Research, Business and Innovation Director Tracey John named Higher Education Hero from University Alliance

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Director of Research, Business and Innovation (RBI) at UWE Bristol, Tracey John, has been named a ‘HE Leaders & Heroes’ from the University Alliance as part of their Inspiring Women of the Alliance, as part of their International Women’s Day celebrations.

University Alliance (UA) is the voice of professional and technical universities. They represent large to mid-sized universities working at the heart of their communities. Alliance Universities partner with industry and the professions to deliver the workforce of today and tomorrow through practical, skills-based learning and applied research.

For International Womens Day on Monday 8 March, they celebrated the Inspirational women of the Alliance – those women working in their member universities who have been nominated by their peers and colleagues for their inspirational leadership, outstanding contribution to their field, and work championing Equality, Diversity and Inclusion.

Tracey was nominated HE leaders and heroes category and was put forward for her energy, clarity and vision. The category represents the amazing women who are leading the way in Higher Education, forging a path and inspiring students and colleagues with their drive, passion and commitment to the sector.

Find out more here.  

Access to Justice: Open Source LegalTech Hackathon 19, 24 and 31 March

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How do we use technology better to help those that need it most? 

The Challenge

Bringing the legal industry together with third sector, technologists and innovators, to rapidly design ideas on how we can purposefully use open source technology to ensure access to justice for all. We are calling for SMEs in the West of England to be part of an event that will rapidly prototype solutions for improved legal opportunities and legal service outreach. Together we will build a collaborative community that is focussed on solving problems for all.

Why Access to Justice?

The pandemic is widening the justice gap, with a sharp increase in the problems that many people face at a time when it is harder to get legal support. It has exacerbated many justice issues for those in vulnerable groups and low-income communities who are hardest hit by job or rental insecurity, homelessness and eviction, cybercrime and reduced access to criminal justice systems – now more than ever there are more people needing access to legal advice and help with understanding their rights.

What is a hackathon?

A hackathon is a competition, usually held over the course of a couple of days. It is a collaboration between small teams of business people and software developers to develop a product, service or platform that addresses a specific challenge. It is an opportunity for people with a common goal to come together to harness their ideas and build solutions for the future. We will bring together the growing legaltech community across the West of England area and take this diverse group through a creative design sprint process to rapidly develop and prototype ideas/demonstrators.

The event culminates in a pitching competition before a panel of judges, who score the pitches along the challenge criteria and select a winner. We will run workshops to help participants can learn more about the subject of the challenge and the capabilities of open source – in our case, justice, legal services, lawtech and using open source technologies to enable access to justice.

We are inviting registrations from SMEs across the region who deliver justice, advice, support, technology, business and innovation. Spaces are limited, so register now. Participation in the hackathon is by selection. Registration does not guarantee a place. We will notify the final participants separately by email.

SMEs: Register here

If you are not an SME or you are not based in the West of England but you wish to be part of the LegalTech hackathon delivery or to join the wider network, please contact Thanh Quan-Nicholls Thanh.quan-nicholls@uwe.ac.uk to discuss this further or register here.

How to take part and Key Dates

  • Sign up to the Open Source LegalTech Hackathon here.
  • You will need to commit to all three days plus a minimum of 4 hours working as a remote team on your legaltech solution during that week.
  • You will need a computer or laptop with a camera, internet access, ability to download meeting apps and file sharing software such as Zoom, MS Teams, Github, Slack etc and somewhere to work where you won’t disturb others.
  • Each team will have a mentor who will help organise, support prototyping and problem solve any issues.
  • Hackathon Days: 19 March, 24 March and 31 March, 9:30am – 1.30pm

View the full hackathon guidance here.

This event is delivered by the Digital Innovation Fund and funded by the ERDF for the benefit of SMEs in the West of England. We will be guiding SMEs and Social Enterprises through the enterprise innovation and ideation process, creative design sprints and agile working practices to support new product design, improve resource efficiency and R&D activities. Your attendance at this event will count towards to State Aid and by participating, you are agreeing to ERDF business support and accompanying documentation


European Regional Development Fund:

The project will receive funding from the England European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020.  The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government is the Managing Authority for European Regional Development Fund.

