Spotlight on Launch Space businesses

Posted on

In October 2021, Launch Space welcomed 16 innovative start-ups to receive business support, incubation, and acceleration services.

Launch Space provides free desk space and business support for aspiring entrepreneurs and early stage businesses. Launch Space is part of the University Enterprise Zone.

Through Launch Space some businesses are eligible to apply for Santander Start-up Grants which aim to remove the financial disadvantage to pursuing the entrepreneurial career path. These grants facilitate the growth of early-stage start-ups, giving them vital funds for an internship, or to develop new products and services.

Following the 6-month programme of workshops, peer learning, advisor sessions, and mentoring, the group were able to apply for the grants in early 2022.

Applications for the next cohort closed on 3 May and will begin on 18 May with a full-day induction where they will meet former members of Launch Space and hear first-hand the experiences they’ve had.

As we prepare to begin Launch Space Spring 2022, we caught up with a few of the Autumn 2021 cohort who were successful in securing these grants to see how they’re getting on.

Andy and Guy, Co-Founders, Target Student

Target Student are building the UKs first digital out-of-home advertising network specifically within student accommodation.

“Our platform will digitise advertising to students – which has traditionally been done through noticeboards and flyers. This also opens up a new channel to brands to advertise on large digital screens.

“We first applied for the Santander funding in 2021, and we got support to get our proof of concept up and running. This involved running the screens in 33 properties in 16 cities, with a reach of 30,000.

“Now we need to test our idea to see if we can measure impact. This additional funding will support with research and development of this stage, to work out which analysis platform to use so we know how many people are viewing our screens. This means we’ll have the hard data to be able to sell advertising space.”

Nicholas Du Preez, Founder AI Assist

AI Assist is a revision application for students. It combines proven study techniques with machine learning to adapt revision to the study needs of the individual student. This enables them to make the most out of their revision time and long-term memory.

“Education traditionally relies on students to memorise large amounts of information in order to pass exams, often with limited notes or information. I experienced this as a student and came up with the idea for AI Assist.

“Developing the idea was fascinating, because a lot of it is centred around understanding psychological research and revision techniques, so that you can create a revision plan that is unique to the individual.

“Everyone has areas they are weaker or stronger in when it comes to studying, and everyone has a different way of learning, so you can use machine learning to understand the best approach, or mix of approaches that is right for that individual. This is what the app does and it has already proven to increase the exam results achieved by 52%.

“The Santander funding will allow me to employ an intern who can support with the next step – turning the idea into a mobile and web application, testing it on students and ultimately improving their revision experience and their grades.”

William Testeil, Co-Founder, Famli

Famli is an app that helps families improve their health and wellbeing in a fun and simple way through engaging activities that cover exercise, nutrition, and mental health.

“Initially we were offering Famli on a B2C basis, but we’ve had a lot of interest from primary schools. This funding will go towards web support so that we can develop our app for teachers – allowing us to have more of an impact as well as providing us with a sustainable business model.

“Before getting to this point, we had been bootstrapped for two years. We’d spent our money developing the app and we were doing other work to cover our personal expenses. Through the support of Launch Space we got an initial grant from Santander, which allowed us to spend our whole working week on the business. This gave us time to hire our technical Co-Founder, which then led to us being eligible for more funding and we secured a £50k grant through Innovate UK.

“Now we’re able to get another round of funding through Santander, which will enable us to bring in new talent. Launch Space sparked a domino effect for us and gave us mentoring throughout this process.

“I’d definitely recommend Launch Space to other entrepreneurs – we’re all going through a similar process and as well the structured support it offers, it’s also just nice to pop in and connect with others going through the same journey.”

Jamie Taylor, Founder, Greener Greens

Greener Greens leverages modular vertical farming to bring the highest quality produce to chefs where and when they need it.

“I heard about Launch Space through UWE Bristol. I missed the first day because I was representing the university at the Santander Entrepreneurship Awards, so I was at Wembley Stadium pitching instead!

“These contacts helped me to bring on my first intern, which opened my eyes to the benefits of getting this support. As a startup you have no money and you need a lot of work done, so that’s why I applied for the funding. Connecting with the other businesses at Launch Space has given me an insight into the skills I need to bring in.

“Now I have the funding I want to find someone who can design mock ups of the software we need for our customers (chefs) to easily interact with our farms, and who can assess the use cases for the application. This work is essential for building our MVP and it is an area that is outside my own skill set.”

Find out more about Launch Space.

