Page 1

The United Kingdom Science Park Association magazine | Issue 6 | Winter 2018

BREAKTHROUGH | The United Kingdom Science Park Association magazine | Issue 6 | Winter 2018




Blue Skies Green Fields The future of farm to fork technology

NETPark Explorer Rent modern, flexible workspace in County Durham.

Combined office, laboratory and cleanroom space Ideal for R&D teams and growing science, engineering or technology companies Completely configurable to meet your exact requirements Workspaces from 1,250sqft to 3,500sqft available now

Join a vibrant community of world-class science and technology companies.

FIND OUT MORE: 01740 625 250 Call weekdays 8.30am – 5.00pm enquiries@northeasttechnologypark.com northeasttechnologypark.com @NETParkUK

Regional Winner of LABC Building Excellence Award 2018

Collaborate to Innovate Come and join our community... you’ll be in good company Our collaborative environment and unique combination of laboratory, workshop & office space, provides companies in the aerospace, automotive, construction technologies and life sciences sectors the ideal location to grow their business

5 workshops approx 100m² FabLab access and support Shared laboratory facilities Office spaces starting from 20m² 14 laboratories (inc. short term hire) On-site business support services Superfast broadband / VoIP telephony Access to world leading areas of research For more information or a tour of these exciting facilities contact :

joinus@sciencetechcentre.co.uk 01902 824100 www.sciencetechcentre.co.uk


Technology for our future

UKSPA Chairman Dr David Hardman MBE looks at the importance of agri-tech to our very future on this planet…


eflecting the diversity of interests across the science and innovation parks in the UK, this edition of Breakthrough is themed around agri-tech. Farmers are constantly working to maintain quality while maximising sustainable productivity to meet the ever-increasing needs of a burgeoning population. With a world population set to grow by a further 2.3 billion by 2050, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation believes we will have to generate 70% more food than we do today to feed us all. This increasing demand set in the context of finite natural resources, fertile land - worldwide the amount of arable land is shrinking - and water, along with the impact of climate change, suggests that the key to sufficient food for our future has to be through the application of innovative new technologies. In common with so many aspects of our lives, we are increasingly turning to digital technologies to increase efficiency through automation and precision. This edition focusses on smart farming, food design, IoT for agriculture


The United Kingdom Science Park Association, Chesterford Research Park, Little Chesterford, Essex CB10 1XL T: 01799 532050 E: info@ukspa.org.uk W: ukspa.org.uk

and food, but also looks at the application of biotechnologies through synthetic biology.


Such digital transformations and technical innovations are driven by two converging trends; robotics and precision agriculture. Internet of Things (IoT) sensor data, integrated with drone imagery can sense, process and communicate precisely measured environmental data. The precise and continuous monitoring of weather (90% of all crop losses are due to weather) helps farmers to make strategic decisions on planting crops or take necessary actions to reduce damage caused by extreme weather; to build and apply advanced irrigation systems to save water, and also to prevent pesticide waste by, for instance, predicting rain. Monitoring soil, air quality and crop maturity, promotes smarter decisions improving crop yields, maximising crop quality, while minimising the use of pesticides and natural resources. Efficiencies also minimise waste, drive operations efficiently, and establish

OPEN BOX MEDIA & COMMUNICATIONS l Director Stuart.Walters@ob-mc.co.uk l Director Sam.Skiller@ob-mc.co.uk l Production Manager Mark.Lamsdale@ob-mc.co.uk l Production Matt.Hood@ob-mc.co.uk l Advertising Sales Frances.Murphy@ob-mc.co.uk

R E A D O N L I N E AT: U K S PA . O R G . U K / B R E A K T H R O U G H

secured food supply chains. Industrial robotics increase efficiency through automation and precision production and processing. The subsequent ability to monitor and track the route of food delivery can not only save food waste but increase food safety and deliver increased consumer transparency about the new food supply chains. The arrival of innovative and new technologies always stimulates debate. From Jethro Tull’s seed drill in 1700 to the possibilities on offer from synthetic biology, IoT and robotics. There is always debate as to the impacts of the latest revolution. But, as we move to a global population of 9.8 billion in 2050 and even 11.2 billion by 2100, it could be said that technological innovation is the only way forward. It has to be part of our jobs to promote the need for innovation in a balanced and non-biased manner so that, as with the seed drill, the technology is adopted, and the benefits secured. ■

All comments and feedback should be forwarded to the UKSPA team: info@ukspa.org.uk

Breakthrough is published on behalf of UKSPA by Open Box Media & Communications, Regent Court, 68 Caroline Street, Jewellery Quarter, B’ham B3 1UG. T: 0121 200 7820. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form without the consent of UKSPA.

W I N T E R 2 0 18 | U K S PA B R E A K T H R O U G H | 5

10 CAMBRIDGE CONFERENCE News from UKSPA’s latest conference 14 UKSPA IN LONDON Next stop for UKSPA is the Imperial College White City Campus 16 JOIN US IN BIRMINGHAM Announcing the UKSPA/S-Lab National Conference – April 2019



FUTURE OF LABS Latest research from ARUP shows how intelligent lab design can enable great science and research





INNOVATIVE FARMERS Kate Pressland (Soil Association) takes a look at initiatives that put farmers in the research driving seat

33 MICROALGAE IN SYNTHETIC BIOLOGY The potential of algal strain improvements in novel commercial products 36 WHAT MAKES FOOD RESEARCH EXCITING? An interview with Professor Maria Charalambides of Imperial College London 44 BRIDGING THE GAP Rothamsted Centre for Research and Enterprise helping to feed the world


AGRI-TECH START-UPS Thomas Sheils of Beauhurst takes a look at the start ups that can potentially make the most agri-tech impact

6 | U K S PA B R E A K T H R O U G H | W I N T E R 2 0 18

64 HEALTHY FOODS MAKE A HEALTHY IMPACT The Health Action Campaign say “healthier food is good for business” 70 PLANT AGRICULTURE Synthetic Biology - the emerging field that is making an impact 72 MANCHESTER MAKING MAJOR FOOD IMPACT Bruntwood and YFood put the city at the forefront of the global Food Tech

Welcome to Breakthrough, your UK Science Park Association magazine

NATIONAL AGRI-FOOD INNOVATION NAFIC – the world-class campus for bioscience and agri-food research

52 NEWS AND NEW MEMBERS Introducing new UKSPA members growing the science and innovation sector

30 R&D FOR AGRI-TECH Making the most of R&D investment in agri-tech



50 AGRI-TECH: THE REVOLUTION Agri-Tech East looks at the technology that is growing the Agri-Tech Revolution

29 CHANGING LIVES The 2030 vision for Norwich Research Park to support precision agriculture



24 SUPPORTING TECH IN THE CITY UK’s new property platform driving science and technology in regional cities

AGRI-TECH AT ABER The breadth of food work and research being carried out at Aberystwyth Innovation and Enterprise Campus

60 TRANSFORMING COFFEE Local coffee growers getting an extra buzz

FROM INCUBATION TO IMPACT From start-up to scale-up and beyond: SETsquared research looks at trends in incubation

R E A D O N L I N E AT: U K S PA . O R G . U K / B R E A K T H R O U G H

78 A DAY IN THE LIFE OF... The 3M BIC Team share a working day supporting their members at the University of Huddersfield



76 THE INTERNET OF FOOD THINGS Dave Russell-Graham looks back at the launch of the new Internet of Food Things Network Plus organisation

W I N T E R 2 0 18 | U K S PA B R E A K T H R O U G H | 7



25 Years Providing Chemistry for Small Molecule Drug Discovery and Chemical Biology Research

Screening Compounds for Hit Finding • Over 1.2 million high quality, in-stock, small molecule leadlike and druglike compounds • New compounds added annually based on novel, proprietary designs • Pre-selected diversity sets available offering broad chemical space and pharmacophore coverage • Targeted and focused sets covering CNS, kinase, ion channel, nuclear receptor, GPCR and spirocycles • More than 1,800 citations in peer-reviewed journals

Synthetic Macrocycles for Difficult Targets S





• MW range of 400 to 800 (ave. 600) with ring size of 12 to 26 atoms (ave. 17) • For use against low druggability targets such as protein-protein interaction, antiviral and antimicrobial targets



H3 C


• A library of more than 11,000 synthetic, macrocyclic compounds


• Custom select compounds from the Macrocycle Library or purchase the complete set

Building Blocks for Hit to Lead • Over 14,000 in-stock reagents available • Purity of 95% or higher by NMR and LC-MS • Designed for hit-to-lead, lead optimization and medicinal chemistry programs • Search and order online at ChemBridge’s www.hit2lead.com website

Reg Richardson | Tel: +44 (0)1386 765519 | Fax: +44 (0)1386 423336 | reg@chembridge.com



Approaching a significant milestone

Jim Duvall is Executive Director of the UK Science Park Association (UKSPA); the authoratitive body on the planning, development and creation of science parks and other innovation locations


his issue of UKSPA Breakthrough looks at Agri-Tech and Agri-Food a sector that is vital to our national economic prosperity. Features in the following pages illustrate the impact that so many UKSPA members have in delivering applied research and innovation in the agricultural industry, including horticulture, to increase yield, profit, employment and business growth. This feature follows on from the sectoral coverage in previous issues which has ranged from space technology to Robotics and Artificial Intelligence through to Advanced Engineering. Taking them together, they deliver powerful evidence of the impact that the Science Park and Innovation sector is delivering to the UK economy.


The strong and diverse membership of UKSPA – with some of our new members being featured later in this issue – provides increasing opportunities to demonstrate the

importance of the widespread work that our members deliver and that we intend showcasing over the next year as the Association celebrates a significant milestone. Next year is the 35th anniversary of the formation of UKSPA and 2019 will provide opportunities for the Association to deliver further information and detailed analysis is now taking place of the data collected through our member survey. Particular thanks are due to our Affiliate members Bidwells and Creative Places for their support and advice, as well as to our members who contributed to a response rate that was significantly higher than we have achieved in the past.


The survey analysis will be delivered at our 2019 Conference at the University of Birmingham, which will also feature presentations from some of the shortlisted entries for our 2019 Awards Programme and will provide some fascinating case studies of good practice and knowledge sharing. Around sixty entries were received

and the shortlist for the Awards will be announced in early December. The conference – which is a further joint event with S-Lab – will provide an opportunity for us to take stock of current issues just a few days after the date set for Brexit. Peter James from S-Lab gives an early preview of the Conference on Page 16 of this issue, and initial programme information and earlybird delegate booking is now available through the UKSPA website. We are delighted that Science Minister Sam Gyimah MP has accepted our invitation to deliver a keynote contribution to the conference alongside other leading industry figures and stakeholders including Sarah Main, Executive Director of the Campaign for Science and Engineering (CASE). I do hope that that you are able to join us in Birmingham on 2 and 3 April 2019. ■

Please do not hesitate to contact me: info@ukspa.org.uk

W I N T E R 2 0 18 | U K S PA B R E A K T H R O U G H | 9


The world according to UKSPA and its Members

The new Bio-Innovation Centre at the Cambridge Science Park

UKSPA Cambridge Conference A summary of events from the latest UKSPA member meeting



10 | U K S PA B R E A K T H R O U G H | W I N T E R 2 0 18

n 11-12 October, UKSPA members gathered at the Cambridge Science Park for two days of knowledge sharing, discussion and networking. Established by Trinity College, Cambridge in 1970, today the Cambridge Science Park is a 152-acre site and home to over 100 businesses. Ranging from University of Cambridge spin-outs to multinational companies and working across a range of sectors including life science, AI, IoT, defence and connectivity, the Cambridge Science Park has

established itself as an exemplar in the area of science park development – and as such an extremely fitting location for this UKSPA event as the Association looks ahead to its 35th Anniversary. Welcoming delegates to the Trinity Centre, UKSPA Chairman, David Hardman, opened the meeting and set the tone for the two days, which centred around community building, the importance of continued collaboration and our collective responsibility to inspire, nurture and strengthen the pool of next generation talent.


O P P O RT U N I T Y B E C K O N S . . .

The keynote address, given by Martin Hamilton, a Futurist with Jisc, which runs the Janet Network connecting universities and science parks across the UK, gave delegates a fascinating insight into the new race for space. In Martin’s view, this fourth industrial revolution is seeing a real shift in technological capability, which will quite literally change the world, just as previous revolutions also created step changes in our society. The cost of getting things (and people) into space is coming down – rockets which up to now have had a one-launch lifecycle, will be re-usable, making space far more accessible and cost effective to explore. The UK is at the forefront of these developments – we already produce 44% of the world’s

smallest satellites – and in a couple of years Martin’s view is that we will be building and launching rockets from vertical launch sites within the UK. Sounds like Sci Fi…? Perhaps, but £40m+ of UK investment could make this a reality sooner than we think.




Bringing delegates back down to earth (but without the often-associated bump) the topic then turned to the building of successful communities and the opportunities for collaboration in this regard. Jeannette Walker (The Cambridge Science Park), David Hardman (Innovation Birmingham) and John Mackenzie (Midlothian Science Zone) formed the first panel discussion of the meeting, sharing first-hand experiences of a range of collaborative initiatives designed to encourage, foster and support community development and collaboration. Of particular note, was the enthusiasm of Jeannette and her team at the Cambridge Science Park, to bring together its 7,500 strong community. The Park’s mission for the companies on site is to provide them with a community based eco-system – a place where people love to work. To build the community feel, a number of initiatives have been implemented. These include postcode lunches to enable those living in the same area to get to know one another, a weekly newsletter, ironing and dry-cleaning services to allow people to reclaim their free time, plus the opportunity to take part in trials of the latest innovations. The security team on site even offer an escort service to ensure individuals feel safe and secure at all times. The session also heard from a number of delegates happy to share their experiences of building successful communities within their own organisations.

R E A D O N L I N E AT: U K S PA . O R G . U K / B R E A K T H R O U G H

The development of new science parks and the value of fostering mutually beneficial relationships between our parks, campuses and research bodies were explored in two parallel sessions immediately after lunch. Developing new science parks This session, chaired by Will Heigham, head of Bidwell’s Cambridge office, saw presentations from Chris White (Wrenbridge/Harlow Science Park), Colin Brown (Unity Campus, Sawston), Simon Coward (Scottow Technology Park), Barry Atkins (Fairfax Properties) and Grant Bourhill (University of Leicester). Each highlighted the various opportunities and challenges faced by these very different developments from across the country and once again triggered lively interaction with delegates in the room.


Research campuses and research connections A parallel session, chaired by Sally-Ann Forsyth, CEO at Stevenage Bioscience Catalyst, took an in-depth look at the mutually beneficial relationships between member locations and research bodies, taking the British Antarctic Survey as an example. Beatrix Schlarb-Ridley (BAS), Lee Glassbrook (BBSRC) and Rhian Hayward (Aberystwyth Innovation & Enterprise Campus) set the scene for an audience Q&A and discussion.

S E E I N G I T F I R S T- H A N D

Having enjoyed the beautiful surroundings of the Wellcome Genome Campus for a reception and dinner on the evening of the first day, day two saw delegates back at the Campus for a fascinating introduction followed by a site tour, led by the Wellcome Genome Campus’ Associate CEO, Sian Nash.

W I N T E R 2 0 18 | U K S PA B R E A K T H R O U G H | 11


achieve, as well as improving the connectivity of that learner with an employer that understands the value in nurturing and investing talent that perhaps hasn’t come via a mainstream route. All food for thought for the member organisations in the room.




David Hardman, Chairman, UKSPA

After a short hop back to the Cambridge Science Park, the delegates were then invited to choose from three parallel sessions:


Collaborative incubation that works Caroline Hyde and Paul Hughes from Allia discussed current initiatives, successful projects and planned activities from members that specifically help businesses start, test the market, collaborate and raise finance. Case studies from Abhi Naha, Chief Commercial Officer of CW (Cambridge Wireless) and Stewart McTavish, Director of ideaSpace at the University of Cambridge, showcased examples of successful collaboration and inclusive incubation and acceleration projects.


Social media and marketing Jennifer Esty and John Woods from Sharp Ahead were joined by Elaine McKechnie, Business Development Director from Oxford Innovation, to discuss the development and delivery of effective digital strategies for innovation locations.


Cambridge Connections Ross Mcwatt (Scott Brownrigg) walked delegates through the development of the Cambridge Science

12 | U K S PA B R E A K T H R O U G H | W I N T E R 2 0 18

Park’s Bio-Innovation centre, currently under construction. The three-storey building forms part of the TusHoldings investment in the Park. At approximately 40,300 sq ft, it will be fitted with labs and offices and is due to open in Spring 2019. Jo Mills, Entrepreneurship and Innovation Centre Manager at the Wellcome Genome Campus then described the aspiration of the Campus to be greater than the sum of its parts and the role of the Campus Bio-Innovation centre within that. By providing flexible support within an already highly supportive environment for innovative companies working in genome and biodata, the aim is that the Bio-Innovation centre becomes the focal point of an already vibrant Campus.


The penultimate session of the meeting focused on how we encourage and mentor new talent for entrepreneurial companies. Presentations focused on: inspiring young people, Simon Coward (Hethel Innovation); diversity in entrepreneurship, Stefanie Thorne (Ipswich Waterfront Innovation Centre); and strengthening the talent pipeline, Mick Westman (Digital Innov8ors). Conclusions drawn included the need to empower the learner to believe they can

The final session took place in The Bradfield Centre, the Cambridge Science Park’s co-working space, first opened in July 2017. Jeannette Walker gave an overview of the Centre - which is now home to 78 start-up and scale-up companies working across the tech sector, including AI, software and electronics – before handing over to CongCong Wang, Head of Operations for TusPark UK. CongCong gave delegates an insight into TusPark, the science park development body of Tsinghua University, China and its £200m joint venture investment with Trinity College. The collaboration will see the development of five office/research buildings, (a total of 350,000 sq ft), included within which is the currently underway Bio-Innovation Centre. The mission of the newly constructed Bio-Innovation Centre will be to incubate start-ups and biotechnology enterprises, working on a wide range of healthcare products and technologies. As the first Bio-Innovation Centre in the history of the Cambridge Science Park, TusPark Cambridge will play a key role in TusHoldings’ global network. The network will be instrumental in promoting biotech innovations emanating from Cambridge and the UK to the world. Wrapping up the event, Jim Duvall, CEO, UKSPA thanked delegates for their participation and reminded all that the next event will be held in Birmingham on the 2nd-3rd April 2019. Particular thanks were extended to the meeting sponsors, SDC and Communicate plc, as well as UKSPA’s digital partners, JISC and event partners, Bidwells. ■

Presentations can be found on the UKSPA website: www.ukspa.org.uk/ events/previous-events

Upcoming events The Complete Service For your Pre Used Lab Equipment. • • • •

Buy Quality Instruments at a fraction of the New Cost Convert your Unused Lab equipment into Cash New Project? We can help source your Instruments Lab Clearance Service

www.akribis.co.uk 01565 734875 enquiries.aks@akribis.co.uk

Please send your event listing to: louise.tilbrook@ukspa.org.uk L A B O R AT O R Y M A N A G E M E N T

Successful skills for day-to-day laboratory management Dates of the event: 6 December 2018 Organiser: British Laboratory Managers Association Venue: Rotherwick House, E1W 1YZ City: London Country: United Kingdom URL: www.blma.co.uk/events

U K S PA L O N D O N LewVac is a UK based manufacturer and supplier of vacuum components to scientific research and manufacturing facilities worldwide. For product information and pricing, please visit our website to view our on-line catalogue or contact our technical sales team directly. We look forward to hearing from you.


LewVac, Unit F2, Ote Hall Farm, Janes Lane, Burgess Hill, RH15 0SR Tel : +44 (0)1444 233372 - Fax : +44 (0)1444 233392 - Email : sales@lewvac.co.uk

The next UKSPA member event co-hosted by imperial White City Incubator and Imperial College ThinkSpace Dates of the event: 17-18 January 2019 Organiser: UKSPA Venue: White City Incubator / Translation & Innovation Hub City: London Country: United Kingdom URL: www.ukspa.org.uk/events

U K S PA / S - L A B A N D M I R A T E C H N O L O G Y PA R K S H O W C A S E

A pre-conference event at MIRA Technology Park Dates of the event: 1 April 2019 Organiser: UKSPA Venue: Mira Technology Park City: Nuneaton Country: United Kingdom URL: www.ukspa.org.uk/Birmingham2019


The 2019 UKSPA/S-Lab national conference, awards dinner and exhibition Dates of the event: 2-3 April 2019 Organisers: UKSPA / S-Lab Venue: University of Birmingham City: Birmingham Country: United Kingdom URL: www.ukspa.org.uk/Birmingham2019


The 4th Industrial Revolution: areas of innovation and science parks as key boosters for a successful transition Dates of the event: 24-27 September 2019 Organiser: IASP Venue: La Cité Nantes Congress Centre City: Nantes Country: France URL: www.iasp2019nantes.com

R E A D O N L I N E AT: U K S PA . O R G . U K / B R E A K T H R O U G H

W I N T E R 2 0 18 | U K S PA B R E A K T H R O U G H | 13


UKSPA sets a date for London


KSPA will next gather on Thursday 17 and Friday 18 January 2019 at Imperial College White City Campus which opened its doors in October 2016 and is part of an impressive re-development in West London. Imperial College last hosted UKSPA members three years ago and this event will be an opportunity to share progress and learning points as this development has moved from plan to reality.


