They have been selected from over 300 applications by hosts Innovate UK – the UK’s innovation agency – to be part of an exhibition of 96 shortlisted companies, with several of these very best of British innovators launching new products.
The annual event is expected to attract 2,500 businesses to the West Midlands. It offers attendees a chance to network with investors, hear from pioneering thinkers and find out about a range of expertise and government support.
West Midlands Mayor Andy Street is a keynote speaker, while Birmingham Innovation Hub and the Midlands Engine are also involved.
In the past year, Innovate UK has provided £30.4 million in core grant funding to 240 organisations in the West Midlands – this includes 160 SMEs.
Mr Street said: “Innovation is what drives the economy and our region's future prosperity is focused on key growth sectors. Innovate UK brings the best of innovation to the West Midlands and I am delighted with the opportunity to be involved in something that showcases this and our region.”
Through a programme of speakers, Innovate 2017 will explore major themes relevant to the region such as smart cities and urban planning and what this means for the individual, businesses and government. Other topics include artificial intelligence, robotics, alternative food sources and space exploration.
Innovate UK Chief Executive Ruth McKernan said: “We are very excited to be taking our annual flagship innovation showcase to the Midlands this year. Innovate 2017 will be an excellent platform for showcasing the strength of Midlands innovation to a national and international audience.”
West Midlands businesses taking part include:
· Warwick Music Limited, www.warwickmusicgroup.com , the company behind pTrumpet – a hybrid innovation in trumpet manufacture using the very latest in plastic technology, which is lightweight and robust with a high quality performance compared to an equivalent brass trumpet (Tamworth).
· Adelan, www.adelan.co.uk , who are developing a prototype fuel cell generator for the high-value leisure market, which includes campervans, barges and sail boats. (Birmingham).
· Daden, www.daden.co.uk , who use 3D and VR products to support the latest training and learning in both corporate and educational environments (Birmingham).
· MOVONIx, www.movoball.com , who have invented and patented MOVOBall, a product that transforms a gym ball as a joystick and directional motion controller. (Birmingham).
Voneus, the rural community broadband specialist, has acquired Cotswold Wireless, the local high-speed broadband provider – its first acquisition since raising over £5 million in growth funding in June 2017.
Aiming to be the UK’s market leader in rural broadband provision, Voneus expects this acquisition to increase the company’s capacity to connect a further 3,000 homes and businesses – growing its reach while increasing its market credentials. Cotswold Wireless specialises in high speed broadband for the Cotswolds, helping over 400 homes and businesses in the local region. This purchase strengthens Voneus’ network and will help additional households and businesses in Oxfordshire, Gloucestershire and Wiltshire become connected.
It is the first time either firm has undertaken a move of this scale. Part of the Voneus ‘buy and build’ strategy to accelerate its growth plan, this purchase is the first of many to ensure the business scales quickly and efficiently, while importantly ‘connecting the nation’.
Expanding the Voneus network throughout Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and Oxfordshire, this purchase will connect more local families, enable remote-working and ensure enhanced access to education through heightened rural connectivity.
Cotswold Wireless was founded in 2004 and specialises in delivering fast, reliable broadband to the Costwolds. Voneus which first entered the market in 2011 has already scaled its expansion plans since raising £5.3m growth funding in June 2017. Specialising in Wireless ‘Air Fibre’, Voneus is accelerating its rapid growth to achieve a national footprint, while bringing parity between rural areas and city dwellers.
“Our mission is to rescue rural communities from the pain and indignity of slow broadband, without them having to wait years for Fibre”, says Steve Leighton, CEO, Voneus. “Buying Cotswold Wireless, helps accelerate this. The important thing is increased access to communities and we want to make sure the ‘digital divide’ between urban and rural areas drastically decreases so people can go about their everyday lives interruption-free”.
Tristram Charnley, Founder, Cotswold Wireless says, “Being part of the bigger Voneus network will give our existing customers access to new products, increased service benefits and other opportunities over time”.
New customers can be live and receive high speed broadband within months, not years, with no roads required to be dug up. Voneus works with supportive Tier 1 providers on initial connectivity to install broadband quickly and effectively to deliver speeds between 35Mbps and 50Mbps using an innovative Wireless Fibre To The Home (WFTTH) solution, rivalling other services in the industry. The company currently has ongoing installations in Devon, Somerset, Gloucestershire, Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Wiltshire and Oxfordshire.
England’s Historic Cities consortium which includes Oxford through the local Destination Management Organisation (DMO) Experience Oxfordshire, and Worcester has secured a £1 million investment from the Discover England Fund for an innovative new project to encourage more US visitors to explore regional England.
The Collection brings history to life through story-telling enhanced by augmented reality and will feature itineraries that link the cities by rail, making it easy to plan and book a multi-destination trip. Delivered through the historic cities app, it will act as a central point for local information that highlights places to eat and stay alongside trips, tours and travel options. www.heritagecities.com .
Marking the first time that England’s Historic Cities have collaborated in this way, The Collection is one of a number of successful projects to receive funding from the UK Government’s £40 million Discover England Fund. The Fund is administered by VisitEngland and aims to ensure that England stays competitive in the rapidly growing global tourism industry, by offering world-class English tourism products to the right customers at the right time. The Fund is a central government funded programme of activity, supported by match funding by partners in the public and private sectors.
Hayley Beer-Gamage, CEO of Experience Oxfordshire, forms part of the Project Board for The Collection project and said “Heritage is a huge draw for US visitors to England. The Collection will enable Oxford and the wider County to share our amazing stories through cutting edge technology, and bring wider exposure to this important international market. This is a great opportunity for us to use new technology to attract visitors to our fantastic destination and a very exciting project for us to be part of.”
The project is being managed by a board chaired by consortium member Ruth Connor, CEO of Marketing Lancashire. Ruth said “We are thrilled to have secured investment from the Discover England Fund. England’s Historic Cities represents some of the best experiences that England has to offer to international visitors and we can’t wait to bring them to the attention of the US market. The consortium has a strong track record of working together but this is the most ambitious project we have tackled together. We are grateful for the support of our partners and look forward to showing the results of our work.”
Joining the 13 members of England’s Historic Cities for this project are Truro and Worcester and the City of London. The project is also supported by London & Partners, English Heritage and UK Inbound.
London & Partners Chief Operating Officer, Andrew Cooke, said "London & Partners is delighted to be partnering with England's Historic Cities' consortium to promote England's rich cultural heritage to an international audience. As both the gateway to these cities and a unique reflection of England's history in its own right, London is central to the visitor experience. We look forward to working with the consortium to help visitors to make the most of London and their onward journeys throughout England."
VisitEngland Chief Executive Sally Balcombe, said: “The calibre of submissions reflects the innovation in product development thriving across the country’s tourism landscape. The successful projects will boost international and domestic visitor growth creating a step-change in the industry and spreading the economic benefits of tourism across England. England’s Historic Cities winning project uses augmented reality to place the user at the heart of England’s history, making visiting a compelling proposition.”