Established by the European Union, the European Regional Development Fund helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community regenerations.  For more information visit here.

West of England region: All organisations with a presence in Bristol, Bath, BANES and South Gloucestershire.

Top Tips for Bid Writing for Innovation Funds

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Thanh Quan-Nicholls, our Digital Innovation Lead says that there has been a meteoric rise in the availability of grants for business innovation but they can be difficult to navigate.  She has spoken to many companies this year because we provided 121 support for companies looking to apply for grants to schemes such as the Digital Innovation Fund.  There are common themes that come up so, here are her top tips:

     1. Make sure you have an innovative idea

For lean disruptive start-ups, embedding innovation is natural, but for others, it requires a change in mindset or culture. Make sure you explore future technologies, new business models and innovative design.  With customer needs changing fast, it’s a great time to be looking at new ways to apply existing technologies, creating new services or products, and developing disruptive business ideas.  Innovation funding provided by the public sector is intended to widen knowledge, further capabilities and bring economic growth. 

     2. Explain your innovation

If you are close to your project, it can be hard to explain why your idea is novel. Get help to apply a critical eye to your application. To be credible, you should become an expert in your field. The bid will be reviewed by industry experts, so there is no shortcut to doing your research: identify competitors and similar products, know your market or sector, understand your technology and why you are breaking new ground. 

     3. Be positive

Remember that this is an exercise in persuasive writing to convince your audience of your great idea.  You want to excite them and get them to support your project.  For grant funding, this is not just about the end user or customer, the funder wants to know that you are delivering wider impacts. There is no room for doubt – be bold, be optimistic and describe your innovation idea in a way that excites your reader. 

     4. Demonstrate your capabilities

To demonstrate that you can deliver, get your financial information ready, have a team with the right skills, and show that you understand your route to market. Gaps here will seriously jeopardise your chances of being funded. Increase your chances of success by assessing your capabilities objectively and mitigate any weaknesses.

     5. Read the guidance & answer the questions

Some people fail to answer the specifics of the questions being asked.  Avoid this pitfall by reading the guidance closely.  Your application will be read and scored by reviewers who are working to an assessment criteria. Targeting your answer will ensure that you will maximise your score.

     6. Give yourself enough time

Quality applications benefit from time and effort. Remember to give yourself enough time to fine tune your bid. Get team members with differing strengths involved at different stages.  

If you don’t understand the jargon or processes, most funders will be happy to talk to you.  It might not be obvious, but funders want to give away their money!  They are keen to get applications that are innovative, exciting, impactful and deliverable.  

     7. Find the right fund for your project

There are many funds out there – nationally and locally.  

The chances of succeeding can vary depending on how many applications are submitted and how high the standards are across the board.  As a rule, there is more competition for national or larger funds than smaller, local funds.  Assess your chances wisely. There is no single list because these funds are short-lived and change constantly. You need to sign up to bulletins and newsletters, and be ready to take advantage of the next opportunity.  

And finally, it’s important to recognise that receiving funding takes time and energy.  In most cases, companies are signing up to a reporting back process beyond the life of their project. But the recipe for success is about matching the right project with the right fund, taking time to prepare a strong application and avoid the common pitfalls.

Win or lose, there are intangible benefits of bid writing – businesses say that going through an application process helps them to clarify their own proposition.  And often companies who get funding once, go on to receive more. Many will use the same skills to attract further investment.

So, if you are thinking about delivering innovative projects, don’t miss out. Have a look at what support you can get – there is plenty out there!

Thanh Quan-Nicholls is lead for UWE Bristol’s Digital Innovation Fund. Round 2 is now open,  closing to applications on 18 November 2020.  For more information and to register for an application pack visit:  www.digitalinnovationfund.co.uk.

