£6.5m project aims to drive digital innovation in the South West

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A project worth £6.5million is being launched across the South West to expand the use of digital technologies throughout the region’s creative, health and manufacturing sectors.

The new Creative Technology Network will bring together universities and industrial partners, pooling their research and innovation expertise to develop cutting-edge practices, techniques and products in creative digital technologies.

Supported by a grant from RESEARCH ENGLAND, and led by the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol), the three-year project is a partnership with Watershed in Bristol, Kaleider in Exeter, Bath Spa University, the University of Plymouth and Falmouth University.

UWE Bristol Professor Jon Dovey is leading the project for the DCRC

As new technology, including automation and big data, raises new challenges and opportunities for businesses, this partnership is designed to respond to industry needs across the health and manufacturing sectors and the creative industries, driving productivity and resilience.

The grant is part of RESEARCH ENGLAND’s Connecting Capabilities Fund, which supports university collaboration and encourages commercialisation of products made through partnerships with industry. The funding will kick-start the project, which begins in April.

Professor Martin Boddy, who is Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research and Business Engagement at UWE Bristol, said, “We are immensely proud to be taking the lead on this exciting project which builds on UWE Bristol’s vision to work with partners to enhance innovation across the region and nationally. This new network will stimulate the regional economy and will undoubtedly lead to new products and new ways of working, all thanks to shared research experience and technical expertise.”

Professor Jon Dovey, who is Professor of Screen Media at the Faculty of Arts, Creative Industries, and Education at UWE Bristol and leading the project for the Digital Cultures Research Centre (DCRC) said, “This project will bring together the best and the brightest researchers in creative arts, technology and design to work with companies old and new to show what new kinds of value can be unlocked by the application of creative technologies.

“We are going to be working with immersive media, processes of automation and the new availability of big data to support business to find new ways of working with their customers and our citizens. Watch this space for the amazing new products and services we invent in the next three years.”

 

Launch Space at UWE Bristol attracts 23 graduates start-ups after just six months

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Launch Space, a high-tech business incubator for graduates based at the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol), has attracted 23 residents since launching in June 2017.

Based in the £16m University Enterprise Zone, Launch Space provides recent graduates from across the UK with free desk space for one year, innovation support and access to UWE Bristol researchers and facilities.

Professor Martin Boddy, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research and Business Engagement, said, “Launch Space is already becoming a vibrant and inspiring community of hi-tech entrepreneurs. The University is a key innovation hub in the West of England and we are delighted to announce that each business at Launch Space has recently been given the chance to apply for a grant of up to £6,000 to help with research and development.”

Entrepreneurs interacting in UWE Bristol's Launch Space

Current projects based at Launch Space include Tegru, a company developing a face mask for cyclists that includes built-in filter technology designed to reduce intake of harmful particles.

The incubator is also home to Bio Loop, a venture working on a system to convert waste milk into electricity. Run by a graduate from UWE Bristol’s Team Entrepreneurship degree, Bio Loop is working with a dairy company to help process waste milk using microbial fuel cell (MFC) technology to produce electricity. Bio Loop is collaborating with experts on development of a system using MFC technology developed at Bristol Robotics Laboratory (BRL)*.”

Another start-up is building an app called ‘Bunk’ that acts as an intermediary between landlords and tenants with the aim of improving the rental experience. Bunk will be powered by Blockchain technology, originally designed for the bitcoin digital currency, which allows digital information to be distributed but not copied and removes the need for a middleman in financial transactions. The model moves away from the current cash-heavy deposit system and allows customers to take out a monthly payment plan with an insurance company instead.

Launch Space has also attracted GigaTech, a company designing a configurable MIDI controller for music makers, Seatox, a business making beauty products out of seaweed, and Bonnie Binary, an enterprise developing a ‘soft’ games controller partly made out of textiles.

“For these graduate start-ups, working from this space is an enriching experience, given the flurry of activity around,” said Launch Space Incubation Manager Kim Brookes. “It is also important for the region, because the minute you give opportunity for innovation and creativity to thrive together, you could be creating a new industry, and this promotes the innovation economy”.

Launch Space forms part of a larger UWE Bristol innovation support programme that is receiving up to £2 million from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). Located alongside the Future Space technology incubation centre and the BRL, residents benefit from co-location with other innovative enterprises.

Those wishing to apply for a place at the incubator can do so here. Applicants are required to have a UK based business located or operating in the West of England (Bristol, Bath, South Gloucestershire, and North Somerset. The Launch Space team is on hand to help pre-start enterprise with the process of registered their business.

Dunissa: how two psychology students’ food stall helped them prepare for the world of business

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Dunya Elbouni and Melissa Sargeant share a love of cooking and baking. While studying for a degree in psychology at the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) they often compared recipes, posting their meals on Instagram and blogging about food, with a dream of one day running their own food-related business.

They never imagined the extent to which the University could support them in setting up such a business enterprise, especially as they were not on a business course.  They were therefore pleasantly surprised to find out about UWE Bristol’s £20 challenge.

The scheme involves the University lending would-be entrepreneurs from any faculty £20 to set up a business with the challenge of generating as much income as possible in a week. Participants can keep any profit they make, with a prize awarded to the most innovative team. Melissa and Dunya took part, setting up a sushi and cupcake stall on the Frenchay campus. Working just two hours a day for four days, the pair made £400 profit and came second in the competition.

DUnissaFollowing their success selling food on campus, Dunya and Melissa were encouraged to apply for the University’s Innovate Internship. This offers budding entrepreneurs with support to set up and run a business venture. Successful candidates are given £1000, provided with desk space (if required), and allocated a mentor who helps them set and achieve goals.

The pair pitched their idea of setting up a food stall at St Nicholas’ Market, based in Bristol’s city centre, as they saw an opportunity to sell fusion Middle Eastern and Malaysian cuisine. Gaining a place on the programme, they used the money to buy cooking and serving equipment, produce flyers, rent the space for a pop-up stall and, of course, to buy the ingredients.

Calling their business ‘Dunissa,’ a contraction of both their names, they served an array of food and drink over a six-week period in the summer. Their fare included halloumi fries, Tabbouleh and meals such as Beef Rendang (a spicy meat dish).

“We definitely learned how hard it is to run a business and it wasn’t as easy as we initially thought,” says Dunya. “I learned a lot about time management, teamwork and the importance of networking and learning from other traders,” she adds. Their allocated mentor had previous experience working with market stall holders. “He taught us about retailers, how to track our business and helped us with the marketing side,” says Melissa. “Most of all, he acted as a sounding board, and helped us with teething problems, given that he had previously encountered some of the issues we came up against,” she adds.

The market stall was a huge success, and running their own business gave them confidence when it came to applying for jobs after graduating in 2017. Melissa subsequently got a job in PepsiCo’s marketing department. “Going into the interview and being able to say that, at such a young age, I had worked as an entrepreneur who handled buying, selling, marketing, and made a profit, gave me the edge,” says Melissa. “Even now when I mention it in the company, it’s very different to what some of the other graduates have done,” she adds.

Dunya, meanwhile, landed a job at Screwfix head office, also working in its marketing department. “A lot of the interest I have for business came from that internship and running our food stall,” says Dunya. “It took us out of our psychology [course] and more into the business field,” she adds.

As well as offering a Team Entrepreneurship business degree course, UWE Bristol actively encourages and supports students wishing to set up business ventures as part of, or alongside their studies. To find out more about these opportunities, click here.