University Enterprise Zone Spotlight: Robotics Innovation Facility

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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

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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

UWE Bristol’s Launch Space open for applications

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UWE Bristol’s Launch Space Incubator is now open 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. 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.

Launch Space is open to graduate-led, or early stage, businesses with high-growth potential. We’re looking for those that are working on products and services across key themes:

  • Health and life science
  • Advanced engineering
  • Digital futures
  • Sustainability and climate change

Our new Launch Space programme will kick off with an exciting Induction day onsite in early October. 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 a £6,000 bursary to support you, while you focus on your new business.

Interested businesses will need to complete a short application form before being invited to an interview. Find out more about the application process here.

Mark Corderoy, Entrepreneur in Residence UEZ, commented:

“We are excited to be able to accept new applications to Launch Space. Launch Space gives those starting out or recent graduates with a business idea the support to be able to really focus on their start-up. The 1-on-1 support and access to expertise and facilities is invaluable for any new business”.

Find out more here.

University Enterprise Zone Spotlight: The Health Tech Hub

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The Health Tech Hub is one of four areas that make up UWE Bristol’s University Enterprise Zone. The below spotlight explains about their purpose:

The Hub’s mission is to advance innovation in healthcare, to invigorate the growth of UK companies and to improve the quality of life for citizens. The Health Tech Hub team identify and create opportunities for businesses, universities and the healthcare sector to work together to solve the demanding problems faced by the healthcare sector in the UK and globally.

The Health Tech Hub is located in UWE Bristol’s University Enterprise Zone. Its founding partners are UWE Bristol, University of Bristol, Sirona Care and Health, P3 Medical Ltd, Designability and the West of England Academic Health Science Network.

Their skilled staff are well-placed to advance innovation, by supporting each company we work with to develop their technology solutions. In their purpose-built world-class laboratories, complete with the latest equipment; our dedicated team of experts are able to support companies with precision, utilising their accumulative experience across the industry, academia and healthcare sectors.

The projects undertaken in the Hub are hugely diverse, from developing a sensor for detecting Urinary Tract Infection, to running sophisticated spectral analysis of cells undergoing stress. Other projects included characterising novel biocompatible materials and integrating electronic systems into assistive technologies such as a “Smart” walking stick for people with Parkinson’s disease.

The real asset of the Hub is the creativity, enthusiasm and knowledge of the staff. The practical support shown at all levels has been second to none. Using the facilities has been very useful in terms of gaining access to professional and state of the art lab and workshop facilities to conduct initial tests and experiments in a highly sensitive and controlled environment. As a start up SME with limited capabilities, such resources are invaluable for us to be able conduct high quality and competitive R&D to develop our ideas further.

Habib Patel, Founder of Fullfat Technologies | fullfattech.com, based within the Health Tech Hub


For more information about the Health Tech Hub go to their website. The University Enterprise Zone is made up of the Health Tech Hub, Future Space, Launch Space and the Bristol Robotics Laboratory.

Future Space businesses supporting next generation of innovative talent in Bristol

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20 young people have been given access to internships at Future Space in Bristol thanks to programmes funded by UWE Bristol.

Future Space is co-located with UWE Bristol and provides workspace, meeting rooms, labs, and workshops to more than 50 innovative Bristol businesses.

To mark World Youth Skills Day the team is celebrating the interns, who are all completing eight or 16-week internships within their resident businesses.

The internship programme has been so popular with its residents that Future Space worked with UWE Bristol to extend the funding to make 2021 its biggest year yet.

The programme has offered internships in engineering, VR, AI, explosives, biomedical sciences and more to 40 young people in Bristol since Future Space launched in 2016.

Bristol is often named as one of the most innovative cities in the UK, and in 2019 it was shortlisted for the European City of Innovation Award.

One of those young people is Jessika Perdomo, 22, from Bogota. Jessika has just graduated in Environmental Health at UWE Bristol, where she is also a BAME advocate and part of their Widening Participation programme.

The programme ensures the university attracts a more diverse student body and ensures they have access to all university opportunities so they are able to fulfil their potential.

Jessika heard about the internship opportunities through Aimee Skinner, Innovation Manager at Future Space.

Jessika says:

“I was looking for opportunities to gain work experience. Aimee told me that they’re recruiting here at Future Space through the internship, and now I’m part of the customer service team at Service Robotics. It’s been a very flexible role because it’s a start-up, and that’s what attracted me to the role. The flexibility means you get to learn skills that are transferable.

I’ve now been offered a full-time role with Service Robotics and I’m so happy because it feels like a family. I didn’t know I was going to enjoy it so much so it has surprised me and I’m excited for the future.”

Rob Parkes, CEO at Service Robotics, says:


“We’ve had five interns through Future Space so far and it’s been really successful. Now that we’ve offered Jessika a full time job we will have two interns who have been offered employment with us.