Imperial White City Incubator and Imperial College ThinkSpace.


White City is one of the most exciting, dynamic and rapidly changing parts of London and is now quickly establishing itself as a pioneering quarter for arts, culture, innovation, science and learning – with resident organisations including the revamped Television Centre, White City Place (formerly BBC Media Village), the Royal College of Art and Imperial College London. Imperial’s White City Campus is a platform for innovation and entrepreneurship at the heart of a vibrant area to live, work and play. It is driving this evolution with a £2 billion investment in a new 23-acre site at the heart of the White City Opportunity Area. Multidisciplinary research facilities are opening at the northern section of

14 | U K S PA B R E A K T H R O U G H | W I N T E R 2 0 18

the site, alongside space for businesses, accommodation for postgraduate students and a residential building. Located in The Invention Rooms are a unique range of maker spaces, including the Advanced Hackspace, which supports students, staff and the wider community to access resources to develop new products. The UKSPA main sessions will take place in the Molecular Sciences Research Hub which is providing a new research home for the Department of Chemistry. The Molecular Sciences Research Hub is a state-of-the art facility for chemical and molecular sciences, bringing together up to 800 scientists, clinicians, engineers and commercial partners to collaborate under one roof to advance research in areas such as clean energy, chemical biology and personal healthcare. Other sessions and tours will take place in the Translation & Innovation Hub (I-HUB) and the White City Incubator. The I-Hub is a new home for innovation and collaboration, led by Imperial College thinkspace, and these facilities support the co-location of organisations linked to specific research and development partnerships so that collaboration with

Imperial is embedded from the start. The building is the first purpose-built co-location facility on Campus and provides space for organisations at all stages in their development, from wet-lab incubation, laboratory grow-on space, co-working facilities, to floors for larger scale-up businesses and established companies. The White City Innovators Programme is a short accelerator programme for Imperial-based companies and the local community. The Incubator is managed by Imperial White City Incubator Limited, with Imperial Innovations Group plc acting as service provider. Early-stage businesses take advantage of being near eminent scientists and experts in technology. The White City Incubator is a hub for innovation and entrepreneurship, providing office and lab space and support for early stage deep science companies and has supported hundreds of entrepreneurs and future business leaders since opening in late 2016. ■

Further details of the January 2019 UKSPA conference at Imperial White City can be found at www.ukspa.org.uk/events Interested in attending or sponsorship? Please contact info@ukspa.org.uk

Communicate solves technology challenges for science park tenants Fast-growing firm Communicate Technology PLC provides telecoms, internet, cloud services, hardware and software, cyber security and technical support to multi-tenanted business spaces. These spaces include business and science parks across the UK including Wynyard Business Park, Discovery Park and Colworth Park.

“It’s a vast complex of high quality office and laboratory space created on the site of the former Pfizer facility in Kent. “

Photo Credit: Christopher Owens Tony Snaith, CEO and Konrad Rutkowki, Finance Director

“Communicate has worked with each tenant to assist with their move to site and deliver one or more services from their technology portfolio.” Communicate CEO Tony Snaith continues, “Discovery Park is the perfect example of the projects we are involved with. Our support to the team and the services we’ve provided have without doubt enabled the growth of the park, playing an important role in attracting tenants to the site. “We’re based in a multi-occupancy development ourselves and know how important it is for the move to be seamless. Tenants don’t want to be moving into offices wondering how long it will be before their internet is fully functional or their telephone lines are working. Business is here and now and our services reflect that. “There’s no doubt the commercial property sector is growing. The market is thriving and in turn, that’s helping Communicate broaden its market reach, regionally and nationally.”

Communicate’s CEO Tony Snaith explains how their expert involvement with supporting landlords and their tenants, assists with a smooth move onto a Communicate connected site. “Discovery Park is a flagship site for us. It’s a vast complex of high quality office and laboratory space created on the site of the former Pfizer facility in Kent. Extending across multiple buildings, Discovery Park is aimed at high quality start-ups and established mid-sized enterprises. “To enable the park’s management team to offer tenants a technology portfolio to meet all their business needs, we initially installed dedicated high-speed internet access to the core of the site. That would support the first phase of development and allowed for the capacity to double as more clients were attracted to the site. “The second phase of the project was to establish a Communicate demonstration and support centre in the heart of the main building, where all of our capabilities are on show. New clients use the facility to discuss and design the best technology for their business and current clients gain access to qualified technical staff to solve problems quickly,” added Tony.

What does the future hold for Communicate? The ambitious firm is planning further growth and have set their sights on expanding into Europe and further afield. They are currently working on an acquisition that is going to be ground breaking for the company, as well as planning to float on the AIM market mid 2019. Resulting in additional access to capital for the future growth of the company.

enquiries@communicateplc.com www.communicateplc.com

01740 661066 @CommunicatePLC

Looking Forward to Birmingham UKSPA will join with S-Lab to deliver a national conference in April 2019


he author Steven Johnson (‘Where Good Ideas Come From’) has remarked that “If you look at history, innovation doesn’t come just from giving people incentives; it comes from creating environments where their ideas can connect.” The S-Lab/UKSPA Conference at the University of Birmingham on 2-3 April 2019 will be examining all aspects of research and innovation environments through a unique partnership between the incubator and science park community that is represented by UKSPA, and the managers and providers of scientific facilities, equipment and infrastructure that is the S-Lab community. Our previous collaboration in York in 2017 attracted over 600 people and generated hugely positive feedback. The Conference Dinner (on 2 April 2019) will also see presentations of the UKSPA and S-Lab Awards, which have shortlisted over 50 examples of best practice in design, management and operation of innovation and research facilities from around the world. Many of these will form the basis of Conference sessions. One trend they exemplify is the development of the ‘new scientific workplace’ (NSW), in which buildings and layouts are designed and configured to

16 | U K S PA B R E A K T H R O U G H | W I N T E R 2 0 18


Peter James is Director of S-Lab, a not for profit initiative to support good practice in the design and operation of science and technology facilities

embody desired cultures and values such as creativity, sustainability and transparency; to encourage multidisciplinary collaboration as a driver of discovery and innovation; and to maximise effective and efficient activities and workflows. Flexibility is another key theme of both the NSW and incubators and science parks, both short-term in the form of hotel-like facilities for equipment and working, and long-term through relatively easy reconfiguration of space and services for changing researchers or tenants. Another vital ingredient in innovation is ‘fit for purpose’ education of tomorrow’s incubator and science

park tenants, a theme addressed by the University of Birmingham’s new Collaborative Teaching Laboratory (CTL). This £40 million facility has brought together teaching of a range of STEM courses to foster interdisciplinary exchange, and in the process created more effective use of staff time and resources and practical teaching space, and enabled innovations in teaching delivery and the reinvention of practical classes. Presentations on, and tours of, the CTL will form part of a stream on innovations in STEM learning and teaching. Perhaps the most important Conference theme will be future trends for science parks and incubators. Why, for example, are developers in the UK, USA and elsewhere building new facilities in high-cost city-centre locations and will this grow in future? How does this relate to the ability of connectivity and computing power to create ‘virtual innovation spaces’? And what will be the impact of Brexit? The keynote address by Sam Gyimah, Minister for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, should have much to say on that! ■

See www.ukspa.org.uk/Birmingham2019 or www.effectivelab.org.uk for more details of the Conference and online bookings

The research also allows us to offer recommendations for the design of these labs of the future, which reflect a digitally focused and human-centred approach to workplace design. Key considerations include: Wellbeing and Place – There will be a greater shift to accommodate user needs and experience, both in terms of the place and location, as well as occupant experience and wellbeing.

The changing face of science research facilities



hanges in the nature of work will impact future lab design as science labs and research facilities become technology enabled, with flexible spaces allowing for collaborative, data-centric research. As the creative and technical heart of science, research facilities will undergo a shift to become more adaptable, interdisciplinary environments that align with changes in the workplace. Our recent research identifies a move towards greater work-life balance, the changing demographics of the workforce, and increasing competition among institutions and companies to attract and retain talent as some of the key drivers behind this shift. Placemaking will become increasingly important as part of this transition, with research facilities forming part of a wider

community designed to enrich and enable the lives of the researchers. Labs will encompass a variety of work spaces, from co-working facilities to incubator hubs and DIY labs, reaching beyond the conventional framework of scientific research towards a more accessible, public realm of scientific enquiry. Research institutes will move away from the traditional, physicallyconnected model towards a virtuallyconnected model, with cloud-linked research clusters working together in real-time from remote locations. Alongside this, AI, machine learning, automation, robotics, 3D printing, and blockchain technology will enable advanced analysis of data and transform how research is undertaken. These future-ready research facilities will be designed for a new generation of scientists working across disciplines. Localised centres of excellence are also likely to generate further public-private research partnerships between universities and corporate organisations. This new research ecosystem will bring together established research and academic institutions and industry champions with tech-driven start-ups and creative industries, often within an urban context.

R E A D O N L I N E AT: U K S PA . O R G . U K / B R E A K T H R O U G H

Adaptable Spaces – Despite ongoing demand for highly specialised spaces, research facility design will be generic and flexible to facilitate a wide range of multidisciplinary scientific activities. This means the provision of highly adaptable spaces, with a focus on technology infrastructure and digital connectivity. Digital Disruption – Advances in AI, Big Data, automation, robotics and other tech-powered research solutions mean smart labs are here to stay, challenging the concept of a ‘traditional lab building’. Networks will also link scientists working remotely, connecting them in real-time. Cities as Labs – Cloud-based labs, co-working, DIY spaces and living labs, many of which are emerging in urban centres, provide researchers with enhanced access to equipment and the scientific community. This report calls for a rethink of how and where research is conducted and how buildings and places can be designed to enable innovation. The launch of our Future of Labs report marks an exciting milestone for us and sets out the drivers and trends that need to be considered when commissioning and designing research facilities. Intelligent design can help enable great science and we are excited at what’s to come. We look forward to sharing more insights from the research at the UKSPA/S-Lab conference in April 2019. ■

‘The Future of Labs’ can be downloaded from www.arup.com/perspectives/ publications/research/section/ future-of-labs

W I N T E R 2 0 18 | U K S PA B R E A K T H R O U G H | 17


Your Say... Experts from academia and industry deliver comment on next steps for farming productivity agri-tech, investment and knowledge transfer*

“The food and farming sector is worth £112 billion a year. That’s massive. Bigger than cars and planes put together. With 1 in 8 people involved in the industry, agriculture covers over 70% of the land in the UK. So, it’s not only economically important but also culturally important as well.” Tim Mordan, Deputy Director, Farming Productivity, Defra

“Farmers are now bombarded with a proliferation of sensors of all kinds that do a variety of jobs, but from a farmer’s point of view that’s an impossible landscape. There surely has to be some opportunity to integrate these technologies into decision rules that farmers can actually use?” Professor Gerry Boyle, Director, Teagasc

“Typically, most new technology that farmers adopt is embodied in the inputs that they purchase.” Professor Gerry Boyle, Director, Teagasc

18 | U K S PA B R E A K T H R O U G H | W I N T E R 2 0 18

“Venture capital is really important, of course, but so are incubators that allow those start-up ideas to really get going.” Dr Julian Little, Head of Communications & Government Affairs, Bayer Crop Science

HAVE YOUR SAY Tweet your opinions @UKSPA

“We know that farmers are inspired by learning from the best, they’re curious, they’re inquisitive, they see what other farmers are doing and they instinctively want to learn.” Tom Hind, Chief Strategy Officer, AHDB

“The coverage of the drones that we’re using is improving all the time. The advent of things like hyperspectral sensors, means that we’ll be able to identify diseases, well before the human eye can detect them. And it will really move the needle, in terms of innovation in the sector.” Will Wells, Chief Executive Officer, Hummingbird Technologies

“We need precision agriculture to drive us to think about how we optimise the flow of nutrients from soil into livestock products, understanding key correlates between soil quality and emissions intensity and loss of nutrients into air and water.” Professor Michael Lee, Head of Sustainable Agriculture Sciences, North Wyke, Rothamsted Research and Chair in Sustainable Livestock Systems, University of Bristol

“We need to train those future leaders and make sure that they are aware of the opportunities that exist in this industry, which go beyond the farm gate, into sectors such as vets, maltsters, etc.” Steven Thomson, Senior Agricultural Economist & Communities Sectoral Lead, SRUC

*Source: Westminster Food and Nutrition Forum. Next Steps for Farming Productivity; AgriTech, Investment and Knowledge Transfer, 2018

W I N T E R 2 0 18 | U K S PA B R E A K T H R O U G H | 19


News from Westminster Ministers host agri-tech discussions with key global investors


lobal leaders in the agri-tech sector recently met to discuss opportunities for further industry investment at a roundtable hosted by the International Trade Secretary. Hosted at 10 Downing Street on 11 October 2018, the event was the fourth in the government’s series of investment roundtables which promote UK industry sector opportunities to a global audience and drive foreign direct-investment into the UK as we prepare to leave the European Union. Attended by ministers from BEIS, Defra and DFID, the roundtable helped to realise further growth in overseas investment in the UK agri-tech industry. Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to ensuring the UK becomes a world leader in agricultural technology, innovation and sustainability.

© Kursat Unsal / Shutterstock


Ministers discussed the government’s strategic vision for the UK agri-tech sector with senior executives from across the industry, whose companies in total employ 10,000 people across the UK. Companies who attended included AGCO, Alltech, BASF, Bayer Crop Science, Calysta, Elanco, Marine Harvest, MSD, Syngenta, Vitacress and Zoetis.

2 0 | U K S PA B R E A K T H R O U G H | W I N T E R 2 0 18

International Trade Secretary Dr Liam Fox MP and his colleagues together highlighted that: • The UK is at the forefront of agri-tech innovation and offers an established business-friendly environment for investors, all underpinned by a modern Industrial Strategy • The UK government’s commitment to the future success of the sector is clear: UK government-funded agencies are investing £400 million in agri-food research, with an internationally competitive R&D tax credits scheme • The recent Agriculture Bill also provides a further opportunity for Agri-Tech investors, aiming to help farmers deliver a cleaner and healthier environment through increased productivity and investment in the latest technology • A new start-up visa, launching in Spring 2019, will also make the visa process faster for entrepreneurs to enter the UK

T H E Y S A I D. . .

International Trade Secretary, Dr Liam Fox MP: “Today’s agri-tech roundtable is an excellent opportunity for the UK to further build on already strong

relationships with investors and for them to strengthen their ties with the UK science base and farming industry. As an international economic department, we want to work with investors across the world to embrace technology and make the UK a global leader in agricultural productivity, improve competitiveness and sustainability. In doing so, these investments will create jobs and prosperity for rural communities across the country.” Environment Secretary, Michael Gove MP: “The UK is a world-leader for talent in agriculture and technology, so there are real opportunities for our burgeoning agri-tech sector... We are already seeing the rewards of investing in agri-tech, with further funding of around £30 million confirmed today for farmers to purchase hi-tech equipment.” Business and Industry Minister, Richard Harrington: “Agri-tech businesses are revolutionising farming, from hands-free harvesting, to driverless vehicles and drones to plant and tend to crops. Through our modern Industrial Strategy, we have already committed £90 million to transform food production, inspiring more innovative farming and boosting productivity and highly skilled jobs for the future.” ■


On and off site services for your business

National Agri-Food Innovation Campus (NAFIC) Inside the world-class centre for bioscience and agri-food research



Liz Cashon is responsible for the operation and commercial development of the National Agri-Food Innovation Campus (NAFIC), a fully-serviced science campus north of York, set in 80 acres of parkland

n 1960, David Latimer created a tightlysealed ecosystem at his home in Surrey by planting spiderwort seeds inside a 10-gallon glass bottle, along with compost and a quarter of a pint of water. It was sealed, and the plant was left to look after itself. Despite being watered only once since – in 1972 – this mini ecosystem continues to thrive. It is perhaps the most famous example of a small-scale mesocosm: an experimental system that examines the natural environment under specific and controlled conditions. A mesocosm can either be terrestrial, as with Latimer’s ‘garden in a bottle’, or aquatic, which replicates water-based conditions. Almost 60 years on from Latimer’s experiment, Europe’s first fully flowthrough, large-scale mesocosm has been completed at the National Agri-Food Innovation Campus (NAFIC) at Sand Hutton, near York.

R E A D O N L I N E AT: U K S PA . O R G . U K / B R E A K T H R O U G H

NAFIC is at the heart of Yorkshire’s thriving bioeconomy, leading the way in agri-food, biorenewables and biosciences, which are all key growth sectors for the UK economy internationally. Originally built to house government laboratories for national food, farming and environmental research, the campus has evolved over the last decade into a renowned centre for applied scientific research and innovation in life sciences. The 250,000 sq. ft of space is currently home to 15 organisations in the public and private sectors. As well as secure quality accommodation (and associated support services) to the standard required for ‘regulatory science’, a key attraction of NAFIC is the cross-disciplinary interaction and collaboration among world-leading scientists and businesses.

W I N T E R 2 0 18 | U K S PA B R E A K T H R O U G H | 2 1


The unique mesocosm testing facility is a prime example of collaboration in action. Developed in partnership by two of NAFIC’s anchor tenants – translational research organisation Fera Science Limited and the Centre for Crop Health and Protection (CHAP), supported by Innovate UK – it will be operated on behalf of the chemical and agri-tech industry and researchers. The aquatic mesocosm, also known as E-Flows, will perform simulations of natural environments under controlled conditions. As plant protection products, such as pesticides, are developed, manufacturers will use it to demonstrate their products are safe for aquatic environments as part of higher tier testing. It will reduce and, in some cases, eliminate the concerns associated with traditional mesocosm testing. The expansive parkland at NAFIC provides the ideal location for this ground-breaking facility, with the agricultural landscape replicating the conditions of the majority of lowland food-producing regions.


Mesocosm testing methods provide several advantages, particularly for the agrichemical industry. Gradients of interest, like temperature and pH level, can be controlled and manipulated to help understand the effects of different chemicals on the environment. While testing in laboratories can be practical and cost-effective, it is only categorised as a tier one stage of testing for chemical products. Even with some

2 2 | U K S PA B R E A K T H R O U G H | W I N T E R 2 0 18


indication of risk, many chemicals continue onto tier two testing, to conduct more realistic testing in more natural conditions. Testing new products directly into the natural environment delivers the most accurate results. However, due to the potential ecological risks, such testing is prohibited. Nevertheless, products still need to be analysed to obtain industry accreditation, and unless higher tier testing is conducted many potentially useful chemical products could be lost if they do not produce the right results at the laboratory stage.

POND AND STREAM MESOCOSMS Two types of mesocosm have traditionally been used to examine the

natural environment under controlled conditions: pond and stream. Pond mesocosms are typically made from relatively small and shallow opentop holding tanks. Water depth and habitat size are restricted by the plastic moulding, which makes it almost impossible to recreate the marginal zones and seasonal drying that are important to natural ponds. Stream mesocosms are also formed from plastic, in a similar shape to guttering. The small size and limited water volume create issues such as limited habitat and resource availability, and the requirement for water to recirculate. Simulating the conditions of natural water bodies in an unnatural setting is always going to be a challenge in determining the potential environmental impact of chemicals. Water, particularly in contained controlled tests, may become stagnant relatively quickly. Additionally, as the organisms excrete waste, ammonia and nitrite levels rise and dissolved oxygen levels fall, posing a threat to aquatic life and giving unreliable test results. Although the water can be changed frequently, it can induce unnatural stress on the taxa and impact the test results. Consequently, for even more realistic data and a higher potential opportunity for approval, bigger quantities of water are preferred for mesocosm testing. Larger bodies of constantly flowing water also act as a natural buffer to stress for organisms and replicating this in testing can provide more reliable results.


