Business & Innovation Magazine

by Business & Innovation Magazine Reporter 21 Nov, 2017
The Institute of Physics (IOP) has recognised Oxford Space Systems as part of its 2017 Business Innovation Awards for the development of the AstroTube Space Boom.

The IOP’s Commended Innovations are awarded to businesses for outstanding innovative applications of physics, which either push technological boundaries or provide bespoke solutions to market challenges. The award is in recognition of the development of the AstroTube Boom, which addresses the challenges of mass, cost and stowage efficiency of deployable satellite boom systems, using a combination of advanced materials and a new, proprietary physics-based software tool.

The advanced proprietary materials developed include carbon-fibre-based materials that are thin enough to be rolled and stowed in a compact form, yet become fully rigid when deployed into their final configuration. Using these advanced materials, together with origami, allows for class-leading stowage efficiency and complexity reduction, meaning that deployable structures can be stowed more efficiently than ever before. This translates into significant savings in terms of launch cost due to the reduced volume and mass of the satellite.

The award was presented to the company at a parliamentary reception at Westminster, attended by MPs, Lords, policy makers, business leaders and leading physicists in the field.

President of the IOP Professor Dame Julia Higgins, offered her congratulations to the winners, and commended them on their fantastic achievements. “This year’s winners serve as tremendous examples of the many different ways in which physics can improve, save or protect lives and how it forms an invaluable part of the UK economy. “Your successes have been made possible by investing in physics and in physicists. To continue to build on those successes, it is essential that public and private sector investors continue to invest in physics education, research and innovation. “I would like to offer my warmest congratulations to all of this year’s winners. Companies such as these are the backbone of a high-tech economy and society.”

Mike Lawton, CEO at Oxford Space Systems, said of receiving the award: “This represents a fantastic stamp of recognition from the IOP on the record-breaking achievements of the OSS team and what the UK space industry is capable of.”
by Business & Innovation Magazine Reporter 21 Nov, 2017
UK manufacturing and materials has received an £18.4 million boost from the Government.

130 organisations representing 63 projects will get funding through Innovate UK’s regular competition in this industry sector, which has just completed its third round.

These projects are primarily led by small and medium-sized enterprises. Examples of the projects funded include:

Companies benefitting from across the region include Oxford Plastic Systems Ltd, Wallingford-based TTI Testing Ltd, GE Aviation Systems of Cheltenham, Safran Landing Systems of Gloucester and Didcot-based Diamond Light Source.

Other companies securing funding include Malvern Cosmeceutics Ltd and Horiba Mira Ltd of Nuneaton, Coventry.

Simon Edmonds, Director of Manufacturing and Materials, Innovate UK, said: “The quality and scope of these projects is outstanding. It highlights the appetite of UK manufacturing and materials companies across the country to innovate and grow.”

Science Minister, Jo Johnson, added: “These successful projects showcase how companies of all sizes can utilise the UK’s research and innovation expertise to improve their operations and competitiveness, boosting the UK economy and our global standing as a centre of excellence.”
by Business & Innovation Magazine Reporter 02 Nov, 2017
Oxford Nanopore has designed and manufactures the world’s first hand-held, real-time DNA sequencer. It could transform diagnosis speeds, potentially saving millions of lives

By Nicky Godding

The same year that London secured the Olympics, 2005, Oxford Nanopore was founded. This company could also be a global winner, this time in the field of technology and life sciences.

Oxford Nanopore is a UK technology company valued in excess of £1 billion. From its Oxford Science Park base it has designed the world’s only hand-held electronic sequencer which can access DNA information in real time. The company has a rich development pipeline, including a mobile-phone compatible DNA sequencing device.

The 2012 Olympics were a triumph for Great Britain, largely because they were preceded by seven years of planning, investment and strong management the like of which this country seldom sees - in sport or business. We were rewarded with an incredible haul of medals, and the UK’s sporting achievements bestrode the globe like a colossus.

