South West innovators raise £56m with support from Innovate UK EDGE

Dr Chen Mao Davies of LatchAid
Dr. Chen Mao Davies with baby

South West regional innovators have raised more than £32 million in equity investments and loans, and more than £24 million in grant funding  since the first national lockdown, thanks to support from Innovate UK EDGE Finance Specialists, who helped South West innovators to become investment ready, identify appropriate funding sources, and submit high-quality grant applications.

Innovate UK EDGE is a key part of the UK innovation agency’s investment in technology-led businesses, providing advice, access to vital resources and opportunities to enhance their abilities. It is a publicly-funded service available to all high potential small to medium sized innovation-driven companies, including Innovate UK grant winners.

Across the South West, Innovate UK EDGE has supported more than 300 companies in the last year, helping them to create 214 new jobs and maintain 163 existing roles.

More than 40 regional businesses have accessed new markets with Innovate UK EDGE support, while 129 have reported benefit through improved innovation management, strategy development, or the adoption of new technologies, processes or culture.

One of the companies ismachine vision developer, Spookfish Innovations, based in Bristol. The company raised £75,000 in Innovate UK grant funding with support from Innovate UK EDGE.

Dr Jouni Ronkainen, sales director, Spookfish Innovations, said: “We knew we had great tech and knew we could write well but knowing how to actually win a grant is a completely different ball game. The input from Innovate UK EDGE was invaluable.”

Spookfish, which has developed a fever-screening kiosk that’s effective when testing crowds of people, has also overcome IP challenges and accessed new customers with Innovate UK EDGE support.

In Gloucestershire, Cirencester-based LatchAid, a breastfeeding support app, won Innovate UK’s Women in Innovation Award in March 2021, securing £50,000 with support from Innovate UK EDGE.

With this funding secured, LatchAid was able to launch on the App Store in August 2021, where it peaked in the top 50 health apps out of 300,000.

“Innovate UK EDGE helped me make my application as simple, persuasive, compliant and powerful as possible”, said founder Dr. Chen Mao Davies.

“Innovate UK EDGE is here to help drive the economic prosperity of the South West and improve our standing in the global economy,” says Paul O’Collins, Manager of Innovate UK EDGE operations in the South West.

“We do this by providing the practical support necessary to help high potential innovators overcome barriers to growth and turn their ideas, projects and research into tangible market value.

“Through our interventions, South West businesses have been able to improve their innovation capabilities, identify commercial and collaboration opportunities, both domestically and internationally, and access the funding and finance needed to fuel growth.”

Innovate UK EDGE South West also continues to deliver national initiatives including grants for IP Audits, the Pitchfest investment readiness scheme and financial grants of up to £15,000 to access the UK’s Catapult Centres and other RTOs.

Innovate UK EDGE also delivers the Global Business Innovation Programme (GBIP), which provides market visits and the identification of partners for international collaboration and growth.

Just one of the many beneficiaries of GBIP is Gloucestershire-based graphene research company, Versarien PLC, who recently secured £1.93m in investment from a major South Korean technology company, following a GBIP country visit.

The Seoul-based company has since provided state-of-the-art research and development facilities in Korea, alongside the £1.93m investment, enabling Versarien to develop new graphene-based technologies for the electronics sector.

Innovate UK EDGE has also worked intensively to sustain innovative companies that have been severely impacted by the pandemic.

“Whilst not desirable, adversity drives innovation, and we have great faith in the ingenuity and potential of the South West technology sectors to overcome the challenges that COVID has presented,” says O’Collins.

“The South West is a hotbed of ideas and innovation with great strengths in cyber and defence, high-value manufacturing, aerospace, fintech, maritime, creative industries and green technologies.”

“Innovate UK EDGE will continue to provide game-changing growth support to all innovation led businesses. We want to help our most forward thinking, high growth companies to scale rapidly and benefit us all.”