The first Fully Flow-Through Field Scale Mesocosm Facility in Europe is based at NAFIC

Fera Science’s E-Flows mesocosm under construction at NAFIC


Fera Science’s E-Flows mesocosm at NAFIC incorporates a constant supply of water from a borehole – driven down to a Grade A sandstone aquifer – that can provide over 400 cubic metres of water per day across 60 independent experimental units. The water is passed through five shallow lagoons, each of which holds a day’s supply. This allows the water to age and become consistent with natural surface level water. The flow supplied to each unit can also be varied, to concurrently test the risk of a chemical on different flow rates. The 60 streams are located in an unshaded experimental area of 1.2 hectares at NAFIC, closely replicating real-world environments. Flushed with naturalised water, retention time varies between static and 0.1 day, or can recirculate. Each of the 60 units is 10 metres long, two metres wide and can be adjusted to have a depth of up to four metres. The cross-section of the streams is v-shaped, allowing maximum habitat for colonisation and equivalency to natural stream conditions. The experimental units can be merged together in pairs, to form 30 larger units if required. Conversely, individual units can also be shortened by moving the weir plates that control the length of the unit. This allows for flows of up to 15 litres per minute, and the flow of each stream can be varied: fast flowing, like a stream, slow flowing, like a ditch, or almost still, like a pond. This gives the researcher complete flexibility and control. The rushes have been constructed with a wood frame and polystyrene filler, before being reinforced with metal and then filled with concrete. Concrete casing ensures that each unit remains durable throughout all weather conditions. Once the water has been tested and has passed through the rushes, it is purified before being re-introduced into the environment. A three-pump recycling system, using granulate-activated carbon filters, has been installed at NAFIC to undertake this activity. Chemicals in a natural environment break down and move downstream. As they are not in the system forever, it is more realistic to use a flow-through facility to recreate this than to use a

static or re-circulated system that could cause a chemical to stress the ecosystem in an unrealistic way. In the E-Flows mesocosm, you can dose the chemical and set a precise flow rate to see how it moves through the test unit. This simulates how the chemical passes through the aquatic environment in a realistic way. The relatively small size of traditional mesocosm environments also means they can suffer from resource stress, often caused by competition or a reduced level of dissolved oxygen. This can invalidate research findings, in addition to reducing the species diversity within the mesocosm to lower than natural levels. The mesocosm at NAFIC helps overcome this, due to its large footprint, realistic habitat and large quantities of flowing water.


While laboratory and traditional mesocosm-style studies do provide options for testers to approve chemicals, pesticides and insecticides for market use, this new aquatic mesocosm will open the door for more products to be approved. Field-scale higher tier testing for pesticides can now be carried out in a more robust and realistic way. It tackles the limitations of scale and

R E A D O N L I N E AT: U K S PA . O R G . U K / B R E A K T H R O U G H

water flow related to conventional mesocosm studies, supporting the abundance and biota required to deliver valid data in support of regulatory requirements. Insecticide resistance is a well-documented and longstanding problem that will continue to face the agricultural industry. This new facility will help ensure safe pesticide options are not ruled out too soon and, with fewer low or no-risk pesticides being eliminated from agricultural use, this may help increase crop yields. Fera Science and CHAP believe this will drive a new era of research, allowing testing under conditions that have not been possible previously, which in turn will give researchers a far deeper understanding of the effects of these chemicals on the environment. The expected demand for R&D projects will further enhance NAFIC’s national and international reputation for innovative collaboration across life sciences and the bioeconomy. Agrichemicals companies using the facility for research can also take advantage of the range of laboratory facilities on the site. ■

For further information, please visit: www.nafic.co.uk

W I N T E R 2 0 18 | U K S PA B R E A K T H R O U G H | 2 3


Chris Oglesby - Chief Executive Officer, Bruntwood and Nigel Wilson - Group Chief Executive, Legal & General

Untapped Potential


UK’s largest property platform dedicated to driving science and technology growth in regional cities

runtwood and Legal & General Capital (Legal & General) have established a landmark 50:50 partnership to create the UK’s largest property platform dedicated to driving science and technology growth in regional cities. The deal will see the two partners invest £360m of capital, property and intellectual assets into a new company, Bruntwood SciTech, with a business plan supporting the creation of 20,000 high value jobs. The deal represents the largest investment made in science and technology property assets in Europe this year. It ignites a business plan that will see Bruntwood SciTech’s assets grow from 1.3 million sq. ft on day one to over 6.2 million sq. ft over the next ten years, increasing the value of the portfolio to £1.8bn. The new company combines Bruntwood’s commitment to creating thriving cities, working in partnership

2 4 | U K S PA B R E A K T H R O U G H | W I N T E R 2 0 18

with public, private and academic institutions, and Legal & General’s ability to unlock urban renewal opportunities and accelerate growth of some of the UK’s key sectors through its long-term capital. Bruntwood SciTech’s portfolio is already home to more than 500 science and technology businesses ranging from digital start-ups to global life sciences companies. It is centred around flagship assets and development projects in Manchester, Birmingham and Leeds, and includes the internationally-recognised life science campus in Cheshire, Alderley Park. Liverpool also features strongly in its forward plans. With Legal & General’s long-term financial support, Bruntwood SciTech will initially focus on developing out its existing portfolio of assets as well as expanding within the Northern Powerhouse and Midlands Engine

regions, seeking to make the most of untapped potential in the UK’s science and technology sector. In the medium and longer term, the business will explore opportunities for investment in other UK regional cities.


The business will be chaired by Bruntwood Chief Executive, Chris Oglesby and led by current Bruntwood Chief Commercial Officer, Phil Kemp as CEO. Phil has over 25 years’ experience in the IT and telco industry with IBM and Nokia. The board also features Legal & General Capital’s Managing Director of Urban Regeneration and Clean Energy, John Cummins, and its Director of Regeneration, Rachel Dickie. The leadership team includes Thomas Renn, Managing Director of Manchester Science Partnerships and Dr David Hardman MBE, Managing Director of Innovation Birmingham.

KNFlab_Teaser_UK_(LABOR&MORE)_Mar_14 06/03/2014 11:21 Page 1

THE DE AL WILL SEE THE T W O PA R T NE R S IN V E S T £ 3 6 0 M O F C A P I TA L , PROPERT Y AND INTELLECTUAL ASSE TS I N T O A N E W C O M P A N Y, BRUNT WOOD SCITECH, WITH A BUSINESS PL AN SUPPORTING THE C R E AT I O N O F 2 0 , 0 0 0 H I G H VA L U E J O B S Chris Oglesby said: “We are delighted to have formed a partnership with Legal & General, an organisation that shares our vision for unlocking growth in the science and technology sector in the UK regions. We are well suited and aligned in terms of our vision and approach to regeneration. “Our focus is on creating thriving cities breathing life into places where knowledgebased businesses can start and scale, driving growth for the UK economy. Bruntwood SciTech is aimed squarely at the many opportunities offered by the science and technology sector and with the backing of Legal & General we can greatly accelerate the scale and pace of what we can achieve. We have ambitious growth plans and see this activity as enabling the creation of around 20,000 new jobs over the next 10 years.” Nigel Wilson, Chief Executive of Legal & General, said: “Science and technology will be key to revitalising the UK economy and driving job creation. We need to keep investing to support the development of our UK regional cities. “Through our investment in Bruntwood SciTech, we are partnering with a best in class management team at Bruntwood with a track record of delivering and developing major science and technology projects across the UK’s regions.” ■

For further information, please visit: www.bruntwood.co.uk/scitech/

R E A D O N L I N E AT: U K S PA . O R G . U K / B R E A K T H R O U G H



You deserve KNF – the winning formula for practical laboratory pumps and systems.

Our deserve aim is to lighten of routine laboratory You KNF –the theburden winning formula for tasks by providing easy-to-use systems which practical laboratory pumps and systems. combine quiet operation, high performance and absolute reliability.

Our aim is to lighten the burden of routine laboratory Discover the latest in practical laboratory technology, tasks bytoproviding easy-to-use systems which just go www.knf.co.uk. combine quiet operation, high performance and absolute reliability. KNF Neuberger UK Ltd

Avenue 2, Station Lane Ind Estate

Discover the latest in practical Witney, Oxfordshire, OX28 4FA laboratory technology, info@knf.co.uk just go to www.knf.co.uk.

KNF Neuberger UK Ltd Ave 2, Station Lane Ind Est, Witney, Oxon, OX28 4FA Tel: 01993 778373 info@knf.co.uk

W I N T E R 2 0 18 | U K S PA B R E A K T H R O U G H | 2 5


Space is the place An agri-tech revolution that’s out of this world

L Martin Hamilton FUTURIST, JISC

Martin Hamilton leads the Future and Emerging Technologies team for education technology at Jisc. His role is all about generating and channelling new ideas and building partnerships to bring them to fruition. He is particularly interested in the societal implications of ubiquitous robotics and artificial intelligence, and in humanity’s emergence as a true interplanetary species

2 6 | U K S PA B R E A K T H R O U G H | W I N T E R 2 0 18

et’s picture the scene - an asteroid belt mining habitat, a moon base hotel, or a Martian colony. Somewhere off-planet, a seed is germinating, a shoot is growing, a leaf is forming, and perhaps even a fruit or a vegetable is starting to grow. This is something we only barely know how to do right now, but we’re going to need to become experts over the course of the next few decades. Recent advances in re-usable rocket technology from companies like Virgin, SpaceX and Blue Origin are set to dramatically reduce the costs of getting people and things into space - potentially by as much as 99%, according to SpaceX’s chief executive, Elon Musk. Whilst we might not be able to buy a weekend break at that moon hotel soon, we will start to see large numbers of people living and working off-world for the first time. This will have huge implications for research

and innovation, as we will need to figure out and build the infrastructure and industries, to sustain human life in space, and on other planets. This might sound like science fiction, and to be fair it is still very early days for human space flight. As of June 2018, only 561 people have been into space, and only around half of them have stayed in space for any length of time - in Mir, SkyLab, Tiangong-1 and the International Space Station. The longest single stay in space was by Russian cosmonaut Valeri Polyakov, who spent nearly 438 days on Mir, the Russian space station. This compares nicely with the time it would take to travel to Mars and come back again.


Much of the recent International Space Station research has focussed on space farming techniques, including growing

WHILST WE MIGHT NOT BE ABLE TO B U Y A W E E K E N D B R E A K AT T H AT M O O N H O T E L S O O N , W E W I L L S TA R T TO SEE L ARGE NUMBERS OF PEOPLE LIVING AND WORKING OFF-WORLD FOR THE FIRST TIME plants in reduced gravity and pressure, and the impact of cosmic rays and solar radiation. But growing crops is a whole different ball game to growing plants, and this is where many of the agri-tech tools and techniques we have been developing will need to be transferable. It’s easy to picture using robotics and machine learning to automate much of this work, and we’ll certainly need to automate as much as we can when there will initially just be small numbers of people living off-world. Let’s not underestimate what that automation really means - all of the infrastructure we take for granted on Earth will have to be created from scratch on other worlds. Everything from condensing water and generating power, to creating a Martian Internet that our colonists and their robots can use to communicate. There are challenges way beyond agri-tech, of course, such as adapting industrial processes like smelting, which we take for granted on Earth, to work in microgravity.

Space tourism may well take off as Virgin start to work with Spaceport Cornwall at Newquay airport. It’s not hard to picture Richard Branson in front of the camera with his surfboard, before jumping on a Virgin Galactic spaceplane. We may too be closer than we think to taking some of our agri-tech innovations out into the solar system to support human life on the red planet.


Here at Jisc, we’re delighted to be supporting the UK’s research and innovation community through key digital infrastructure like the Janet network and eduroam wireless roaming. Space is in our DNA, with our Janet team based at the Harwell Campus, and connecting key UK space sites like the Goonhilly earth station.

We’ve been working with institutions and science parks to give startups and spinouts access to key infrastructure like supercomputing facilities, and our Intelligent Campus project is looking at plug and play techniques to hook up sensor networks and the Internet of Things, using technologies like LoRaWAN wireless networking. My talk at the UKSPA annual conference in Cambridge this year focused on many of these projects. More information about the conference is available on the UKSPA website, and further details about Jisc’s offer to UK science parks is available at www.jisc.ac.uk/enterprise ■

Interested in becoming a Jisc customer? Please contact Christian.evans@jisc.ac.uk


This is why I’m really excited about the UK Space Agency’s LaunchUK initiative, which is licensing the first UK spaceports. We already make nearly half of the world’s small satellites - the ones that are around the size of a fridge or a dishwasher - but they have to be shipped to the other side of the planet for launch. Soon, we will be launching our own satellites from our own territory - companies like ClydeSpace in Glasgow will be launching satellites from Sutherland in the far North of Scotland, or perhaps closer to home at Glasgow Prestwick airport.

R E A D O N L I N E AT: U K S PA . O R G . U K / B R E A K T H R O U G H

W I N T E R 2 0 18 | U K S PA B R E A K T H R O U G H | 2 7


£90 million to help feed the 9 billion

o feed nine billion people by 2050, food production needs to increase by 60%, while at the same time significantly reducing its environmental footprint. Against this backdrop, productivity of the UK agricultural sector has fallen behind that of competitors and faces continuing threats from climate variability, decline in soil quality, emerging pests and pathogens and scarcity of natural resources. The first funding from a £90 million fund that aims to revolutionise how food is produced and dramatically reduce its environmental impact, was launched in August 2018. The Transforming Food Production Challenge will bring together the UK’s world-leading agri-food sector with robotics, satellite data and digital technologies and artificial intelligence to make the UK a world leader in the precision farming techniques needed to make sure the planet is able to feed a population of nine billion people by 2050.

2 8 | U K S PA B R E A K T H R O U G H | W I N T E R 2 0 18

The Challenge, funded through the Government’s Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, will help to fuel rural growth, create high-skilled jobs and open up new export opportunities, while reducing pollution and minimising waste and soil erosion. “Precision farming is the future of farming and food production. There is an enormous opportunity for the UK to lead the world in deploying smart technologies to the field, farm and factory and truly transform the entire ‘farm to fork’ supply chain. We have to grasp that opportunity now, and the industrial strategy challenge fund will help make that happen. We will be able to farm sustainably, produce healthy, nutritious and economically viable food, while preserving farmland and the wider environment for future generations,” said Andy Cureton, Interim Challenge Co-Director for the Transforming Food Production Challenge at UK Research and Innovation. The UK agri-tech sector contributes £14.3 billion to UK economy, employing

500,000 people, with companies and researchers developing pioneering technologies from farming drones to 3D printing. From fundamental biology to the farm field, the UK is home to research and industries leading the world in understanding crops and livestock. The UK is a global leader in environmental management and earth observation, sensors, big data, artificial intelligence and robotics. The integration and application of these strengths can transform the agriculture industrial sector, improving agricultural productivity and sustainability, reducing environmental impacts, and driving growth and exports in the precision agricultural sector. ■

For more information on the ISCF Transforming Food Production challenge, please visit: https://www.ukri.org/innovation/ industrial-strategy-challenge-fund/ transforming-food-production/

Changing lives and rethinking society Our 2030 vision for Norwich Research Park


he first of the research institutions to cluster round the newly established University of East Anglia (UEA) was the (now called) John Innes Centre. That was in 1967. Today, Norwich Research Park is one of Europe’s largest centres for research, innovation, education and commercialisation in the food and health sector. Since officially launching in 1992, the Park has seen the opening of the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (which works closely with the Norwich Medical School at the UEA) and three more internationally important, independent research institutes. These include the Earlham Institute, The Sainsbury Laboratory and, most recently, the Quadram Institute (which incorporates many activities from the former Institute of Food Research). We now have more than 12,000 people working across 230 hectares many in our state-of-the-art laboratories and offices. They include over 3,000 scientists, researchers and clinicians exploring human, plant and soil health, as well as food production and synthetic biology. The Park is also home to some 80 companies developing cutting-edge diagnostic and therapeutic technologies, agri-tech applications and resilient crop strains. However, we cannot rest on these successes. That is why we have set out a new vision for the next 12 years and beyond to grow the Park and ensure we continue to deliver scientific discoveries

David Parfrey EXECUTIVE CHAIR, ANGLIA INNOVATION PARTNERSHIP LLP Bringing the Norwich Research Park Vision to Life

with high social and economic impact. We want to inspire others to create similar collaborative research and innovation clusters – and help human society deal with some of the biggest threats to our survival.


The UN estimates the global population will reach 9.8bn by 2050. We will need to

R E A D O N L I N E AT: U K S PA . O R G . U K / B R E A K T H R O U G H

produce 60% more food from a fast reducing amount of available land to avoid mass starvation. At the same time, we must reduce CO2 emissions, minimise agricultural waste and pollution, conserve water, protect biodiversity and improve soil health. The UK is already a global leader in understanding crops, livestock and environmental management. We also have specialisms in earth observation, remote sensors, big data analytics, artificial intelligence and autonomous robots. Now the UK Government’s Industrial Strategy Fund is looking to invest £90m in precision agriculture technologies that will transform food production and improve global food security. Norwich Research Park aims to be at the forefront of these developments. Commercial residents, such as Tropic Biosciences, Germains Seed Technology and the British Beet Research Organisation, together with our resident institutes, are already looking at ways to protect valuable crops and increase yields. The Earlham Institute, John Innes Centre and UEA are also collaborating across several areas of research into innovative agricultural technology to improve real-time crop monitoring and reduce the impact of drought and disease. ■

To find out more about our work, please visit: www.norwichresearchpark.com

W I N T E R 2 0 18 | U K S PA B R E A K T H R O U G H | 2 9


R&D for Agri-tech Government backed R&D in agriculture may help solve a global food crisis


Evgeni has consulted to global blue chip companies for over 15 years and has the insight to unveil R&D gems for tax relief claims

3 0 | U K S PA B R E A K T H R O U G H | W I N T E R 2 0 18

ome of the latest R&D technologies in agriculture will be key to addressing global food production problems in the near future. Severe issues facing the farming sector include a massive increase in global populations and drier soils because of the warmer temperatures. Technological advances, particularly within agri-tech, have the potential to tackle these challenges.


Scientists, engineers and technologists work hand-in-hand with startups, research bodies and established businesses to innovate within the agri-tech sector. Since the mid-20th century, farming has increasingly been recognised as a business, with farmers and managers spending considerable amounts of time looking at input costs, like seed, nutrients and water to determine returns on investment (ROI). As we move into the 2020s and beyond, the demands facing farmers are increasing, as they face limited resources and higher input costs. Maintaining a

profitable farming business can be a real struggle and this is where the agri-tech sector comes into play. New technologies are in development to assist in cutting costs while increasing productivity, with science and data playing an important role in these solutions.


The UK government is firmly behind Agritech innovation and has promised further funding for the sector in the near future, including ÂŁ20m currently available for agri-crop developments. UK-based agri-tech businesses also have opportunities to take advantage of government backed R&D tax credit schemes to help ensure money invested into research and development stretches as far as possible. The Research and Development Tax Credits Statistics for 2017, published by HMRC, show only a small increase in Agriculture claims. In total, 135 claims were paid in 2017 compared to 105 claims for 2016. The total amount claimed for the sector remained at ÂŁ5 million for each year, although one would expect to see an increase. Compared


Over 70% of land in the UK is used for farming (17.2 million ha.)

THE UK GOVERNMENT I S F I R M LY B E H I N D A G R I -T E C H I N N O VAT I O N AND HAS PROMISED FURTHER FUNDING IN THE NE AR FUTURE to other sectors such as Manufacturing (7,210 claims / £860m claimed for 2017) and IT & Communications (6,650 claims/ £550m claimed), it can be clearly seen that Agri-tech needs to gain further confidence and momentum to realise the full potential of the available R&D tax relief.


Some of the problems agri-tech research is currently addressing include: • Growing sufficient food for an increased global population • Increased pressures on natural resources, combined with more limited resources • Disease or natural disasters caused by environmental threats and greater resilience in crops and livestock

Vertical farming is an ideal food production solution for urban environments

analysing this data helps farmers make the right decisions about the best crops to grow and ways of improving growth and performance. Remote monitoring Using sensors and remote monitoring equipment can provide data that helps improve the farming process and cut costs. This can cover everything from the amount of fertiliser left in a tank level to soil and water management. As well as removing the need for a person to do this manually, it also helps provide data and, in turn, insight into usage. Precision agriculture Precision agriculture, also known as satellite farming, is another datagathering technology which entails the observation of crops across a number of fields using satellites. This gives farmers the best information on ways to manage fields and crops.

• Cutting energy use, wherever possible • Wastage, within harvests, storage and food and ways to handle this Some of the innovations currently underway within the agri-tech sector to help solve these problems include: Big data and the Internet of Things (IoT) The use of big data and the IoT is promising to vastly improve agricultural efficiencies and productivity by way of greater use of analytics and cloud-based programmes. One way this technology is used is by fitting sensors to farming machinery which can make it easy to collect and track data and monitor changes to crops and soil quality. Collecting and

Drones and robots Drones and AI working in combination can help provide a range of solutions for agriculture and cut out requirements for a human labour force. There are already a range of agricultural robots (agribots) on the market and these are used for watering, fertilising and harvesting, in the main. In the UK, their development is seen to be critical for growers previously reliant upon casual European labour, as Brexit has caused substantial reductions to numbers of Europeans prepared to work in the UK on a seasonal basis. When it comes to drone technologies, farmers are routinely using drones to obtain aerial imagery for the identification of disease and other problems.