Like the London Olympics, this country must be prepared to back winners, says Oxford Nanopore CEO, Dr Gordon Sanghera. Academic excellence in the UK is better than anywhere else in the world, he says. Per capita per dollar we punch way above our weight.

His company’s technology could also be a winner. This really is disruptive technology, and here’s why.

Out of the 100,000 biological research labs in the world, around 12,500 have a traditional ‘mainframe-like’ DNA sequencer which can take days to produce a dataset that needs interrogation.

Oxford Nanopore has designed instruments to deliver direct DNA analysis in real time, which existing equipment does not. But what’s really exciting is Oxford Nanopore’s development of unique electronic hand-held devices.

Imagine being able to diagnose contagious illnesses immediately. Vicious pandemics such as Ebola, SARS or Avian Flu could be contained quicker if medics didn’t have to wait days for lab diagnosis.

Crops could be scanned for blight early and resistant varieties planted, potentially staving off famines in vulnerable countries.
Real-time surveillance could stop food recalls from supermarket shelves, real-time water quality surveillance could immediately identify bugs such as cryptosporidium, to stop the spread.

A mobile DNA sequencer could negate a trip to the local surgery. In future, and with sufficient technology and health system development, a simple swab analysis using Oxford Nanopore’s hand-held sequencer could help confirm that a sick child simply has a regular vomiting bug sweeping the community, rather than something more serious. We will soon be able to access much more information about ourselves to aid healthier lifestyles.

A career in bio technology

Gordon Sanghera’s career has been spent coupling biology with technology. He joined Oxford University spin-out company, Medisense, in Witney in the 1980s. Professor Allen Hill had developed a bio-electronic device for the electronic measurement of blood glucose, and Medisense was commercialising the product.

Gordon rose to Head of Research. The company floated on the Nasdaq in 1994 and was bought by Abbott Laboratories for around $900 million in 1996. He spent five years with Abbott in the USA, first in sales and marketing, then in mergers and acquisitions, returning to Witney in 2000, where he helped to build the factory’s continuous reel to reel manufacturing process which today produces around one billion glucose sensors per annum.

By early 2003, and with Abbott Laboratories’ golden handcuffs of a final salary pension looming, Gordon began hankering for one more big adventure, to apply everything he’d learned and build a UK company with global potential.

He tapped up Oxford University contacts (back then there were no technology transfer companies). He also contacted a company called IP to IPO (Now IP group), which had invested £20 million into Oxford chemistry R&D, and met Spike Willcocks. Spike was a PhD graduate who translated academic science into something investors would understand.

Over lunch at the Chiang Mai Kitchen on Oxford High Street, Gordon and Spike trawled through a list of projects. One was to become Oxford Nanopore. “With my bioelectronics background, I could see similarities between that and the way we manufactured the Medisense platform,” said Gordon.

Spike (now Chief Business Development Officer at Oxford Nanopore), helped Gordon write an eight-slide presentation for the bank on why this sensing platform was different and what the prototype would look like. It took just 45 minutes for the Board to grant half a million pounds’ seed funding.

From the outset, Gordon was determined not to make the same mistakes he felt his previous company had made. “Medisense never really achieved more than 10% market penetration. We had to invest in IP to safeguard the nanopore field.”

In a bold move, Gordon raised enough capital to sign collaborations with academic groups across the world focused on similar technologies. This covered broad nanopore sensing technology including future ‘solid-state’ nanopores. “We signed up Harvard and Boston Universities, Texas A&M, Santa Cruz California and Massachusetts.” The company had turned future competitors into collaborators.

“We wanted to achieve the commercial availability of nanopore products to do amazing things, and the best way was to future-proof the company by funding academics for the development of the platform itself, and for its next generation.”

Gordon wanted to establish high-volume manufacturing from the start. “We knew we had a fantastic product, which could be deployed in a number of ways.” After much debate, the company settled on DNA sequencing, which offered the widest range of commercial opportunities.

