Manchester, UK (Scicasts) - Good morning and welcome to Innovate 2016 - the largest government-sponsored UK conference on innovation.
We will be briefing you about the main event sessions in real time and also have some interviews lined up with some of the exciting exhibitors!
The place is already buzzing, people slowly gathering around the Main Stage, where in a few minutes Dr. Ruth McKernan and Marian Sudbury will open the event.
Integrated data platform by Soil-for-Life, for sustainable agriculture
Agri-food start-up Soil-for Life launched an integrated big data platform to help achieve food security and sustainable agriculture.
The web-based platform is a product of collaboration between Cranfield University and Produce World Group, seed-funded by Innovate UK.
"We believe that agricultural production is greatly limited by the status and composition of soil," says Guy Thallon, Head of Research & Suatainability at Produce World. "Soils are immensely complex systems, containing millions of microorganisms, but at the moment our understanding of soils is very limited."
The online platform developed by Soil-for-Life allows farmers to upload datasets collected from their farms, analyze the information and compare it to datasets already available from the government and other farms. The data could include anything from field records to yield shapshots or pesticide use.
"Our system pulls together all available data, combines the new dataset with the information we already have, such as satellite images, and helps the farmer to see the big picture," says Thallon.
"In turn, the data uploaded by farmers will also help facilitate agricultural research carried out by our academic partners."
The entreprise is currently working with a selected group of farms and aims to publicly open the platform by the end of 2017.
Portable hardware from Mothive Ltd, for environmental surveillance in agriculture and defense
Surrey-based startup Mothive Ltd presents portable, autonomous, wireless technology to monitor environmental data.
The battery-powered device contains a number of sensors that collect real time data such as soil moisture, humidity and irradiance. The data is automatically uploaded into the database in the cloud where the information is processed, allowing farmers to predict production yields, crop disease probability and make more informed decisions.
"Our technology turns big data into knowledge that can help farmers decide whether, for instance, they need to apply pesticides in their field or increase or decrease irrigation," says Joao Mauricio, co-founder of Mothive Ltd. "Farmers can access our platform through a web browser and easily analyze their data."
The entreprise, established in 2015 and self-funded by the two co-founders, is currently looking for investments and partnership opportunities.
"We have already secured a contract with a Lisbon-based forest management company Altri Florestral. They have ordered a batch of 84 devices from us and are currently testing the first 12," says Mauricio.
The technology, explains Mauricio, is flexible and can be adapted for various other applications, such as environmental surveillance for military defense purposes.
"A troup of soldiers could deploy a dozen of our devices in their area and monitor the surroundings in real time."
The Uber of Healthcare transport - 365 Response
365 Response, a logistics governance and compliance service is showcasing their Healthcab Smart Platform at the event this year.
The comprehensive, easy-to-use online software provides healthcare professionals and patients with a convenient way to find available transport, book vehicles and track journeys to and from the hospital.
"We are re-designing the way healthcare transport networks operate," says Kerren Sullivan, Senior Account Manager at 365 Response. "Around 30% of all healthcare vehicle bookings are currently done by hospital staff on behalf of the patient. Our software allows patients to manage their own journeys and provides healthcare workers with a simple tool to track their patients' journeys in real time."
The Healthcab database currently includes major healthcare transport providers as well as private companies, volunteers and community drivers.
The entreprise has already licensed their software to a number of NHS departments across the UK.
Ostom-i Alert - a connected, wireless technology to track patient data in real time
An interconnected medical device, Ostom-i, developed by 11 Health & Technologies, allows patients and doctors to track colostomy bag data in real time.
The device uses Bluetooth to send real time updates about the status of a patient's colostomy bag to a simple app, providing patients with an easier way to monitor their bag volume over time.
"Our automated device allows patients to be more independent and gives doctors an opportunity to monitor patient data remotely, by accessing our database," says Priya Woodun, Ragulatory Affairs Administrator at 11 Health. "Continuous monitoring of the bag volume also allows patients to reduce chances of dehydration, which can sometimes be a result of loosing more fluid than a person takes in."
The company launched their product in the US and UK. At the moment, patients can purchase the device privately and the entreprise is preparing for negotiations with NHS and private healthcare providers.
Clinical trials of the new technology are to be carried out soon.
C-Capture Ltd launches efficient, low carbon gas purification technology
C-Capture Ltd, a spin-out company founded by a group of chemists and engineers from the University of Leeds, is showcasing their new Gas Sweetening and Upgrading (GSU) technology for separating carbon dioxide from gas mixtures.