Free online Innovation & Bid writing course, open to SMEs

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  • Dates: 13  October, 20 October and 27 October 2020, plus 3 hours of bid writing support
  • Delivered online. Free to SMEs in the region

Apply for the course

In times of crisis, delivering innovation becomes crucial for businesses looking to pivot, adapt and grow.  You may already have a great idea that needs developing.  Or, you need to adapt your business in these changing times to be more competitive, disrupt or respond to new markets.  While it’s hard out there, it is also a time of opportunity.  There are many funds and investment opportunities available to SMEs – but writing winning bids is a complex skill. 

That’s where UWE Bristol can help you. This free course brings together experts in innovation models, project management, bid writing and funders to give you the insights and skills needed to apply for innovation funding.  

At the end of the course, you will receive bespoke support to work on your current bids and to help you articulate your pitch to funders.

UWE is committed to ensuring that our funding is accessible and open to all.  This course is designed to be relevant for SMEs or non-for-profit who are bidding for innovation funding.  If you have never bid for funding or find the bidding process difficult to understand, this course helps you to understand what funders mean by innovation and gives you practical skills to develop your own innovative ideas and turn these ideas into successful bids

Discover more about the free course here.

Apply for the course

This course is part of the Digital Innovation Fund which provides between £10K to £40K for 35% of project costs to support innovative SMEs in the West of England. 

Deadlines for applications: 10 November 2020   

Visit the Digital Innovation Fund website.

Future Space responds to the ‘new world of work’

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Future Space responds to the ‘new world of work’ with launch of connected member option and newly appointed innovation manager.

Future Space, in the University Enterprise Zone (UEZ), has offices, workshops and lab-space for science and tech-based businesses, and has been explicitly designed to encourage innovation, collaboration and inspiration.

Future Space is redefining the workspace market with a new set of member packages and business support services, designed to meet the needs of SMEs for the post-Covid era.

With flexibility and added value at the heart of its new offering, the hub – renowned as a hot bed of innovation in the South West – will have a new affiliate membership option, called Connected, available from September.

The newly created connected membership has been designed to enable access into Future Space facilities and services for those businesses that don’t need a dedicated desk.

The package is designed to be a gateway to a more permanent presence at the centre. Members can take advantage of the networking spaces during the week, as well as the full range of Future Space business support services.

Businesses will also be able to make use of the valuable connection with the University of the West of England (UWE) community to benefit from academic resources and research functions. This will all be supported by a new member only website for firms to access the extensive list of opportunities available.

The new connected membership, member website and virtual in-residence initiative has been driven by Aimeé Skinner, newly appointed innovation manager for Future Space.

Aimeé joins Oxford Innovation, which operates Future Space on behalf of UWE, with several years’ corporate experience. Notably, she spent two years as innovation manager for Bristol Water where she was credited with developing and implementing the utility provider’s innovation agenda which included Robotic Process Automation.

Commenting on her appointment, Aimeé said: “I’m truly excited to be part of the Future Space team. It’s a challenging time for companies and I am focused on establishing new ways to support the business community through pioneering and creative applications.

“I have also been further developing my close contact with UWE to build mutually beneficial links and access to resources for our member companies, to foster new ways of working and drive future innovation.”

Read the full story here.

The Digital Innovation Fund is now live: UWE Bristol announces a second round for its £1m Covid-19 Recovery Fund

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Following on from a successful first round, UWE Bristol has launched the second round of funding for its Digital Innovation Fund, a £1m Covid-19 recovery fund open to SMEs in the West of England. 

The programme is supporting Research and Development projects in a range of industries and will be creating more innovation opportunities with this second round. 

The scheme, funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), offers eligible businesses innovation grants from £10,000 to £40,000 to fund 35% of project costs.

Grants are open to businesses in any sector that want to innovate and address new challenges that have arisen from Covid-19. Applicants must be small or medium sized enterprises (SMEs) and based in Bristol, Bath & North East Somerset, North Somerset or South Gloucestershire.