A decade of development

It took nearly ten years to deliver the first product, but Oxford Nanopore has been fortunate in its investors. “We were honest about how long it would take, explaining that it’s challenging and difficult, but with high risk comes high reward.” So far, over £350 million has been raised in a stepped approach and the company is now at a tipping point.

“Like the Olympics, our ambition has always been about moving on to the next level,” says Gordon.

“I sometimes think of the company as a beast in a big pit, which we are feeding raw innovation. The more we feed it, the louder it roars. When we get the biggest beast fully out there it’s going to run riot – for the good. And that’s going to be next year.”

R&D must remain close to manufacturing

Oxford Nanopore manufactures at the Rutherford Appleton laboratory at Didcot, close to its Oxford Science Park R&D hub. And this proximity is critical, according to Gordon.

“I was lucky to be asked for my opinion to help shape some of the debate on the UK’s industrial strategy. How can Oxford Nanopore go from 350 employees to 3,500 people, and how can Government help make that happen? The knee jerk reaction is to manufacture where labour is cheap, but we’re proving that’s not the case.”

“We have a team of 40 at Didcot and we will be scaling up. R&D must remain close to manufacturing because we are coupling high-end electronics to the most exquisite single molecule biology. Innovation happens close to where the knowledge is and solving any problems in the manufacturing process helps to catalyse more innovation.”

Jeremy Bryar is Oxford Nanopore’s Director of Continuous Improvement at Rutherford Appleton. He said: “Working for the only company in existence which makes what we do, gives us a massive sense of pride, and the vision the company has regarding the DNA world is quite remarkable. We have a formidable team with the same goals: to build a top-quality product that will become a world leader in its field.

It might seem that the sale of Medisense – a company born in the UK, for $900 million in 1996 was a good deal. But Abbott Laboratories now has a market capitalisation of $76 billion. Gordon isn’t alone in thinking this is less a success, than a UK failure to nurture and retain global companies. His view is held by others, including UK biotech entrepreneur Sir Christopher Evans. The issue, they say, is often a lack of UK investment.

“If you have the right money and backing, you can build a global technology company – and that’s what we’re doing,” says Gordon. “That’s not to say that strategic relationships might not be important, or that an IPO is out of the question, but we are not in a dash for cash.

“We have the London capital markets, which are exceptional, and British academia which is phenomenal. Bring them together and you get successful spin out companies,” he said.

Sir Christopher Evans added: “Many UK companies establish a base in the USA because it’s easier to raise capital there, but Britain has the best scientists in the world. Our investors must be bolder to keep our companies here.”
by Business & Innovation Magazine Reporter 25 Oct, 2017
A national competition held by Oxford Innovation to mark the company’s 30th anniversary, has seen science and technology businesses from across Oxfordshire scoop the top three prizes.

Building on Oxford Innovation’s success of supporting early stage businesses, the Scale Up Stars of the Future competition was setup to identify the most exciting new generation of high growth businesses.

Winner of the competition is Oxford nanoSystems, a company that’s developed innovative coating technologies, from its Harwell Campus base, that will improve heat transfer for components used in multiple applications. These include air-conditioning systems, industrial waste, transport and data centres.

Second prize was awarded to Green Sea Guard for creating a system to automate the measuring of real-time exhaust emissions emitted from ships. This data is used to ensure compliance with UN regulations and to help reduce coastal and riverside air pollution.

Third prize went to The Native Antigen Company (NAC) known for making the highest quality native antigens used by scientists researching viral diseases. Initially based at Cherwell Innovation Centre managed by Oxford Innovation, NAC has also played a fundamental role in the global fight to combat the spread of Zika virus and is about to launch its first assay products.

