solve real human problems.

As the public sector shifts towards providing services that are digital by default, to meet that challenges of the 21st century, it is of increasing importance that services are designed with those real human needs at the heart. The basis of the Service Jam is human centred design. Participants learn the principles of how to unearth those unspoken thoughts and feelings from people, synthesis them into a real understanding of the problem. It provides the right environment for people from all different backgrounds to bring their skills, personalities and ideas to collaboratively build innovative solutions with the potential to have real impact in just 48 hours.

The Spaghetti Jams community believe that more exposure to this way of thinking and working will inspire and empower Birmingham to implement the changes needed to build better services. Cities around the world have been doing this for years and it’s time to introduce this community to Birmingham. Birmingham’s first Service Jam 27th February to 1st March at Impact Hub in Digbeth.

Book online and follow us on twitter @spaghettijams

Made in the Midlands opens new office at the Innovation Birmingham Campus

Made in the Midlands has opened a new office at the Innovation Birmingham Campus, close to Aston University, to help grow its subscriber base in the city. The move signals a period of expansion for the industry membership group which grew from its roots in the Black Country and now spans across both the West and East Midlands.

Made in the Midlands has already formed alliances in its new surroundings and is based on the same floor as its web developer, Kalexiko, creating a dynamic environment to improve the technology behind Made in the Midlands.

Jason Pitt, founder, said: “It’s especially significant to have a physical base in Birmingham, because this is the place where much of the movement began. The Made in the Midlands campaign really came about with the collapse of MG Rover. 6,000 people marched alongside us in 2009 at the Unite rally in Birmingham to protest at the job losses. This manufacturing loss was the tipping point, in truth MG Rover was one of many British firms that over time have been sold off for short term gains and the hard working Midlands manufacturer had frankly had enough.”

The organisation has since evolved into a dedicated membership group of over 250 members with its own innovative social network through which members can communicate.

Birmingham office manager, Sophie Whittingham, said: “I joined the business in 2013 as a graduate and the business has progressed a lot in that time. After working with several local manufacturing companies and completing the Warwick Manufacturing Group’s manufacturing course, I am delighted to be helping the Birmingham operation grow.

“As a Brummie and someone who is passionate about industry and what it means to the area, I look forward to meeting local engineering businesses and learn more about how we can help them.”

Dr David Hardman MBE, CEO of Innovation Birmingham said: “I am delighted to welcome Made in the Midlands to the Innovation Birmingham Campus. The Campus is home to over 100 knowledge-based companies that are building on the city’s heritage; so promoting the city region as a place that innovates, creates and makes is as crucial today as it has even been.”

For more information about Made in the Midlands, or to join, please contact Sophie Whittingham on 0121 2854113 or email

To read more news stories from the Innovation Birmingham Campus visit its news page>

Innovation Birmingham begins search for 50 climate change practitioners to partake in €400,000 European-funded exchange programme

A record-breaking 50 climate change practitioners are being sought for the 2015 Climate KICPioneers into Practice’ European exchange programme. The €400,000 programme is being delivered by Innovation Birmingham for the fifth year running.

35 Pioneers are being sought from the Midlands area, with a further 15 being recruited from Ireland. The online application process is now live, with the deadline set as 23rd March 2015. The participants will be selected based on their existing experience in the climate change sector, with sought specialisms including civil engineering, housing, community activism, as well as research fellows.

During previous placements, Pioneers have identified significant savings, helped to develop new products and completed specific tasks – at no cost to the host company. The programme enables relationships to be developed amongst experts across Europe’s low carbon economy, and in some cases the Pioneer has gone on to work for their host, once the programme has completed.

Successful applicants will commence the programme with a two-day workshop in May, which prepares the participants for their four-week domestic placements, which take place in May – June. This is followed by another four-week placement within a company based in continental Europe during autumn 2015. Each participant will receive up to €8,000 in staged payments over the duration of the programme.

Applications for host companies are also being sought. Host companies where the Midlands-based domestic placements will be carried out have in the past included Accord Housing, Arup, Aston University, Birmingham City Council, Birmingham City University, Cenex, Coventry University, Encraft Engineering, Green Hill Sustainability, Heat Genius, Loughborough University, New Leaf, Northfield EcoCentre, Optima Housing, Orbit Housing, Shropshire County Council/Marches LEP, Worcestershire County Council, University of Warwick, University of Wolverhampton and Ventive Ltd.

