Innovation news in brief: UK innovation; smart windows; drug discovery; cleantech

More UK businesses are coming up with new ideas

Innovation boost for UK businesses

More UK businesses than ever before are coming up with new ideas and products, according to new research released by Department for Business, Innovation & Skills.

The statistics, based on a survey of almost 30,000 employers between 2012 to 2014, show over half (53%) of UK businesses are actively engaging in developing and introducing new products and ways of making them, as well as new services and ways of doing business – up 8% in 2 years alone.

Business Secretary Sajid Javid said: "From new disruptive business models to driverless cars, innovation can not only revolutionise the way we live our lives, it can bring real opportunities for businesses to tap into and grow. That is why we are determined to make the UK the best place in Europe to innovate and start a company.

"And these figures show that businesses throughout the UK are already leading the way, delivering exciting opportunities across the nation. The number of companies innovating and coming up with new, dynamic ideas is on the rise – up 8 percentage points between 2012 and 2014, with over half of businesses now developing new products and services, some with the potential to revolutionise their industries.

Yorkshire and the Humber leads the UK for innovative businesses, with almost two-thirds of businesses engaged in innovation in the region. The East Midlands is also well above the UK average at 57%, and the West Midlands has seen one of the largest increases in business led innovation, up 12 percentage points over 2 years.

The figures also show how important innovation is to global business success. 28% of innovative businesses were exporting abroad; bringing new British products like advanced medical scanners chargers to an international market. That compares to only 10% of non-innovating businesses.

More information and a breakdown of statistics is available at UK innovation survey 2015: headline findings

Nature inspired nanostructures mean no more cleaning windows

A revolutionary new type of smart window could cut window-cleaning costs in tall buildings while reducing heating bills and boosting worker productivity.

Developed by University College London, prototype samples deliver three key benefits:

  • Self-cleaning: The window is ultra-resistant to water, so rain hitting the outside forms spherical droplets that roll easily over the surface – picking up dirt, dust and other contaminants and carrying them away.
  • Energy-saving: The glass is coated with a very thin (5-10 nanometre) film of vanadium dioxide which during cold periods stops thermal radiation escaping and so prevents heat loss; during hot periods it prevents infrared radiation from the sun entering the building.
  • Anti-glare: The design of the nanostructures also gives the windows the same anti-reflective properties found in the eyes of moths and other creatures that have evolved to hide from predators.

Dr Ioannis Papakonstantinou of UCL said: “This is the first time that a nanostructure has been combined with a thermochromic coating. The bio-inspired nanostructure amplifies the thermochromics properties of the coating and the net result is a self-cleaning, highly performing smart window.”

Bekaert University Technology Centre launched at University College Dublin

University College Dublin (UCD) and Bekaert have announced the establishment of the Bekaert University Technology Centre.

The new joint UCD-Bekaert Centre, to be located within the UCD School of Mechanical and Materials Engineering, will focus on world-class research in characterisation, design and optimisation of materials, components and processes, ultimately leading to advanced next generation wire products.

Dementia Consortium signs new pharmaceutical partner AbbVie

The Dementia Consortium has welcomed AbbVie as new pharmaceutical partner, joining medical research charity MRC Technology, Alzheimer’s Research UK, and pharmaceutical companies Astex, Eisai and Lilly.

The consortium is a global £4 million collaboration between academia, charity and the private sector which aims to find new drug treatments for dementia. This combination of expertise is being used to drive early stage drug discovery programmes against promising academic targets for neurodegenerative disease.

Dr Jim Summers, Vice-President of Neuroscience Discovery Research at AbbVie said: “We are pleased to be part of the Dementia Consortium. This innovative approach to validating new drug targets is an important component of our strategy to develop new therapies to treat neurodegenerative diseases.”

Dr Simon Ridley, director of research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “It’s a very positive development to have AbbVie join the Dementia Consortium, strengthening our ability to accelerate the search for effective new treatments for dementia. We know that in order to find new treatments for neurodegenerative diseases, we need to explore as many different approaches as possible, and our growing range of pharma partnerships will ensure we can continue to invest in a diverse range of projects to build drug discovery pipelines.”

Whitefox Technologies signs US deals for its cleantech system

Specialist engineering firm Whitefox Technologies has made a major breakthrough in the US market with its energy and water-efficient membrane solution for ethanol production.

The London-based business has signed a technology licence and purchase agreement for an industrial scale system with California-based Pacific Ethanol and an agreement on a Whitefox solution for Iowa-based Pine Lake Corn Processors.

The deals came after successful trials of a demonstration plant last year at Pacific Ethanol. They have opened up potential markets for energy and water-efficient ethanol production and similar applications with a market value running into billions of dollars.

Whitefox delivers innovative membrane solutions for a variety of solvent applications and chemical reactions that improve productivity and reduce water and energy use.

Onyx Scientific set for expansion

Onyx Scientific is about to increase the size of its UK-based site by over 30 per cent following the best performance in the company’s 15 year history.

The Wearside-based contract research organisation and small-scale API manufacturer is investing in an additional site located adjacent to its existing facility in north-east England to help its clients accelerate candidates from discovery to production.

Its additional space will primarily be used to increase its laboratory facilities, GMP suites and allocate space for storage of GMP materials.