Jo Willett, Managing Director, Oxford Innovation, said: “During our 30 year history, Oxford Innovation has helped over 10,000 SMEs to create sustainable businesses and we are looking forward to creating more dynamic communities of entrepreneurs who can benefit from our support. The Scale-up Stars competition was created to identify the next generation of high-growth businesses and I’m delighted to say the calibre of entries from across the UK truly were outstanding. On behalf of Oxford Innovation, I’d like to congratulate all who were shortlisted and especially our very deserving winners.”

Competition winner, Oxford nanoSystems, is currently preparing for a round of funding as it looks to scale-up and work with multiple manufacturers to enter the air conditioning market, currently estimated to be worth $907 million.

Alexander Reip, CEO, Oxford nanoSystems, said: “It’s a privilege to be named winner at Oxford Innovation’s 30th Anniversary celebrations and it will definitely provide us with an edge when talking to investors. We are facing exciting challenges as we work towards commercialising our product and are fortunate to be located within Oxfordshire’s strong ecosystem, which has world-class and affordable facilities to support emerging technology companies. For the greater good of home grown talent and the UK economy, I hope that more counties across the UK follow suit.”

Second place, Green Sea Guard, is a virtual business with workers located in the UK, Denmark, Netherlands and Portugal. The company was founded in Oxford is predominantly staffed by a passionate team of volunteers with imminent plans to hire in addition to developing two new products.

Anita Bradshaw, Chief Operating Officer, Green Sea Guard UK and Managing Director of Green Sea Guard’s sales company in the Netherlands, said: "Reaching the finals of this competition is really significant for Green Sea Guard. We believe the visibility is good for our profile and will help us cement customer and supplier relationships, which are always tricky for start-ups. The support from Oxford Innovation, with all its resources, will be very important as we start to scale our business from its modest origins."
Third place, Dr. Nick Roesen, Chief Scientific Officer and Co-founder of The Native Antigen Company, added: “We are overjoyed to come third in the Oxford Innovation Scale-up awards. There were many great companies featured at the ceremony, and it is a great honour indeed to be recognised amongst all that talent. I have no doubt that we will be returning to Oxford Innovation for further support and facility space as we continue to grow over the next few years.”

The three winners were announced at Oxford Innovation’s prestigious 30th anniversary event, which took place at the Blavatnik School of Government in Oxford on Wednesday 11 October. As well as exhibiting their businesses at the event, all three businesses will receive a tailored prize package of support from Oxford Innovation, Oxford Innovation Services and the Oxford Investment Opportunity Network (OION) worth between £2,500 and £10,000.

Oxford Innovation is the UK’s leading provider of innovation centres with 24 locations housing and supporting over 1,000 early stage businesses. Key to the success of thousands of entrepreneurs, Oxford Innovation Services provides practical support and advice, assisting high growth businesses on their business journey. The Oxford Investment Opportunity Network (OION) work with entrepreneurs to raise finance by connecting them with highly active potential investors who frequently provide commercial experience and contacts, in addition to vital capital.

The company was founded by renowned entrepreneurs Sir Martin and Lady Audrey Wood in 1987 as a subsidiary to The Oxford Trust and became part of SQW Group in 2007. For further information, visit:

by Business & Innovation Magazine Reporter 25 Oct, 2017
Driverless cars are set to make the roads safer for pedestrians and car drivers alike, with companies like Oxford based Oxbotica developing fully autonomous operating systems that diagnose vehicle issues and identify the best, most logical route on the move.

Industry-led review details plans to supercharge UK Artificial Intelligence (AI) industry A new independent review sets out ambitious proposals for how industry and government can boost the UK’s burgeoning AI industry.

The government has been urged to help the UK become the clear world leader in the development of Artificial Intelligence (AI) – to boost productivity, advance health care, improve services for customers and unlock £630 billion for the UK economy.

Experts from industry and academia unveiled new proposals for how government can work with industry to stay ahead of the competition and grow the UK’s use of AI right across the economy – from smarter scheduling of operations in health care, to hiring on-demand self-driving cars. The Industrial Strategy green paper, published in January, identified AI as a major, high-potential opportunity for the UK to build a word-leading future sector of our economy.