Innovative ‘smart socks’ could help millions living with dementia

Posted on

Inventor driven to act by great-grandmother’s dementia

  • Milbotix’s ‘smart socks’ sense rising distress in those with dementia, autism and other conditions that affect communication, so their carers can intervene before things escalate
  • Current wrist-worn alternatives can stigmatise and cause more distress
  • Inventor Zeke wanted to help after seeing great-grandmother’s dementia journey
  • He volunteered in a care home and went back to university to research new tech ideas
  • ‘That’s what motivated me: to find her a technological solution that might support care staff and family carers’

‘Smart socks’ that track rising distress in the wearer could improve the wellbeing of millions of people with dementia, non-verbal autism and other conditions that affect communication.

Inventor Dr Zeke Steer quit his job and took a PhD at Bristol Robotics Laboratory so he could find a way to help people like his great grandmother, who became anxious and aggressive because of her dementia.

Milbotix’s smart socks track heart rate, sweat levels and motion to give insights on the wearer’s wellbeing – most importantly how anxious the person is feeling.

They look and feel like normal socks, do not need charging, are machine washable and provide a steady stream of data to carers, who can easily see their patient’s metrics on an app.

Current alternatives to Milbotix’s product are worn on wrist straps, which can stigmatise or even cause more stress.

The Milbotix Smart Socks

Dr Steer said: “The foot is actually a great place to collect data about stress, and socks are a familiar piece of clothing that people wear every day.

Our research shows that the socks can accurately recognise signs of stress – which could really help not just those with dementia and autism, but their carers too.

Dr Steer was working as a software engineer in the defence industry when his great-grandmother, Kath, began showing the ill effects of dementia.

Once gentle and with a passion for jazz music, Kath became agitated and aggressive, and eventually accused Dr Steer’s grandmother of stealing from her.

Dr Steer decided to investigate how wearable technologies and artificial intelligence could help with his great-grandmother’s symptoms. He studied for a PhD at Bristol Robotics Laboratory, which is jointly run by UWE Bristol and the University of Bristol.

Dr Zeke Steer

During the research, he volunteered at a dementia care home operated by the St Monica Trust. Garden House Care Home Manager, Fran Ashby said: “Zeke’s passion was clear from his first day with us and he worked closely with staff, relatives and residents to better understand the effects and treatment of dementia.

We were really impressed at the potential of his assisted technology to predict impending agitation and help alert staff to intervene before it can escalate into distressed behaviours. Using modern assistive technology examples like smart socks can help enable people living with dementia to retain their dignity and have better quality outcomes for their day-to-day life.

While volunteering Dr Steer hit upon the idea of Milbotix, which he launched as a business in February 2020.

I came to see that my great grandmother wasn’t an isolated episode, and that distressed behaviours are very common,” he explained.

Milbotix are currently looking to work with innovative social care organisations to refine and evaluate the smart socks.

Charity Alzheimer’s Society says there will be 1.6 million people with dementia in the UK by 2040, with one person developing dementia every three minutes. Dementia is thought to cost the UK £34.7 billion a year.

Meanwhile, according to the Government autism affects 1% of the UK population, or some 700,000 people, 15-30% of whom are non-verbal part or all of the time.

Dr Steer is now growing the business: testing the socks with people living with mid to late-stage dementia and developing the tech before bringing the product to market next year. Milbotix will begin a funding round later this year.

Milbotix is currently a team of three, including Jacqui Arnold, who has been working with people living with dementia for 40 years.

The Milbotix Team

She said: “These socks could make such a difference. Having that early indicator of someone’s stress levels rising could provide the early intervention they need to reduce their distress – be that touch, music, pain relief or simply having someone there with them.

Milbotix will be supported by Alzheimer’s Society through their Accelerator Programme, which is helping fund the smart socks’ development, providing innovation support and helping test what it described as a “brilliant product”.

Natasha Howard-Murray, Senior Innovator at Alzheimer’s Society, said: “Some people with dementia may present behaviours such as aggression, irritability and resistance to care.

“This innovative wearable tech is a fantastic, accessible way for staff to better monitor residents’ distress and agitation.”


UWE Bristol’s Launch Space open for applications

Posted on

UWE Bristol’s Launch Space Incubator is open again for applications from aspiring entrepreneurs and early-stage businesses.

Based within the University Enterprise Zone (UEZ), Launch Space is home to high-tech, innovative start-ups with a strong focus on research and development. Applications are now open for the free business support, incubation, and acceleration services we provide for graduate entrepreneurs and early-stage businesses.