R E A D O N L I N E AT: U K S PA . O R G . U K / B R E A K T H R O U G H

Smart tractors Use of GPS signals enable smart tractors to carry out a variety of jobs around farms and incorporating a variety of sensors is enabling this technology to grow by leaps and bounds. Vertical farming Vertical farming is a huge area of interest to agri-tech businesses. These indoor farms, as the name suggests, are based on farming crops indoors in trays, as the trays are stacked vertically in racks, to make utmost use of water and, obviously, with a requirement for less land. Vertical farming is also an ideal food production solution for urban environments, as it’s possible to use space in disused warehouses and create an indoor farm that’s totally reliant on LED lighting. Smart, floating farms Smart, floating farms are another solution to reduced availability of farm land and are being considered by Forward Thinking Architecture based in Barcelona. In this scenario, the farm is situated on a large body of water and uses hydroponic methods to grow organic crops, with solar panels to provide all required energy. The developments noted above are just a few of the exciting innovations in agriculture that are currently underway. This sector is an exciting place to be at this moment in time, as new technologies are making it possible for more advances and solutions to the global food crisis that appeared to be on the horizon. ■

For further advice on R&D tax credits, please contact the author on: office@rndtax.co.uk

W I N T E R 2 0 18 | U K S PA B R E A K T H R O U G H | 3 1

AD_127848_UKSPA_Apprenticeships_v1_1-2PageHoriz 26/10/2018 12:00 Page 1

CENTRE FOR HIGHER & DEGREE APPRENTICESHIPS We offer a range of apprenticeships to suit employers of all sizes nationwide which are a cost effective way to upskill your existing workforce and attract talent. Up to 100% of training costs are fully covered by levy payments or government co-investment, giving you the opportunity to offer: • Technician Scientist Higher Apprenticeship FdSc in Applied Bioscience • Laboratory Scientist Degree Apprenticeship BSc (Hons) in Applied Bioscience • Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeship BSc (Hons) Management

T: 01634 888459 E: apprenticeships@kent.ac.uk www.kent.ac.uk/apprenticeships

Nook is a mobile huddle pod for innovation spaces and offices, helping people to connect and concentrate more deeply. Nook mobility brings agility to a workspace. Proven in Science Parks, Coworking Spaces, Innovation & Growth Hubs +many more. Flexible Design. Fast Delivery. UK made

nookpod.com +44 333 577 6665 hello@nookpod.com

3 2 | U K S PA B R E A K T H R O U G H | W I N T E R 2 0 18


Extending the frontiers of UK science and industry The biochemistry of many microalgae makes them ideal for high value chemical production

The rise of microalgae in synthetic biology


ynthetic biology is the rationalisation of genetic engineering to enable construction of new biological systems. This approach is proving successful in a diverse range of fields, from designing metabolic pathways for new bioprocesses to the commercialisation of products from natural sources, which would otherwise be difficult to access. The use of genetically modified microalgae as synthetic biology platforms is increasing, thanks largely to their distinct biochemical and metabolic properties. Andrew Spicer, CEO of Algenuity, and Alex Pudney, CSO, discuss the potential of algal strain improvements, and their benefits to sustainability, scalability and productivity in novel commercial projects, using aquaculture as an example. Synthetic biology uses the engineering principles of ‘design-buildtest’ and applies them to biological

Andrew Spicer CEO, ALGENUITY


systems to create novel organisms with unique biochemistry. Using biological engineering in this way within industrial biotech has traditionally relied on the genetic modification of yeast and bacteria as platform organisms for biochemical production. However, an increasing number of projects are facing techno-economic

R E A D O N L I N E AT: U K S PA . O R G . U K / B R E A K T H R O U G H

challenges to commercialisation that could be solved by using novel organisms. Of these, perhaps the most promising are genetically modified microalgae, which offer a number of unique advantages. Many microalgae have the metabolic flexibility to grow under either photosynthetic or full carbohydratesupplemented conditions, and can be cultivated to high densities using wellestablished bioreactor designs. Their biochemistry makes them ideal for the production of various high value chemicals and precursor molecules. Microalgal cells also contain a chloroplast, algae’s ‘unique selling point’ compared to other single cell production systems. This is a discrete compartment with its own DNA expression system and a plentiful supply of electrons from photosynthesis, which has exciting potential for production of novel therapeutic compounds.

W I N T E R 2 0 18 | U K S PA B R E A K T H R O U G H | 3 3


There is still much to be learnt about algal engineering, but the aim is to perform more precise DNA edits and access an ever-greater variety of strains to provide bespoke solutions. Several recent projects have given real insight into a next generation of designer microalgae and, by making these organisms more accessible to industry, new technologies and bioprocesses are currently under development, for example, in aquaculture. Here, synthetic biology is being used to create novel microalgae-based feed ingredients that aim to improve both the health of fish and the productivity of fish farming. Algal strains are also being used as additives that improve the nutritional value of fish feed; they are modified to produce enzymes that make key nutrients more bioavailable. A secondary approach

Microalgae offer commercial viability for applications of synthetic biology

3 4 | U K S PA B R E A K T H R O U G H | W I N T E R 2 0 18

is looking at how expressing anti-microbial peptides in algae can reduce the need for the exogenous antibiotics that are often added in intensive farming regimes. This practice is associated with the development of antibiotic resistance, and new technologies that avoid this will be key to future food security. It is irrefutable that genetic engineering will be essential in order to keep pace with global food demands and allow farmers to produce more from the same or even fewer resources. At the same time, considered use of designer biology will help to reduce the impact of intensive farming practices on the environment as a whole.


While many projects using algae are proving hugely successful, there are undoubtedly challenges to engineering

these diverse organisms. The basic techniques of synthetic biology, such as gene assembly, are generally applicable, but other aspects can be problematic. For example, although most strains are accessible by conventional genetic transformation techniques with enough determination, some are easier to manipulate than others, or are better at expressing multiple genes, and so are used more frequently. Equally, there are strains that show more commercial potential than others, chiefly because of their capacity for scale-up. These strains are the best starting points, simply because they offer commercial viability in terms of scalability, cost of production and economic potential. Looking specifically at aquaculture, this means identifying algal strains that are already available as high quality ingredients in fish feed, and applying synthetic biology to find ways to alter them, increasing their health benefits for fish and crustaceans. Overall, the good news is that microalgae – found in any garden pond – offer unique properties and commercial viability for many applications of synthetic biology.While yeast and bacteria are well established as platform organisms, algae are proving to be effective alternatives, opening up new opportunities in this already diverse and exciting field. ■

For further information, please visit: www.algenuity.com/


What makes food research exciting? “People relate to it, perhaps more than to other types of engineering”


rofessor Maria Charalambides is co-lead of the food engineering theme in Imperial College’s new Nutrition and Food Network. One of the network’s research themes focuses on intelligent food design and engineering.

What is the main goal of your food research?


The Nutrition and Food Network brings together world leading, research teams across Imperial College’s Faculties. Using multidisciplinary approaches and cutting edge techniques, the Network extends the strength and capability of the research base to respond to key emerging global challenges in Nutrition, Food and Health

3 6 | U K S PA B R E A K T H R O U G H | W I N T E R 2 0 18

“When I first started working on food research, it was about helping with food processing. The food industry has a lot of know-how on processing tricky materials, but it often relies on the experience of skilled workers, and there is a lack of scientific knowledge of the effects of processes on a product and its mechanical properties. This kind of work has been done in the polymer processing industries and metal forming, but the food industries are younger, so there is a lot that we can apply from basic engineering principles.

F O R T H E F I R S T T I M E , W E C A N A P P LY E N G I N E E R I N G P R I N C I P L E S T O D E S I G N F O O D S O T H AT I T B E H AV E S T H E W AY T H E C O N S U M E R W O U L D L I K E I T T O B E H AV E , B U T AT T H E S A M E T I M E , M A K E I T B E T T E R F O R T H E M “The more recent work that I’ve been involved with is on what happens to food mechanically inside the body. Instead of industrial processing, we’re looking at human processing, in the mouth, as well as further down the gastrointestinal tract. We’re collaborating on this research with the Department of Medicine, but also externally with other universities, Oxford, Nottingham, Leeds, as well as industrial partners, through a BBSRC-funded project.”

What is the benefit of this work to the consumer?

“The benefit will be huge. The food industry is under a lot of pressure to reduce sugar content, which is not easy to do, because sugar has a structuring effect. We can examine experimentally and theoretically the effects of various formulations, to change the structure of a material so that it has less sugar, but the consumer is not able to tell. For the first time, we can apply engineering principles to design food so that it behaves the way the consumer would like it to behave, but at the same time, make it better for them. Working together with industry, we can come up with tools to revolutionise product design, and therefore solve the problem of diet-related health issues.”

nice to show that mechanical engineering is also about these new fields of research, because as engineers we have the tools that we can apply to this new set of materials. It’s something exciting for mechanical engineering to get into, there are a lot of challenges with it a natural polymer has a much more complex behaviour than synthetic materials. It makes the research very worthwhile.”

Do you think food engineering will play a more important part in the industry in the future?

“I think so, because the food industry is the largest manufacturing industry in the UK, and it has a huge impact on the UK economy. There is a lot of interest in personalised nutrition, and in reducing the energy content of various snacks to make them

healthier for the consumer. Engineering and science can help the industry overcome these hurdles. They’ve traditionally worked with food scientists, but now they see the benefit of working with engineers outside food science.”

Has your research changed the way you view food?

“I hope it has! I go into many meetings nowadays with researchers from the department of Medicine, and they discuss the benefits of a good diet, and the effects of diet on human health. When you hear a specialist talking about it, it leaves a bigger impression. So I think I buy less sugar in the house!” ■

For more information, please visit: www.imperial.ac.uk

What makes this research area fun or interesting?

“People relate to it, perhaps more than to other types of engineering. Eating is something personal, and such a vital part of our life. I think it’s

R E A D O N L I N E AT: U K S PA . O R G . U K / B R E A K T H R O U G H

Prof Maria Charalambides explaining food research to children at the 2017 Imperial Festival

W I N T E R 2 0 18 | U K S PA B R E A K T H R O U G H | 3 7


Innovative Farmers


Putting farmers in the research driving seat

s farming faces greater uncertainty post-Brexit, collaboration between farmers and researchers is needed now more than ever. Farmers are innovators by nature and know, better than anyone, the problems they face. Part of the day job is experimenting with new ideas – responding to environmental uncertainty and regulation changes, and making swift decisions based on an unrivalled knowledge of their land and livestock. This hard-earned practical experience can bolster academic investigation, but farmer-led research makes up an estimated one per cent of the £320 million public spend on agricultural research and development.

3 8 | U K S PA B R E A K T H R O U G H | W I N T E R 2 0 18


Kate manages the Soil Association’s research fund which awards grants to researchers and farmers who team up to investigate innovative and sustainable solutions to practical problems faced in agriculture

Expensive academic research takes years and can be difficult to apply quickly on-farm. This is problematic, as farmers need to adapt rapidly to the challenges they face. Within the Innovative Farmers network, farmers and scientists collaborate to design “field labs” – on-farm trials that are practical and can be set up quickly, so farmers can get to work straight away on finding interesting, sustainable solutions to the challenges they identify.


Farmers ensure the field lab is practical and makes sense to their business, while the scientists give it important rigour and help with simple yet effective trial design and

analysis. This collaboration gives results farmers can use to inform their business planning. But it can also bear fruit beyond the field lab, in developing larger research proposals based on real challenges and strong industryresearch relationships. More than a thousand farmers have been involved since Innovative Farmers began running field labs in 2012, investigating more than 70 topics such as using remote sensing to predict the optimum time of processing potatoes and on-farm tools for identifying types of mastitis infection. Through Innovative Farmers, we are seeing that when farmers are an integral part of research and innovation, changes are more likely to be implemented on-farm, in ways that really benefit their business, environment, industry and society. If we want to make our agriculture more productive, sustainable, self-sufficient yet internationally competitive, in a post-Brexit world, then we must look to our farmers. This approach is gaining ground, with Defra announcing in September that the Agriculture Bill will provide support for farmer groups to develop research projects. This is a huge credit to the farmers, advisors and researchers in Innovative Farmers that have driven such interesting field labs, showcasing that this approach is wanted, needed

First meeting of the ‘Cover crop management group’

W HE N FA RME R S A RE A N IN T EGR A L P A R T O F R E S E A R C H A N D I N N O VAT I O N , C H A N G E S A R E M O R E L I K E LY T O B E I M P L E M E N T E D O N - F A R M , I N W AY S T H AT R E A L LY B E N E F I T T H E I R B U S I N E S S , E N V I R O N M E N T, I N D U S T R Y A N D S O C I E T Y and valuable. Indeed, responses to the government’s Health and Harmony consultation on the future of food and farming policy in England gave “consistently strong support” for farmer-led research and cited Innovative Farmers as the leading model.

Drone being deployed to identify optimum time for potato harvest

F U N D I N G A N D PA RT N E R S H I P S Innovative Farmers is funded by the Prince of Wales’ Charitable Foundation, through the sales of Duchy Organic products in Waitrose, and was set up to help farmers become more sustainable through proactive research. It is a partnership between LEAF (Linking Environment and Farming), Innovation for Agriculture, the Organic Research Centre and the Soil Association, and most of the UK’s top agricultural research organisations have registered an interest in working on field labs. The principal public funder of agricultural research, the BBSRC, sponsors the programme alongside the AHDB, the largest agricultural levy body in the UK. The Innovative Farmers network is free to join and open to all. Members can follow existing field labs, suggest a new trial or attend network events, as well as accessing updates and documents from experiments. ■

To find out more, please visit: www.innovativefarmers.org

R E A D O N L I N E AT: U K S PA . O R G . U K / B R E A K T H R O U G H

W I N T E R 2 0 18 | U K S PA B R E A K T H R O U G H | 3 9


Biomedical growth in Birmingham Increasing demand for biomedical incubator space in the city



irmingham Research Park looks forward to expanding the biomedical incubation facilities at the BioHub Birmingham® to provide 5,000 sq. feet of selfcontained office and laboratory suites to meet an increasing demand for biomedical incubator space in the city. The BioHub Birmingham® opened in 2015 and was the first purpose-built facility of its kind in the UK, providing shared laboratory facilities and office space for biomedical entrepreneurs and start-ups. Our vision was to provide a totemic building for the Research Park, which would provide a springboard for innovators who wanted to test out their ideas in the lab. Now that the BioHub’s shared facilities are operating at capacity, there is a pressing need for “grow-on” space in the local area. The city of Birmingham has started to show a high economic growth rate, and has the largest number of new company start-ups, outside of London. In part, this is due to investment in the city and a masterplan for growth based on HS2, and Birmingham became the city of choice for people leaving the capital. The BioHub is the latest offering at the Research Park, which has a community of 500 staff and is located at the edge of the University campus, in

4 0 | U K S PA B R E A K T H R O U G H | W I N T E R 2 0 18

close proximity to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital – the largest teaching hospital in Europe. The adjacent medical landscape is also consolidating with the opening of the Institute of Translational Medicine, which sits between the Research Park and the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. The ITM is a forum for inter-disciplinary collaboration, bringing together people from fields such as cancer, inflammation, rare diseases and bio-engineering, and infrastructure in informatics, biorepositories, as well as a stratified medicine laboratory to speed up the translation of new discoveries into health applications. In recent months, the University has also opened the Centre for Custom Medical Devices, which works in collaboration with Renishaw and uses additive manufacturing (3D printing) to speed development in the medical devices supply chain; and the Medical Devices

Testing and Evaluation Centre which helps remove the regulatory blockages encountered by small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs). This collaborative landscape has attracted increasing attention from international business, and the University currently has over 200 industrial partners, spanning all business sectors, who use its facilities and research expertise. The BioHub is one part of this landscape, and its current tenants include diagnostics, precision medicine, and biotechnology companies, who share laboratory and office space. These and other University projects will be highlighted at next April’s UKSPA Conference which is being held on the University of Birmingham campus. ■

For further information, please visit: www.thebiohub.co.uk

Complete Kits or Components Custom Made for You Does your new product need bespoke kit components? We can help with our personalised, flexible, fast custom design service. You define the specifications, size, branding and packaging. ■ Disposable Pipettes ■ Tube and Plate Seals ■ UN3373 Compliant Sample Transport Packaging ■ Complete Kit Building Service Contact Alpha Laboratories for more information or a quotation for your custom design requirements and join our long list of satisfied customers. Visit www.alphalabs.co.uk/customdesign call 0800 38 77 32 or email marketing@alphalabs.co.uk

UKSPA_Custom Designed Components Nov18.indd 2

10/10/2018 12:49:10

Looking for a professional company that relocates scientific equipment?

Large or small, our proven process will ensure a safe and successful move Call Benchmark Services today

on 01480 423810 or visit www.benchmark-services.co.uk

R E A D O N L I N E AT: U K S PA . O R G . U K / B R E A K T H R O U G H

W I N T E R 2 0 18 | U K S PA B R E A K T H R O U G H | 41


FARMING DATA The farm generates vast quantities of rich and varied data. This is stored in the cloud. Data can be used as digital evidence, reducing time spent completing grant applications or carrying out farm inspections, saving on average ÂŁ5000 per farm.

Future Farms Farming, an industry perpetuated with idyllic rural images, is embarking upon a new revolution – precision agriculture.

TEXTING COWS Sensors attached to livestock allowing monitoring of animal health and wellbeing. They can send texts to alert farmers when a cow goes into labour or develops infection, increasing herd survival. 4 2 | U K S PA B R E A K T H R O U G H | W I N T E R 2 0 18



Aerial drones survey the fields, mapping weeds, yield and soil variation. This enables precise application of inputs, increasing wheat yields by ÂŁ70 per hectare.

A herd of specialised agribots tend to crops, weeding, fertilising and harvesting. Robots capable of microdot application of fertiliser reduce fertiliser cost by 99.9%.

SMART TRACTORS GPS controlled steering and optimised route planning reduces soil erosion, saving 15% in fuel and increasing crop yield by 10-20%.

Originally created by Green-Doe Graphic Design for Nesta. Infographic illustration and wording used with kind permission. W I N T E R 2 0 18 | U K S PA B R E A K T H R O U G H | 4 3


The purpose-built Conference Centre includes a tiered 300 seat auditorium for formal conferences

Bridging the gap In the campaign to feed the world, collaboration is key at Rothamsted Centre for Research and Enterprise


s the planet faces up to the numerous problems brought about by climate change and the need to feed a growing world population in a more sustainable manner, much of the onus for finding solutions falls on the shoulders of scientists. However, for them to solve problems including warming temperatures and the resulting food shortage, they are going to have to work together. Here at RoCRE, we work to ensure that the right people are around the table. We are very much about facilitating and enabling the collaboration and innovation between scientists.


Projects being supported by RoCRE are very varied, including those to deliver new technologies that raise the productivity of crops and livestock, ways to tackle weed, disease and insect resistance to agrochemicals, and techniques to improve soil health

4 4 | U K S PA B R E A K T H R O U G H | W I N T E R 2 0 18

start-ups and SMEs in agri-tech, as well as shared work environments for new and existing tenants.


and reduce agriculture’s carbon and nutrient footprint. RoCRE is part of the historic, world-renowned Rothamsted Research campus in Harpenden, Hertfordshire and was established back in 2015. Our three main offerings include:


The Lawes Innovation Hub & The Daniel Hall Incubation Centre provide office and laboratory space and business support services to

Rothamsted Conference Centre is purpose-built and state-of-the-art, providing the perfect environment to host a wide range of conferences, meetings and events, for scientists and innovators to meet and interact.


Rothamsted Manor is our Grade 1 listed manor house available for exclusive private hire, suitable for VIP drinks receptions, special occasions and corporate events.

MORE THAN BRICKS AND MORTAR However, for me, the importance of such innovations goes beyond bricks and mortar. Whilst we do offer office and laboratory space to start-ups and SMEs, the important thing we do is bridge the gap between scientists and businesses, to provide that vital spark of innovation. There is also huge crossover between the sciences and we want to find ways of

The Grade 1 listed Rothamsted Manor

bringing scientists from different disciplines, backgrounds and organisations, together. Everything from crop breeding to mathematical modelling, from fertiliser design to pest management. It doesn’t need to be an agri conference or a formal meeting. We support clients involved in the broader agri ecosystem. It could be something much more informal like a seminar, breakfast briefing, or even a coffee morning or a chat. Our facilities cater for all of this and more.