Katharine Fuller, Innovation Birmingham’s Senior Manager for European projects said: “The Pioneers into Practice programme enables those at the forefront of climate change innovation and implementation to have the opportunity to work abroad and in innovative companies closer to home. The programme has demonstrated that being parachuted into an organisation – outside of regular comfort zones – is the best catalyst to new ways of thinking.

“The diverse mix of backgrounds and expertise is what makes this programme so successful for both the host organisations and the Pioneers. They take their experience and skills up a level, which in turn delivers a more effective and creative group of climate change practitioners working across the region.

“This is a challenging programme; the intensive transition management workshop, followed by two placements – including one overseas – means that the Pioneers have to quickly adapt into new work environments. This gives them the opportunity to forge new relationships, acquire knowledge and broaden their experience. The process generates outstanding levels of innovation, often leading to project and business opportunities that extend well beyond the end of the programme.”

Tim Armitage, Associate Director at Arup, found the reciprocity of the programme to be a good fit: “Hosting a Pioneer was challenging, but ultimately worth the work. We also enrolled a member of my team as a Pioneer, and both of his placements created new long-term business links for Arup. It was a tremendous learning experience for us, and one we will be embracing in the future.”

Participants from the Midlands will undertake their four-week overseas placement during September and October 2015. The host organisations will be based in the other KIC participating regions; Valencia (Spain); Emilia Romagna (Italy); Hessen (Germany); Lower Silesia (Poland) and Central Hungary.

Following the opening session, further workshops will be held in the West Midlands during June and November 2015, bringing all the participants back together. Every Pioneer into Practice from across Europe will meet at the International Workshop, being held in Birmingham at the end of October 2015.

Pioneers into Practice is a Climate Knowledge Innovation Community (Climate KIC) project. Climate KIC is the EU’s main climate innovation initiative, and was one of the first 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.

To find out more about Climate KIC and its exchange, funding and start-up support programmes sign up for free to attend the Climate KIC West Midlands 2015 ‘Kick off event’, Tuesday 24th February 2015

To read more news from the Innovation Birmingham Campus visit its news page>

£10,000 Test Lab opens at the Innovation Birmingham Campus

Innovation Birmingham has opened a state-of-the-art Test Lab for its tenants and members to access for free. Incorporating £10,000 of devices and software, it has been delivered as part of the E4f Inspire project, funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

Over 700 people now work at the Innovation Birmingham Campus and the Test Lab has been delivered in response to demand from the community of tech entrepreneurs and developers. The Test Lab will be utilised to test how new apps ad games function across a range of the latest devices, including a variety of smartphone and tablets from popular manufacturers. The Test Lab also includes a digital graphics pad, camcorder, directional microphone, WXGA projector, licensed load impact software for performance testing and licensed browser stack software for further compatibility testing.

The Test Lab has been created within Innovation Birmingham’s Entrepreneurs for the Future centre. Also part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the programme has incubated over 100 start-ups, with 180 new employee and director positions created since November 2009. The new companies on the business incubation programme have secured over £6.8 million of investment during initial funding rounds.

Michelle Rayner, Innovation Birmingham’s e4f Programme Manager said: “I am really excited about the opening of the Test Lab, as there are so many tech developers based here at the Innovation Birmingham Campus that it will benefit. We are launching the new facility with 15 of the latest smartphones and mobile tablets, a digital graphics pad, camcorder, directional microphone, WXGA projector, and licensed software testing programmes. As new devices are launched to the market, we will refresh the offering and expand the equipment list wherever possible, such as from kind donations from tenants and our wider community.”

The Test Lab will be made available free of charge to all tenants and members, by appointments ranging in length from 30 minutes to a maximum of half a day. Details on becoming a member of the Innovation Birmingham Campus are available online, along with information on how to apply for theEntrepreneurs for the Future business incubation programme.

Innovation Birmingham has recently extended the duration tech start-ups can stay on its highly successful incubator. The free package of mentoring from an Entrepreneur in Residence, access to finance, visiting expert sessions, invitations to a wide range of tech events, wifi, telecoms, meetings rooms and office space – worth around £15,000 – is now be provided for up to nine months to circa 25 tech start-ups per year.