The Launch Space incubator and accelerator could be the place for you if:

  • you have a business idea you’d like to put into action
  • you’re a recent graduate, or in the early stages of developing your idea
  • you need support to validate and develop your business further

With access to communal networking areas, use of professional meeting rooms, and on-site hot-desks, you can get ready to launch your business.

Our new Launch Space programme will kick off with an exciting Induction Day onsite in May. Meet your peers, say hi to our Innovation team, and get your first glimpse of the science and tech community in our University Enterprise Zone.

A weekly programme of pitch events, boardroom advisor sessions and coaching sessions will kick start your start-up journey and help bring your idea to life.

If you’re a graduate entrepreneur, you may also be able to benefit from grants of up to £4,000 to support your new business.

Find out more and apply here.

What our current Launch Space cohort has to say

Launch Space is home to existing graduate-led businesses at various stages on the start-up journey, so you’ll be working alongside others who have a common goal of making their vision a success. We spoke to some of our current members about why they joined Launch Space and what they’ve enjoyed the most.

Jamie Taylor, Greener Greens

Why did you join Launch Space?

The Launch Space program is renowned for supporting early-stage innovation, so I felt this was the natural place for me to be. I would advise future cohorts to embrace the opportunity, attend all the available sessions and utilise the experience of the Launch Space staff and community.

The support from Mark and Aimee exceeded my expectations and I cannot recommend the program enough.

Hazel & Amber, Peequal

What have you enjoyed most about Launch Space?

We’ve enjoyed meeting fellow entrepreneurs who are facing similar challenges. Be up for learning from others and their experiences! You can learn something from everyone.

Being able to bring your questions, challenges and successes to the group has been so encouraging.

Andy & Guy, Target Student

What advice would you give others looking to join Launch Space?

It has been brilliant getting non-biased advice from other founders who are either facing, or have faced, similar challenges. Equally, having access to Aimee & Mark has been incredibly valuable for us and we have learned lots from our time with them.

Commit as much as you possibly can. The more you invest in the programme, the more you will get out.

Find out more about Launch Space and apply here.

University Enterprise Zone supports over 100 innovation start-ups and contributes £17m to Bristol economy, report shows

Posted on

More than 100 innovative businesses have been supported by Future Space, launched just five years ago in 2016 by the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol), a new report has revealed.

Managed for the university by Oxford Innovation, Future Space provides office space, labs, workshops, and co-working space at the heart of the University’s main Frenchay Campus.

One of four University Enterprise Zones (UEZ) set up nationally, it was intended to build bridges between innovative, fast growth businesses, academic researchers, and students, sparking new ideas and opportunities.

This new report reveals that the UEZ has supported more than 100 innovative businesses to create 240 new products and services in the region. Between them, the businesses located at the UEZ have raised almost £45m in finance, created 427 jobs and contributed almost £17m to the local economy.

Future Space businesses include university spinouts, student start-ups as well as high tech, science-based businesses attracted from across the UK and internationally. The team behind the space took home the Community Award at last year’s local SPARKies Awards, recognising their contribution to the Bristol tech cluster.

Over 40 UWE Bristol students have completed internships with these businesses, and more than 20 UWE Bristol graduates have gone on to be employed on a permanent basis.

The news comes shortly after Bristol was named the most innovative city in the UK outside of London, while UWE Bristol was named on a list of universities in the UK that have produced the most start-ups.

As well as demonstrating the key role Future Space has played in powering innovation in the region, the report highlights that this success has been achieved due to close collaboration with their members, with UWE Bristol, and with their neighbours the Bristol Robotics Lab and the Health Tech Hub.

Future Space five years impact video

Jo Stevens, Managing Director for Oxford Innovation, says:

“Oxford Innovation are delighted to partner with UWE Bristol at Future Space and very proud of what has been achieved there by the team, in supporting so many innovative businesses to grow and create so many new products and services.

Innovation is the lifeblood of growth in the UK, and Future Space is a great example of the impact that can be achieved through real collaboration between academia and business.

We can’t wait to see what the next five years will bring.”

Martin Boddy, Pro Vice-Chancellor Research and Enterprise at UWE Bristol

“UWE Bristol is particularly proud of Future Space, the businesses it supports and the links that we have built between leading-edge, high-tech businesses, university researchers and our students.

We’re committed to working with and supporting businesses across the region, and Future Space has enabled us to do that on a much deeper level and with real impact.

