Innovation news in brief: Innovate UK; Pomegranate; future retail; Horizon; tattoo removal

The government has outlined its proposals for the future of Innovate UK

Innovate UK responds to UKRI integration proposals

Innovate UK, the government’s official innovation agency, has responded to the government's White Paper Success as a Knowledge Economy, which includes proposals on the future of the agency.

Success as a Knowledge Economy outlines how government intends to take forward the implementation of the recommendations of Sir Paul Nurse’s Review.

The government plans to create a new public body, UK Research and Innovation, which will bring together the seven Research Councils and integrate Innovate UK, “while retaining its [Innovate UK's] distinctive business focus and separate funding stream”. The new body will also integrate the research functions currently performed by HEFCE.

Chief executive of Innovate UK, Ruth McKernan, said: “Innovation transforms great ideas from our world-class research base into new products and services that will address global challenges and build the UK’s future prosperity."

She added: “The establishment of UK Research and Innovation, including the research councils and Innovate UK, recognises the vital role innovation plays and further strengthens the UK’s ability to turn scientific excellence into economic impact.”

Pomegranate wins UEL’s E-factor

The creator of Pomegranate, a new platform connecting local producers with influential chefs, is celebrating after securing a £20,000 investment package at the University of East London’s (UEL) annual E-Factor business ideas contest.

UEL graduate Mahyar Rahmantalab impressed the judges with his fledgling platform, which connects local high-quality organic and biodynamic fruits and vegetables with top restaurants.

Mahyar described his victory as “unbelievable” and “overwhelming”.

The £20,000 start-up package prize includes funding, business support and a tenancy at the University’s Knowledge Dock Business and Innovation Centre, based at its Docklands campus.

Timothy Isle, a member of the Enterprise Team at Knowledge Dock, said: “Receiving money is always important for a business but the support they get through our business idea incubation process is of much more value than just winning a cash prize.

“We’ve given a lot of extra support to the participants in this year’s process, including taking them through a series of workshops, a boot camp, a pitching workshop and a month of individualised mentoring.”

Start-ups focus on future retail

Innovate UK has awarded a total of £175,000 to five start-ups in its Future Retail Innovation contest, reports brand-e.

The recipients will work with Unilever, Barclays, Tesco and the Greater London Authority to develop technological solutions aimed at boosting retail business. Each company will receive £35,000 and retain 100% of its intellectual property.

Thaw Technology will partner with Tesco and WRAP on ways to fight food waste; Cephalometrics will work with Digital Anthropology Lab, London College of Fashion, University of the Arts, London on the future of eyewear fitting; Action Artificial Intelligence will ally with Unilever on seamless shopping; Rewarding Visits and Barclays will look to enhance in-store experiences, while Proxama will partner with the Greater London Authority on digital support for street and covered markets.

Horizon enters two new OEM agreements

Cambridge-based Horizon Discovery Group has entered into two Original Equipment Manufacture (OEM) agreements with a Next Generation Sequencing (NGS) platform company, with the potential for additional agreements to follow.

Horizon provides of highly characterised genetic materials that are used as reference standards for the development and quality control of molecular assays. These reference standards help laboratories to establish and validate their workflows.

Under the terms of the agreements, Horizon will supply two previously developed HDx Molecular Reference Standards that cover many of the genes most commonly linked with cancer progression and response to treatment.

Horizon Discovery Group’s Paul Morrill, commented: “The inclusion of Horizon’s Reference Standards as a standard kit component by a leading NGS platform provider demonstrates a shift toward independent and highly characterised reference materials to support the deployment of NGS assays in cancer. We are pleased that Horizon was recognised as having the expertise and scale to be a partner in this programme.”

New cream could transform tattoo removal process

Cipher Pharmaceuticals is to develop and commercialise a new tattoo removal cream.

The product has already shown encouraging results in pre-clinical testing for the removal or reduction of the appearance of tattoos.

The cream is being developed at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, by Alec Falkenham, a PhD student in the Department of Pathology at Dalhousie University.

Shawn O'Brien, president and CEO of Cipher, said: "This technology has the potential to transform the process of tattoo removal and may give people the option of a topical cream instead of laser treatments, which are painful, costly and time-consuming.”