Links that relate to open data, government and community groups

(First published here)

The BBC Reports that ”

The UK government is the most open and transparent in the world, according to global rankings looking at public access to official data.

But web inventor Sir Tim Berners-Lee, whose organisation compiled the table, says the country has “a long way to go” before it has a fully open government

UK addresses as open data: the “UK’s first open and free address list launches”:

Voluntary sector and open data.

David Kane from NCVO writes:

My aim as a member of ODUG is to represent the needs of the voluntary sector – but to do that I need your help. I’d love to hear your open data issues – are there datasets that government produce that would help you but which you can’t get hold of at the moment?

A great place to start is the data requests process on This is where you can request access to datasets that aren’t currently open – they’ll be looked into by the team at the Cabinet Office and ODUG will also keep an eye on the process. You can also get in touch with me directly if you have any questions or comments about open data.

Something that ODUG members have been working hard on recently is a response to the government’s proposals for a National Information Infrastructure (NII). This ODUG paper published today sets out what we believe a National Information Infrastructure should look like, and how it is as important for the country as a physical infrastructure such as Crossrail.

see more

Creating a Business Case for Open Data

Digital Birmingham is part of a group of local councils that are leading the open data and transparency agenda, set up by Cabinet Office, to share learning and develop our thinking and future approach.  Last week I attended a lively discussion and wanted to share some ideas, picked up from Glasgow, Hampshire, Devon, GLA, Lambeth, Future Cities Catapult and others.  Small caveat: This is my interpretation of what was discussed, if you have been there or know more about these projects, please feel free to comment or correct.

Open Data has been around for a good few years now and quite a number of local councils have followed Government’s lead and published much more data than is required by law.  Many good examples such as the London Data Store, Open Glasgow, Nottingham and last but not least Birmingham’s Open Data Factory have been created and initiatives such as the LGA Incentive Scheme and the Breakthrough Fund encourage councils to publish more data sets.

Much of this work has been done based on goodwill, a leap of faith and often some form of grant funding.  This has created lots of anecdotal evidence and great stories but we’re now reaching the point where a good business case is needed to do more work and justify longterm effort and cost.  As one attendee put it: Council decision makers might be able to find funding but they lack a clearly investable proposition.

In response to this, the Open Glasgow team, which has been set up as part of their Future City Demonstrator project, has started to work on measuring the benefits that nearly 2 years of open data activity have created.  They have created the categories below and expect results to be available in late summer 2015.


–        Intrinsic value for organisation

–        Savings evidenced through reduced FOI requests


–        Value of sharing internally

–        Value of combining new data



–        Changing the conversation with the citizen

–        Reduced cost to engagement

–        Citizens connect easier to assets and services


–        Better decision making due to analysis and presentation

–        Measurable efficiencies or savings internally

Glasgow Benefits for Open Data


Another approach to answering the question about value is a change of the selling proposition: All of us, councils, public sector organisations, private and third sector organisations are consumers of data.  We consume data on a daily basis to run our services, monitor and improve operations.  Good data is the lifeblood of our internal operations and will usually have agreed quality standards.  Publishing some of our data could just be a by-product that shouldn’t’ require much extra effort. By publishing data we’re enabling it to be shared and reused internally much more easily.  Additionally, data that is being viewed and used will drive its own quality improvement because users will spot anomalies and may suggest corrections or a better format that benefits more users.

Last but not least, the Future Cities Catapult is undertaking research into Measuring the Value of Data.  Led by Catherine Mulligan, Head of Digital Strategy and Economics, they are looking at developing like for like comparisons to estimate realistic value of open data for the economy and counter the various estimates that are floating around assigning Billion $ scenarios to the exploitation of data.  This work will also address how to value the complementarity of datasets i.e. value created, possibly early on and on a smaller scale, through combining several 3 datasets that have not been combined before.

Data and open data skills for Birmingham community and voluntary groups at these Social media Surgeries.

Low Hill Social Media Surgery August 2012

First published on the Social Media Surgery blog.

Could your community group or charity be more effective if you collected information in different ways, used it better, shared it with the right people?  Would it help if you could more easily find information that government has about the places  or perhaps the people you are trying to help?

We are experimenting in Birmingham with how we can use the social media surgeries to share not just social media skills with local community groups and charities, but also data skills.

