Innovation news in brief: Innovate UK; bees; Enterprise Act; Innovation Birmingham

Innovate UK is looking to curb administration costs

Innovate UK to cut workforce by a third

The government’s official innovation agency, Innovate UK, is looking to cut its workforce by a third this year, reports suggest.

Innovate UK will look to cut its workforce by a third this year, Construction News has reported.

Director of infrastructure systems at Innovate UK, Ian Meikle confirmed the agency had cut its 17 funding streams down to five to cut costs, and was “looking at its staffing levels”.

Innovate UK will now focus on five key areas: technology, health and life sciences, infrastructure systems and manufacturing. It will also have an ‘open’ stream where businesses from any sector can compete for funding.

Meikle said: ”What we have done across the whole piece is listen to the government and our customers and said we had too many sectors and have decided to simplify these into four sectors.

”Some companies might go away and say my sector isn’t necessarily name checked, that’s not true and we have focussed on all individual limited companies across the UK.”

Bee model could be breakthrough for robot development

Scientists at the University of Sheffield have created a computer model of how bees avoid hitting walls – which could be a breakthrough in the development of autonomous robots.

Researchers from the Department of Computer Science built their computer model to look at how bees use vision to detect the movement of the world around them and avoid crashes.

Bees control their flight using the speed of motion - or optic flow - of the visual world around them, but it is not known how they do this. The only neural circuits so far found in the insect brain can tell the direction of motion, not the speed.

This study suggests how motion-direction detecting circuits could be wired together to also detect motion-speed, which is crucial for controlling bees’ flight.

“Honeybees are excellent navigators and explorers, using vision extensively in these tasks, despite having a brain of only one million neurons,” said Dr Alex Cope, lead researcher on the paper.

“Understanding how bees avoid walls, and what information they can use to navigate, moves us closer to the development of efficient algorithms for navigation and routing - which would greatly enhance the performance of autonomous flying robotics,” he added.

A video of the model navigating a virtual corridor is available here

Enterprise Act becomes law

The government’s Enterprise Bill has received Royal Assent and now becomes the Enterprise Act.

The package of measures in the Act range from cutting red tape and tackling late payment to boosting the quality and quantity of apprenticeships.

The Enterprise Act also includes measures to:

  • Establish a Small Business Commissioner to help small firms resolve issues such as late payment
  • Include the actions of regulators in the government’s £10 billion deregulation target and increase transparency through annual reporting requirements
  • Extend the successful Primary Authority scheme to make it easier for businesses to access consistent, tailored and assured advice from local authorities, giving them greater confidence to invest and grow
  • Protect and strengthen the apprenticeship brand, introduce targets for apprenticeships in public sector bodies in England, and establish an Institute for Apprenticeships – an independent, employer-led body that will make sure apprenticeships meet the needs of business
  • Create a legal obligation for insurers to pay claims to businesses within a reasonable time

Business minister Anna Soubry said: “Together these measures will give a big boost to British enterprise. The Small Business Commissioner will help tackle the scandal of late payment – one of the leading issues for smaller firms. While the positive steps to reduce the burden of regulation and give more young people the opportunity to do an apprenticeship will benefit millions of businesses across the country."

Start-ups accepted on to Innovation Birmingham’s Serendip Smart City Incubator

Innovation Birmingham has welcomed its first cohort of applicants on to the Serendip Smart City Incubator programme, following the launch of its new £8 million iCentrum building.

Serendip Smart Cities Incubator co-locates promising start-up businesses with large commercial partners in one of four sector-specific ‘quarters’; Digital Health, Intelligent Mobility, Internet of Things and Barclays Eagle Labs. These ‘quarters’ are being delivered by Innovation Birmingham in collaboration with the West Midlands Academic Health Science Network, Centro, the Transport Systems Catapult, RWE npower and Barclays.

Companies accepted on to the Serendip during the initial stage of applications include digital health and well-being platform, Kaido; Internet of Things systems integrator, Spica Tech; telematics fleet management system and automated online marketplace, Truckulus, and electronic product innovation design company, Voltrics.

Cliff Dennett, head of business development at Innovation Birmingham, said: “We have experienced a fantastic response to the Serendip programme since the launch of applications last month. We are delighted to welcome such a high quality cohort of start-ups to iCentrum and look forward to working with them moving forward to accelerate their business growth.”

Michelle Rayner, Serendip programme manager, said: “The initial round of applications produced some fantastic candidates who will be a fantastic asset, not only to Serendip, but also the Innovation Birmingham Campus as a whole. With the second round of applications now open, we are excited to engage with additional ambitious start-ups looking to work with commercial partners.”

A celebration of innovation

The West Midlands Academic Health Science Network (WMAHSN) has announced that entries for its very first awards, celebrating innovation in healthcare across the region, are now open.

WMAHSN brings together the NHS, industry, academia, the third sector and patients, carers and the public to identify healthcare innovations and spread them at scale and pace throughout the West Midlands.

The awards will be presented at a ceremony at the WMAHSN's annual stakeholder event at the University of Warwick on 30 June. There are also special awards for innovative individuals and organisations.

Tammy Holmes, innovation and adoption programme manager at WMAHSN, said: "As an AHSN, we have experienced that innovators can come from industry, NHS, academia or third sector. Similarly, those buying and benefiting from innovations are from all sectors. These awards were developed to acknowledge the hard work going on throughout the West Midlands, and reward contributions towards our overall aim of accelerating the adoption of innovation to generate continuous improvement in the region’s health and wealth."

More details here