The new method allows cheaper, more efficient separation of CO2 from biogas produced during waste treatment.
"Biogas produced through anaerobic digestion during waste treatment is a mixture of CO2 and methane," explains Douglas Barnes, physical organic chemist at the University of Leeds. "It is inherently renewable and presents a great source of methane that can be used as vehicle fuel."
The technology can also be implemented in Carbon Capture Stations (CCS), where carbon dioxide is separated from gas mixtures, stored underground and can be used and chemical feedstock.
"Our technology has the potential to reduce the energy expenses for gas separation at carbon capture power stations by 50-90%," says Barnes.
The entreprise is currently collecting trial data from their pilot plant and aims to commercialize the method by the end of 2017.
Novel way to treat blood-borne diseases from MediSieve
MediSieve Ltd is showcasing a magnetic blood filter device to treat a variety of blood-borne infections, from malaria to blood poisoning.
The device contains targeted, antibody-coated magnetic particles capable of binding and retaining antigens without entering the patient's blood stream.
"We see it as a new way of performing blood dialysis," says George Frodsham, CEO of MediSieve. "At the moment, we are developing a functional technology to treat severe cases of malaria. But in the future, the same method can be adapted to tackle any blood-borne disease including viral infections such as HIV."
The existing procedures for treating severe malaria require several intravenous injections and patients need to spend several days in the hospital before being released. "Current methods are also rather expensive," says Frodsham.
"Our device can helps doctors eliminate the infection from blood within several hours instead of days."
The company is currently running preclinical safety studies on mice and will proceed to clinical trials next year.
Nacifi Environmental Research presents more efficient Eco Straw Pulping technology
Nacifi Environmental Research (NER) is here at the event to present their newly developed, low carbon process to transform straw into paper pulp.
"A large amonut of straw from wheat, barley and other crops goes to waste," explains Florence Miremadi-Nafici, co-founder of NER. "At the moment, we are wasting hundreds of millions tons of straw every year.
"Some companies are working to turn straw into paper pulp but the available technology is not very efficient. It is also expensive - pulping straw is generally more expensive than producing pulp from wood."
The NER founders have over 20 years experience working with agricultural waste. Their current aim is to develop an economical, eco-friendly process to reduce the amount of straw waste and turn it into valuable products.
They report that the new method they designed is about 50% more energy efficient than other pulping technologies available on the market.
"We can even work with moist straw - the kind of straw that currently goes to waste because farmers cannot sell it," says Miremadi-Nafici.
The company has already secured funding from several sources, incuding a grant from the European Commission, and was selected to be part of Climate-KIC accelerator programme.
"So far, we have built a small pilot, capable of processing about 300 kg of straw per day," says Miremadi-Nafici. "We are now working to license our technology and looking for potential investors, to scale up the process. We are aiming to begin the large scale pulp production within the next couple of years."
Robo-Physio technology at home, presented by Pacla Medical Ltd
An automated physiotherapy technology for the relief of back stiffness, developed by Pacla Medical Ltd, is to hit the markets by early 2017.
The device containing 36 robotic fingers works to release the stiffness of spinal joints instead of focussing on muscle stiffness as do most of the current technologies on the market, explains Chongsu Lee, CEO of Pacla Medical.
"We have already tested our prototype device on 36 people," says Lee. "Most users reported that our technology has significantly improved their condition and was more beneficial than traditional, hands-on physiotherapy."
The company partnered with Medical Research Scotland to complete a 4-year PhD study of the effects of robo-physiotherapy on the relief of back stifness.
"At the moment, we are preparing to release our product onto the UK market as electrical, non-medical equipment for people to use at home," says Lee. "We hope to be ready to sell our first devices by April 2017."
In the future, the entreprise aims to certify their technology as a medical device.
ioLight presents first, 1-micrometer resolution, portable microscope - already on the market
ioLight introduces a new portable high resolution microscope, with a variety of potential applications, from school field trips to on-site veterinary testing.
Richard Williams, Founder of ioLight, is showcasing their new product - a 1 uM resolution microscope, so small that it (almost) fits into the palm of your hand.
The device is connected to an iPad and is operated through the app, allowing the user to adjust focus, zoom, take instant pictures and record videos of the research sample in real time.
The maximum resolution of 1uM is high enough to distinguish cell nuclei, explains Williams. "Similar resolution products on the market are either too expensive or too bulky and difficult to operate. Our first batch of products is priced at £700 [+VAT] but we are aiming to reduce the costs and bring cheaper versions on the market in the future."
