Innovation news in brief: Housing; infrastructure; drug discovery; chemicals

The Zero Bills Home

Zero Bills Home launched on BRE Innovation Park

Zero carbon design and development pioneers Zed Factory have unveiled their innovative response to the housing crisis - the Zero Bills Home.

Zero Bills in a nutshell aims to make home energy bills obsolete. With a clever design that minimises energy requirements, the very low energy needs of the household are met by a roof-integrated PV and energy storage system which can also generate enough power to service a small electric vehicle.

The home is heated by a small air source heat pump that recycles heat recovered from stale air that’s been processed by a mechanical ventilation with heat recovery system. With the average annual household spend on home energy exceeding £1300 and car fuel exceeding £1000, significant lifetime savings can be met for the Zero Bills householder.

Zero Bills comes as a kit of parts – a steel frame with timber wall panels the bulk of which is manufactured in the UK. The system is affordable at £1350 per square metre and quick and easy to build with.

Speaking at the launch, Zed Factory founder Bill Dunster said: ‘SME builders are key to delivering the 250,000 homes per annum we need across the UK – the Zero Bills system is an off the shelf solution for SMEs that could really drive the market in the right direction. With its integrated energy generation facility it shows how we could actually reduce the investment needed for centralised national infrastructure by becoming net exporters of renewable energy.”

‘Smarter’ energy infrastructure could save £8 billion annually

A report from the UK government’s National Infrastructure Commission (NIC) has advised that the country could save up to £8 billion a year by investing in smarter infrastructure which uses electricity better. Calling for a ‘Smart Power Revolution’, the NIC also make the case that the UK needs to store much more energy from renewable energy sources such as wind and solar which generate power intermittently.

Marco Attisani, founder and CEO of cleantech company Watly, comments: “In highlighting the cost benefits of a smarter energy grid, the UK’s National Infrastructure Commission has drawn attention to just how unwieldy our current energy infrastructures can be. This can cause particular issues when developed countries try to integrate renewable sources into our existing energy grids.

“Technological advances have now given us the capability to design radical new infrastructures which not only adapt to a changing world, but shape the world to our advantage. We need to develop smart grids which create sustainable supplies of our most basic modern commodities, for instance fusing water and electricity provision with the delivery of Internet, the idea of the Energynet. As our existing power stations and energy paradigms become increasingly outdated, we must consider using the technology which is at our disposal in order to create infrastructures which are sustainable, adaptable and fit for the 21st century and beyond.”

Barclays joins Innovation Birmingham incubator

Barclays has become the latest partner to join Innovation Birmingham in delivering a new incubation facility at its £8 million iCentrum building, reports the Birmingham Post.

Barclays will launch a 2,500 sq ft business incubator within the 'Serendip' facility which will strive to drive innovation and open up opportunities for tech start-ups.

The incubator will work alongside the Innovation Birmingham mentors to create a support package for qualifying start-up and early-stage digital and tech companies with high growth potential.

Located on the first floor of iCentrum, the business incubator will join three other sector-specific quarters there called Digital Heath, Intelligent Mobility and Internet of Things.

Chief executive of Innovation Birmingham David Hardman said: "With construction work on iCentrum quickly nearing completion, we continue to look to delivering this project both on time and on budget.

"It is being developed and funded speculatively as a tech incubator for the generation of entrepreneurs that is growing up with social media, 3D printing and cloud-based business solutions.

"We are delighted to work in partnership with Barclays to deliver this exciting project and their extensive experience will perfectly complement the additional quarters to create greater strength and diversity in supporting early stage businesses."

High Force Research to open laboratory at the Wilton Centre

Durham-based chemical research and development company High Force Research is to open a new 1,018 sq ft laboratory at the Wilton Centre in Redcar.

Located in the heart of the North East chemical industry and sited on a 75 acre business and science park, the new fully equipped laboratory features six chemical fume cupboards and advanced research facilities custom designed for chemical development.

High Force Research’s Dr Valentine said: “We will be staffed from day one with full time chemists based on site, two of whom are newly qualified PhD students from Newcastle University. We are hoping to recruit more chemists in the near future to help with our expansion plans at Wilton.

Wilton Centre’s site director, Steve Duffield, said that it was good news to be welcoming such a prestigious new tenant to the Centre. “High Force Research is a well-established company and is creating a number of highly skilled positions that will attract well-qualified people to the area and help to boost the long term prospects of the Teesside economy. We are very proud that the company has chosen to expand its operations here.”

Consortium launches £40 million drug discovery fund

AstraZeneca, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson and the technology transfer offices of Imperial College London, UCL (University College London) and the University of Cambridge have created the £40 million Apollo Therapeutics Fund, a new joint venture which will support the translation of ground-breaking academic science from within these universities into innovative new medicines for a broad range of diseases.

Each of the three industry partner will contribute £10 million over 6 years to the venture. The technology transfer offices of the three university partners - will each contribute a further £3.3 million.

The aim of the Apollo fund is to advance academic preclinical research from these universities to a stage at which it can either be taken forward by one of the industry partners following an internal bidding process or be out-licensed. The three industry partners will also provide R&D expertise and additional resources to assist with the commercial evaluation and development of projects.

Drug development is extremely complex, costly and lengthy; currently only around 10 per cent of therapies entering clinical trials reach patients as medicines. By combining funding for promising early-stage therapeutics from leading UK universities with a breadth of industry expertise, Apollo aims to share the risk and accelerate the development of important new treatments, while also reducing the cost.

Dr Ian Tomlinson, chairman of the Apollo Therapeutics Investment Committee commented: “This is the first time that three global pharmaceutical companies and the TTOs of three of the world’s top ten universities have come together to form a joint enterprise of this nature, making the Apollo Therapeutics Fund a truly innovative venture."

Chem-Space launch global chemical database

A group of chemical suppliers including Enamine, ChemBridge Corporation, UORSY and FCH Group, has launch of Chem-Space , a global e-procurement marketplace solution for searching, purchasing and selling chemical building blocks.

The Chem-Space database currently encompasses over 15 million unique molecular building blocks, and is the world’s largest chemicals library. The online catalogue offers an easy, fast search facility, enabling users to enter a broad range of search parameters such as substructure and various text identifiers.

Use of the Chem-Space database is free-of-charge for both suppliers and customers. There are no license fees for users to review and access the platform, and no commission charges for suppliers selling products. Chem-Space invites global chemistry suppliers, ranging from small to large organisations, to upload their catalogues to the site, to provide an efficient solution for buyers when sourcing building blocks.

David Lonergan, director of business development at Chem-Space, said: “We are launching Chem-Space to address the issue of reliability of building block offerings. We aim to support customers in accessing the chemicals they need, at the best price, with rapid delivery, directly from suppliers.”