Deadlines for applications: 10 November 2020

Apply now:  www.digitalinnovationfund.co.uk 

Director of Research, Business and Innovation at UWE Bristol, Tracey John commented: “We were delighted to receive so many strong applications in round one and were impressed with the calibre of these. It was great to see how businesses are continuing to innovate during such challenging times. We are excited to go live with a second round, supporting the research and development ambitions of even more businesses across the West of England. 

The scheme remains open to SMEs in the region that are undertaking a digital innovation or research and development project. We are offering a sliding scale of grants, from £10k to £40k, so there will be a funding option for a range of businesses – from start-ups and micro enterprises, to more established organisations. Once again, the application process is straightforward and UWE Bristol staff are available to provide hands-on support through a series of confidential 1:1 drop-in sessions. This unique support is available to any business eligible to apply. 

UWE Bristol has given over £2.5m of grants to thriving businesses in the West of England, creating over 150 new jobs and over 100 new products and services. 

In a time of unprecedented change, UWE Bristol is proud of the role it can play to help transform businesses in the region during the pandemic and beyond.”


Notes to editors 

European Regional Development Fund:

The project will receive up to £1,900,000 of funding from the England European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020.  The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government is the Managing Authority for European Regional Development Fund.

Established by the European Union, the European Regional Development Fund helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community regenerations.  For more information visit here.

West of England region: All organisations with a presence in Bristol, Bath, BANES and South Gloucestershire.

Future Space celebrates £1.3m funding for companies driving innovation

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Original post appeared on Business Leader.

Businesses based at UWE Bristol’s science and tech hub Future Space are celebrating the award of Innovate UK funding designed to help companies continue innovation and development activities through the coronavirus crisis.

£1.3m funding has been secured by resident businesses in the last three months, supported by the Future Space team.

Future Space businesses securing Innovate UK coronavirus grants, created by the Government to support businesses driving innovation and development, include biodevice tech IP specialist BiotIP; digital experts 500More; pioneers in Cyber-Physical Operating Systems Indus Four; software solutions provider HBXL, mass spectrometry experts Mass Spec Analytical; 3D scanning and software engineering firm OR3D; and eco technology provider to the transport and aviation industries Intercede Ventures.

In addition, transport solutions innovator Esoterix was one of 25 organisations to snap up a share of a £9.4m pot offered by the Department of Transport and delivered by Innovate UK in its 2020 First of a Kind (FOAK) competition, which encourages innovation in the rail industry.

The £370,000 grant has enabled Esoterix to recruit four new members of staff to support with the project which will be completed by the end of March 2021.

Meanwhile, Service Robotics, the company behind GenieConnect®, the companion robot that helps older adults live independently in their homes through voice-enabled face-to-face video support, successfully completed a second seed funding round amounting to £600k.

Future Space returned to full operation for all companies on 29 June and maintained access throughout the lockdown period for its lab-based businesses to enable vital research to continue uninterrupted.

The team worked closely with UWE Bristol at the start of lockdown to put in place a support package for all companies.

All companies also received three months’ 50% rent reduction and access to UWE Bristol’s Summer Internship scheme.

Service Robotics and another Future Space business Healcerion EMEA have appointed fully funded interns for the summer as part of the scheme designed to create employment opportunities during the challenging Covid period.

Future Space is managed by Oxford Innovation (OI) on behalf of the University of the West of England (UWE), and offers a range of office space, shared and dedicated laboratories, workshops and coworking facilities designed specifically for high-tech, science based entrepreneurs and innovators.

Future Space centre director Laura Crocken Stevens said: “It’s testament to the pioneering work ongoing here at Future Space that these innovation-driven grants and funding have been received by our customers and we look forward to seeing what the next phase brings.

“We have been focused on assisting all our resident businesses through lockdown. Every company has a different story to tell. For our lab customers it was essential for us to maintain access to Future Space to continue important research work and others needed assistance to take advantage of Government support measures.”

Professor Martin Boddy, pro vice-chancellor for research and enterprise at UWE Bristol and a key founder of Future Space commented: “There’s no doubt that Covid-19 has created unexpected challenges, with the situation still evolving. Future Space businesses have, however, shown great resilience in the face of these challenges and continue to innovate and grow.