R o C R E T E N A N T C A S E S T U DY : B A B W E B A RT O N E N T E R P R I S E S

One of RoCRE’s exciting and growing tenant companies is Babwe Barton, who moved into the Centre in December 2017. Founder Chris Barton commented on what drew them to work at RoCRE. “The facilities that RoCRE offer are the perfect match for the direction of Babwe Barton. The Daniel Hall Incubation space provided an opportunity for us to establish ourselves as a company and to build contacts with those in a similar position, whilst networking with businesses in new fields.” To date, Babwe Barton is involved in several projects with Rothamsted Research’s scientists and other parties, and their main activity focuses around the development of electric generation and energy recovery systems. In addition to developing and refining their own technologies in energy and emissions capture, they are also working collaboratively with Rothamsted, UCL and other private businesses to provide efficient, clean and low maintenance solutions for farmers to improve standards of living and safety. Chris said “We’re identifying new methods of recycling waste products and improving our current products such as long-range Wi-Fi.” Babwe Barton’s technology is adaptable and interconnects numerous

industries with agriculture. The technology has roots in aerospace and provides energy capabilities to many industries, whilst also providing commercial by-products useful to agriculture and other industries. Chris comments, “Through our energy and emissions capture systems, we have the capability to drastically reduce the costs of electricity to the agricultural sector, as well as the emissions released into the atmosphere by these sectors.” Babwe Barton is currently testing the particulates that are captured and establishing whether they are usable for commercially viable products such as fertiliser. It is also in this way that they are contributing to the future of agriculture. They aim to make meaningful contributions to the prevention of climate change and the improvement of the environment’s health.

R o C R E T E N A N T C A S E S T U DY : F U N G I A L E RT

FungiAlert moved into RoCRE as a tenant back in March 2016, having looked at several incubators and locations for start-ups. Dr Kerry O’Donnelly Weaver, CEO & Co-Founder of FungiAlert Ltd, explains why she chose RoCRE. “We came to visit RoCRE to look around and met with Asmaa

R E A D O N L I N E AT: U K S PA . O R G . U K / B R E A K T H R O U G H

Shariff. When we found out that RoCRE was based in the Rothamsted Research campus, a truly fantastic environment, we were very interested. But it wasn’t only the campus that attracted us. As a start-up, money was tight for us and RoCRE’s prices were very reasonable compared to London prices. Plus, the collaboration opportunities, the field trials and glasshouses, and the people with knowledge who would share some of that with us really attracted us.” FungiAlert is passionate about increasing agricultural productivity and sustainability using disruptive, early detection sensors and novel soil-health analysis. Their unique soil-health analysis provides a realistic picture of disease risks within a field. FungiAlert’s game-changing technology makes soilhealth analysis affordable and accessible to all growers, and guides strategic agronomy decisions throughout the growing season. Their vision is to revolutionise disease management practices within agriculture to help reduce crop loss and increase productivity, and to lower the chance of resistance to pesticides. Dr. Kerry O’Donnelly Weaver comments, “It’s hugely important to us that FungiAlert contributes to the future growth of agri. Preventative spraying of pesticides is common in agriculture, as currently growers don’t have any method to advise them about the risk of plant diseases. However, by doing so, they contribute to the development of resistant plant pathogens, to the contamination of the water, and to wildlife reduction (e.g. bees). Our vision is to decrease the redundant use of preventative spraying amongst farmers by providing disruptive plant disease sensors and services to guide evidencebased farming practices.” ■

Find out more about Rothamsted Centre for Research & Enterprise (RoCRE) at: www.rocre-rothamsted.com

The Lawes Open Innovation Hub offers a comprehensive range of world class facilities

W I N T E R 2 0 18 | U K S PA B R E A K T H R O U G H | 4 5


An Appealing Process Graduate entrepreneurs cook up eco-friendly alternative to MDF - from potato peelings!



Rowan is co-founder and CEO of Chip[s] Board, a biomaterial innovation company with the core objective of finding value where others see waste. Born in Bath, he graduated with a degree in design from Kingston School of Art in 2017

4 6 | U K S PA B R E A K T H R O U G H | W I N T E R 2 0 18

hip[s] Board® was born in the studios at Kingston School of Art initially as a by-product of a process myself and my cofounder Rob Nicol were experimenting with for our degree final project. We were investigating bio materials, extracting the starch from potatoes to produce a simple bioplastic. This left us with a lot of potato peelings and, with the goal of minimising any residual waste, sparked an idea. Taking the peelings, we now separate key components using our patent pending process before recombining and pressing into robust boards. The original process was pretty rudimental in contrast, but we realised that with a bit of work we could create

an environmentally friendly and sustainable alternative to MDF – with the advantage of Chip Strand Board™ [CSB™] decomposing quickly in an industrial compost.


Initially, we sourced peelings from the restaurant I was running while studying. We sorted the potato peelings at home and then cycled to the University to process them, returning to the restaurant to finish the boards. Then back to university to take them to the workshops and turn them into products. The smell is quite unique - our housemates didn’t really like us for a couple of months while we got up and running.

Initially, we were looking at making biodegradable plant pots but we quickly decided to think bigger, excited by the possibility of CSB™ replacing festival stands, stalls or even temporary accommodation – items that are ordinarily used once and thrown into landfill. With roughly six kilograms of potato peelings producing one kilogram of CSB™, we need a constant supply. We’re working with the global potato processor McCain, who see the appeal of us collecting their waste and turning it into something highly sustainable.


We recently celebrated the first birthday of Chip[s] Board® and we’ve come a long way since transporting bags of potato peel around Kingston. The company completed our first round of investment and moved into a new home in Shepherds Bush Market called Open Cell, which is a space dedicated to biotech startups. We’ve also introduced a new co-founder to the team, fellow Kingston University graduate Greg Cooper, a biochemist who will progress material development.

Kingston University graduates and creators of Chip[s] Board, Rowan Minkley and Rob Nicol

WE’RE WORKING WITH THE GLOBAL P O TAT O P R O C E S S O R M C C A I N , W H O SEE THE APPE AL OF US COLLECTING T HE IR WA S T E A ND T U R NIN G I T IN T O S O M E T H I N G H I G H LY S U S TA I N A B L E Chip[s] Board® won a Creative Conscience gold award, the July Shell LiveWIRE competition and the Santander Universities entrepreneurship regional finals. We’re gaining global exposure having been featured on a BBC Four TV show, exhibited in LA and recently returned from a successful stint at the London Design Festival.

Some of the uses of Chip[s] Board®

R E A D O N L I N E AT: U K S PA . O R G . U K / B R E A K T H R O U G H

We’re very excited to be developing our next product – a marble looking bioplastic called Parblex™, made once again from industrial potato waste. Sustainable fashion designer Isabel Fletcher is currently using Parblex™ to create buttons and we have interest from a company to use the material to make frames for eye-wear. We’re focused on making sure Chip[s] Board® is a success. We hope our efforts could see an environmentally friendly product replace single use MDF around the country. A third of all MDF produced ends up in landfill or incineration from manufacturing offcuts alone, so our vision is to prevent this with our recyclable and biodegradable alternative CSB™. We want Chip[s] Board® to inspire more young people to find creative solutions to issues affecting the world. ■

To find out more about studying at Kingston University, please visit: www.kingston.ac.uk

W I N T E R 2 0 18 | U K S PA B R E A K T H R O U G H | 4 7


Sharing your success, best practice, and lessons learned

Food for thought at AberInnovation Agri-tech activity at Aberystwyth Innovation and Enterprise Campus


ummer 2018 has been a busy few months at the Aberystwyth Innovation and Enterprise Campus. Early July saw us break ground on the construction of the £40.5m Campus buildings, and since then the site has changed beyond all recognition. We can now see from our incubator offices the gleaming steel structure rising from the ground. It really does begin to give us all a sense of the vast scale of the new Seed Biobank and Biorefining Centre, both of which will be completed by August 2019, with the Future Food Centre, Analytical Science Centre and Innovation Hub opening in August 2020. While the new Innovation and Enterprise Campus is being built, our AberInnovation business and entrepreneurial community continues to grow, and already there is a great story to tell about recent tenant news and successes.

4 8 | U K S PA B R E A K T H R O U G H | W I N T E R 2 0 18


Hydroponic deep-water technology specialists Phytoponics Ltd. recently raised an additional £300k in funding following the closure of a £200k round earlier in the year, as they continue to go from strength to strength. Phytoponics have developed a patented hydroponic system that can see yields 20 times as large as when growing in soil, and using a fraction of the water and fertiliser used by conventional farming.

Adam Dixon, Phytoponics’ CEO, has told us that “These new funds will provide us the necessary operating cash to scale up trials of our technology whilst experimenting with other high value crop types. We recently signed a contract with a major commercial grower that will use our technology to grow tomatoes for two major supermarkets early next year.” Meanwhile, Shire Meadery Ltd. have been busily building their brand and raising awareness about their new “wide appeal” mead. Ben Guscott, Shire Meadery’s CEO, has forged strong relationships with several of Wales’s local honey and tea producers as he looks to expand Shire Meadery’s offering and capitalise on the burgeoning infused drinks market. Shire Meadery have been selling out of produce at recent food and drinks fairs around the country and their products can increasingly be seen on shop shelves and in bars in the region.

Finally, and back to the theme of investment, our newest tenants, Nemesis Bioscience Ltd. completed a funding round of ÂŁ1.4m in June. The funds will allow Nemesis to continue their development of DNA therapeutics that have been shown to reverse antibiotic resistance in pathogenic bacteria. Nemesis have ambitious growth plans and have recently recruited two new full-time members of staff for their Aberystwyth office. It is great to meet so many inspiring innovators in the region and the breadth of work and research being carried out here in Aberystwyth always amazes us. As the grand opening of the new Innovation and Enterprise Campus grows ever nearer, we are very excited to see what our current and future tenants do next. â–


Find out more about AberInnovation at: www.aberinnovation.com

Celebrating 10 years of innovation support For more information, contact: Dr Mark Tock t: +44 (0)115 748 4608 e: Mark.Tock@nottingham.ac.uk

A computer-generated visual of the Aberystwyth Innovation and Enterprise Campus (AIEC) due to be completed in 2020

Co-working space now providing an ideal working environment for entrepreneurs. Call us for details on 0115 823 2269.

FINAL UNIP-10Yrs Advert - UKSPA_July18.indd 1

R E A D O N L I N E AT: U K S PA . O R G . U K / B R E A K T H R O U G H



events in 2018 including Innovation roundtable series

11/07/2018 11:56

W I N T E R 2 0 18 | U K S PA B R E A K T H R O U G H | 4 9


The robot Thorvald, from the University of Lincoln, being demonstrated at REAP

Convergence of technologies driving Agri-Tech Revolution


rtificial intelligence is one of the technologies that has been proven first in other industries but is now being adopted by the agri-food industry. Dr Belinda Clarke, Director of Agri-Tech East, an independent membership organisation, comments that the east of England has a strong track record in AI and that convergence of different technologies is creating applications within agri-food. “There are many opportunities within agri-food for systems that are able to model the real world and to use this information to provide decision support. “Farming is complex. The market is volatile, the weather is changeable and soil can vary considerably across a single field. A particular challenge facing the industry is the yield gap – the difference between what a crop could achieve in theory, compared to how it actually performs in the field. “There is a considerable opportunity here to understand what the most important factors are in determining that gap and to use this knowledge to provide

5 0 | U K S PA B R E A K T H R O U G H | W I N T E R 2 0 18

individualised advice to the farmer. This would improve not only the yield but also, crucially, profitability. “To enable innovation, you need to bring together people with the domain knowledge and help them to articulate the problem so that it can be understood by others, particularly those that can contribute expertise drawn from other disciplines. Get this right and you can come up with radically new approaches. “We are seeing this in the emergence of intelligent systems that can predict consumer demand, forecast yield and inform cultivation strategies.”


Agriculture was perhaps the last sector to be impacted by the digital revolution that has disrupted so many industries. As a consequence, it is able to benefit from technologies and approaches that have been proven to work in other markets. This was the rationale behind the drive to create an agri-tech cluster with its nucleus in the east of England. The government had a short time earlier launched its “UK agricultural

technologies strategy”. This provided funding earmarked for technologies with applications in agri-food, and there was suddenly an incentive for nontraditional players to consider the industry as an opportunity. East Anglia also has a strong tradition of innovative farmers. Famously, it was in Norfolk that entrepreneurial landowner Charles Townshend, affectionately nicknamed ‘Turnip Townshend’, promoted his fouryear crop rotation that used turnips and clover as two of the crops. He demonstrated his approach at the Royal Norfolk Show to his peers and the idea was widely adopted and still underpins good farming practice today. The rotation system coupled with enclosures had a major impact. In 1705, England exported 11.5 million quarters of wheat; by 1765 this had risen to 95 million quarters. In addition, livestock could now be overwintered using the turnips, increasing both quantity and quality. The Agricultural Revolution enabled huge economic change and this sector has the potential to do the same again.


It was against this background – a farming community ready to embrace new ideas, a region famed for its technological innovation, and a wealth of agricultural knowledge built up across a number of well-respected institutions – that the independent membership organisation Agri-Tech East was established. Dr Clarke continues: “Agri-Tech East was established with the recognition that to create true innovation you need to provide novel solutions to industry problems. By bringing scientists and technologists from different fields together with potential end-users and industry experts, we have facilitated the rapid growth of a thriving agri-tech sector.”


Agriculture has long struggled with getting the fruits of its research into business. To assist with this, Agri-Tech East established the UK’s first agribusiness plan competition, GROW, to provide mentoring and pitching experience for researchers and others with business concepts. Pascale Martin of start-up Agronomex was one of the finalists in GROW in 2017 and pitched to potential investors and partners her plan for an online B2B fruit and vegetables marketplace. She says this was the springboard she needed, and Agronomex now has a pilot running across 50 farms: “Agri-Tech East has been very supportive, providing feedback and making introductions. Additionally, through the events organised over the year, it has created a unique ecosystem that has facilitated communication

Dogtooth’s strawberrypicking robot being demonstrated at Agri-Tech East’s REAP Conference

THERE ARE MANY OPPORTUNITIES W I T H I N A G R I - F O O D F O R S Y S T E M S T H AT ARE ABLE TO MODEL THE RE AL WORLD between the different actors of the industry, which is extremely important for a young company like ours.”


Although it started in the east, the cluster is not limited by geography. The membership is now national and international and Dr Clarke has been particularly delighted to see how early stage companies and young entrepreneurs have attracted the interest and support of the farming community. She says: “Agriculture is multifaceted, and for a newcomer to the industry there is a steep learning curve.” Antony Yousefian, Director UK of the international smart sensing company 30MHz, agrees. His company now supports a number of clients in the sector; however, his knowledge of farming was initially very limited. He comments: “Innovation and the will to innovate is in abundance in UK agriculture, though sometimes it needs someone to light the match. However, agriculture is not like any other industry; being a member of

The Agri-Tech East GROW hackathon 2018

R E A D O N L I N E AT: U K S PA . O R G . U K / B R E A K T H R O U G H

Agri-Tech East has really enabled our understanding and helped us to navigate the vast agriculture world.” 30MHz is one of a number of companies exploring the Internet of Things: its technology uses low-cost sensors to enable real time monitoring of crop stress. Knowing exactly what the plant needs is vital for smart irrigation and the precision application of agrochemicals – technologies that are being adopted by innovative farmers.


Dr Clarke comments that AI also has a role both in the field and in research, particularly in genomics where interpreting Big Data is already outstripping the capacity of humans. “Recent advances in computer vision, machine learning and robotics are creating an opportunity for automating the repetitive tasks in agriculture such as weeding, planting and harvesting,” she says. “We see the potential for lightweight cultivation machines working 24/7 and replacing the role of a tractor. This would allow remote management of the equipment, targeted use of chemicals and would reduce compaction of soil. “All of these technologies are being developed within the agri-tech cluster and the unique collaboration of scientists, technologists and farmers is helping to create robust solutions to the many challenges faced by the agrifood industry.” ■

Find out more about Agri-Tech East by visiting: www.agritech-east.co.uk

W I N T E R 2 0 18 | U K S PA B R E A K T H R O U G H | 5 1


Brixham Laboratory Plymouth University’s home to over thirty tenant organisations Brixham Laboratory is the former Astra Zeneca Environmental Laboratory site, gifted to the University of Plymouth in May 2014. It is now home to over thirty

tenant organisations, delivering high value specialist jobs. There are two main research areas at the site, containing state of the art laboratory space, offices and fish and invertebrate husbandry facilities. The balance of the Brixham laboratory is home to a multidisciplinary community of commercial tenants, a University of Plymouth spin-out company and there are a range of projects that benefit from undergraduate talent and sponsored postgraduate research.

The Facility is located on the coast and has a supply of high quality, clean seawater, suitable for environmental monitoring; supported by excellent wet/dry laboratories and controlled environment rooms. Such access to world-class facilities, a stunning location and the potential to recruit talented people to the area, helped attract high growth companies. A number of tenants support postgraduate students and benefit from access to the University’s experts, facilities and resources. The Laboratory is operated by a small, but highly committed team of three core staff, with access to the wider support of the University’s knowledge exchange, IP advisors and technicians. The team has worked tirelessly to deliver a vibrant and friendly community of diverse businesses, returning high value jobs to a small fishing town. ■

For further information, please visit: www.brixham.space

Scott Tallon Walker Architects Timeless, innovative and wellcrafted buildings that enhance wellbeing, the public realm and the environment Scott Tallon Walker Architects is an international award-winning Architecture Practice that creates timeless, innovative and well-crafted buildings that enhance wellbeing, the public realm and the environment. Through a rigorous attention to detail, their aim is to deliver beautiful buildings that incorporate a balanced resolution between functionality and aesthetics. As urban designers, master planners and architects, the Practice is committed to exploring the full potential of each project in response to the physical and cultural contexts and the aspirations of clients. STW work on projects around the world from offices in London, Dublin & Riyadh and through their 85 year history have delivered building typologies that

5 2 | U K S PA B R E A K T H R O U G H | W I N T E R 2 0 18

span all sectors. The founding principles of design excellence and innovation continue to shape their work today. While their experience covers a wide range of building types, STW has specialist experience in the delivery of Science Technology & Research, Healthcare and Higher Education projects. Their portfolio of work demonstrates their ability to deliver the most complex building typologies, from Proton Beam Centres and Acute Hospitals to High Containment Laboratories and modern research facilities. The portfolio of their work demonstrates that facilities that are

cost-effective to build, operate and maintain, can also be engaging, dynamic environments, equipped with quality systems that help clients gain international recognition and attract and retain the best staff. STW’s experience includes biotechnology, medical and biomedical research, pharmacy, genetics, cancer research, blood processing, engineering, materials science, electronics, nanotechnology and nuclear medicine/ GMP. ■

For further information, please visit: www.stwarchitects.com

The Lawes Open Innovation Hub creates the perfect setting for business growth

Rothamsted Centre for Research and Enterprise RoCRE - At the heart of agricultural research in Hertfordshire New UKSPA member; Rothamsted Centre for Research and Enterprise, RoCRE, is part of the historic Rothamsted Research campus in Harpenden, Hertfordshire and is at the heart of agricultural research. The location is a unique hub focused on promoting collaboration and innovation, by partnering with commercial

Feilden+Mawson A leading practice in architectural expertise for over 60 years New UKSPA member; Feilden+Mawson is a leading architectural practice with an established reputation in heritage and new build across the commercial and public sectors. Founded in 1956, the practice has built a national and international reputation for success by combining the highest standards of service to clients with architectural sensitivity and skill. Feilden+Mawson are recognised, through national and international awards for their expertise in new build, regeneration and master planning in diverse sectors such as research, education, government estates, heritage and housing. Feilden+Mawson are a fourth-generation partnership with shared principles, formed in Norwich in 1956 by Bernard Feilden and David Mawson. A London office was opened in the 1970s, undertaking projects

agricultural technology businesses and opening up the research process. Informed by Rothamsted Research’s expertise and experience as the world’s oldest agri-science research centre, RoCRE offers a range of facilities, including a state-of-the-art conference centre with a 300-seat auditorium and extensive meeting facilities, flexible office and laboratory space and business support services for start-ups and SMEs, informal meeting hubs, as well as the Grade 1 listed Rothamsted Manor which is available for exclusive event hire, VIP dinners, networking and drinks receptions. RoCRE currently offers around 10,000 ft 2 of lab and office space across

in the south west and City areas. Their Cambridge office opened in 1995, followed by our Prague office in 2005. The practice has developed an architectural philosophy based on a contemporary approach to the design of new buildings, whilst respecting their context. An approach developed with the knowledge and skills acquired through the conservation of historic buildings and their environment. These principles have been supported with a strong business ethic, based on the pursuit of excellence and integrity in professional relations.

