Pitch@Palace returns this year with the inclusion of six talented SETsquared entrepreneurs, each with pioneering ideas, in the final round of vigorous pitching. They will be competing for the winning spot alongside 36 other entrepreneurs.
The annual competition gives startups an opportunity to
pitch their business to an audience of A-list investors, business leaders,
celebrities, CEOs and mentors at St James’s Palace. The ambition behind this is
to connect entrepreneurs and early-stage businesses connect with potential
SETsquared is thrilled to have so many companies reaching
the final bid to be crowned the Pitch@Palace winner.
Here are the companies representing the South West at this year’s event:
Board of your standard cotton gloves? Even the ones you can use a touch screen with? Well, lucky for you, gloves just got a lot more exciting. Introducing MI.MU Gloves, the world’s most advanced wearable musical instrument.
Truly an object of expression, with these gloves you can create
music with the wave of a hand, all through the power of motion capture and AI
The tech behind the gestural musical gloves has been in development at UWE Bristol by Dr Tom Mitchell since 2014, and the finished product is now available for pre-order on MI.MU’s website.
Waving hello to the
Simply put, the gloves enable users to create music with their movement. The tech has been refined and the design has been impeccably streamlined to suit the needs of musical artists. The latest version contains enhanced build quality and gesture control, improved electronics, and faster wireless communication.
Managing Director, Adam Stark, explains the far-reaching benefits of the product, “They are the result of years of research and development into new ways to compose and perform music.
“We believe they will enable musicians to discover new forms of expression, leading to new ideas, new performances and, ultimately, new forms of music.”
Bespoke models have already been created and distributed to
a select few musicians. Those finding use from the product range from classical
pianists to film composers to pop stars like Ariana Grande.
MI.MU was founded by Grammy Award winning musician Imogen
Heap in partnership with UWE Bristol, and a team of hard-working creatives was
soon built. Imogen’s own expertise in the world of music, combined with the tech
wizards at UWE was a match made in heaven.
Through collaborations with initiatives like Innovate UK and the EU Commission, Tom and his team created a product that will soon be on the hands of many musicians.
Tom says, “The gloves bring a new creative dimension to
music performance, enabling musicians to create the movements that perform
their music. I can’t wait to see what people will do with the technology.”
Imogen is also extremely pleased with the developments and
is eager to let the music be heard, “I’m so happy that we are finally able to
extend the incredible superhuman feeling of having music in our hands out to a
The SPARKies Awards celebrates the best of tech and digital in the west. And with so much bustling talent in the region, we have a list of over 100 individuals, startups, organisations and agencies all making the South West’s tech cluster what it is today.
Thanks to everyone’s incredible work, 2019 has seen a record number of nominations. The 300-odd nominations (many were nominated multiple times) include the most innovative uses of tech, those using their powers for good, groundbreaking virtual reality experiences, as well as nominations for the ones to watch in the future.
Our amazing 18 SPARKies judges now have the tough challenge of deciding who to shortlist and who to award the ultimate winner’s title. Yet they agree that the breadth and excellence of all those nominated deserve congratulating too.
So, have a gander at this year’s nominees and see if you can spot your favourites!
Missed out on getting involved with the SPARKies this year? Why not sign-up to the TechSPARK newsletter for the latest news, events and jobs in tech in the region as well as a handy reminder to enter the SPARKies the next time it comes around! There are still tickets left if you want to come down and see what’s going on in the tech scene. You can stay up to date by following us on Twitter too: @TechSPARKuk.Y
Tech South West has launched a new awards ceremony to celebrate and showcase the best of the region’s technology sector.
The Tech South West Awards 2019 cover the whole Tech South West region of Bath, Bristol,
Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, Devon, Dorset, Gloucestershire, Somerset and
Wiltshire, recognising and celebrating talent, creativity, business success,
education, leadership, diversity and more across the whole technology sector.
The event will comprise 23 award categories covering South West’s fastest growing sector, honouring the profusion of innovative businesses, individuals and organisations making up the region’s thriving technology scene. Categories range from Best Startup, International Success and Tech Entrepreneur of the Year, to Sustainable Tech, Tech Education Initiative and Research Award.
To celebrate local successes from across the region, we are running in partnership with local tech cluster awards, Digital Northern Devon, Digital Plymouth, Digital Taunton, Software Cornwall, Tech Exeter and TechSPARK. These area-specific accolades will reward companies, organisations, programmes and initiatives which have delivered a positive difference to the industry and seek to encourage and celebrate tech in their local communities and beyond.
