Innovation news in brief: Midlands Engine; cyber security; future energy

The Midlands has a thriving manufacturing sector

Midlands Engine fires up innovation

Eleven LEP in the Midlands have joined forces for the first time to make the Midlands an 'engine' of growth.

The Midlands Engine prospectus – the first of its kind in the country – is the result of 11 Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) coming together to "boost productivity, attract inward investment, increase connectivity and build a regional tourism offer".

The prospectus  is focused on five key themes – skills, innovation, transport, promoting the ‘Engine’, and finance for business.

Specific ambitions for the new initiative include evolving phase two of the Midlands Innovation-led Energy Research Accelerator and a pipeline of further similar propositions, including a likely agri-food sector proposition and building a stronger network of regional science parks as well as a higher education forum.

Business secretary Sajid Javidavid recently opened part of the Energy Research Accelerator at Birmingham University, which is to benefit from a £60m government investment to assess the impact of energy research in the UK.

Javid said: “The Midlands is the heartland of our thriving manufacturing sector and home to 25 universities, playing a strong role in the recovery of the UK economy. Over the last year, private sector employment in the Midlands grew more than three times faster than London and the South East.

“But there are more opportunities to capitalise on the Midlands’ natural strengths and assets and make it an engine for growth. Through this prospectus, which sets out the region’s own vision to unlock greater economic growth, it’s time to fire up the Midlands Engine."

If the Midlands region matches the predicted growth rate for the UK over the next 15 years, the government believes it could create 300,000 jobs and boost the national economy by £34bn.

Cyber security advice available

Innovate UK is offering businesses cyber security innovation vouchers worth up to £5,000 to pay an external expert to give them advice on protecting their business against cyber attacks.

The advice could also be used protect new business ideas and intellectual property in cyber security.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport is investing £500,000 in the scheme with equal funding from Innovate UK.

This latest round of vouchers closes at noon on 5 January 2016.

Eligible applications will be entered into a draw and the winners chosen at random.

Find out more and apply

Shipping containers provide stop gap for Engine Shed tech innovators

A fast growing incubation centre in Bristol has converted 20 shipping containers into temporary office space in the car park to accommodate its tenants.

Engine Shed, a business incubation centre next to Temple Meads station, is home to some of the fastest growing technology companies in the region, but it is now full.

Engine Shed director Nick Sturge said: “There’s a real shortage of flexible, attractive space for companies which are growing in this city. We urgently need to invest in that.

“We have got the highest level of employment in the country, there’s a lot of activity here but it’s being stifled by a lack of space.”

The temporary office containers, called Boxworks, has planning permission for two years, by which time the hope is that Engine Shed 2 will be ready.

Powering the UK in the future

The Government chief scientific adviser has begun a series of public talks exploring how to power the UK in the future.

Sir Mark Walport is touring the UK to talk about how supply and energy use today, and the options we have for the future.

Sir Mark said: “The UK faces a series of choices about energy. We all require energy to live and our dependence on it is total. But how we supply energy and how we use it in the future needs to change. We need power that is secure, affordable and more than ever we need it to be sustainable.”

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