R E A D O N L I N E AT: U K S PA . O R G . U K / B R E A K T H R O U G H

two dedicated buildings. The Daniel Hall Incubation Centre houses incubation space with affordable labs and offices, as well as access to shared lab facilities and meeting rooms. The Lawes Open Innovation Hub offers grow-on space, with a variety of labs and offices, including hot-desking and shared labs. Future plans include the opening of the Russell Building located at the front of the Rothamsted campus. This iconic building will offer self-contained and open plan offices in 13,000 ft 2 of Edwardian splendour. The Campus is currently home to over 20 tenant companies working in agri-tech, agrifood and related industries and the plan is to double this number by early 2020. ■

For more information, please visit: www.rocre-rothamsted.com or call Asmaa Shariff on 01582 938679

From concept to completion, Feilden+Mawson provide a creative, inspiring and viable response to client needs and aspirations. They design excellent buildings – spaces that are enjoyable and add value – reducing negative environmental impact, are energy efficient with low lifecycle maintenance, creating tomorrow’s sustainable heritage while being innovative and relevant. ■

For more information, please visit: www.feildenandmawson.com

Feilden+Mawson’s recent design of the new Lotus Customer Experience Centre

W I N T E R 2 0 18 | U K S PA B R E A K T H R O U G H | 5 3


An artist’s impression of the impressive new Nexus centre

Nexus Innovation Centre, Leeds New UKSPA member set to open £40m building in New Year Set to open in January 2019, Nexus, the University of Leeds’ innovation centre, will provide seamless access to academic expertise, facilities and talent across the University. With a strong background in commercialisation and focus on collaboration, the University of Leeds has a proven track record of helping the business community, acting as a catalyst for growth and productivity. Nexus will build on this success, with a focus on health, data, environment and engineering. Based in a brand new £40m building on the University campus, Nexus will feature state-of-the-art services including office and lab space, collaboration areas, events and

Innovation Birmingham and National Express Partnership formed to create opportunities for SMEs Leading public transport operator National Express has partnered with Innovation Birmingham to create opportunities for SMEs to access the transport sector and collaborate on digital technology innovation. The new business incubator ‘NXIS’ creates commercial opportunities for small digital technology businesses, providing access to the transport sector and helping companies to grow and embed products and services. National Express, a company that now delivers over 845 million journeys every year through a service spanning across the world, joins Innovation Birmingham’s Serendip Smart City Incubator as a commercial partner. Rob Muir, Chief Digital Officer at National Express, said: “We are delighted

5 4 | U K S PA B R E A K T H R O U G H | W I N T E R 2 0 18

meeting facilities. A dedicated team will be responsible for facilitating productive working partnerships and collaborations. The delivery and implementation of Nexus is led by Dr. Martin Stow, whose ambition is to ensure Nexus becomes an innovation powerhouse in the North, bringing together a vibrant community of innovators, to deliver commercial impact and generate economic growth within the Leeds City Region and beyond. Dr Stow believes that “together

to partner with Innovation Birmingham to launch our new incubator for small businesses developing new digital technology solutions. With our infrastructure, networks, expertise and contacts, we are urging businesses to grasp this opportunity with both hands. “The purpose of innovation in this context is to disrupt the market, enhance products and streamline processes. Alongside giving something back to small businesses and boosting the great ideas of entrepreneurs, we are hoping to acquire some of the most talented and sought-after minds in the region to improve what we do and maintain our position as a leading international public transport provider.” The new digital technology incubator offers successful applicants six months of free coworking space at Innovation Birmingham’s flagship multi-million

we will bring our world-class ideas, concepts and technologies to deliver breakthrough solutions to real world, market-based problems. “I see Nexus changing the mindset and culture in which universities and industry work together, promoting new standards of working and generating economic growth.” ■

For further information, please visit: www.nexusleeds.co.uk

pound iCentrum building, working alongside other talented entrepreneurs and corporate partners. Alongside physical space to nurture and grow innovative ventures, the incubator also connects SMEs with expert teams at National Express, who will offer tailored mentoring and support services alongside Innovation Birmingham’s business experts. ■

Apply now at: innovationbham.com/fast-lane-business

Scottow Enterprise Park is based at the former RAF Coltishall site

Scottow Enterprise Park ... space to grow as Norfolk venue sets sights on doubling its scale Scottow Enterprise Park is the latest incubation venture from Hethel Innovation. In December 2015, Hethel Innovation took over the contract to operate Scottow. When the new team arrived, occupancy was at 24% and Norfolk County Council were questioning its viability. However, over the last 3 years occupancy has increased to 98% with 127 businesses on site employing nearly 500 people. There has been incredible demand from local North Norfolk businesses, especially within the STEM sectors.

GroPod at Scottow Specialising in indoor pods and contained crop production systems One of the most exciting companies that are based at the Enterprise Centre at Scottow Technology Park is GroPod, an Agri-tech company that specialise in contained crop production systems. These indoor ‘pods’ allow the grower to have complete environmental control including temperature, water and nutrient supply. The company are a pioneer of the aeroponic technique of growing crops; meaning that instead of the roots being implanted deep in soil, as is in traditional growing, they are

These companies have been provided with the space to grow, supporting them to dream and giving them the resources they need to be successful. Since 2016, employment in engineering and manufacturing in North Norfolk has increased by 36% with more opportunities for local communities to find high skilled high paid work without having to relocate. There are ambitious plans for Scottow. Currently, there are around 500k sq. ft of lettable space on the park but the vision is to double this,

putting a further 500k sq. ft of space online for local businesses, who will in total employ 1,000 people on site. This will make Scottow one of the biggest Enterprise Parks in the country, truly transforming this small North Norfolk location. Scottow Enterprise Park aims to drive economic growth and innovate on a global scale. ■

For further information, please visit: www.scottowenterprisepark.com

Dan Hewitt, owner and

exposed to their air in founder of GroPod vertical growing systems. This allows a specialist, high-pressure misting device to spray the roots of whatever crop is being grown with water and nutrients at regular intervals, set by the grower, to ensure 24-hour care. Originally designed to grow root vegetables, such as sweet potatoes, for the snack industry, GroPod is now branching out with the realisation that both domestic and international crops can be grown in these pods yearround to herbicides are required and solar energy produce high quality food powers the pod. The pods have a much that usually might not lower input of fertiliser than traditional always be available. growing due to the vertical systems and As well as the time GroPod have also started using algaesaving aspect of the pods, based fertiliser which already contains GroPod’s products can also plenty of the nutrients crops need to save growers energy and grow, including a higher percentage of money. Water used in the nitrates than traditional fertilisers. ■ pod is collected and recycled using 90% less than in traditional For further information, please visit: growing. No pesticides or www.gro-pod.co.uk

W I N T E R 2 0 18 | U K S PA B R E A K T H R O U G H | 5 5


North East Technology Park (NETPark) £12m expansion takes place at County Durham based Science Park The North East Technology Park (NETPark) in Sedgefield, County Durham has recently undergone a £12m expansion with the addition of the NETPark Explorer buildings and Phase 3 infrastructure works. The £7.6m Explorer buildings opened in January and were already 40 percent full, showing how much the park is in demand. Explorer’s new tenants, X-ray imaging specialist IBEX and electronics firm PragmatIC had come from NETPark’s Discovery centre and the Centre for Process Innovation (CPI) respectively. IBEX have developed and patented X-ray detector technology that can be retrofitted to existing X-ray machinery to improve the detection of defects and impurities in the materials being imaged.

NETPark Explorer buildings are the latest addition, offering combined clean room, laboratory and office space

PragmatIC Printing manufacture lowcost integrated circuits, thinner than a human hair, which can be embedded in everyday items, enabling smart packaging, smart labels and smart objects. The completion of Phase 3, £5m road and infrastructure works, opens up 26 acres of development land. Getting the right infrastructure in place is considered vital to pave the way for the building of

Bridge Fibre provide fast and flexible connectivity technology

Bridge Fibre Providing internet connectivity, telephony and hosting to science and business parks With science & technology clusters growing at a rate unprecedented since the fuse to the phenomenon was lit in the late 1960s, Bridge Fibre, a home-

5 6 | U K S PA B R E A K T H R O U G H | W I N T E R 2 0 18

grown CommsTech business has firmly established itself as a power behind the throne. Bridge Fibre is providing the fast and flexible connectivity technology driving a new wave of trailblazing companies to global sales success along the silicon highway. Scan the near and far horizons of East of England and UK science and business parks and Bridge Fibre will be the preferred choice of landlords and tenants

new facilities, whether they will be occupied with larger inward investors or existing tenants at the park. Both Explorer and Phase 3 have been made possible with £8m funding from the North East Local Enterprise Partnership. ■

To find out more about NETPark, please visit: www.northeasttechnologypark.com

alike to provide internet connectivity, telephony and hosting. Many of the environments the company serves are evolving, but Bridge Fibre’s delivery remains consistently slick and secure. Its client list includes all the East of England cluster’s leading science & business parks – St John’s, the Science Park, Alconbury Weald, Chesterford Research Park, Babraham, Granta Park, Allia’s Future Business Centre et al. Further afield, it is the chosen supplier for Silverstone Park and landlords of prime growth locations in Glasgow, Bristol, Norwich and Leeds – among others. Its corporate clients are all world leaders in their own right and include manufacturing enabler TWI, life science businesses Endomag and Vernalis, games developer PlayFusion and international mobile payments company Bango. ■

For further information, please visit: www.bridgefibre.co.uk

Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, Sam Gyimah MP, is shown UKAEA’s RACE robotics test centre by Rob Buckingham, RACE Director

Expansion at Culham Science Centre UK Atomic Energy Authority site to create new fusion-related facilities Culham Science Centre, home to 1,500 highly skilled scientists, engineering specialists and innovators, has been granted permission to expand. The expansion is needed now that the successful campus, home to some of the world’s most exciting fusion research, is full. The move will create space for more hi-tech businesses, working in fusion technology and related fields, bringing an estimated 200 new jobs to the area.

The centre already hosts around 60 companies, including 20 start-ups, and is already home to world-leading science projects, including the European JET (Joint European Torus) fusion experiment – the hottest place in the solar system. In a recent visit to Culham Science Centre, Science Minister Sam Gyimah announced that the UK Atomic Energy Authority (UKAEA) would be able to expand the site to create new


For further information, please visit: www.culham.org.uk

AECOM built the University of Nottingham’s Centre for Sustainable Chemistry

Delivering international award-winning complex scientific laboratories AECOM designs, builds, finances and operates infrastructure assets for governments, businesses and organisations in more than 150 countries. As a fully integrated firm, it connects knowledge and experience across a global network of experts to help clients solve their most complex challenges. AECOM is regarded as a leader in designing and delivering a wide range of international award-winning complex scientific laboratories worldwide. Its specialist teams advise science park developers, owners and operators across the UK, providing solutions that support the flexibility and adaptability of these highly specialised facilities in an everchanging scientific environment. Clients span the public and private sectors and AECOM collaborates closely to deliver university teaching laboratories, private and university joint venture research and development campuses, pharmaceutical, charitable and government research facilities and commercial science park projects. AECOM works across the lifecycle of

facilities for companies working in fusion-related fields. The Minister addressed staff during his visit, underlining the government’s commitment to fusion research postBrexit saying: “From fusion energy, to software for driverless cars, to airbreathing rocket engines, this site is engineering some of the most exciting science in the world. “The UK is an innovation powerhouse and with science and tech experts moving here, thriving here and growing their businesses here, it’s a vote of confidence in UK science industry. We are committed to attracting and retaining both homegrown and international talent and will keep supporting international collaboration as we tackle the grand challenges of tomorrow and build a Britain fit for the future.” ■

clients’ buildings and estates from business case support and pre-construction advice, masterplanning and consulting on the successful delivery of new and refurbished laboratory projects through to improving the environmental and scientific performance of existing laboratories. Some clients choose to appoint AECOM for a specialist single service expertise; others recognise the value that

R E A D O N L I N E AT: U K S PA . O R G . U K / B R E A K T H R O U G H

is brought to their projects through their full service offering that is provided through a fully integrated single business approach. At all times, AECOM’s work is characterised by a relentless focus on reducing risk, providing innovation, improving value and assuring outcomes. ■

For further information, please visit: www.aecom.com

W I N T E R 2 0 18 | U K S PA B R E A K T H R O U G H | 5 7


Enterprise Nation’s UKSPA partnership Core business support to the UK’s Science and Innovation Parks Enterprise Nation has agreed a partnership with the UK Science Park Association to help accelerate the level of core business support available in the UK’s growing network of Science and Innovation Parks. While there is already a detailed focus on incubating innovation for high growth, knowledge-based firms, there is an appetite to offer ‘plugged in’ business support for companies grappling with the fundamental business groundwork including marketing and export. The partnership will see Enterprise Nation offer business support as well as driving footfall into UKSPA member locations, via delivery of events & collaborative campaigns. Jim Duvall, UKSPA executive director, said: “We are in the business of supporting the right environments for the creation and growth of technology and knowledge-based businesses across the UK. As part of that we also recognise that along with a focus on research and

development comes the need to grow and sustain a solid business over time. “Enterprise Nation’s ability to ‘plug in’ a high level of business advice and support offers another great advantage for our Science Park, Innovation and Incubator members.” Emma Jones, founder of Enterprise Nation, said: “This is an excellent opportunity to deliver our vision of accessible advice for all UK businesses. This partnership opportunity has come at an important moment in time - a time when entrepreneurs are looking for a way to grow their business - and a supportive online and offline community that can help along the way. Today’s businesses need easy access to advisers, investors, networking and like-minded individuals looking to collaborate if they are serious about taking their firm to the next level.” Enterprise Nation is a small business network and business support provider. Its aim is to help people turn their good

Silverstone Park and Technology Cluster “Playing a crucial role” in economic growth Robert Jenrick MP, Exchequer Secretary to HM Treasury, has become the latest high profile MP to visit Silverstone Park for an update on the fast moving high tech business estate and the progress of the surrounding Silverstone Technology Cluster. Robert was hosted by STC CEO Pim van Baarsen and also Rob Lewis, MD of world leading aerodynamics and computational fluid dynamics business TotalSim, which is currently creating a 26,000 sq. ft sports engineering facility at Silverstone Park. Explaining the purpose of his

5 8 | U K S PA B R E A K T H R O U G H | W I N T E R 2 0 18

visit, Robert commented: “I wanted to see first-hand the vast potential for growth in the Cambridge-Milton Keynes-Oxford Arc. Attracting business and innovation to the Arc will be fundamental to its success and prosperity. “It was encouraging to hear about the excellent work that has already happened at Silverstone Park and the great innovation and entrepreneurship it has helped to foster.

Emma Jones, founder of Enterprise Nation, speaking at the 2017 UKSPA Conference

ideas into great businesses – through expert advice, events, acceleration, diagnostics and networking. Enterprise Nation was founded in 2005 by Emma Jones MBE, also co-founder of national enterprise campaign StartUp Britain. She is author of best-selling business books including Spare Room Startup, Working 5 to 9, Go Global, Start a Business for £99 and the StartUp Kit, Going for Growth. In 2016 she was announced as the Government’s Trade Ambassador. In 2017 the Institute of Charted Accountants England and Wales (ICAEW) announced it was to collaborate with Enterprise Nation to start building a world-leading adviser platform. ■

For further information, please visit: ukspa.org.uk/our-association/ukspa-news

“There is an ambitious long term vision for the Park and I hope to see it continue to grow and expand. I also discussed with Rob and Pim the role the government can play in helping to ensure their success. “The Silverstone (l-r) Rob Lewis brand, the benefits of (TotalSim), Robert the Cluster network and Jenrick MP, Pim van Baarsen (Silverstone the facilities on site at Technology Cluster) the Park are all factors that have benefited TotalSim. Ensuring businesses here can get the skills they need and support from government is important too, and we had a very useful conversation about the Enterprise Zone, the £2m of support for the Sports Engineering Hub and the actions we are taking on skills.” ■

For further information, please visit: www.silverstone-park.com/ technology-cluster-research

UNIP team (l-r): Andrea Pritchard, Georgina Hawkins, Sue Roadley, Mark Tock

UNIP – A Decade of Growth


The legacy and future growth for the University of Nottingham Innovation Park

Decade ago, one large area of land in a Nottingham suburb was an empty reminder of what the city lost when Raleigh stopped making bicycles in the UK. When the industrial icon finally closed its doors there were only a few hundred workers where previously thousands had worked. In 2008, work began on developing the Triumph Road site into something that has become a different kind of icon: the University of Nottingham Innovation Park (UNIP). With tens of millions of pounds invested and hundreds of jobs created, UNIP is marking its 10th anniversary and celebrating the transformation of the site into one of the Midlands’ biggest concentrations of enterprise skills and research into the technologies of the future. More than that, it is also a key focus for one of the most important contributions the University makes to the regional economy – encouraging, training and growing entrepreneurs of the future. UNIP is now focussed on the next decade of development, which is to deliver a new chapter for Nottingham’s industrial evolution. There are arguably few places in the UK offering a similar range and level of research expertise integrated with an entrepreneurial community.


Behind UNIP’s creation and expansion has been a determined effort by the University and its partners to make a difference to the world around us. In simple numbers, UNIP has done this through enabling university-owned enterprises, student entrepreneurs and other innovative tenants to set up alongside eight institutes researching technologies ranging from aerospace and advanced manufacturing to sustainable chemistry and the future of energy. Today, UNIP provides the focus for more than 100 businesses employing around 900 people, while its Ingenuity Centre houses a portfolio of services designed to equip student entrepreneurs with the skills to get their businesses off the ground, alongside offices and co-working space for technologybased tenant businesses.

R E A D O N L I N E AT: U K S PA . O R G . U K / B R E A K T H R O U G H

UNIPs status as a centre for technology-driven enterprise has been enhanced by the presence of a number of external businesses who have located on a site where technology and talent come together. One is Romax Technologies, which employs around half of its 250-strong team at its headquarters on UNIP. Renowned globally for its expertise in software and services related to driveline technologies used in the automotive, aerospace, marine and wind energy sectors, Romax has collaborated with the University on a number of research projects, while employing a number of graduates. Our vision for UNIP’s next decade, and the further development expected on the site, is to reinvigorate the University’s original aim of playing a key role in Nottingham’s economic future. The innovation activity at UNIP is impacting on everything from what we eat to how we consume media, what we wear and how we’re cared for. UNIP’s vision will also speak to a continued ambition to encourage a new generation of entrepreneurs – the people who will develop the businesses that are going to sustain our economy into the future. ■

To find out more, please visit: www.nottingham.ac.uk/unip/home.aspx

W I N T E R 2 0 18 | U K S PA B R E A K T H R O U G H | 5 9

Image: © Jaime Gonzalez Gutierrez de la Concha, University of Surrey


The microbial fuel cell running on coffee waste


Transforming coffee waste into electricity

olluting waste generated during coffee production could be turned into electricity, thanks an innovative project with global impact at the University of Surrey, part funded by UKSPA member BBSRC. Dr Claudio Avignone Rossa and his team discovered that the community of microbes found in a wastewater treatment plant could hold the key to degrading coffee waste, which is highly damaging to the environment. The microbes eat the waste, producing energy which can be captured as a small electric current; enough to light a bulb. This type of device, called a microbial fuel cell, has not been used to treat coffee waste before. “We showed for the first time that it is possible to treat coffee waste using a

6 0 | U K S PA B R E A K T H R O U G H | W I N T E R 2 0 18

microbial fuel cell,” says Avignone Rossa. “We feed the fuel cells with coffee waste, and most of the compounds that cannot be degraded naturally are degraded by the microbes inside.” Waste from coffee production is a huge global problem. Each year 9.5bn kg of coffee is produced worldwide, and every kilogram of instant coffee produced generates roughly two kilograms of liquid waste. This is a particular issue in developing countries where the infrastructure does not always exist to process this waste and so it ends up in water courses, which become contaminated. The new device could solve the problem by breaking down the polluting compounds in coffee waste so that it is no longer harmful to the environment. It is also simple and cheap enough that it

can be built and installed on small, family-owned coffee farms in developing countries such as Colombia, the world’s third largest coffee producer. A cooperative of Colombian coffee farmers have already expressed an interest in using the devices. “You can build one of these microbial fuel cells for only a few pounds, or even pennies, using materials that are just lying around, including ceramic tiles, terracotta slabs, kitchen foil and cardboard,” says Avignone Rossa, “and because they are very low cost and easy to construct, you can put several on every farm.” As well as preventing environmental contamination, the microbial fuel cells could also help to relieve a huge strain on water supplies. Coffee production requires vast quantities of water.