We’re a startup so we don’t have much money, so anything that’s funded is a big help. We’re also very busy so this programme allows us to tap into the right pool of talent without having to spend time scouring the market.”

Aimee Skinner, Innovation Manager at Future Space, says:

“It is vital for our city’s economy and future that we give the next generation of innovators in Bristol a chance to work at the cutting edge of science and technology. This programme also provides funding for Future Space businesses to bring in vital skills to their companies so that they can work on research and kick-start projects that they wouldn’t otherwise have been able to progress.

This is especially important right now, when many young people have been cut off from these opportunities due to the pandemic. This year we’re delighted to be working with students from every faculty of the university, from photography undergraduates to forensic science masters. Some of them have already been offered full-time employment here and we’re all looking forward to seeing where it might take them in the future.”

Tracey John, Director of Business, Research and Innovation at UWE Bristol,
commented:

“We are passionate about skills development and providing opportunities for all. For us, pairing our innovative businesses that are part of Future Space with our eager to learn students is a no brainer. The internship scheme provides the businesses with access to our talent and provides the students with vital industry experience and helps them to develop skills needed for the future.”

Future Space is part of the University Enterprise Zone.

Innovative SMEs gather to develop their digital innovation business ideas

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On the 7 and 8 July 2021, UWE Bristol hosted an in person innovation workshop for SMEs in the region. The workshop was funded as part of UWE Bristol’s Digital Innovation Fund, which was is funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF).

Innovation leads came together to deliver interactive creative workshops to SMEs. The sessions provided much needed time for small business owners to get away from their desks or kitchen table. For most this was the first time since early 2020 that they had been in a workshop or networking environment. The attendees worked on innovative ideas with like-minded people and got their mindset and innovative concepts ready for funding. The delivery team included Thanh Quan-Nicholls (Digital Innovation), Aimee Skinner (Future Space), Mark Corderoy (Launch Space), Lucy Paine (Innovation for Growth) and Alan Gould (Lightholm Consulting).

The workshops were held at at Future Space, part of the University Enterprise Zone.

Businesses learnt techniques for ideation, honed their pitching skills, learnt about investment and funding, and fine-tuned their bid-writing skills. Businesses also had to rapidly solve problems, pitched for chocolate and became bid reviewers. Future Space transformed their networking space into a spacious and safe area for businesses to gather and it was wonderful to see the space so lively!

Thanh Quan-Nicholls, Digital Innovation Lead UWE says:

“So much has changed over this last year and as the markets recover it is important for SMEs to dedicate time for innovation as this will be the key to their future competitiveness and growth.

It was great after so long to see businesses working together in person – at these events, businesses also learn from each other and this is the part that is hardest to recreate remotely. Businesses told us they find meeting other innovative businesses empowering and motivating. The warm and inspiring cohort reminded us of best of the region’s spirit of collaboration and diversity.”

The businesses sectors were very wide-ranging, including creative technologies, visitor economy, edtech, legaltech, not-for-profits, engineering, software and marketing. They included new start-ups right through to established businesses.

Businesses attending get to bid over the next few weeks for micro grants of up to £5000 to implement their ideas. This forms part of UWE’s commitment to providing a supportive and accessible business infrastructure.

Tracey John, Director of RBI says:

“Putting time into upskilling disruptive businesses and helping them access new opportunities is a key part of ensuring diversity and economic growth. We are creating a pipeline of innovative and ambitious businesses for the future.”

Find out more about the Digital Innovation Fund here.

How my job at UWE helped me launch my new business

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The below post is a guest blog from one of our Launch Space incubation managers Kim Brookes. Kim has recently set up her own business, Perfino. Kim talks about how her job at UWE has helped to launch the business:

How my job at UWE helped me launch my new business 

For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Kim Brookes and I am one of two Incubation Managers at Launch Space, UWE’s graduate start up Incubator based in the University Enterprise Zone. 

I have been working at UWE for many years now giving advice and support to students and now graduates, alongside my other entrepreneurial endeavours. I love working with people who are brimming with ideas, energy and a can do attitude, and often feel I learn as much from them as they do from me. Starting a business is always a bit of a rollercoaster as nothing is certain and you learn as you go – there’s no such thing as failure in this world, just learning experiences, and an opportunity to grow as a person. 

So not so strange perhaps that after 3 years of ruminating on an idea that I thought had potential and which appealed to my obsession with fragrance, I have now launched my natural scent jewellery business, Perfino, and am currently crowd funding to help it grow. 

Perfino makes artisan jewellery that combines with wonderful natural scents to become your own personal diffuser. Studies show that 1/3 of us are intolerant to synthetic chemicals and that up to 60% of these chemicals can be absorbed into the bloodstream, making the wearing of commercial perfumes a bit of a gamble. So Perfino is offering an alternative way to smell great that is kind to the wearer and supports the sustainable production of natural essential oils around the world. 