Toby Parkins, chair of Tech South West and founder of Cornwall-based software firm
HeadForwards, said: “These awards will recognise the many successes across the
South West’s technology scene, highlighting the incredible array of companies,
initiatives and individuals helping drive innovation, collaboration, economic
growth, jobs and future talent.
“The South West is a growing hub for digital
and tech, and these awards will support our objective to showcase the region as
an emerging, world-leading hub for technology and innovation.”
Nick Sturge, Director of Bristol’s enterprise
and engagement hub Engine Shed, and one of the judges for this year’s Tech
South West Awards, said: “The technology sector across the South West is bigger
and stronger than ever and the awards are a fantastic opportunity to celebrate
groundbreaking successes, creative talents and remarkable developments.”
Representatives from Software Cornwall,
TechSPARK, Digital Plymouth, Tech Exeter, Digital Taunton, Northern Devon
Digital, BT, Cornwall College Group, Cosmic, HeadForwards, Maistro, Oneserve
and Astley Media are on the judging panel.
The awards opened for entries on Wednesday May 8 at www.techsouthwestawards.co.uk with the deadline 5pm Friday 21 June 2019. Judging takes place towards the end of June, with the shortlists announced in July, ahead of the awards ceremony in October.
The University of the West of England (UWE Bristol)’s Health Tech Hub has printed three 3D brain models that show the effects of dementia on the organ. Printed for Bristol based dementia charity BRACE, the models each have a section missing, which offers views of the inside of the organ and how the disease has depleted its density.
Using brain scans and 3D imaging provided by clinical dementia research group ReMemBr Group, which BRACE part-funds, the Health Tech Hub was able to accurately produce two Alzheimer’s diseased brain models and a healthy brain model exactly to scale, using a 3D printer. Each brain took 72 hours to print and is made out of a resin material. The Health Tech Hub covered the full cost of production.
Alzheimer’s disease causes progressive atrophy to the brain – a wasting away and shrinking of the brain tissue, which happens at a much faster speed than the old age-related shrinking that would be expected in a healthy brain.
The printing of these models will enable BRACE, the ReMemBr Group and the South West Dementia Brain Bank to use them as aids to teach and raise awareness of dementia.
Health Tech Hub Co-Director Professor Richard Luxton said: “These models mean you can physically see the effects of dementia and it’s shocking the extent to which a brain touched by Alzheimer’s wastes away. You can see that the ventricles [cavities in the organ] are bigger because of lost brain tissue and the two diseased brains are also noticeably lighter compared to the healthy one.”
Dr Elizabeth Coulthard of the ReMemBr Group said: “By printing from real brain scans, we can clearly see which areas of the brain are affected by dementia diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease. The areas of brain that shrink are different in different dementias.
“The memory area, called the hippocampus, shrinks early on in Alzheimer’s disease. In contrast, the front of the brain shrinks first in behavioural variant frontotemporal dementia (Pick’s disease).”
Dr Laura Palmer, manager of the South West Dementia Brain Bank said: “A healthy brain weighs between 1300 and 1400 grams; however, a brain with Alzheimer’s will weigh between 1170 and 1260 grams. In people with end-stage Alzheimer’s disease we often find that the brain can weigh as little as around 1000 grams at the time of death.’
The world-class Health Tech Hub facility at Frenchay campus is focused on advancing technology that enables people to live independently and manage their own health and well-being, thereby ensuring they spend the least possible time in hospital.
It works with health technology organisations and companies in the region, helping them with product development and prototype testing. Projects it is involved in include DNA sequencing, looking at the chemistry of biosensor surfaces, and visualising DNA from bacteria.
The Health Tech Hub is partly funded by the European Regional Development Fund and the Local Grow Fund through the Local Enterprise Partnership.
Bristol startup Reach Robotics has piloted a scheme to teach programming to kids in schools using its gaming robots.
Reach Edu is being tested out at Winterbourne secondary (above), St Katherine’s secondary, Frampton Cotterell primary and Nova primary schools in the region. The company aims to take the scheme national, providing all the teaching materials to teach programming in class and making tech subjects fun.
Reach supports a range of ways to programme its robots through an app that unlocks MekaMon for full control through line-based programming all the way to Scratch-based block coding. This capability was a key addition to the new generation of robot.