litres of water are required to produce just one cup of coffee

WA S T E F R O M C O F F E E P R O D U C T I O N IS A HUGE GLOBAL PROBLEM. E ACH YE AR 9.5BN KG OF COFFEE IS PRODUCED WORLDWIDE, AND E VERY KILOGR AM O F I N S TA N T C O F F E E P R O D U C E D G E N E R AT E S R O U G H LY T W O K ILO GR A M S O F L I QUID WA S T E Around 140 litres are needed to produce just one cup of coffee, and a large proportion of this is released as wastewater. In Colombia, many coffee farms are far from the main water sources, making it difficult to obtain the quantities of water required. The fuel cells could allow coffee farmers to clean up their wastewater and re-use it, reducing the amount of fresh water needed. The researchers hope that if their devices are used successfully in Colombia, they may be able to interest large coffee companies in Europe, where roughly one third of the world’s coffee is consumed, in

adopting the same approach to treating their waste. Energy and Clean Growth Minister Claire Perry said: “Your morning latte could start its life on a remote Colombian coffee farm and now thanks to UK Government funded research, those farms now have grounds to double up as producers of both coffee beans and electricity. “Local growers getting extra buzz from their beans is a great example of seizing the industrial opportunities of moving to a greener and cleaner economy. At home, our modern industrial strategy is helping the U.K.’s innovative clean growth

sector brew up innovative technology like these fuel cells to deliver clean growth and build new markets across the globe.” Colin Miles, BBSRC’s Head of Strategy, Industrial Biotechnology & Bioenergy says: “The researchers have created a robust and inexpensive waste treatment solution from readily-available household materials, which is capable of processing the quantities of waste produced by small, family-owned coffee farms, making it well suited to use where it is most needed. This research is a good example of how the power of biology can help solve significant problems which affect both the developing world and the UK.” Funding for this research was provided primarily by BBSRC and EPSRC. Further funding from the British Council under the Newton Fund allowed the team to collaborate with Colombian researchers to demonstrate that coffee waste could be converted into electricity using a microbial fuel cell. Funding from EPSRC under the Global Challenges Research Fund then allowed the researchers to construct a small, inexpensive device suitable for use on Colombian farms. ■

Dr Claudio Avignone Rossa, and his team, at the University of Surrey are leading the research into coffee waste

R E A D O N L I N E AT: U K S PA . O R G . U K / B R E A K T H R O U G H

W I N T E R 2 0 18 | U K S PA B R E A K T H R O U G H | 61


Why did the chicken cross the road...?


dlothian is on the outskirts of Edinburgh, set in a stunning green landscape surrounded by the Pentland hills an inspiring environment to nurture a collaborative community with science, research, technology and innovation at the core. The region achieved global recognition as the birthplace of Dolly the Sheep and ‘Midlothian Science Zone’ remains at the cutting edge of advancements in crucial research, with a concentration of expertise helping deliver solutions to global challenges within livestock industries in both veterinary and human medicine, agri-tech, food security and associated sectors. Better together is the philosophy, combining the talents of research, business and academia. The proximity of science parks and research institutes makes the opportunity for collaboration and chance meetings a regular occurrence. And once you’re in the zone, most companies choose to stay in the zone. Following the recent closure of Roslin BioCentre, after 20 years as a

6 2 | U K S PA B R E A K T H R O U G H | W I N T E R 2 0 18

successful life sciences incubator, the majority of tenant companies have relocated within Midlothian Science Zone. One such company is Censo Biotechnologies, a drug discovery company preparing for their next stage of growth. During development of bespoke office and lab space at Pentlands Science Park, they have found an ideal interim solution at Roslin Innovation Centre. New kid on the block, Roslin Innovation Centre, is part of an exciting new £30 million multipurpose gateway Charnock Bradley Building on the University of Edinburgh’s Easter Bush Campus. As well as providing long-term lab and office space, the Centre recently opened a ‘Research Hotel’ offering established companies and start-ups ready to use state-of-the art work space with access to standard lab equipment - a perfect transient solution for Censo Biotechnologies. In a region where partnerships and collaboration continue to have impact on global challenges, Pentlands Science Park, approaching its 25th anniversary, and home to The Moredun Group, celebrating 100 years of animal health research excellence

in 2020, have announced a strategic partnership with Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC). This heralds a move by some SRUC departments from the Bush Estate to Pentlands Science Park into refurbished labs that will encompass a world-class diagnostic facility as well as one for research in animal health, farm animal disease surveillance and biosecurity. So, what’s next after Dolly? The Easter Bush Campus is delivering solutions to global challenges within livestock industries and both veterinary and human medicine. In collaboration with Genus PIC (Pig Improvement Company), scientists at The Roslin Institute have recently used advanced genetic techniques to produce pigs that are potentially resilient to Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS) - an endemic in most pig producing countries. And why did the chicken cross the road… to collaborate with world-class researchers on the other side of course. ■

For further information, please contact Lesley Parsons through www.midlothiansciencezone.com

NovaUCD in €6.5m Development Project Capacity to house start-ups expanded by over 50%



ovaUCD, the hub for new ventures and entrepreneurs at University College Dublin (UCD), is a purpose-built, state-of-the-art incubation facility for knowledge-intensive and high-tech companies. NovaUCD, which officially opened in October 2003, is located in a magnificent mid-18th century house formerly known as Merville House. The concept for NovaUCD was to restore the original house as the centrepiece of a complex of subsidiary buildings that surround it. The buildings are bright, airy and open with high-quality shared and circulation spaces that encourage the formal and informal interactions necessary for the development of a community of entrepreneurs. The conversion to a modern centre for new ventures and entrepreneurs was

funded by a unique public-private partnership. Six private sector sponsors AIB Bank, Arthur Cox, Deloitte, Ericsson, Goodbody Stockbrokers, and Xilinx contributed 75% of the €10 million raised to develop the first two phases of the complex. The balance of funds for the first two phases was contributed by Enterprise Ireland and UCD. Additional bioincubation facilities and equipment to accommodate biotechnology start-up companies was subsequently funded (€1.3 million) by Enterprise Ireland and UCD. At NovaUCD, a comprehensive business support programme for client companies is also provided. This programme comprises advice, seminars and workshops as well as facilitated access to UCD’s world-class researchers, labs, specialised personnel and a talented pool of graduates. NovaUCD is currently home to some 25+ companies. However, since 2003 we have incubated some 170+ companies in NovaUCD itself. When you look at the number of companies and early-stage ventures supported by the NovaUCD team, through our other on-campus facilities and support programmes, this figure rises to over 350. Some of the best known companies supported by NovaUCD include; ChangingWorlds, acquired by Amdocs in 2008 for $60+ million; Logentries, acquired by Rapid7 in 2015 for $68 million, and Equinome, which

developed the speed gene test for Thoroughbred horses, which was acquired by Plusvital in 2015. Among NovaUCD’s current clients are Carrick Therapeutics, an earlystage life-sciences company which has raised $95 million in an initial funding round, and OncoMark, a UCD spin-out company, which is focused on the development of novel panels of cancer biomarkers, to aid treatment decisions and allow more tailored patient management, ultimately improving the quality of life for cancer patients. The new €6.5 million development project at NovaUCD, which commenced in June, will see the renovation and extension of the second, or east, courtyard of the original Merville House building. The newly developed courtyard will result in 800m2 of additional licensable space, and will include a total of 23 business units, labs and coworking space. The internal courtyard area will be designed as a new meeting and social space for client companies. NovaUCD currently has over 1,400m2 of licensable space in a total of 40 units, labs and co-working space. The development of the east courtyard will enable us to increase our capacity to house start-ups by over 50% and when completed NovaUCD will be able to accommodate up to 450 people. The project is expected to be completed by Summer 2019. ■

W I N T E R 2 0 18 | U K S PA B R E A K T H R O U G H | 6 3


Taking care of your people, places and public perception

Healthy foods; healthy economy A win-win for industry and public health


he food industry has been coming under increasing pressure to develop healthier foods – and not just from the usual suspects. Even the British Retail Consortium, including its big supermarket members, has called on the government to take tougher action to ensure more companies produce healthier food, and indications are that the government is now starting to listen. Food high in sugar, salt and saturated fat is now implicated in a range of health problems, from obesity and type 2 diabetes to heart attack, stroke, several types of cancer and dental decay. For instance, eating too much unhealthy food is the main cause of obesity and there’s a seven times greater risk of type 2 diabetes in people who are obese.

6 4 | U K S PA B R E A K T H R O U G H | W I N T E R 2 0 18



Michael is a Fellow of the Royal Society for Public Health and a former College Principal and Charity CEO

In practice, the food industry is probably approaching a tipping point. Developments in food technology are making the production of healthier food easier. Consumer research has identified an increasing public desire for healthier food, particularly among the evergrowing number of educated consumers; and there is reputational risk to food and drink companies perceived to be resisting the move to healthier products. This has bottom line implications, with healthier food providing potential competitive advantage and greater lifetime value for food companies. Food companies who want to produce healthier food now have a range of strategic approaches to include reformulation or component restructuring and substitution.


Food designers can take an incremental (or stealth) approach, gradually amending the formulation of their products, so consumers don’t notice a difference in taste. This approach produced a reduction in salt levels in products like bread, under the coalition government’s voluntary Public Health Responsibility Deal. Alternative approaches substitute products, like Trimbake (which uses a fruit and vegetable puree for baking, thereby using less sugar and fat and providing more fibre), or restructure sugar and salt, to give the same taste to consumers from a lower volume, thereby reducing consumption without compromising taste. For example, Tate & Lyle worked with Nottingham University to develop SODA-LO Salt Microspheres. This turns standard sea salt crystals into free-flowing hollow salt microspheres, meaning that our tongues perceive the same salt taste from a lower volume of salt. And, Israeli company Doux Matok has developed flavour delivery particles. By adding 0.3% of food industry approved silica, which the body naturally excretes, the remaining 99.7% sugar is perceived by our taste receptors as sweeter than an equivalent amount of conventional sugar.


Some companies choose to formulate food to encourage satiety, as when Marks & Spencer developed the Fuller for Longer range (now marketed as Balanced for You), with input from researchers at Aberdeen University. Reformulation can be a complex process. Companies may need to consider the impact not only on taste but also on shelf life, food safety and processes such as baking. And changes may have knock on effects. For example, one leading food company identified that reducing salt content made their Italian sauces taste more acidic and their Indian sauces too hot, requiring further reformulation. However, reformulation is a core skill for food companies, who already vary the formulation of the ‘same’ product for different parts of the world (to cater for different regional tastes or different

H E A LT H C O N C E R N S D O N ’ T R E P R E S E N T A N E X I S T E N T I A L T H R E AT T O T H E F O O D I N D U S T R Y. P E O P L E W I L L A L W AY S N E E D T O E AT A N D D R I N K regulatory requirements). They can also call on the expertise of external organisations to help with reformulation, including an increasing number of universities - and have access to some corporation tax relief for R&D.


Evidence that healthier food is good for business comes from a range of sources. This includes consumer research organisations like Canadean, Kantar World Panel, Leatherhead Food Research and Nielsen. It also comes from sales figures. For example, both globally and in the UK, sales of bottled water have now overtaken sales of sugary drinks. Again, here in the UK, dunnhumby, who track supermarket sales, report that more health-conscious consumers spend more. It is reasonable to assume they will also tend to live longer in good health – meaning greater lifetime value for the companies whose products they purchase. Health concerns don’t represent an existential threat to the food industry. People will always need to eat and drink. And consumer behaviour is sometimes nuanced. For example, people may want

R E A D O N L I N E AT: U K S PA . O R G . U K / B R E A K T H R O U G H

their everyday foods to be healthy, but feel treats (like chocolates or eating out) may be accepted more as indulgences, with less need to be healthy. So, we will always need a food industry. However, our analysis suggests that producing healthier food and being seen to do so, isn’t just good for public health, potentially reducing pressure on the NHS. It should have positive commercial benefits for food companies, enabling them to increase market share and profits amongst the country’s (and the world’s) increasingly better educated, more health-conscious consumers. With increasing public and political pressure for healthier food it makes sense for food companies to be seen as part of the solution, rather than part of the problem. ■

Health Action Campaign encourages government and businesses to make healthy choices easier for people. It is a member of the Obesity Health Alliance. For further information, please visit: www.healthactioncampaign.org.uk

W I N T E R 2 0 18 | U K S PA B R E A K T H R O U G H | 6 5

Image: Innovate ABQ, Albuquerque, New Mexico

Transforming research collaborations by weaving science and technology into the fabric of urban communities

David Green, Principal david.green@perkinswill.com t +44 207 466 1111 Peter Baird, Associate peter.baird@perkinswill.com t +44 207 466 1140


The UK’s agtech sector can be grouped into five subsectors: agricultural software, farming hardware, satellite imaging, urban farming and insect farming

Agtech start-ups A roundup of the leading start-ups in the sector


Thomas works within Beauhurst’s investment research team, where he focusses on the UK’s cleantech sector. He holds a BSc in Biology from Bristol

he future of agriculture has become the subject of serious debate in the UK, with current subsidies payments arranged under EU law facing an uncertain future following any potential Brexit. Indeed, the countryside holds an important place in Britain’s cultural identity. Whilst less well known than their more consumer focussed counterparts in the Fintech sector, numerous young British agricultural technology (agtech) companies have launched in recent years. Some are developing new software to make farmers’ lives easier, whilst others are looking to introduce farming where agriculture was once thought impossible, such as underneath London, or in the Sahara. Others, such as Dynium Robotics, are

R E A D O N L I N E AT: U K S PA . O R G . U K / B R E A K T H R O U G H

looking to develop autonomous farming machinery. Roughly, the UK’s agtech sector can be grouped into five subsectors: agricultural software, farming hardware/technology, satellite imaging, urban farming, and insect farming. Here’s our roundup of the UK’s leading agtech startups in each subsector.


This is “agtech” in its truest sense: software designed for use in the agricultural sector. Several British companies have started up in this field recently, developing new software programmes designed to make the lives of farmers easier. KisanHub, based in Cambridge, has developed two web-based platforms. The first helps farmers

W I N T E R 2 0 18 | U K S PA B R E A K T H R O U G H | 6 7


with “crop intelligence”, allowing them to digitally manage maps of their fields and attach assessment data (such as local soil conditions and moisture levels). It also allows them to track the performance of new trials, and quickly send out this info to interested parties. Their second aims to improve the link between growers and the enterprises who buy their produce. Through this, the platform aims to reduce risk for a retailer’s supply chain, by predicting when there might be shortages. Hectare, meanwhile, operates several online agri-marketplaces. Through these, farmers can trade goods such as livestock and grain. They’ve also developed a payment platform designed specifically for payment between two farmers or agri-enterprises. In their most recent funding round in March, they were valued at £8m. Fieldmargin’s business case is simple, providing an easy, cloud-based system through which farmers can make notes on their fields, both on or offline. This software comes with an added map overlay, allowing farmers to make specific geographic notes about a particular field, or other feature of their farm. In a slightly different vein, Arnia have developed a device which monitors a wide range of conditions in an apiary (a commercial bee hive). This data is then transmitted into a cloud-based dashboard interface, which beekeepers can access through any connected device.


This is a much broader church of agtech, taking in a range of companies who are developing new, non-software technology to help improve agricultural output. This includes genetic engineering, developing new methods of farming in hot deserts, and even the development of autonomous agricultural vehicles. First up in this sector is Tropic Biosciences, which raised $10m in June. This team, based in Norwich but led by several Israeli scientists, is working to improve varieties of crops grown in the tropics, through a combination of genome editing and selective breeding techniques. Interestingly, this company is one of the first to use the gene-editing technology known as CRISPR in a commercial capacity.

6 8 | U K S PA B R E A K T H R O U G H | W I N T E R 2 0 18

Tropic Bioscience’s technology will be used in the breeding of new lines of banana in the tropics

One important use case of this company’s tech will be in the breeding of new lines of banana. Currently, 99.9% of bananas grown around the world are cloned from a single genetic line known as the Cavendish. As such, they contain very little genetic variation. This makes them very susceptible to diseases. Indeed, a virulent disease known as fusarium wilt, or Panama disease, is currently decimating worldwide stocks. Using CRISPR, Tropic Biosciences hopes to introduce new, resistant strains to farmers in the tropics. DryGro, in a similar vein, has developed a new technique for growing animal feed in high-temperature, low-water environments – namely, deserts. This young company, incorporated in 2015, has received two Innovate UK grants, and was recently valued at £2m. 3F Bio, a spinout from the University of Strathclyde, meanwhile, has developed a new method of converting waste plant starch into edible mycoprotein (the same protein used to make Quorn). Converting plant matter to protein in this process is much more efficient, and therefore sustainable, than the usual method of rearing livestock. It also allows for the conversion of large amounts of agricultural waste into food.

Dynium Robot, meanwhile, is in the process of developing the hardware and software required in autonomous, off-road agricultural vehicles. The business is at a very early stage, having only incorporated at the start of 2016. So far, they’ve received a small grant from Innovate UK, and £0.5m in unreported seed finance.


As time goes on, the number of satellites orbiting the earth is increasing, with one estimate saying that 2017 saw 50% more satellites launched more than any prior year. On top of that, the imaging hardware used by these satellites is becoming ever more powerful. Satellite images are now so detailed, that they can be used to detect changing patterns in land use. Deep Planet, a young London startup which incorporated a few months ago, has developed software to assess these images and predict trends and potential risks in crop production. This has use not only for farmers, but also the retailers whose supply chain depends on agricultural productivity in certain regions. Despite being very young (under a year), this company was recently accelerated by the European Space Agency Business Incubation Centre.



One sector that has generated lots of interest, though with relatively little commercial yield (as of yet) is urban farming. The idea here is in the name – developing new technology which allows for edible produce to be grown within city limits. These technologies need to replicate several natural factors – strong levels of UV rich light for photosynthesis, and a suitable nutrient cycle. The lack of space has also beckoned research into “vertical farming”, whereby crops are grown in vertical “stacks”.

Numerous companies have started up to explore the potential here in Britain’s cities, such as Vertical Future, Zero Carbon Food, GrowUp Urban Farms and LettUs Grow. Funding for these companies remains largely at the seed stage, and the market for their produce remains primarily in the restaurant sector. What may become widespread in their future is their specific IP – the creation of growing conditions in traditionally inhospitable environments. The current Secretary of State for the Environment, Michael Gove, has warned that the UK is on course to deplete its topsoil within 40 years. This is a fertile layer of soil on which much agriculture depends. Should this trend proceed, urban agtech may find a wider use case.


As a niche tail-note to this summary of the UK’s agtech sector, it is worth mentioning two young startups who are looking to capitalise on a new, largely

R E A D O N L I N E AT: U K S PA . O R G . U K / B R E A K T H R O U G H

overlooked new form of livestock: insects. Both Entocycle and Entonomics have developed a new production system to improve the efficiency of animal agriculture supply chains. In a similar vein to 3F Bio, these companies use Black Soldier Flies to convert food waste into high-protein larvae, which can then be used as animal feed. This helps circulate the supply chain, reducing waste and providing an added commercial avenue for enterprises which frequently have to dispose of food waste. If you’re worried about overfishing, this tech has important implications. Currently, a good deal of aquaculture (farmed fish) stock, such as Atlantic salmon, are carnivorous. Their feed takes the form of wild fish caught at sea, stocks of which are highly depleted. However, the EU recently approved the use of insects as feed in aquaculture. Here, these companies could help reduce environmental impacts and supply chain risk in the quickly growing aquaculture industry. ■

W I N T E R 2 0 18 | U K S PA B R E A K T H R O U G H | 6 9


Synthetic biology and plant agriculture An emerging field tackling the need for food supply increases


he world population, currently 7.6 billion, is expected to reach 8.6 billion in 2030, 9.8 billion in 2050 and 11.2 billion in 21001. This growth brings with it unprecedented challenges, not least of which is the need for substantial increases in food supply supported by sustainable and reliable agricultural production. Many technologies will contribute to the required solutions, among them the emerging field of synthetic biology. Synthetic biology is broadly defined as the design and construction of novel artificial biological pathways, organisms or devices, or the redesign of existing natural biological systems2. It is generally accepted that synthetic biology is poised to deliver a wide range of new products and to disrupt industries from agriculture, pharmaceuticals, renewables and industrial biotech. It presents the

7 0 | U K S PA B R E A K T H R O U G H | W I N T E R 2 0 18

opportunity to exploit biology as never before and could be fundamental in helping us manage the Earth’s resources. In the agricultural field, it not only offers the prospect of improving productivity, but also reducing reliance on petroleum-based products and thus environmental impact. Dr Tim Brears CEO, EVONETIX LTD

Tim is CEO of Evonetix, where he leads the company in developing a bench-top DNA writer, to transition DNA synthesis from a service industry to one where scientists can make genes at will. He holds a PhD from Cambridge University and has an MBA from Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business


Nitrogen fertiliser3 is an area of particular interest as this is widely used to support high crop yields. The Haber-Bosch process, the starting point in the synthesis of inorganic nitrogenous fertiliser, produces around 450 million tonnes of fertiliser annually and uses around 3-5% of the world’s natural gas4. However, there are serious issues associated with the use of nitrogenous fertiliser, as significant quantities of nitrogen are lost to the environment either as greenhouse


gasses or as soluble nitrates that find their way into aquatic systems5,6. For some time, scientists have considered the possibility of engineering crop plants to fix their own nitrogen in the same way that legumes, through symbiotic Rhizobia, are able to fix many kilograms of atmospheric nitrogen per hectare. This would clearly be a complex and highly challenging process requiring the transfer and optimisation of many genes7, but significant progress on the underlying biology has been made. In separate approaches, scientists are looking to engineer microbes as the delivery agent of useful traits. In one example, a company is combining its understanding of the crop microbiome, microbial sequence information and microbial ecology to enable microbes to increase nutrient uptake by crops. In 2018, the company started beta testing its first product, a nitrogen-producing microbe that has had this ability ‘reawakened’8. Another company, focussed on using synthetic biology to create novel microbial products, believes that its first products are likely to be seed treatments with nitrogen fixation capability9.

