Innovation news in brief: Innovation exchange; life sciences; IP; AgTech

Pictured above (from left) are Dr David Hardman, Innovation Birmingham; Mike Bandar, Hopper; Aaron Rosland, Counsellor (Commercial - Ontario); Clive Bawden, Breaking Free Group and Andy Lee from sponsors NatWest.

The Next Big Idea Contest: winners announced

The winners of The Next Big Idea Contest, an innovation exchange competition for start-ups in Birmingham, UK and Ontario, Canada have been announced.

The competition, run in partnership with the DMZ at Ryerson University, Toronto, and Innovation Birmingham, enables the winning tech entrepreneurs to spend two weeks abroad incubating their companies, gaining market insight through expert advisor meetings and exploring ways to scale up their businesses internationally.

The Birmingham-based winners are Hopper and Breaking Free Group. Hopper HQ is the world’s first fully automated scheduling tool for Instagram. The user friendly platform enables individuals, brands and agencies to schedule content for a specific date and time, similar to popular applications such as Hootsuite and Buffer. Breaking Free Group is a healthcare platform that targets and addresses addictive behaviours. It does this by identifying underlying psychological and life style issues that drive substance misuse, before providing accessible intervention advice for users.

The Ontario-based winners are Sampler and Komodo OpenLab. Sampler is an online sampling management and analytics platform which helps companies distribute their product samples more effectively through personalised digital programmes. Komodo OpenLab offers inclusive technologies, open software and hardware that improves the daily lives of people with disabilities.

Dr David Hardman, CEO at Innovation Birmingham, said: “The winners of The Next Big Idea Contest have created innovative technologies and approaches that show great potential. With continued guidance and support from Innovation Birmingham, the DMZ and initiatives like The Next Big Idea Contest, the selected start-ups will be able to utilise a wide range of resources that will enable them to scale their business globally – ensuring continued growth and success.”

Abdullah Snobar, executive director at the DMZ, said: “Hosting these entrepreneurs from Birmingham at the DMZ is a step in the right direction to creating global business opportunities for both Birmingham start-ups and resident start-ups at the DMZ.

“We are pleased to be working with Innovation Birmingham on such an important initiative and we are excited to welcome Birmingham start-ups into Toronto’s thriving start-up ecosystem.”t.

Plans to develop new science park at Harlow Enterprise Zone approved

Harlow Council has approved a joint venture between Discovery Park Ltd and construction firm Vinci UK to build a new science park in the Harlow Enterprize Zone.

The 25-acre hectare London Road North site has been made available for design and build opportunities with a focus on the medical technology, life science and ICT sectors.

The masterplan has been drawn up by architects Scott Browning and consists of buildings spanning more than 480,000 sq ft.

The new development will be situated next to the business park and data centre campus at Kao Park, and the proposed site for Anglia Ruskin University’s new Med-Tech Innovation Centre.

Paul Barber, managing director for Discovery Park said: “Discovery Park has built on the success of Pfizer through the decades, going from five to more than 120 businesses employing some 2,400 people in three years.

“We are proud to have been recognised as being among the UK’s flagship Enterprise Zones and are looking forward to sharing our experience with Vinci UK in the development of Harlow’s new science park.”

AdamsonJones launches IP initiative to support innovative SMEs

Nottingham-based trademark and patent attorney firm AdamsonJones has launched an initiative to support SMEs when looking at their intellectual property.

The first stage of the initiative to be launched is a range of IP training packages, which comprise of one-to-one sessions with a patent or trademark attorney. The sessions are designed to help SMEs identify the different types of intellectual property rights appropriate for their products and services and to understand the application process involved in obtaining them.

Simon Cooper, director at AdamsonJones, said: “Many SMEs have only limited knowledge of IP and the impact it may have on their business. Match that with the misconceptions about cost, complexity and time needed, many businesses are put off seeking the right advice.”

To find out more about the initiative, call 0115 947 7977 or email

Google and Imperial College London join forces on AI in healthcare app

Google has announced the creation of a new division of DeepMind that will focus on the applications of AI in healthcare.

"We're starting in the UK, where the National Health Service is hugely important to our team. The NHS helped bring many of us into the world, and has looked after our loved ones when they've most needed help. We want to see the NHS thrive, and to ensure that its talented clinicians get the tools and support they need to continue providing world-class care," they say.

The first of these forays is via a partnership with Imperial College London on a new app, called Hark, which will allow medical staff to better prioritize the various clinical tasks they have to perform.

Hark should enable all the members of the medical team to share vital information about patients whilst they are on the go, to give patients the best possible care, the team say.

The app aims to make it easier for staff to manage their extensive 'to do' list and reduce the kind of delays that can have serious consequences for patients.

Bayer supports innovative ideas in crop protection

Researchers from universities, other scientific institutions and start-up companies all over the world are being encouraged to take part in Bayer Crop Science’s Grants4Targets, a new initiative aimed at finding innovative approaches in the field of weed, disease and pest control in crop plants.

Bayer will not only provide financial support for promising proposals but also accompany ideas and projects on a scientific basis. During the fostering phase, technologies from Bayer can also be used for further research into promising ideas and projects, which may then develop into regular scientific collaborations.

The objectives include fostering innovative ideas that could contribute to the development of selective and non-selective herbicides, and solutions to control plant disease pathogens (such as fungi) and plant pests (such as insects and nematodes).

"The challenges facing agriculture are so great that we need all of the ideas and creativity from small and big companies, universities and other academic institutions alike," said Dr. Adrian Percy, head of research and development at Bayer Crop Science.

"We want to talk to scientists from all over the world about their approaches and help to accelerate the transition from fundamental research to products that are ready for the market."

Visit for more details.