The independent review, ‘Growing the Artificial Intelligence Industry in the UK’, was announced as part of the Digital Strategy in March, and led by Dame Wendy Hall, Professor of Computer Science at the University of Southampton, and Jérôme Pesenti, Chief Executive of BenevolentTech. The reviewers were asked to report on how this pioneering technology can best thrive and grow in the UK and will inform BEIS and DCMS policy making relevant to this exciting new sector.

Culture Secretary Karen Bradley said: I want the UK to lead the way in Artificial Intelligence. It has the potential to improve our everyday lives - from healthcare to robots that perform dangerous tasks. We already have some of the best minds in the world working on Artificial Intelligence, and the challenge now is to build a strong partnership with industry and academia to cement our position as the best place in the world to start and grow a digital business.

Business Secretary Greg Clark said: Artificial intelligence presents us with a unique opportunity to build on our strengths and track record of research excellence by leading the development and deployment of this transformational technology. This important review exemplifies the world-class expertise the UK already has in AI, demonstrating the huge social and economic benefits its use can bring.

We will continue to work with the sector in the coming months to secure a comprehensive Sector Deal that make the UK the go to place for AI and helps us grasp the opportunities that lie ahead. Many sectors across the UK economy are already embracing innovation through AI and benefitting from its use in how they do their business day-to-day including:

  • Health - using the most advanced Artificial Intelligence, Your.MD has built the world’s first AI personal health guide that provides users immediate trustworthy healthcare advice from the NHS to anyone with access to a mobile phone.
  • Banking - to help verify customer identity and increase security for HSBC customers, the bank has created an AI chatbot, Olivia, who can assist customers 24 hours a day, 365 days a year with their enquiries.
  • Education - with technology that records patterns of behaviour, including what learning style works for each student, CENTURY, an AI platform, is helping children learn and teachers provide more personalised education programmes, with feedback and suggestions to help fill knowledge gaps.
  • Legal services - AI is helping lawyers to do legal searches and to draft the best standard documents, the law firm Pinsent Masons has developed its own team of computer scientists and legal engineers to put AI into practical context for its lawyers.
  • Cars - driverless cars are set to make the roads safer for pedestrians and car drivers alike, with companies like Oxford based Oxbotica developing fully autonomous operating systems that diagnose vehicle issues and identify the best, most logical route on the move.

AI is also being deployed in a variety of different ways to assist businesses and consumers such as:

  • Protecting consumers and shoppers against spam and bank fraud
  • Computer vision that monitors CCTV to improve safety
  • Managing and monitoring supply chains to reduce loss and waste
  • Improving electricity grid management to save costs and reduce CO2 emissions
  • Using data to provide personal shopping recommendations

Professor Dame Wendy Hall, Regius Professor of Computer Science at the University of Southampton said: I was very honoured to be asked to co-chair this review at a time when AI is set to make major changes to the way we live and work. I’m particularly keen to ensure that we use it to inform the establishment of initiatives and programmes to help us extract the most value from artificial intelligence for the country; that includes an emphasis on increasing and improving our skill levels to prepare the workforce for the number of jobs the industry will need for the future.
AI has been around for a very long time as a concept and this latest surge of technological development is likely to see automation continue to escalate and accelerate in every walk of life. Now is the time for us all - scientists, researchers, entrepreneurs and the government - to come together and address the issues about how AI is going to impact society and seek ways to ensure that we’re able to deliver the great breakthroughs the technology has the potential to deliver.

Jérôme Pesenti, CEO of BenevolentTech, the technology division of BenevolentAI said: In our AI review, we focused on recommendations that are both practicable and deliverable. By following these recommendations, government, academia and industry can help strengthen the UK’s position in the global AI market. Our proposals are deliberately specific and boil down to three fundamentals – enable better access to data, create a greater supply of AI skills and promote the uptake of AI. I am looking forward to working with government, academia and industry to drive these changes.