Future Space has provided many excellent opportunities for our students and the wider community. Joint research has created innovation and jobs, and it has played a huge part in us championing and driving innovation across the region”

CASE STUDY: Indus Fusion – from start-up incubator to health tech innovators

One of the businesses supported by Future Space is Indus Fusion, who hit the headlines recently for their innovative vaccine preparation device. Co-Founder of the business, Arthur Keeling, started out as a student at UWE Bristol where he studied on the Team Entrepreneurship course for three years.

“This course allows you to learn everything you need to set up and run a business alongside your studies.” Arthur says. “When I left university, I wanted to try out a few of the business ideas that I had. Because of the connection between UWE Bristol and Future Space I was able to join the Launch Space incubator programme and get one-to-one mentoring and support to develop these ideas.

“Once we’d developed our ideas into a clear business plan, we were able to apply for funding and investment, which enabled us to grow. We moved into Future Space permanently, where we were able to tap into support from the Bristol Robotics Lab to scope out ideas and access equipment.” Indus Fusion is now focusing on how automation can improve the service in sectors such as food, health and care. Their automated vaccine preparation device is currently being tested in NHS Covid-19 vaccine clinics, with early trials indicating a 40 per cent increase in roll-out capacity.”


UWE Bristol’s contribution to climate action and sustainability

Posted on

As the UK host the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26), we look at how UWE Bristol are contributing to climate action and sustainability:

With 40,000 students and 3500 employees, we are well aware of our impacts in terms of sustainability and carbon reduction – and well aware of our responsibilities.

We recognised the Climate and Species Extinction Emergencies in 2020, with our board of governors formally signing up to this commitment. Our 2030 UWE Bristol strategy sets out a clear commitment to be carbon neutral by 2030 across key areas. The strategy sets out our commitments across:

  • Carbon neutrality
  • Reducing water and energy use, waste
  • Aim to eliminate single use plastic – signed up to UK Plastics Pact
  • Working towards Clean air and smoke free campuses
  • Looking for year on year reductions in non-sustainable travel
  • Embedding awareness of carbon reduction and sustainability across all of our programmes and prioritising research that addresses these issues

Below is a small snapshot of some of the support we offer businesses and processes we are putting in place to achieve our 2030 carbon neutral goals:

Skills for Clean Growth

Skills for Clean Growth, in partnership with NatWest, will help address the skills needed to deliver the West of England’s net zero ambitions and vision for clean and inclusive growth. It will support SMEs in the region adapt and change as they transition to a low carbon economy, providing the leadership skills needed to build a clean growth strategy; and the knowledge and tools to achieve sustainability.

UWE Bristol and NatWest have shared values around supporting SMEs to achieve net zero, in support of West of England’s ambition to be a driving force for clean and inclusive growth, committing to net zero carbon by 2030.

The scheme, funded by WECA (Workforce for the Future) will address these challenges:

  • Increased demand for green skills – Harnessing the opportunities for innovation and growth
  • Growth in low carbon economy – predicted 11% a year
  • Creation approx. one million jobs nationally
  • Adaption required by high carbon sectors (e.g. building and construction)
  • Mismatch between what is currently provided and what employers need

Innovation support for SMEs

UWE Bristol works in partnership with WECA to identify the growth and regeneration needs of the region, focusing our activity on strategically important sectors such as Clean Growth. 

UWE Bristol has designed, developed, and delivered targeted programmes to support the growth of the region’s strategic priority sectors. We have secured a series of multi-million pound EU funded projects to channel capital grants and business support to SMEs across the region in support of innovation and growth. These have secured £11m for the region, leveraged over £10m of private investment and the university has invested over £3m in these programmes.

Over the past 3 years, UWE Bristol has channelled more than 100 innovation grants – worth £7m and attracting £8m in private sector investment – to fast-growth businesses through our Innovation 4 Growth Programme and other targeted initiatives.  This has secured nearly 1,000 new jobs in the region. The success of this activity is communicated across the local innovation ecosystem and feeds into the design and delivery of our portfolio of future business support programmes including our new Digital Innovation Fund.