Younger users can learn simple programming concepts by
drawing pathways for MekaMon to follow and adding animations and head colour
changes along the way, meanwhile more experienced MekaPilots can use
Scratch-based block coding to fully explore the potential of their robot.
Guided learning Missions offer challenging instruction in
coding concepts, taking users through everything from loops to variables in
engaging, game-like challenges. One Mission takes users on the challenge of
preparing their MekaMon for a Mars expedition by learning all about key coding
processes and experimenting with their learning in MekaCode.
“There’s a huge amount of creative potential with MekaMon,
due to the scope of its expressive movement and personality. Reach EDU is about
delivering the tools to take advantage of this, by creating a versatile,
accessible, and fun platform for effective STEAM education and ongoing innovation,”
said Silas Adekunle, CEO and co-founder of Reach.
“The World Economic Forum recently listed problem-solving,
critical thinking, creativity as the top three skills that children need for
success. We firmly believe that we can deliver on all of these fronts,” he
“Taking into account that an estimated 85% of jobs that will exist in 2030 are as yet undefined -we think it is essential that the next generation are fully literate in the STEAM skills that will equip them for a post-4th industrial revolution economy.”
“It provides better decision making and minimises group
think – we have to make really hard decisions every day and if you have people that
think the same way you come to a quick decision that is very likely to be wrong,”
She points out that it also provides access to the best
talent, which is a key requirement for companies. “People applying for jobs
value diversity, as being the only person of whatever type in a room is
difficult, it makes it difficult to speak up and allows people to treat you poorly.
There are not enough people in England to work in the English semi industry,
there are not enough people in Europe to work in the European semiconductor
industry, so we need diversity, but there’s definitely barriers that needs to
A local high tech equipment maker started down this path
several years ago.
“Around 10 years ago we started to grow rapidly and the senior
team recognised there was a massive shortage of talent in the industry and that
there was a massive narrowing of our talent pool, that it was not diverse
enough, including the senior management,” said Claire Harrington, global Vice
President of Human Resources at semiconductor equipment maker SPTS in
“That’s a hard thing for an executive team to admit and that
was the big changing point – you can’t really change things unless you believe
there’s a benefit in terms of sales, customer service and profitability, and
the senior team embraced that,” she said.
“We have done things like encouraging girls into STEM subjects through a STEM ambassador project through primary, secondary schools and colleges and universities, but it take a long term so we have had to really work on retaining the women that we have,” she said. This includes flexible working for all employees, not just women “This has been a really big thing for us, to encourage it for all employees,” she said. “We have as many men working flexible hours and women so the women do not stand out.”
Another local high tech equipment maker points to lack of
confidence as a contributing factor.
“Be brave,” said Charmayne Hall, HR for the plasma division
of Oxford Instruments in Yatton, just outside Bristol. “Often as women it’s
really hard to take steps and as you do that your mind can catch up – say yes,
The panel highlighted that diversity includes different
backgrounds, not just race or gender.
“Diversity is not enough, you need inclusion,” said Hall. “For
things to change we have to be brave enough to challenge it. It’s not enough to
offer training to our managers, it’s about the genuine belief that there needs
to be change.”
The panel pointed out that we need to change the dynamic and
we need people in senior leadership roles to champion people from different
backgrounds even if it feels difficult. One way to address it is to
specifically target schools in underprivileged areas, and SPTS is working with
SEMI’s High Tech U programme for the first time in the UK. This engages with
schools around the site in Newport to boost interest in tech subjects.
Vodafone will switch on its 5G network for homes and businesses in Bristol and six other UK cities in a matter of weeks.
The launch on 3 July will have four 5G smartphones and a 5G home router available and will cost the same as 4G says the company. The network equipment is supplied by Huawei, which has a multicore chip design centre in Bristol.
Vodafone will also offer 5G roaming in the UK, Germany,
Italy and Spain over the summer.
Bristol joins South Korea and small areas of the US as the
first cities to have 5G, along with Birmingham, Cardiff, Glasgow, Manchester,
Liverpool and London. 12 other uK cities will follow later this year.
“We started our 5G journey more than three years ago. We led
the way in setting 5G standards to ensure phones and networks work well
together. We upgraded our masts to be able to take 5G without disruption. And
we were the first UK company to test 5G over our all-fibre core fixed and
mobile network,” said Vodafone UK CEO Nick Jeffery.