The report makes 18 recommendations for how to make the UK the best place in the world for businesses developing AI to start, grow, and thrive including:

  • Skills - increasing the UK’s AI expertise through new initiatives including an industry-funded Masters programme, and conversion courses to bring a broader range of people into the field
  • Increasing uptake - helping organisations and workers understand how AI can boost their productivity and make better products and services, including public services
  • Data - ensuring that people and organisations can be confident that use of data for AI is safe, secure and fair by making more data available, including from publicly-funded research
  • Research - building on the UK’s strong record in cutting-edge AI research, including making the Alan Turing Institute a national institute for AI
  • These recommendations will now be carefully considered in discussions towards a potential Industrial Strategy sector deal between government and the AI industry.

As part of the Industrial Strategy, the government has increased investment in research and development over the next 4 years by £4.7 billion to create jobs and raise living standards, including through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund. The Business Secretary announced in April that the first £1 billion of investment is being made in 6 key areas in 2017 to 2018, driving progress and innovation that will create opportunities for businesses and sectors across the UK.
by Business & Innovation Magazine Reporter 25 Oct, 2017

£17 million of new funding has been announced for the UK’s Life Sciences sector. The Government says the money, as part of its ambitious industrial strategy , will help new drug discovery and support mental health treatment, translating the UK’s scientific expertise into real life treatments.

The life sciences industry provides medical treatments which the NHS and its 60 million patients rely on every year. The industry is also critical to the UK economy - with over 5,000 companies employing nearly 235,000 workers and generating £63.5 billion turnover.

Read our full report on the Life Sciences sector across the region in our November issue of Business & Innovation Magazine, out on 3rd November , including an interview with Dr Gordon Sanghera, CEO of the £1 billion-valued Oxford Nanopore.

Chancellor of the Exchequer, Philip Hammond said: “My focus now, and going into the Budget, is on boosting productivity so that we can deliver higher-wage jobs and a better standard of living for people across the country.”

Science minister, Jo Johnson said: “The UK is home to world-leading expertise in life sciences and the government is committed to continuing to help this sector go from strength to strength.

He added: “Through the recently-published Life Sciences Industrial Strategy and our progress towards a Life Sciences Sector Deal, we are determined to cement the UK’s position as a global leader and capitalise on its strengths to encourage both economic growth and improve health outcomes for patients.”

The Chancellor announced funding for three new areas:

1.  Cryo-electron microscope – £5 million for a state of the art microscope to build 3D models of biological components. This can help drug discovery become faster and cheaper

2.  Innovation hub – £7 million to set up a new lab with state of the art equipment and research scientists. This lab will establish the UK Centre for Engineering Biology, Metrology and Standards

3.  Business catalyst – £5 million to expand the ‘Confidence in Concept’ business catalyst scheme and boost treatment for mental health. This scheme has already produced 26 business spin-outs, 70 patents and £277 million of follow-on funding from the private sector


The UK is a world-leader in the life sciences. The UK represents just 0.9% of the global population but produces 15.2% of the world’s most highly-cited articles. Research productivity in this sector is twice as great as the United States and almost three times greater than in Germany. We have an internationally-recognised life sciences cluster in the South East of England, comprising Oxford, Cambridge and London and the area between them. It houses four of the world’s top twenty universities (three in the top ten), four of the top ten medical sciences faculties in the world and some of the world’s largest research institutes – the Sanger Institute, the Francis Crick Institute and Harwell. The government is supporting the sector by increasing investment in R&D by an extra £2 billion a year  by the end of this Parliament.

The Life Sciences Industrial Strategy  was published in August. It is an industry led project bringing together businesses, from across the medical technology, biopharmaceutical, and digital sectors, as well as charities, academia and the NHS.


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Read Our Life Sciences feature here
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