Innovation news in brief: Farmers; Entrepreneurship; Design

The best ideas in farming usually come from farmers

Farmers launch innovation network

A new network to support innovation by farmers has been launched, reports the West Morning News

While many of the best ideas in farming come directly from farmers, most research happens off-farm. When farmers trial, test or analyse, they're often doing it alone.

The Innovative Farmers  network aims to give farmers research support and funding on their own terms.

The network is part of the Duchy Future Farming Programme, funded by the Prince of Wales’s Charitable Foundation. The Soil Association, Organic Research Centre, Waitrose, Linking Environment and Farming, and Innovation in Agriculture are all partners in the scheme.

David Gardner from Innovation in Agriculture said: “It is crucial that we support on-farm innovation if we are to meet the challenges ahead.

“Conventional farmers have fewer chemicals to address their problems along with growing pest and weed resistance to those that remain.

“They will need to find other solutions using the tools that they do have combined with farming practices based upon sound organic principles.

“Finding the answers won’t be straightforward, and providing a framework where farmers can explore potential solutions with their peers and experiment on their own farms can only help them find the answers.”

Scalp cooling cap design wins international award

Researchers at the University of Huddersfield who made significant improvements to a silicon cooling cap that reduces hair loss in cancer patients have scooped a major international innovation award for their design and technical skills.

Lecturers Dr Ertu Unver and Dr David Swann worked with the cap’s manufacturer Paxman and silicone rubber manufacturer Primasil Silicones to create a silicone rubber formulation that gave the cooling cap greater flexibility and enabled the coolant running through the cap to be in close contact with the scalp.

The team’s contribution helped earn an international award at the 2015 Medtech World Awards where the scalp cooling cap design was declared the winner of the Exhibitor Innovations Competition.

Media tracking firm scoops partnership award

A tie-up between a London-based media monitoring start-up and Essex University has been named Best Partnership in the annual Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) awards at Innovate UK 2015.

The aim of Signal Media’s KTP with the University’s School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering was to develop the innovative natural language processing applications that would underpin the new company’s products and services.

Signal, founded in 2012 by David Benigson, now analyses more than 3.5 million blogs and news sources every day to create targeted feeds. As well as offering de-duplication and advanced filtering options, the software adapts and learns as the user interacts with it. Customers include Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution Daily site.

Entrepreneur programme reaches £10 million investment milestone

Innovation Birmingham’s Entrepreneurs for the Future programme has secured more than £10 million of investment during initial funding rounds.

Since its inception in November 2009, more than 200 new employee and director positions have been created through the incubation programme.

Qualifying tech start-ups on the programme receive up to nine months office space, telecoms, meeting rooms, mentoring, workshops, events, networking opportunities and peer-to-peer support – all for free.

Dr David Hardman, CEO of Innovation Birmingham said: “Securing equity investment can be more of a challenge outside of the South East, so reaching the £10 million milestone is a tremendous achievement for our Entrepreneurs for the Future incubation programme.

“The message we need to continue to spread far and wide is that start-up cash goes a lot further in Birmingham, and the local skills pool makes it an obvious choice to base a tech business. It could be argued that £10million of initial equity investment in our tech start-ups is equivalent to £30million in London.

Entrepreneurship thriving in the UK; new research

UK start-ups are demonstrating the greatest survival rates in three years, new research from Barclays suggests.

According to Barclays Business Growth Fund (BGF) Entrepreneurs Index, the number of active companies in the UK increased to 3,260,879 in June 2015, up from 3,139,630 in December 2014.

This rise of 3.86% is the biggest uplift since the index began tracking the data in 2012. The report found that between December 2014 and June 2015, the number of company dissolutions was lower than in the previous six months – the first time this has happened since the index began – reversing a three-year trend.

Key findings include:

  • Exits: Number of deals resulting in individual wealth creation of £200,000 or more continued to rise, up by 5%
  • Growth: However, proportion of high-growth firms continued to decline
  • Sectors: The services sector saw the biggest rise in the number of deals, followed by financial services, computer software and industrial sectors
  • Regions: Wales and the South West outperformed the rest of the UK in proportion of high-growth companies.