Case study:

  • Collecteco works in partnership with UWE Bristol to donate surplus furniture and equipment to good causes and has generated over £363,000 social value and avoided 67 tonnes of CO2 in 2021. They said: “UWE’s support has been invaluable and has ranged from facilitating Scale 4 Growth funding through to them partnering with us to donate surplus furniture and equipment from their estate”

University Enterprise Zone (UEZ)

The University Enterprise Zone(UEZ) based on UWE Bristol’s Frenchay Campus, provides high quality space for 80+ high tech start-up and scaling businesses, employing in excess of 300 people, with access to a robust and vibrant investment community. It is on target to generate 500 jobs, and more than £50m for the local economy. These businesses are supported through targeted innovation support and growth advice.  Focus/gateway is on digital, HealthTech, bioscience and low carbon SMEs.

Case Study:

  • Inheriting Earth (in Future Space) is a sustainable product design company set up by Adam Root, with the mission to stop the flow of new plastic entering our water, trapping plastics shed by clothes in washing machines. They successfully grew their business, attracted investment and recently outgrew Future Space and moved on into their own premises. Read more about Inheriting Earth.
  • Albotherm is another Future Space business and they are focusing on developing technology that provides a solution to address climate change. Albotherm was founded by a team of scientists turned entrepreneurs in 2020 with a vision to bring our planet one step closer to carbon neutral and ensure future food security with their passive cooling technology. They have developed coatings for glass that respond to light and heat and control thermal gain, which reduce the need for air con.

Student Accommodation

We are developing a 2,200 bed student accommodation complex on Frenchay campus, which will be built to Passivhaus standards, the biggest development in Europe built to this exacting energy efficiency standard. The accommodation will have Air-tight fabric combined with air-heat pumps and solar panels. The accommodation will have high air quality and, low running costs, and will also be affordable.

Our Students

We aim to embed understanding of sustainability and carbon literacy across all of our programmes not just the many which are more obviously of direct relevant to the built environment, like environmental management and engineering.  Professor Jim Longhurst, Assistant Vice Chancellor Environment and Sustainability, commented “They are probably ahead of us any anyway, but if we can embed this understanding in all our students they will be committed ambassadors for the next 40,50, 60 years. They are the future – but the future is coming faster than we might like”.

Find out more about Sustainability at UWE Bristol

Future Space wins Community Award

Posted on

Last week the Future Space team won the Community Award at The SPARKies. This award is presented to an individual or company doing the most to support the whole tech community in the West.

The nomination recognised the work being done in collaboration with UWE Bristol – Over the last five years, Future Space has supported 43 students to get hands-on experience working for some of Bristol’s most innovative businesses, with more than 20 graduates now employed in the Future Space community.

Parm Cory-Jones, Centre Manager, has been with Future Space for five years and been part of the journey they’ve been on. Parm commented that:

“It’s been an amazing five years of growth. I feel we’re unique due to our location, opportunities and the fact we have support from a thriving University. We’re proud to be able to receive this award and it’s a wonderful way to mark the end of our first five years”

Aimee Skinner, Innovation Manager, joined in 2020 and has focused on building connections between businesses and the University, as well as running new innovation and business support initiatives, such as a virtual in-residence advisory programme. Aimee said:

“It’s great to be able to support so many innovative companies on their journey, and at the same time we’re creating opportunities for young talent in the region through our internship programmes. We’re delighted to win the Community award, and it is fantastic recognition of the work that goes on at Future Space.”

Parm Cory-Jones, Centre Manager and Aimee Skinner, Innovation Manager Future Space.

Future Space also sponsored the FutureSPARK award. This is awarded to individuals who are under 25, an employee of a tech company, post grad or entrepreneur. The individuals have to demonstrate true commitment and initiative within the tech and digital community and who is seen to have the potential to go far in the industry.

The winner this year was one of UWE Bristol’s Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) associates, Hannah Dockings. Hannah is a Research Engineer in Artificial Intelligence–KTP Associate with Flexys. Flexys is based at Future Space and is a specialist debt collection software supplier, that cover design, research and development, delivery and support.

Aimee Skinner, Innovation Manager, Future Space and Hannah Dockings,
UWE Bristol KTP associate with Flexys

The SPARKies

These awards bring together the South West region’s tech and digital community to celebrate the best startups, designs, hardware and people. They are organised by TechSPARK, a not-for-profit network dedicated to connecting, educating and strengthening the digi-tech cluster in the West. TechSPARK works with tech and digital businesses from Startups to Scaleups, SME’s to Global Corporations based in the region to help them to grow.

Future Space

Future Space is part of the University Enterprise Zone led by UWE Bristol. Based at the heart of the main UWE Bristol campus, Future Space offers a range of office space, shared and dedicated laboratories, workshops and coworking facilities designed specifically for high-tech, science based entrepreneurs and innovators.