“These funding awards are great news and we look forward to seeing the emergence of ground-breaking work as a result. Future Space has become synonymous with excellence in innovation, demand for our space and facilities remains buoyant and we look forward to continuing growth and development.”
Future Space is managed by Oxford Innovation (OI) on behalf of the University of the West of England, Bristol (UWE), and offers a range of office space, shared and dedicated laboratories, workshops and co-working facilities designed specifically for high-tech, science based entrepreneurs and innovators.
The hub last year posted record results, with over £9 million of regional Gross Value Added (GVA) in its third year of operation.

Read the full story here

UWE Bristol shortlisted for three Times Higher Awards 2019

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The University has been shortlisted in recognition of our outstanding achievements over the last 12 months in three categories: Outstanding Entrepreneurial University award; Business School of the Year; and Outstanding Strategic Planning Team of the Year.

Widely regarded as the ‘Oscars of higher education’, this year’s awards will see the biggest celebration yet of UK universities, recognising outstanding work across a wide-range of HE activity.

Our innovative approach to enterprise has been recognised by making the shortlist of the Outstanding Entrepreneurial University award.

UWE Bristol has enterprise and entrepreneurship at its heart which assessors recognised as a huge contribution to our award of TEF Gold.

Our submission highlighted the leadership culture across the institution, creating an enterprising and ‘can-do’ attitude amongst students and staff. Through the Enterprise 2020 strategic programme, the University has embedded enterprise in over 300 programmes across all faculties – from Aerospace and Animation, to Law, Nursing and Wildlife Ecology.

The submission also highlights our state-of-the-art facilities that bring enterprise alive including the University Enterprise Zone. Home to budding entrepreneurs and generating hundreds of jobs, the UEZ has contributed over £50m to the local economy.

The Bristol Business School has also made it onto the shortlist for Business School of the Year for the third year running. We hope to go one better this year, building a submission around impactful research, engagement with business and innovation in entrepreneurship.

The final award the University has been shortlisted for is Outstanding Strategic Planning Team of the Year.

Our submission centres on how our strategic approach has seen the University achieve its highest ever student satisfaction ratings.

Programme Leader for UWE Bristol’s BA(Hons) Business and Management programme Paul Bennett and Lecturer Mubarak Mohamud are presented with the award of Most Significant Positive Impact in the NSS award 2018 by Deputy Vice-Chancellor Jane Harrington and Chair of UWE Bristol Governors Sonia Mills

Focussing on our taskforce approach that shares best practice with programmes and areas requiring support, this has led to quickly resolving issues of performance and identify trends across the University. This culture of institutional performance has led to our highest ratings in the National Student Survey (NSS) and Postgraduate Taught Experience Survey (PTSE), placing the University in the top 10 of higher education institutions for student satisfaction in the country.

You can read the full stories of each submission on the THE awards 2019 website.

Launch Space graduate incubator recruiting now

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Have you graduated in the last three years in the UK and have a business idea you’d like to put into action?

Launch Space provides free desk space and business support for graduate-led, innovative and high-tech businesses at various stages on the start-up journey.

Launch Space is part of a wider entrepreneurial community based on our Frenchay Campus, housing the Future Space incubation facility and the Bristol Robotics Laboratory – making it a great environment for graduate start-ups to flourish.

In just 18 months, Launch Space has supported over 50 businesses, with over £1.8 million funds raised by its residents and employment created for more than 90 people.

Launch Space is now well established in the regional start-up community, and is recognised for its unique ability to connect start-ups with the support and collaboration of the wider university and business communities.

Find out more and apply today to grow your start-up business. Launch Space is supported by the ERDF.

If you have any questions, please get in touch via email: launchspace@uwe.ac.uk or call +44 (0)117 3286168.

Launch Space will receive up to £2,000,000 of funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) Growth Programme 2014-2020. The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) is the programme’s Managing Authority. Established by the European Union, the ERDF helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects that support innovation, businesses, job creation and local community regeneration.