Innovation news in brief: Space; Synapse Information; NETPark; Oxford Science Park

Bridget, the UK built Mars rover that Tim Peake controlled from space. Credit: UK Space Agency (Max Alexander)

British astronaut Tim Peake controls British-built rover from space

As part of an international experiment to prepare for human-robotic missions to the Moon, Mars and beyond, British ESA astronaut Tim Peake has successfully controlled, from the ISS, a UK-built rover located in a test facility at Airbus Defence and Space in Stevenage.

Building on previous test campaigns in the European Space Agency-led Meteron project, the experiment saw ESA, the UK Space Agency and Airbus Defence and Space working together to investigate distributed control of robots in a mock-Mars environment. This simulated Mars environment, known as a Mars yard, was created by Airbus Defence and Space to develop the locomotion and navigation systems for ESA’s ExoMars rover. The experiment will provide valuable data to assess the benefits of human involvement in a rover’s path planning.

Science minister Jo Johnson said: “The UK is playing a leading role in international space programmes like Meteron and ExoMars, tackling incredibly complex and exciting challenges from space. This European partnership demonstrates how UK technology and scientific expertise are helping open up our solar system and the development of new technologies that bring new jobs to the UK and help to solve problems back on Earth.”

Synapse Information founder nominated for entrepreneur awards

Brian Donnelly, CEO and founder of Innovation Birmingham Campus-based tech start-up, Synapse Information, has been announced as one of 34 entrepreneurs from across the Midlands shortlisted for the regional final of this year’s EY Entrepreneur of the Year awards.

Founded in 2012, Synapse Information is a digital company that provides smart business spreadsheet solutions. In the last 12 months, Synapse has successfully doubled its team, accelerated research and development activities across the region and put plans in place to expand abroad after securing a £500,000 funding package from HSBC. Over the next three years, the business is on track annual turnover of £7 million to £10 million, with further plans to expand its team to up to 100 staff.

Donnelly said: “I am thrilled to have been shortlisted for this prestigious award and look forward to representing the West Midlands region at the upcoming ceremony.

“This nomination comes at an integral point for Synapse as we look to continue our already impressive business growth by expanding our services globally. A worldwide award of this calibre provides a fantastic platform on which for us to extend our product and services to the global marketplace.”

Entrepreneurs ready for lift off with new space programme

Entrepreneurs in the North East are being urged to tap into the billion pound space sector and apply for a programme designed to help their businesses take off.

Business Durham, the economic development company for County Durham, received a grant from the UK Space Agency earlier this year to set up the North East Space Incubator Programme at the North East Technology Park, (NETPark) in Sedgefield, County Durham.

Now the programme is ready to take on the first entrepreneurs who will be entitled to £7,500 worth of professional services, such as advice on IP protection, financial management, marketing and business planning, based in an environment surrounded by some of the world’s most innovative companies.

The support programme is being delivered in partnership with the UK Space Agency, which has plans for the UK to secure ten per cent of the anticipated £400 billion global space market by 2030, and will be part of a network of incubators which will collaborate on events and initiatives.

Many companies are receiving support via the centre to tap into the satellite applications market, such as Weardale-based FarmWatcher UK, an online community to tackle rural crime, which is looking to develop an equine tracker and an App to warn farmers of nearby crime.

Catherine Johns, Business Durham’s director of innovation and business growth, said: “The creation of the North East Space Incubator Programme will allow the region to fully realise its potential and build upon the momentum being created by the Satellite Applications Centre of Excellence. We can help businesses diversify, innovate and explore the huge potential of this global sector and elevate their ideas to the next level. It will continue to help drive growth and prosperity in the North East.”

The UK Space Agency will help with access to other programmes, such as the National Space Technology Programme, through the Centre for Earth Observation instrumentation and Space Technology.

Colin Baldwin, UK Space Gateway programme manager for the UK Space Agency, said: “There are opportunities for a range of companies developing innovative products that can exploit space data or technology.

“NETPark is a world class location for science and technology companies and will provide a dynamic and supportive environment to accelerate the growth of these ambitious, innovative businesses into markets across the world.”

To apply for a place or for more information log onto

Two life science companies join Colworth Park

Colworth Park has welcomed two new science companies to the site. The latest residents to move into the Bedfordshire-based science park are Evolution Biotechnologies and Camstent; both of which are at the forefront of innovation and making significant advancements in their respective fields.

Evolution Biotechnologies moved into an office suite in March 2016. The company works to expand the use of biological control into medically important areas; such as targeting dust mites and bed bugs.

Evolution's chief officer, Dr. David Harper, said: “Evolution Biotechnologies has just based its UK operations at Colworth Science Park. Interesting, some of us have been based here before, so why come back? As they say, location, location, location. Colworth is very close the halfway point between Oxford and Cambridge, and is an equal distance from London - very much in the UK’s ‘golden triangle’"

Camstent, meanwhile, is a growing medical materials company that develops patented polymer coatings, which resist bacterial attachment to device surfaces.

Its first commercial product, a compound that prevents catheter-acquired urinary tract infections, will be developed at Colworth Park. Derivative and supplemental formulations will target other medical and dental applications, as well as hospital, consumer and marine products.

CEO David Hampton said: “Since setting up a base at Colworth Park last year, we’ve been able to begin small scale manufacture of coded catheters, taking the innovation from research to production signals a really exciting progression for us.

He added: “Colworth Park is an ideal location for us as its facilities support both the chemistry and manufacturing we do. The laboratory we have is state-of-the-art and we’ve had great support from all of the staff on-site.”

Both new companies have moved into The Exchange building; a purpose built business centre, which provides high specification office and specialist laboratory space.

Flurry of lettings at Oxford Science Park

Five companies have expanded and a new organisation has joined the Oxford Science Park’s Magdalen Centre, the innovation building located at the centre of the Park,

The companies that have expanded are: Blue Earth Diagnostics, a privately held diagnostics company focused on the development and commercialisation of molecular imaging technologies; Corriculo, a specialist IT recruitment services company; devolo UK Ltd, a German powerline manufacturer which has expanded into the smart home market; OrganOx, which has developed a technology to help with the transplantation of organs; and OxSonics, a company developing novel approaches to the treatment of cancer and chronic low back pain.

Precision Medicine Catapult, an organisation for developing and implementing precision medicine, has also located at the Park.

Rory Maw, bursar, Magdalen College, said: “We warmly welcome Precision Medicine Catapult and wish them many years of success, and also offer our congratulations to Blue Earth, Corriculo, Devolo, OrganOx and OxSonics which are clearly thriving.

“Twenty-five years ago we built the Magdalen Centre, our very first building on the Park. Today it is established as Oxford’s leading creative innovation centre, where companies have the opportunity to grow and develop in an inspiring space, and be part of a community where the ideas and businesses of the future begin.

We are committed to supporting discovery and entrepreneurship and attract businesses of all sizes from start-ups to multinationals to locate to the Park where they flourish.”