Innovation news in brief: Innovation Audits; Mars mission; polar research ship; GAIN20

The government wants to audit science and innovation

Areas selected for first Innovation Audits

Greater Manchester, the Midlands and Edinburgh and the Lothians are among five areas set to take part in the first ever Science and Innovation Audits (SIAs), the government has announced.

Designed to map out local research, innovation and infrastructure strengths across the UK, the audits will help identify and build on the potential of every region across the country by making sure investment is properly targeted and uncovering opportunities for businesses to tap into.

Business secretary Sajid Javid and science minister Jo Johnson selected applications to pilot the audits from:

  • Edinburgh and the Lothians City region
  • South West England and South East Wales
  • Sheffield City Region and Lancashire
  • Greater Manchester and East Cheshire
  • The Midlands Engine

Javid said: “From the Manufacturing Technology Centre in Coventry to the Roslin Institute in Edinburgh, the UK has hot-spots of expertise that are propelling us forward in global innovation. Auditing the strengths in our regions will help us to build a long term strategy for global competitiveness and help ensure that hotspots generate more than the sum of their parts.”

More areas will be taking part later in the year (2016), with a further wave of audits taking place over the summer and another launching in the autumn.

Mars mission underway

The first half of an international Mars mission is underway following the lift-off of ExoMars 2016.

Launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan earlier this week, ExoMars 2016 precedes the 2018 rover mission and will search for evidence of methane and other trace atmospheric gases that could be signatures of active biological or geological processes on Mars.

Scheduled to arrive at the red planet in October 2016, it will also deploy a descent and landing demonstrator module and test key technologies in preparation for subsequent missions to the planet.

UK involvement in the 2016 mission is through Dr Manish Patel at the Open University who is co-principal investigator for the NOMAD (Nadir and Occultation for MArs Discovery) instrument on board the probe. Dr Patel and his team worked specifically on UVIS, a miniature ultraviolet spectrometer whose main objective is to detect and quantify trace gas concentrations but also to study aerosols present in the Martian atmosphere.

Sue Horne, head of exploration at the UK Space Agency, said: “ExoMars is a big deal for the UK. We’re contributing to the Trace Gas Orbiter and leading on the development of a rover that will search for signs of past and present life on Mars. The launch of ExoMars 2016 is an exciting first step.”

How to submit a Centre for Defence Enterprise (CDE) proposal

A webinar which provides advice on what makes a good Centre for Defence Enterprise (CDE) proposal is now available online.

CDE funds novel, high-risk, high-potential-benefit research and works with the broadest possible range of science and technology providers, including academia and small companies, to develop cost-effective capabilities for UK armed forces and national security.

In the webinar, which was recorded last week, Bruce Hardie, CDE’s Technology Manager, talks through to include in a research proposal and where it goes on the new online submission service.

The link is accessible until 30 March 2016 and you’ll need to sign in with your name, email and company details.

View the webinar here

Wanted: A name for state-of-the-art polar research ship

A campaign has been launched to put forward names for a new polar research ship being built at the Cammell Laird shipyard on Merseyside.

Set to set sail in 2019 and backed by £200 million of government funding, the polar research ship will be built at the world-famous Cammell Laird shipyard on Merseyside.

Tonne-for-tonne, the ship – together with the Natural Environment Research Council’s (NERC) 2 existing research ships – will help put the UK at the forefront of ocean research for years to come.

Science minister Jo Johnson is calling for school pupils, parents, teachers and adults to take part in a once in a lifetime opportunity to suggest a name they would like to see on the side of the UK’s polar research ship when it takes to the seas.

Johnson said: “Can you imagine one of the world’s biggest research labs travelling to the Antarctic with your suggested name proudly emblazoned on the side? The polar research ship represents a leap forward in securing Britain’s place as a world leader in marine and climate change science – and illustrates this government’s commitment to invest in research facilities on a record scale.

Get involved at name the polar research ship – closing date for all entries is 16 April 2016..

Eight of the South West’s most innovative businesses revealed

Eight of the most exciting and innovative businesses in the South West have been chosen in a Plymouth University backed scheme - and will be rewarded with up to £3,000 each and unique opportunities to help them grow, reports the Plymouth Herald.

The eight businesses (listed below) are part of GAIN20 - a Plymouth University backed enterprise that will eventually see 20 businesses working together in an alliance to help them reach their full potential.

A panel of experts has selected the firms, identifying them as the most dynamic and entrepreneurial in Devon, Somerset and Cornwall. They include:

  • SentinelHealthcare, an NHS funded organisation covering Plymouth, South East Cornwall, South Hams and West Devon, offering assessment and treatment services for patients, plus training and development for health professionals
  • New business entrepreneurs Lucy Cox and Lerryn Ryall, sisters and founders of Halto, an innovative device to make women’s halterneck swimwear more comfortable
  • Cornish firm Hertzian, which builds products around providing big data analytical solutions to solve problems within feedback dependent industries
  • Winner of GAIN’s first SOUP event, Peninsula Honey Company, an urban micro-farm producing artisan honey from beehives based in city centre location
  • Somerset-based Singer Instruments, which has an 8-year history of developing and manufacturing mechatronic workstations and laboratory automation robotics for global customers:
  • Plymouth-based indie game development company So Good Studios
  • Truvision VirtualReality, which provides architects and their clients with the most realistic and immersive virtual reality renditions of their projects
  • Creator of the Big Red Bus Reward Chart and IOS App, TOTSUP