The onsite Innovation Team connects entrepreneurs and tech innovators with scientists, researchers and graduate talent – to spark collaboration, innovation and growth. Run by Oxford Innovation, they bring innovative coaching together with strategic partners and specialist advisors, to deliver high-quality business support services and events for the Future Space community.

For further information about how Future Space can help your business please get in touch

Knowledge Transfer Partnerships

The Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTP) scheme is a UK-wide programme helping businesses to improve competitiveness and productivity. You bring the ambition and strategic vision to transform your business, and UWE Bristol will provide the practical graduate support, applied knowledge and technical expertise to help you achieve your goals.

For further information about how your business could benefit from Knowledge Transfer Partnerships please get in touch .

Read our KTP case studies for more information.

Congratulations to Future Space on winning the Community Award at the Sparkies awards!

UWE Bristol are so proud of our partnership with Future Space and our achievements together.  We were also delighted to hear that Hannah Dockings our KTP Associate was recognised and awarded for her superb work at Flexys, winning the FutureSpark Award. 

UWE Bristol’s Knowledge Transfer Partnerships are a key example of how business, students and academics benefit from the value of collaborative working.

Lucy Wicksteed, Head of Business Innovation and Skills, Research, Business and Innovation, UWE Bristol.

UWE Bristol’s Launch Space Incubator cohort takes off!

Posted on

The University of the West of England‘s 2021 Launch Space incubator cohort gathered for their induction last week at Future Space – Bristol. The day was led by Mark Corderoy from UWE Bristol and Aimee Skinner from Oxford Innovation.

Launch Space is for aspiring entrepreneurs and early stage businesses and is home to high-tech, innovative start-ups with a strong focus on research and development. The residents receive free business support, incubation, and acceleration services.

The group started off the day with a welcome from Tracey John, Director of Research, Business and Innovation, before hearing first hand from Arthur Keeling of indus four about their journey from UWE Bristol, to Launch Space, and into their current office at Future Space.

Next up were talks from key members of UWE Bristol’s University Enterprise Zone, including Shaun Jordan from RIF Bristol, and David Attwood from the Health Tech Hub, as well as the chance to speak with Andy Johnson from the Centre for Print Research about the fascinating work going on in their new location at Frenchay campus. After lunch, the group were thrown in at the deep end, delivering 90 second pitches to each other!

There were some seriously exciting #ideas, #innovations, and #entrepreneurs in the room, and we’re looking forward to seeing how they progress over the coming months.

‘As founder of VisitMôr, I am really excited to be on the UWE Launch Space business accelerator. The expertly led programme offers access to unparalleled specialist, technical and business support. It’s perfect to nurture the development of our new interpretation and visitor experience products  — these will be designed to help the museum, heritage, and conservation sectors to tell their own stories. We are also thrilled to be sharing our Launch Space journey with a talented cohort of fellow business pioneers; it will be great to share ideas amongst peers.’

Beth Môrafon, Founder/Director VisitMôr Ltd and Launch Space Resident.

Beth Môrafon, founder and director of VisitMôr, a public realm and visitor experience consultancy

“Launch Space has been an excellent asset for myself and my business so far. The support from the mentors has been invaluable and the opportunity to learn from other entrepreneurs and share experiences with them has been amazing.”

Guy Thurlow, Co-Founder and Client Director, TargetStudent and Launch Space Resident.
Guy Thurlow, Co-Founder and Client Director Target Student, offering digital advertising platforms for business brands in student accommodation.

Future Space Business produces technology to help tackle sustainability and climate change issues

Posted on

Future Space is part of UWE Bristol’s University Enterprise Zone. They aim to drive the University’s ambitions to prepare students with entrepreneurial skills, spark collaboration between UWE researchers, innovators and entrepreneurs and commercialise the latest research.

Professor Steve West, UWE Bristol Vice-Chancellor and President, said:

“This is the latest venture that sets us apart as a technology-based university focused on generating opportunities for business growth and collaboration.

There is no doubt in my mind that fostering an entrepreneurial atmosphere on our campus is a win for our students and our research community, as we know that by collaborating and nurturing business we create a climate of innovation that has a ripple effect.”

Future Space is part of one of four University Enterprise Zones in the UK. The West of England University Enterprise Zone provides facilities and services to companies specialising in robotics, biosciences, medical technologies and other high tech sectors. 