"Our device will come of use in many areas," says Williams. "We have already sold several microscopes to universities and schools. This kind of micoscope is an ideal tool for a school field trip.
"A portable microscope is also a great help to veterinary surgeons, who may need to diagnose animals in the field and do not have instant access to the lab. Yet another market for such devices is microelectronics, to look at the tiny details of processors and microchips."
The company has already sold their first batch of over 20 microscopes. "In fact, we have just sold another device to a customer at this event [Innovate 2016]," smiles Williams.
Following a successful investment secured through CrowdCube, ioLight is now negotiating the next round and planning to explore new markets outside lab research and education.
Investment Showcase from Innovate UK - Session Room 1
Nigel Walker, Head of Access to Finance at Innovate UK:
"About 1% of businesses in UK will take on external equity investment. It's a specialist activity, nevertheless very relevant to Innovate UK supported businesses.
"Our portfolio consists of about 7500 businesses. In our portfolio, about 10% of businesses gain access to equity market. The average investment raise was ~£1.5 million. The average valuation of businesses was ~£2.1 million at the time of grant being received. By now, it's grown to ~£4.0 million.
"We can showcase pre-valuated, high growth potential businesses to potential investors to make investments more effective and focussed.
"We are going to identify high potential businesses and present them to our investment panels, aiming to promote the growth and focussed investment.
"First meeting will take place in January and will be related clean tech and sustainble technologies. We will select companies and invite them to sumbit theirproposals to investors."
The panel (left to right): Dr. Claire Brown, Dr. Savvas Neophylou and Dr. Caroline Barelle.
How do you make sure that you connect with your ideal investor?
Dr. Caroline Barrelle:
"Certain investors won't even look at you until you have 'de-risked' your innovative technology. For instance, we have products in the pre-clinical stages and a platform for future drug development. It's good to group together investors who are all looking for a particular type of companies at a particular stage and work with them."
"The development cycles in life science tends to be long. Unless you know exactly what will happen in 10 years, you are taking risk. It boils down to people: do you trust them to commit to the development? Do they have the skill of adaptive intelligence - can they pivot when they reach the junction on the road?
"You spend a disproportionate amount of time looking at the people - can you work with these people for the next 10 years? Ultimately, you want them to show you the ability to be able to do what they have to, especially during the difficult times.
"When someone refers a company to you, it usually means that the person giving the referral already trusts the people behind that company."
"I'd much rather have an entrepreneur approach me at a conference than have a superficial connection [through a third party]. I don't think anything can substitute for that initial face-to-face contact."
What are the pros and cons of public demo days, e.g. Dragons Den, vs private?
"Public forums are very polished and are often style over substance. In a private meeting, you can get down to the details and questions that you won't have the chance to discuss otherwise.
"Often entrepreneurs feel that since they are speaking in front of an investor, they have to talk a lot about the commercial side and almost completely forget to tell about the technology and data (e.g. clinical data)."
"Some of the Q&A's are often more robust and interesting than presentations themselves. There simply isn't enough time to go into detail at the public pitching events."
Investment Showcase Program:
Excivion Ltd presents a new combined vaccine against Zika and Dengue viruses
Excivion Ltd is here at Innovate 2016 to launch their new product - a combined vaccine against Zika and dengue viruses - as well as present a proof of concept for a new type of vaccine against the whole family of Flaviviridae viruses.
Each member of the Flavivirus family that makes its way into the human body can facilitate infection by other member of the same family, explains Dr. Laing. "Our vaccine package aims to counteract this. No other existing vaccine, to our knowledge, has this potential."
According to the US health officials, Zika virus will soon become established in the United States. Globalization and global warming are among reasons for the explosive spread of Zika around the world, says Dr. Laing. However, another important factor was the previus dengue epidemic, which has paved the way for Zika spread within the same communities.
"Once Zika is established, then other viruses of the same family can step onto the stage," says Dr. Laing.
At the moment, the company is waiting for a pending patent and expecting to be able to release the technology details by mid-2017.
The comprehensive data package within the patent will then be offered to major players in the vaccine market, with the hope of delivering the breakthrough vaccine to tackle Zika pandemic.
Dr. Ruth McKernan:
By the end of this financial year, Innovate UK will introduce loans for SMEs and equity (in partnership with major British banks).
More details to follow within the next 48 hours...