Innovation news in brief: Skills; IP; manufacturing

Businesses need the right people and skills to be innovative

Creative people key to innovation, survey suggests

Employing and nurturing creative people is more important for business innovation than striving to come up with a bright idea, according to new research by Clydesdale and Yorkshire Banks.

In a survey of business leaders at more than 750 UK-based small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), around half of respondents (52%), said having the right people and skills is the single most important factor for a business to be innovative. This is compared to fewer than one in four (24%) who believe having the right idea is most important.

As a result, the research suggests SMEs have prioritised staff training and development over other investment opportunities in the past year, and intend to do so again in the next 12 months. New equipment, technology and investment in premises, are also key, according to the survey.

However, it appears businesses could be selling themselves short when it comes to accessing the support available for innovation or research and development (R&D) activities. According to the survey, less than one in three (31%) businesses has ever accessed Government incentives such as R&D tax credits or Patent Box, and only a third (34%) plans to do so in the future.

IP guidance for UK-China collaborations

A new toolkit to helps UK and Chinese universities and industry manage Intellectual Property (IP) in UK-China collaborative research projects has been launched.

The Intellectual Property Office has worked with Anjie Law Firm in China, as well as technology transfer and IP licensing experts from both the UK and China to develop the toolkit.

The aim of the toolkit is to help non-IP experts to handle issues relating to the ownership and exploitation of IP rights generated in collaborations between the UK and China.

The toolkit comprises of guidance notes explaining both the UK and China context and links to the UK’s Lambert toolkit containing nine model agreements:

The toolkit is available here 

NIHR launches i4i

The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), the research arm of the NHS, is inviting applications to its Invention for Innovation (i4i) Programme.

The NIHR funds these awards for companies to develop R&D plans in collaboration with a university or an NHS organisation.

Product development awards support research and development of medical devices, active implantable devices and in vitro diagnostic devices in any area of existing or emerging clinical need.

These awards comprise both early and late stages of research and development, including the clinical development of laboratory-validated technologies or interventions.

Projects must have progressed beyond basic research and have demonstrated proof-of-concept. The expected output is an advanced or clinically validated prototype medical device, technology or intervention. Lead applicants may be from academia, industry or an NHS organisation.

The deadline for outline applications is Wednesday 13 January 2016.

Further information and guidance can be found here

Solar energy powers wireless communication

A pioneering form of wireless data communication technology being developed at the University of Edinburgh has the potential to distribute the internet to every corner of the world at little more than the cost of a solar-panel and an LED light.

Li-Fi technology is being developed by a research team at the University of Edinburgh’s Li-Fi R&D Centre, led by Prof Harald Haas. Light is used to transmit data, whilst the solar panel receives high speed data, which, effectively, gives the solar panel the means to provide energy for the Li-Fi technology as well as acting as a broadband receiver.

The new technology could have a significant impact for populations in rural communities and the developing world that do not have existing infrastructures for electric power, the internet and Wi-Fi access.

Haas has demonstrated how Li-Fi can be used with solar cells to receive data, thus bringing into sharp focus how the likes of solar panels on houses or other objects such as smart watches, and all future Internet-of-Things (IoT) devices can absorb power and receive data at the same time.

Edinburgh Research & Innovation, the commercialisation arm of the University of Edinburgh, is now looking for industrial partners to work with the University’s Li-Fi R&D Centre to develop the technology for commercial use.

Manufacturing research hubs to be established

Two new £10 million manufacturing research hubs are going to be established to tackle the long-term challenges facing the UK’s manufacturing industries, the government has announced.

The hubs will be based at the University of Southampton and Brunel University in London and will work in collaboration with academics at universities across the country. Each will have a programme of innovative research in the engineering and physical sciences, related to the challenges in commercialising early stage research.

The Hubs, which will funded for the next seven years by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), will feature high quality, multidisciplinary research, that has strong engagement with manufacturing industries, and will take a leadership role in their national network.

EPSRC’s £20 million investment will be enhanced by £14 million from the universities and a further £58 million from industry.

Science minister Jo Johnson said: “From cars to smartphones our world-leading research drives innovation and growth in the UK’s manufacturing industries. With this £92 million investment, these new manufacturing hubs will develop the next generation of high tech products in communications and healthcare, as well as tackle industry challenges such as rising materials costs.”

Hampshire becomes Nucleus for innovation

University of Southampton Science Park recently hosted one of the first science and technology themed business events in Hampshire.

Nucleus was created to support and encourage innovation in the county and to celebrate the achievements of those developing ground-breaking new technologies.

The programme encompassed a mix of keynote presentations, workshops demonstrations and exhibitions. Participants included BBC documentary-maker Dallas Campbell and TV presenter Kate Bellingham, the UK’s Champion for Girls’ Opportunities in Engineering.

Speakers included Prof Joan Farrer, Associate Dean of Enterprise and Innovation,  University of Portsmouth, and Dr Reuben Wilcock, Principal Enterprise Fellow, Faculty of Physical Sciences & Engineering at the University of Southampton.

More than 200 people attended the event, which was hosted across three buildings on the Park.