Albotherm is a member of Future Space and they are focusing on developing technology that provides a solution to address climate change.

Here’s their story:

Albotherm was founded by a team of scientists turned entrepreneurs in 2020 with a vision to bring our planet one step closer to carbon neutral and ensure future food security with their passive cooling technology.

Air conditioning alone currently accounts for 20% of electricity usage from buildings and this is expected to triple by 2050 due to rising global temperatures. Using fossil fuel derived energy for air conditioning traps us in a ‘Catch 22’ as we are further warming our planet, creating even more demand for cooling.

At Albotherm we are developing coatings based on novel polymer chemistry that reversibly transition from transparent to white, passively cooling the structure they coat by reflecting solar radiation in hot weather. We can control the trigger temperature this transition occurs at, between 18 ℃ and 45 ℃ to create optimal conditions in a range of climates. Our technology works without electrical input, cutting down carbon emissions associated with air conditioning and removing our reliance on fossil fuels.

Our first product is a glass coating aimed at the Greenhouse Horticulture market. Greenhouses are designed to extend our growing seasons by increasing growing temperatures during colder months, hence the term “The Greenhouse effect”, however they are consequently prone to overheating in the Summer months.

Currently, greenhouses are painted with chalk based white paints each summer. This is a labour intensive process and also means light levels are reduced even on cooler summer days. Unlike these solutions, our coatings only turn white to shade crops when they risk being damaged by heat. This protects crops while maximising light levels in cooler days, boosting yields in an industry that has historically struggled with razor thin margins.

In the future, we plan to develop products for commercial buildings to reduce carbon emissions associated with air conditioning. At the moment air conditioning accounts for 20% of electricity usage from buildings and 10% of total global electricity usage. By applying our technology to windows and roofs, we can significantly reduce energy usage from these buildings to protect against the impacts of climate change.

Furthermore, another key benefit of our technology is the ease with which it can be retro-fitted. More than half of current global building stock will remain standing in 2050. On top of that, two thirds of UK homes do not meet energy efficiency standards. Is it essential that we improve the sustainability of the buildings we currently have and retrofitting is the only way to do that. As our technology is applied as a coating, it can be easily sprayed onto existing and new buildings.

To get in touch with Albotherm please click here

University Enterprise Zone Spotlight: Robotics Innovation Facility

Posted on

The Robotics Innovation Facility (RIFBristol) is one of five areas that make up UWE Bristol’s University Enterprise Zone. The below spotlight explains its purpose:

Located beside the UEZ café, which forms a central meeting place for the building’s companies, entrepreneurs and academics, is one of the most exciting parts of the University. Identifiable by the array of industrial robot arms and other cutting-edge hardware, visible through its window onto the café – the Robotics Innovation Facility (RIFBristol) is a high tech, inspiring and truly creative space. 

As UWE Bristol’s specialist industry-facing unit within the Bristol Robotics Laboratory (BRL) – a collaborative partnership between the city-region’s two universities and the UK’s most comprehensive academic centre for multi-disciplinary robotics research – RIFBristol provides training, research and consultancy services to a range of private and public sector clients.

Recognised as a Digital Innovation Hub by the European Union, it has been successfully delivering robotics workshops, prototyping and validating new products, demonstrating how automation can improve manufacturing processes, and supervising student-industry collaborations, since 2013.

“Our engineers help clients to trial various technical solutions, identifying the best options for their requirements,” says Farid Dailami, Director of RIFBristol and Associate Professor for Knowledge Exchange in Manufacturing.

“They can advise on capital purchases, support the deployment and integration of hardware, undertake research and proof-of-concept work, and deliver training.”

One of the unique strengths of RIFBristol is what it describes as its ‘brand agnostic’ approach. As part of BRL and UWE Bristol, it is not tied to a particular hardware manufacturer or supplier. It is, therefore, under no pressure to favour a particular brand or model and its advice is always honest, unbiased and wholly tailored to its customers’ needs.

This also means that its dedicated workspace in the UEZ is equipped with an impressive range of manufacturing equipment. ABB, KUKA and Universal robot arms sit alongside conveyers, sensors, cameras and laser measuring systems, all of which can be used to address clients’ research, CPD and product development challenges.  