If you want a chat – even to find out what we mean – please click the links below for anyone of the surgeries for the following areas and sign up…

Central Birmingham Social Media

Moseley and Kings Heath Social Media Surgery

Kings Norton Social Media Surgery

What should I expect?

As always we start with you and your group.  What are you trying to achieve? What skills and tools do you have at the moment?  Can we show you new ideas that could help you achieve more? Can we help you in practical ways use those skills and tools – there and then? Always the same relaxed approach of a social media surgery.

What’s your aim?

Our ultimate aim is to encourage more community groups and local charities to find good uses for Open data.  This is numerical information that government shares in public, so we can have a better understanding of the places we live in and the way government works.  But we won’t throw you into anything difficult, we’ll start where you are and help you with the numbers and skills that matter to you.

Is there any information online?

As we work with people we’ll learn together how to solve problems. We’ll describe what we’re doing and share it here on the blog.  We will also be writing about things that might help you, tools, sites where data is stored, examples from other organisations.

I have no idea what you mean when you say open data!

Sorry – it is jargony.  Open government data is when government shares information on the internet that it owns  and grants you and I permission to use it (using an open government license) A simple example is local government releasing a monthly list of all spending over £500.  You can find the Birmingham one here.  But don’t be phased by any of this – we want to help you develop the understanding and skills that might be useful for what you are trying to achieve.

Innovation Birmingham Campus-based Memrica seeks pilot population of people living with early dementia to test new memory app

Memrica; a tech start-up based at the Innovation Birmingham Campus is developing a mobile aid for people with memory problems, including the early stages of dementia.

A grant from Nominet Trust, the UK’s leading ‘tech for good’ funder has been awarded to develop the first roll-out of the app, which is called ‘Memrica Prompt’. Designed to reduce the anxiety and frustration caused by forgetting essential information, it creates a virtual link between the things people want to remember and the objects and people around them. It also offers a smart reminder system, which collates data, image and voice files to prompt the user about day to day tasks and appointments. By increasing confidence and prolonging independence, the app is designed to delay the need for more extensive health and social care, and reduce stress for families and carers.

The tablet and smartphone app is being designed and developed in collaboration with people with dementia, their carers and clinical experts. A pilot population of those with early stage dementia –particularly people under 65, who enjoy using smartphone and tablet apps and already have an iPhone or iPad – is now sought to test the app.

Mary Matthews, Founder of Memrica said: “44 million people worldwide live with dementia and this number is expected to triple by 2050. Eight per cent of those diagnosed with dementia are under 65. However, when it comes to using technology, research from Deloitte suggests that by 2020, the gap between smartphone and tablet usage for the over 65’s and younger generations will be negligible.

“Memrica Prompt is a memory aid that can be built over time with photos, prompts, references and calendar notes to make all aspects of everyday life easier, such as going to the hairdresser or doctors, as well as relating to family and friends. Each subscription package gives access to up to five users, enabling loved ones and carers to contribute information to the app.”

“We have created the Memrica Prompt test application on the iOS Apple platform and are now seeking 50 people either living with early onset dementia, or who are worried about failing memory,  to help test the initial versions and then participate in a pilot. The outcome of the trial – which will be independently run by Coventry University’s Health Design Technology Institute – will be vital to shaping the continued development of the app.”

The Memrica Prompt app is expected to launch to the public this summer. Organisations that have already had input into the development of Memrica include Young Dementia UK, Heart of England NHS Foundation Trust, Worcestershire Early Intervention and Manchester Early Onset Dementia Services.

Memrica is one of the tech start-ups on Innovation Birmingham’s Entrepreneurs for the Future programme, where the Entrepreneurs in Residence have assisted with the development of the business plan.

Dr David Hardman MBE, CEO of Innovation Birmingham said: “Mary and her team have developed a new application in an area that is completely underserviced. The amount of interest from organisations such as Bupa, Young Dementia, Alzheimer’s Society and a number of NHS Trusts is very pleasing to see. The financial support from Nominet Trust to get the Memrica Prompt app to the test stage has been vital, and the importance of such funding to provide grants for ‘Tech for Good’ initiatives such as this cannot be underestimated.”

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 nine 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.

To participate in the trial of Memrica Prompt, please email Mary Matthews, founder:

A place to share ideas and developments for a Smarter Birmingham


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