“This is important. It means we can today announce the
largest launch of 5G in the UK and be the first to announce 5G roaming. It
means that UK businesses can lead the world in adopting 5G to boost
productivity and attract investment. It means consumers can get the fastest
mobile speeds ever, and it means that our public sector will be able to adopt
new services to improve healthcare, social services and housing.”
The 5G handsets are:
the Xiaomi Mi MIX 3 5G smartphone, which will
initially be available exclusively from Vodafone online and in store from 23
the Samsung S10 5G and Huawei Mate 20 X (5G),
which will be available for pre-order later this month; and
the Huawei Mate X (5G) and an exclusive 5G home
router, called the 5G Gigacube, which will launch this summer.
The new price plans will be unveiled next week to coincide with the availability of the first handset. Handsets can initially be used over 4G, and will be able to use 5G when the network is switched on and all manufacturer software updates are completed.
Researchers at the University of Bath are developing new solar cells that use light energy directly to split water.
Most solar cells currently on the market are made of silicon, but a new generation of cells are being developed using a material called perovskites that have the same 3D structure as calcium titanium oxide.
These are cheaper to make, thinner and can be easily printed onto surfaces and also produce a higher voltage than silicon cells. This is really helpful for generating hydrogen by splitting water. #
They tested the waterproofing by submerging the coated perovskite cells in water and using the harvested solar energy to split water into hydrogen and oxygen. The coated cells worked underwater for 30 hours – ten hours longer than the previous record.
“Perovskite solar cell technology could make solar energy much more affordable for people and allow solar cells to be printed onto roof tiles. However at the moment they are really unstable in water – solar cells are not much use if they dissolve in the rain,” said Dr Petra Cameron, Senior Lecturer in Chemistry.
The reason the cells failed was the glue sandwiching the coat to the cells. Using stronger glue could help the cells operate for longer underwater.
The higher voltage from the cells is still not enough needed to split water using solar cells alone, so the team is adding catalysts to reduce the energy requirement needed to drive the reaction.
“Currently hydrogen fuel is made by burning methane, which is neither clean nor sustainable,” said Isabella Poli, PhD student from the Centre for Sustainable Chemical Technologies. “But we hope that in the future we can create clean hydrogen and oxygen fuels from solar energy using perovskite cells.”
Local MP and Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation Chris Skidmore visited the University of the West of England to open a new Foundry Technology Affinity Space to highlight tech.
The Minister, who is also MP for nearby Kingswood, opened the facility, which is funded by the Institute of Coding and will equip students with vital digital skills. The Institute of Coding, a £40million project is funded by the Office for Students and led by the University of Bath.
Developed through a research-led design process led by UWE Bristol Associate Professor Andy King, the industry-themed Foundry at UWE Bristol is intended as an ‘other space’ on campus, where students can build their professional identity through working with industry partners on paid projects that fit around their studies.
Aside from being home to UWE Bristol’s Enterprise Studios, the Foundry will also be a digital event space, hosting a high-profile calendar of technology outreach and engagement events across cybersecurity, computer science, creative technologies and STEM subjects designed to widen participation around coding and digital skills.
“As we rely more on new technologies and cyber threats become more sophisticated, the Foundry Technology Affinity Space will provide the vital skills needed to meet the opportunities and address the challenges of the future,” said Skidmore. “The impressive state-of-the-art facility with its cutting edge technology will introduce a range of innovative new courses for students, enabling them to go on and compete successfully in the global digital economy.
“This builds on our commitment to tackle this issue, and this government is funding projects to design out many forms of cyber threats to online and digitally enabled products and services through our modern Industrial Strategy.”
“The Foundry is a major investment that will connect our students with globally-renowned industry partners, and will give them invaluable insight into what digital skills and innovation the future workforce will need,” said UWE vice chancellor Prof Steve West. “Deep and meaningful collaboration with industry and the world of professional practice will hugely benefit our students not just during their degrees, but in their futures as they progress into the digital industry. I look forward to seeing what our students will create in this innovative new space.”
“The Institute of Coding is pleased to launch and support a new Foundry Technology Affinity Space, which will serve as a gateway for students to gain critical on-the-job experience through paid work with industry without disrupting their academic studies,” said Dr Rachid Hourizi, Director of the Institute of Coding. “With employers crying out for new candidates who are workplace-ready, and students seeking valuable experiences to bolster their CVs, this new facility will enable thousands of young people to begin the first step in their career.”