“Our expertise is as diverse as our hardware”, says Dailami. “Our staff have knowledge of industrial robotics, cobotics, mechanical and electronics engineering, mechatronics, smart manufacturing, 3D printing and simulation. This diversity is our strength. We can help with robotics, but we can also bring knowledge and experience of related disciplines into play”

Alongside its private consultancy projects, RIFBristol leads several publicly funded research and business support programmes. The EU-funded TERRINet initiative, for example, enables researchers at all levels, from undergraduates, to PhD candidates and industry-based professionals, to access robotics infrastructure located across Europe. 

Since 2018, RIFBristol has also delivered the ERDF-funded SABRE Programme. This £1m project has enabled small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) from across the West of England to explore the benefits of robotics and automation.

From start-ups, micro-enterprises and sole traders, to larger and more established companies, its free and subsidised services have helped businesses to get the most from these important technologies.

“RIFBristol and the SABRE Programme played a vital role in the completion of our initial prototype. It enabled the company to undertake pilot studies with leading OEMs – and to safeguard the development of this exciting technology in the UK, securing 3 existing, and creating 4 new, jobs in the West of England.”

Dr Evangelos Zympeloudis, CEO, iCOMAT Ltd | www.icomat.co.uk


For more information about RIFBristol visit its website. The University Enterprise Zone is also made up of the Health Tech HubFuture SpaceLaunch Space and the Bristol Robotics Laboratory Hardware Incubator.

University Enterprise Zone Spotlight: Future Space

Posted on

Future Space is one of four areas that make up UWE Bristol’s University Enterprise Zone. The below spotlight explains a bit about them:

Who we are

Future Space is an innovation centre, based on UWE Bristol‘s Frenchay campus, within the University Enterprise Zone. The centre offers a range of office space, laboratories, workshops, and coworking facilities designed specifically for high-tech, science-based entrepreneurs and innovators. Future Space is managed by Oxford Innovation, the UK’s largest operator of innovation centres, and manages a growing network of over 25 innovation centres in the UK.

A former head chef, a PhD in cancer genetics, and one of the region’s top 75 innovators; just some of the eclectic accolades of our Future Space Team. With a wealth of experience in business, and managing lab and workspace, we’re on hand to help entrepreneurs grow their businesses.

What we offer to business

There are many reasons why Future Space is a fantastic location for growing science and technology businesses: Purpose built laboratories; Customisable workshops; and a range of flexible offices and shared spaces. A distinct advantage is the positioning of the centre – on UWE Bristol campus and co-located with the Health Tech Hub and Bristol Robotics Laboratory.

We also have an onsite Innovation team to oversee all the business needs of our community and provide practical business support for our tech and life science residents. As well as running peer networks and 1:1 support, the team organises free expert advice for resident businesses, connects companies with the University, and designs and develops a varied support programme of workshops and Q&As.

An event held in the Hub Space of the University Enterprise Zone

How we work with UWE

Our Innovation team works closely with UWE Bristol to drive collaboration opportunities. If you are a small company in the early stages of development, it can be difficult to find the capacity to carry out all aspects of running the business as well as giving focus to building your product and services. The knowledge and expertise you have in-house is also likely to be limited. Universities can play a key role in helping SMEs grow, with access to skills training, student and graduate resource, academic expertise, and an abundance of practical advice.

Businesses based at Future Space have benefitted from more than 200 engagements with UWE Bristol, from the use of specialist equipment at the university, to funded business assist support through programmes such as the Health Technology Accelerator Programme and SABRE. This support has enabled companies to build new products and services, as well as giving access to valuable knowledge and technical expertise that is needed in the early stages of development.

You can read more in our recent article.

What’s new for 2021/2022

Student and graduate engagement with SMEs are a core focus in the centre, with residents offered fully funded UWE Bristol internships, as well as regular chances to pitch project briefs to degree and masters level students. This year we launched our new internship programme aimed at post-graduate students, as well as undergraduate students – more than 40 interns have been employed in the Future Space community over the years, and these internships bring in vital skills and talent to resident businesses. We will be developing this programme further in 2021/22.

This year, our team also got involved in UWE Bristol’s Digital Innovation Fund, delivering innovation training as part of the ‘Innovation & Bid-writing’ course, delivered to SMEs in the region. This was a great opportunity for SMEs and our Future Space community, and we are committed to working closely on future programmes.

Our strong affiliation with UWE Bristol brings a huge amount of opportunities for resident businesses, from student and graduate engagement, to innovation support, and funding opportunities. The impact of all of this work is seen in the great successes of our community, and you can read about some of these in our cases studies and blogs. We’re excited to see what’s next.

For further information about Future Space please contact info@futurespacebristol.co.uk

Back to top