The learning never stops and I look forward to sharing my experiences with the start-ups in Launch Space as we all embark on a very similar journey, soaking up all the knowledge that surrounds us.

Find out more about Perfino here.

Graduated from any UK university in the last 5 years and got a business idea you’d like to put into action? Launch Space offers free desk space and business support for budding entreprenuers. Find out more via our website.


Located in the new £16m University Enterprise Zone on Frenchay Campus, Launch Space provides physical incubator space and enterprise support for graduate start-up businesses.

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.

Alumni wins UK Young Innovators Award from InnovateUK and the Princes Trust

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Product Design graduate and previous Launch Space resident Kieran Devlin has been awarded the UK Young Innovators Award from InnovateUK and the Princes Trust. The annual national awards scheme seeks out people with creative and ground-breaking business ideas. 

After graduating in 2019, Kieran entered UWE’s Launch Space Start-up Incubator where he began his business Revive Innovations. Building on his final year project, where he began investigating waste, the company are a sustainable design start-up creating innovative materials and products by recycling waste in unique ways. They are aiming to challenge consumer perceptions on recycled products and prove that they can be as beautiful and functional as ones made from virgin materials.

In September last year Revive won The Peoples Prize Award of the Blue Patch Sustainable Business Awards 2020 and achieved runners up in The Circular Economy Award.

Currently, the company is focusing on designing products using RE-CD, a recyclable composite made from old CDs. Kieran has also just released SLEEK-120, a range of bar stools made using RE-CD. 

Kieran commented on the win “I am incredibly proud to have been awarded with a UK Young Innovators Award from InnovateUK and the Princes Trust. The award has provided me with funding and tailored business support that is helping lead me towards my sustainable design ambitions.” 

Congratulations to Kieran on the award. To find out more or purchase Revive’s products visit their website here.  


Located in the new £16m University Enterprise Zone on Frenchay Campus, Launch Space provides physical incubator space and enterprise support for graduate start-up businesses.

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.

Knowledge Transfer Partnership company Flexys signs multi-year deal with Bamboo

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One of our Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) companies, Flexys signs multi-year deal with personal loans provider, Bamboo.

Flexys provides modular, highly scalable and extensible debt management, collection and recovery solutions for the digital age. Their cloud-native solutions maximise operational efficiency, reduce the cost to collect and ensure that they deliver the best possible customer service while protecting your business from reputational and regulatory risk.

Flexys Solutions is based at the Future Space Innovation Hub, part of our University Enterprise Zone and employs over 20 people, most of whom are working from home for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic. Flexys has experienced a period of significant growth this year as lockdown fuels a surge in digital engagement and a move to cloud-native technology.

Bamboo are a direct lender who have built their business around helping people find an affordable loan that fits your credit situation.

Flexys CEO, Jon Hickman said “We are very proud to have secured this multi-year partnership with Bamboo. The economic consequences of the pandemic have put debt management in the spotlight and we have seen a surge in demand for our smart, cloud-native systems. Every new client helps us to expand our business and to promote Bristol as the ideal location for innovative technology businesses.”

Our KTP with Flexys aims to integrate Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning technology within debt resolution software, to enable more effective management of debt resolution and improvement of customer relationships and retention.

A KTP scheme is a UK-wide programme helping businesses to improve competitiveness and productivity. With the help of graduate talent and access to UWE Bristol academic expertise, a KTP can help your business to transform and solve problems to achieve goals.

To find out more about KTPs please visit our website.

Bristol Robotics Laboratory and Future Space trials Robot Tours

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Future Space, in partnership with the Bristol Robotics Laboratory (BRL), recently trialled an innovative new approach to providing tours of its facility, enabling people to view its workshop, laboratory and networking spaces from the comfort of their own homes and offices.

Using their personal IT devices to remotely control the movements of a self-driving, two-wheeled videoconferencing robot, potential new Future Space members were given the freedom to explore the unique, state-of-the-art space, while also being able to communicate with staff through a live video link.

Developed by Double Robotics Inc, this exciting technology helps people to feel more connected to colleagues, friends or patients, by having a physical presence, even if they are unable to attend an event or meeting in person. The robot is involved in several UWE Bristol research projects currently underway at BRL.

“We start by co-designing and trialling the technology in our purpose-built Assisted Living Studio,” says Professor Praminda Caleb-Solly, BRL’s Assistive Robotics and Intelligent Health Technologies lead. “We develop, test and implement various assistive robots and heterogeneous sensor systems in this realistic environment before taking them into real-world settings. The next stage, as we are doing with the Double telepresence robot, is evaluating its use in health and social care settings. We are particularly interested in how it can allow nurses, social workers and doctors to remotely interact with patients and are exploring this as part of our partnership with North Bristol Trust.”

Read the full story.