Synthetic biology is enabled by the vast amounts of DNA sequence information available from a huge array of organisms, and the availability of genomic and metagenomic tools to understand the potential functionality of such information. Crucial for the achievement of many of the opportunities in synthetic biology is the further development of synthetic DNA synthesis. Whereas DNA sequencing underwent a revolution in the mid-2000s resulting in massive parallelisation and reduction in cost, a comparable breakthrough in DNA synthesis would catalyse many opportunities in this area. While companies have made great progress in upscaling DNA synthesis, there remain challenges in achieving further scale, greater accuracy and reduced cost. New approaches include the development of ever-smaller sites

of synthesis and enzymatic techniques in which base additions are made by template-independent enzymes. Activated silicon, an approach being pioneered by Evonetix, represents an exciting opportunity to achieve highly parallel, high-fidelity DNA synthesis in an environment without the usual physical separation of reaction sites. Independent thermal conditions at each site are used to localise the reactions and maintain exquisite control of de novo DNA synthesis and assembly. Overcoming some of the challenges to allow robust, scalable and costeffective synthesis of high-fidelity DNA will enable DNA synthesis to enjoy a sea change similar to sequencing in the mid-2000s. ■

For further information, please visit: www.evonetix.com


Much like the gut microbiome, which is recognised as a seriously untapped source for use in human health, so the soil microbiome contains a myriad of microbes of potential utility. This rich source can be tapped into by screening millions of microbes, analysing vast quantities of sequence data, recreating and testing new strains and developing these as sources of new biological activities10. Using this approach opens new horizons in the development of novel active ingredients (to be developed as traditional agrochemicals), biological products (to be developed as biological pesticides) and transgenic traits (to be engineered into plants). Engineering crop plants with the ability to synthesise a microbe-derived natural fungicide or insecticide would be no trivial matter given the number of genes and optimisation required, but this would be a significant development.

https://esa.un.org/unpd/wpp/ https://royalsociety.org/topics-policy/projects/synthetic-biology/ Journal of Experimental Botany, Volume 65, Issue 8, 1 May 2014, Pages 1939–1946 4 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Haber_process 5 Raun WR & Johnson GV (1999); Improving nitrogen use efficiency for cereal production. Agronomy Journal: 91 357–363 6 Glendining MJ et al. (2009); Is it possible to increase the sustainability of arable and ruminant agriculture by reducing inputs? Agricultural Systems: 99 117–125 7 Rogers & Oldroyd (2014); Synthetic biology approaches to engineering the nitrogen symbiosis in cereals. J Exp. Bot. 65: 1939-1946 8 http://pivotbio.com/newsitem/sustainable-nitrogen/ 9 https://joynbio.com/ 10 http://agbiome.com/platform/ 1 2 3

R E A D O N L I N E AT: U K S PA . O R G . U K / B R E A K T H R O U G H

W I N T E R 2 0 18 | U K S PA B R E A K T H R O U G H | 7 1


(l-r) Anthony Fletcher, CEO of graze, shares his insights and journeys on running a Food Tech Startup with Nadia El Hadery at YFood Tech Wednesdays, London

YFood Tech Wednesdays Acclaimed monthly meetups to provide platform in Manchester


runtwood and YFood will be putting the city at the forefront of the global Food Tech movement by nurturing a community of northern food industry brands, startups and investors who are committed to transforming the food ecosystem and developing sustainability through innovation. YFood’s acclaimed monthly meetups for Food Tech startups and futurepreneurs, “YFood Tech Wednesdays”, will be at the heart of the partnership in Manchester. These events will provide a new monthly platform for sharing ideas, showcasing trends and forging new collaborations. The ambition is for these events to be the catalyst for an exciting

7 2 | U K S PA B R E A K T H R O U G H | W I N T E R 2 0 18

northern Food Tech movement, and a pivotal new outpost as part of the YFood community expansion. Hosted on the 2nd Wednesday of every month, YFood Tech Wednesday in Manchester is a chance for food innovators to meet like-minded people within the Food Tech community in a fun and relaxed atmosphere. Each month there’ll be a short talk from an established Food Tech founder, followed by an interactive discussion before drinks and YFood’s original facilitated networking. This unique event is designed to create opportunities for collaboration, learning, inspiration and support for startups and those interested in setting up a Food Tech business.


The first event took place on Wednesday 14 November at Manchester Technology Centre on Oxford Road, which is part of the new Circle Square neighbourhood. Sustainability is integral to Bruntwood’s vision for Circle Square and across the business, and the YFood partnership is part of their ambition towards creating a globally recognised eco-friendly community. The first Food Tech speaker at YFood Tech Wednesdays was Manchester born Olympian Andrew Steele - Head of Product and part of the founding team at DNAfit. Andrew is a British Olympic athlete in Track & Field, running the 400m and

Y F O O D T E C H W E D N E S D AY S IN MANCHESTER IS A CHANCE FOR FOOD I N N O VAT O R S T O M E E T LIKE-MINDED PEOPLE WITHIN THE FOOD TECH COMMUNIT Y IN A FUN AND R E L A X E D AT M O S P H E R E 4x400m for Great Britain. Alongside his athletic career, Andrew is also a founding member and Head of Product Development for personal genetics company DNAFit, who specialise in DNA testing for both fitness and nutrition response to allow better personalised exercise and nutrition advice.


hospitality which can deliver 9 million combinations served in under 5 minutes, 3D printed food, edible sachet & water packaging and bio-reactive expiry labels. YFood create and host exclusive opportunities and events such as London Food Tech Week, the world’s largest Food Tech Celebration, and YFood Tech Wednesdays, which they founded in London in 2013. These monthly

YFood is the largest curated global community of companies and people actively trying to change the future of food. They do this by delivering information and reporting on trends focussed on where science, new ideas, business models and tech are changing the food industry. The result is a powerful, collaborative community of Food Tech companies - a network of world-leading partners sharing knowledge to find positive solutions to global food issues. Through its influential network, YFood has championed a plethora of Food Tech advances from Farm to Fork to Bin such as hydroponic underground farms, converting coffee waste to bio-fuel, personalisation tech for

R E A D O N L I N E AT: U K S PA . O R G . U K / B R E A K T H R O U G H

(l-r) Athena Simpson and Nadia El Hadery of YFood at an underground farm in London

Wednesday meetups are now THE vital forum for the Food Tech community and have hosted speakers including the founders and CEOs of graze, Olio, Farm Drop and many more. â–

For further information, please visit: www.yfood.com/food-tech-wednesday

The YFood team and volunteers at a YFood Tech Wednesdays meetup

W I N T E R 2 0 18 | U K S PA B R E A K T H R O U G H | 7 3


Quantitive and qualitative analysis of the innovation ecosystem SETsquared has been ranked by UBI Global as the World’s ‘Top Business Incubator – Managed by a University’ since 2015

From Incubation to Impact Mighty oaks from little acorns grow


ince 2002, SETsquared, the global no. 1 business incubator comprising five researchintensive universities: Bath, Bristol, Exeter, Southampton and Surrey, has gone from strength to strength. Our aim is to turn innovation into thriving business and drive economic growth within our regions and the UK. We offer bespoke support to entrepreneurs whatever stage they are at; from student entrepreneurs through to start-up business incubation and scale-up support for rapidly growing companies. We also aim to maximise the R&D capabilities of the five university partners so that businesses can engage with universities for innovation, and academic researchers can realise the business impact from their work.

74 | U K S PA B R E A K T H R O U G H | W I N T E R 2 0 18

2002. Not only is this an economic impact to be proud of, but it also equates to an estimated 10,900 jobs created up to 2017.



Between 2015 and 2017, SETsquared has supported 965 companies (and more than a 1,000 today!), with the Partnership providing 3,645 programmes of assistance since 2002. These figures provide an estimated total of £8.6 billion of Gross Value Added contribution from all the companies we have supported since

Whilst the figures are impressive, nothing tells the SETsquared story better than the successes of some of the companies we have supported: A recent student start-up company, Intro was formed after co-founders Max Beech and Tom Phipps from the University of Exeter attended our 3 Day Start-Up programme in 2017. They have developed an app that revolutionises the way people connect with each other and with partner companies. Despite only recently having launched, Intro has already attracted funding which is a fantastic achievement.

O N E O F T H E K E Y W AY S I N W H I C H W E H AV E B E E N A B L E T O F I N D TA L E N T E D N E W B U S I N E S S F O U N D E R S I S B Y L I T E R A L LY TA K I N G ‘ S E T S Q U A R E D ’ T O T H E ENTREPRENEURS Another great success story is Ultrahaptics. Founded in 2013 by then University of Bristol PhD student Tom Carter, the company has developed a breakthrough haptic technology that uses ultrasound to create rich, threedimensional shapes and textures that can be felt, but not seen. This has major applications in the automotive, smart home, medical and entertainment and gaming sectors and indeed the company is engaged with multiple blue chip clients from these markets. They have raised over $35 million investment and funding and over the course of five years have grown the team to over 100 people. This is an outstanding example of a successful British company which is scaling rapidly. Ziylo are an outstanding example of how SETsquared has helped launch a tech giant of the future. The company took part in our Innovation to Commercialisation of University Research (ICURe) programme in 2015, before progressing through to business incubation at SETsquared Bristol.

The biotech company has created glucose-binding molecules, which have the potential to revolutionise treatment for diabetes. Earlier this year, Ziylo were acquired by pharmaceutical giant Novo Nordisk in a staged deal with a potential value of over £625 million. Achieving this figure is contingent upon the achievement of certain development, regulatory and sales milestones by Novo Nordisk.


One of the key ways in which we have been able to find talented new business founders is by literally taking ‘SETsquared’ to the entrepreneurs, rather than waiting for them to come to us. This is achieved through our Entrepreneur’s Programmes which is open to the earliest stage of business idea, and tailored to specific sectors such as digital innovation, sustainability, healthcare and space technology. The Entrepreneur’s Programme enables participants to quickly stress-test their propositions over two intensive days.

Chemists from Ziylo hard at work in their lab

R E A D O N L I N E AT: U K S PA . O R G . U K / B R E A K T H R O U G H

Emma Thorn, SETsquared Bristol; Heather Macdonald Tait, Ultrahaptics; Prof Nishan Canagarajah, University of Bristol; Peter Blenkinsopp, Ultrahaptics

The future continues to look good. A recent independent report undertaken by Warwick Economics and Development (WECD) was able to project forward the impact of the Partnership to the economy. They found that assuming the level of support continues at the current rate, SETsquared’s contribution to the UK economy is expected to rise to £26.9 billion, with 22,200 jobs created by 2030. It’s an incredible realisation and shows us in black and white how what we’re doing today is already shaping the country’s future for the better. The findings from the report show the important role of organisations such as ours play in nurturing new businesses, entrepreneurship and innovation in the UK, as well as the positive impact this has on the UK economy through job creation and GVA contribution. Building on our success in supporting entrepreneurs and start-ups, we recently launched a £5m scale-up programme to help power high-growth UK companies. Supporting them to accelerate their growth through access to investment, university research and access to corporate partners, the programme will further increase SETsquared’s economic impact on the UK. The result being that we hope to exceed the projections outlined by the WECD in its latest report. The SETsquared team is incredibly proud of its achievements and the findings from WECD’s report have only galvanised our resolve to continue, and improve, the support available to entrepreneurs from start-up to scale-up and beyond. ■

To find out more about SETsquared programmes, success stories and events, please visit: www.setsquared.co.uk

W I N T E R 2 0 18 | U K S PA B R E A K T H R O U G H | 7 5


Fruitful discussions Dave Russell-Graham reports from the launch of The Internet of Food Things (IoFT) Network Plus organisation


David works with the Life Sciences and Healthcare sectors for Invest Essex, the inward investment and business support agency

7 6 | U K S PA B R E A K T H R O U G H | W I N T E R 2 0 18

hen I was told the latest issue of Breakthrough was going to be an agri-tech ‘special’, it seemed appropriate that I had signed up to attend the launch of an organisation called The Internet of Food Things (IoFT) Network Plus. The new network is led by Professor Simon Pearson of the University of Lincoln and aims to bring together data and computer scientists, chemists, and economists to investigate how artificial intelligence, data analytics and emerging technologies can enhance the digitalisation of the UK food supply chain. So it was that I joined a huge number of other interested parties on 21 September at The Institute of Engineering and Technology (IET) in Savoy Place, London for a series of enlightening talks on the future of the agri-tech industry. The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) has

awarded a £1.14 million grant to develop IoFT, led by the University of Lincoln in partnership with the universities of Southampton, Surrey, East Anglia, and the Open University.


Prof Simon Pearson, who opened the event, revealed food manufacturing is the UK’s biggest manufacturing sector, with a value of £108bn providing 3.9 million jobs and £20bn of exports. Kirsten Coppoolse, from Amsterdambased The Fork, presented on how her company assesses the value of Blockchain to the agrifood supply chain. Their regular Food Integrity Blockchained (FIB) meet-ups in the Netherlands are attended by more than 1000 professionals in the sector, with the emphasis on Blockchain improving risk reduction, optimisation and integrity within the industry. Patrick Curry, of the British Business Federation Authority, presented on


of soft fruit are currently unpicked due to problems recruiting enough workers

Blockchain from a UK perspective, outlining the government’s foodrelated working groups on the subject, looking specifically into red meat, fruit and veg and food data policy management authority.


Another highly engaging presentation came from Josephine Hansom, Head of Youth Research and Insight, from insights company Youthsight. Josephine’s data provided evidence into why food is becoming the new rock ‘n’ roll for the millennial generation, with 57% of 18-34-year-olds preferring to eat out regularly, compared to 21% who go out clubbing, and a generally healthier outlook to their diet. Keith Thornhill, Sieman’s head of food and beverage for UK and Ireland, discussed the role of technology in advancing productivity, which included

Engineering, will help to alleviate the current problem whereby up to 20% of soft fruit are currently unpicked due to problems recruiting enough workers. Although too late for inclusion in this article, Dr Mohan - along with Andrey Ivanov from Wilkin & Sons - were both due to speak on the subject of robotics for The Faraday statue outside the Institution of Engineering and Technology, Savoy Place agriculture at ‘Above, Below and Around’, part of ‘Agritech Week 2018’ at University of Essex in November - featuring talks and imbalance in the brain understood to demonstrations focused on drones, cause the degenerative condition - for use agricultural robotics, plant health, soil in Alzheimer drugs. health and further research carried out More of the chemical is produced in by the progressive University of Essex Stephens’s crops than in lowland species due to the stress they face in having to endure harsh winters at 1,200 ft., causing them to flower much later in the season than regular daffodils. The Government’s ‘Innovate UK’ initiative plays its part in ensuring the industry remains in touch with developments and the pressures faced within the sector, having invested almost £90 million of government funds in four Centres for Agricultural Innovation (Agritech centres). These centres have four key elements scientists around this area. In general, in mind: productivity, sustainability, there is a need to continually innovate enterprise and leadership. for any business to succeed – especially The UK agri-tech industry will need where technology is concerned. to keep on top of each and every one of This makes the collaboration these dynamics in order to remain a mentioned above between UoE and significant player in a sector that is Tiptree all the more necessary, as does key to the nation’s future welfare and the work being done in the Black food security. ■ Mountains in Wales to help treat dementia. Kevin Stephens has been developing a method of growing and harvesting daffodils to extract Dave works for Invest Essex: galanthamine - which corrects the www.investessex.co.uk

F O O D M A N U FA C T U R I N G I S T H E U K ’ S B I G GE S T M A N U FA C T U R I N G S E C T O R , W I T H A VA L U E O F £10 8 B N P R O V I D I N G 3 .9 MILLION JOBS AND £20BN OF E XPORTS the increased automation of labour, such as in picking and packing – which brought to mind a project currently ongoing in Essex. A dwindling labour force in the UK could arise post-Brexit so, to that end, the renowned jam maker Wilkin & Sons of Tiptree are collaborating with the University of Essex to investigate ways of using robots to pick strawberries. It is hoped the research, led by Dr Vishuu Mohan, from the School of Computer Science and Electronic

R E A D O N L I N E AT: U K S PA . O R G . U K / B R E A K T H R O U G H

W I N T E R 2 0 18 | U K S PA B R E A K T H R O U G H | 7 7


3M Buckley Innovation Centre, HUDDERSFIELD, UK

BIOGRAPHY The 3M BIC management team is responsible for the efficient day-to-day running of the centre, which celebrated its 5th anniversary earlier this year, from supporting tenants’ needs, managing internal and external events, to providing access and support to its advanced technologies

The 3M BIC Team Fostering dynamic business growth models

8am: Sophie, our receptionist, is usually the first to arrive. The rest of the team arrive from 8:30am onwards with most living locally although one commutes from York and another from Warrington! 10am: Our team meeting is usually headed up by our general manager Michael, or the CEO Liz, and provides an opportunity to hear about developments within the business and updates from the team. Our marketing officer, Sarah and PR consultant, Emily get a grasp of key focus areas to promote and our finance officer, Roo updates us on the figures. We’re missing our business development manager, James, who’s currently on a business visit to China. SEP



11am: Steve A meets with a new tenant to discuss connecting them to the centre’s high-speed fibre network and Sally, our operations

7 8 | U K S PA B R E A K T H R O U G H | W I N T E R 2 0 18

manager, liaises with the University’s legal team to finalise a new tenant’s agreement. 11.30am: A client arrives to meet our design team, Paul, Luke and Callum, to discuss a concept that they want to bring to market. Following a discussion over the client’s needs, the team kick starts a project that requires visualisation and additive manufacture. Our project manager, Janine takes a group of people from a local business on a tour of Innovation Avenue, situated on the ground floor, which houses most of the centre’s technology, such as AM metal printers and microscopy.

‘ W O R K O U T W E D N E S D AY ’

12-1pm: With the 3M BIC being close to the University of Huddersfield, most get their lunch on campus. We’re also a short stone’s throw away from the town centre. It’s ‘Workout Wednesday’ too, so a couple of the team members head to the gym!

1.30pm: Maisie and Jordan from the events team set up for an event in our Exhibition Suite taking place the next day – a seminar for 70 people hosted by a local manufacturing firm.


2pm: Jason, the cleaner, usually clocks off at this time, having spent the morning ensuring the building and its facilities are presentable for tenants and visitors. 3pm: Tea break! It’s usually the one that caves first that makes the tea! There are always biscuits or sweets that the team bring back from their holidays. 3.30pm: Steve G, head of regional development, and Jill, our business development officer, meet with a local business keen to join our network membership and gain advice on how to drive their business forwards. 5pm: Reception closes and most of the team head home. ■






Powering the economy through Science and Technology The Surrey Research Park is recognised as a centre of excellence in technology, science, health and engineering. To date it houses over 150 businesses, including leading players such as SSTL, BAE Systems Applied Intelligence Limited, IDBS, Optegra as well as many start-up R&D businesses, all of which enjoy the value of a great environment in an innovation district. The University of Surrey The Research Park is owned and managed by The University of Surrey renowned throughout the globe for its exceptional performance across teaching and research. The Park maintains close links with the university both physically and through its knowledge base. The Surrey Technology Centre The STC allows opportunities for opportunity led entrepreneurs and established companies to locate in serviced offices on flexible licence from 120 up to 900 sq ft. This centre incorporates a business incubator and an on-site support team. Larger units for corporates and high growth companies The Park has accommodation for companies requiring up to 60,000 sq ft. Outstanding amenities The Park sits at the edge of the thriving university campus with the ÂŁ40m Surrey Sports Park and Hotel within walking distance. There is easy access to the historic county town of Guildford which offers exciting retail and leisure facilities as well as a rail station, serving London Waterloo. Communications The Park enjoys outstanding communications with fast links to major airports, road and rail networks.



Email: sales@surrey.ac.uk


Profile for Open Box Media & Communications

UKSPA - Breakthrough Issue 6  

UKSPA - Breakthrough Issue 6  

Profile for open-box