Innovation news in brief: Space mission; materials technology; animal testing; India

Countdown for British astronaut's mission to space

On 15 December 2015 Tim Peake will be making history as the first British European Space Agency ESA astronaut on board the International Space Station (ISS).

Tim will be undertaking scientific research during his six month stint aboard the ISS. His mission, Principia, is based on Sir Isaac Newton’s Principia Mathematica – a book describing the principal laws of motion and gravity.

To celebrate the historic occasion, the UK Space Agency will hold a special launch-day event in the capital and 16 smaller events at discovery and science centres across the country.

The launch events will complement the £3m programme of education and outreach activities being run by the UK Space Agency to harness the inspirational power of Tim’s mission, to help bring the excitement of space to classrooms and venues across the country and encourage interest in STEM subjects.

Science minister Jo Johnson said: “Tim Peake’s launch in December will be a historic moment for the UK in space, and marks the culmination of our partnership with the International Space Station.

“Our £80 million investment in the International Space Station programme supports pioneering research and will inspire Britain’s next generation of scientists and engineers to push the boundaries of science here on Earth."

Tim Peake said: “I feel privileged to be part of this incredible adventure in international cooperation....I feel part of a big family working for science, for new technologies, and for the education of our younger generation.”

Readers can watch the launch via ESA TV or by organising their own event with assistance from the UK Space Agency’s events pack.

The Unseen: innovator's clothing for sale in Selfridges

A fashion collection featuring new materials technology is now available in Selfridges.

The Unseen blends biological and chemical matter into materials that are designed to ‘enhance the unseen’.

The clothing in the Selfridge’s collection is able to change colour to reflect changes in aerodynamics, moisture and ultra-violet light.

Funding from Innovate UK allowed The Unseen to test out its science and design in the real world.

Materials alchemist Lauren Bowker, founder of The Unseen, said: “Innovate UK really helped to set up The Unseen. When I applied for the award, it was the first one I had seen for fashion technology.

Fashion technology is a growing area. In the future, clothes could clean themselves or even make us appear invisible.

Non-animal testing technologies: new vision for UK industry published

A new strategy for non-animal testing technologies has been published to help the UK take advantage of its huge market potential.

Non-animal technologies for efficacy and safety could replace the use of animals for testing pharmaceuticals, veterinary medicines, agrichemicals, chemicals and consumer products. The global market for such technologies is expected to be worth billions of pounds.

Now Innovate UK, the National Centre for the Replacement Refinement and Reduction of Animals in Research, the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, the Defence, Science and Technology Laboratory, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and the Medical Research Council have worked together to produce a vision for the UK non-animal technologies sector that:

  • Operates at the forefront of science, technology and innovation, driving the development and commercialisation of non-animal technologies through multidisciplinary science and cross-sector collaboration
  • Supports a strong instrumentation, hardware and supply industry to deliver the commercial success of non-animal technologies and attract inward investment
  • Delivers improved decision-making tools that result in more rapid discovery and development of medicines, agrichemicals, chemicals and consumer products

The group has made a series of recommendations around the strategic themes of developing skills, fostering collaboration, developing technology, ensuring commercialisation and uptake, involving the regulators, and keeping an eye on international developments.

Find out more about the roadmap and download the publication.

Regional science and innovations audits: applications wanted

The government wants to undertake a regional review of the UK’s science capabilities and is inviting applications from organisations to conduct them.

The government said the audits should help local organisations map their research and innovation strengths and identify areas of potential global competitive advantage.

Business Secretary Sajid Javid added: “As a one nation government we want every region of the UK to maximise opportunity for its local people through its innovation strengths, and the new Science and Innovation Audits will ensure that public investment is doing just that. By taking stock of our assets and supporting best practice and expertise, we will propel the UK to the forefront of the global innovation race.

The deadline for application is January 29 2016.

More details and to apply here

UK-India project partnerships: funding available

UK businesses are invited to partner with Indian ones on projects that meet challenges in clean-tech energy, affordable healthcare and ICT.

Innovate UK and the Government of India are to invest up to £3.4m in collaborative research and development projects that propose commercial solutions to critical challenges affecting socio-economic growth and development of India.

The UK investment has been made possible by the UK Department for Business, Innovation and Skills-managed Newton Fund, which aims to build research collaborations between UK business and those in lower and middle-income partner countries.

Find out more about the Newton UK-India competition and apply 

Tech start-ups pitch for investors' millions

More than 20 UK technology start-ups bid for a collective £27m of investment in front of a live audience of investors in London recently.

Businesses attending the Accelerating Growth event ranged from ethical alternatives for animal testing to a GPS-based anti-bike theft device.

Each company pitched in front of an audience of more than 200 investors, including those from MMC Ventures and Eden Ventures.

The event was organised by SETsquared, the business incubation programme run by a partnership of the universities of Bath, Bristol, Exeter, Southampton and Surrey.

Among the businesses who pitched for investment were:

  • Sherlock – which has developed a GPS-based anti-theft device that allows cyclists to precisely locate their bicycle at any moment, as well as send a theft report to the police
  • BioSystems Technology – which provides low cost, ethical solutions for researchers who require alternatives to animal testing
  • EZ Education – which is the inventor of DoodleMaths, a learning system that adapts to children’s evolving strengths and weaknesses and is the top grossing primary maths app in the UK
  • Pelipod – which has developed an intelligent parcel box that allows the use of unique codes for safe, audited and notified delivery of products and parts for field-based staff and home-based workers

Simon Bond, innovation director at SETsquared, said: “Once again at Accelerating Growth we saw some fantastic, engaging pitches from the companies SETsquared supports.

“Gaining investment isn’t a short process but it was promising to see so many positive conversations taking place between the start-ups and investors at the event. We can’t wait to see these developing over the coming months and report on even more success stories.”