Funding for pioneering Bristol firms to continue to innovate in the time of coronavirus

July 24, 2020

Businesses based at UWE Bristol’s Future Space science and tech hub are celebrating securing more than £2m in funding – most of it targeted at helping them continue to innovate through the coronavirus crisis.

Some £1.3m of the money has come from Innovate UK, the government’s innovation agency, over the past three months and is being shared among eight resident firms, while two others have received investment that will spur further growth. 

The eight businesses, which were supported by the team at Future Space, pictured, to secure Innovate UK coronavirus grants, are biodevice tech IP specialist BiotIP, digital experts 500More, pioneers in cyber-physical operating systems Indus Four, software solutions provider HBXL, mass spectrometry experts Mass Spec Analytical, 3D scanning and software engineering firm OR3D and Intercede Ventures, which provides eco technology to the transport and aviation industries.

In addition, Future Space-based transport solutions innovator Esoterix was one of 25 firms to share £9.4m from the Department of Transport which funded Innovate UK’s 2020 First of a Kind (FOAK) competition encouraging innovation in the rail industry.

Esoterix’s £370,000 grant has enabled the firm to recruit four new staff to support the project, which will be completed by the end of next March.

Meanwhile, Service Robotics – the company behind GenieConnect, pictured below, the companion robot that helps older adults live independently in their homes through voice-enabled, face-to-face video support – successfully completed a second seed funding round, which brought in £600,000 for the fast-growing firm.

The funding came as Future Space – which connects entrepreneurs and tech innovators with scientists, researchers and graduate talent to spark collaboration, innovation and growth – maintained access throughout the lockdown period for its lab-based businesses to enable vital research to continue uninterrupted. 

Its team worked closely with UWE Bristol at the start of lockdown to put in place a support package for all companies.

Resident companies also benefitted from Q&A sessions on the furlough scheme and employment issues, grant application support and could speak to a wide range of industry experts through its new advisory space programme.

All tenant companies also received three months’ 50% rent reduction and access to UWE Bristol’s Summer Internship scheme, which was taken up by Service Robotics and another Future Space business Healcerion EMEA.

Future Space, which is on UWE Bristol’s Frenchay campus and forms part of the University Enterprise Zone, returned to full operation for all companies at the end of last month.

Future Space is managed by Oxford Innovation (OI) on behalf of the UWE Bristol and offers a range of office space, shared and dedicated laboratories, workshops and co-working facilities designed specifically for hi-tech, science based entrepreneurs and innovators.

Future Space centre director Laura Crocken Stevens, pictured below, said: “It’s testament to the pioneering work ongoing here at Future Space that these innovation-driven grants and funding have been received by our customers and we look forward to seeing what the next phase brings. 

“We have been focused on assisting all our resident businesses through lockdown. Every company has a different story to tell. For our lab customers it was essential for us to maintain access to Future Space to continue important research work and others needed assistance to take advantage of government support measures.”

UWE Bristol pro vice-chancellor for research and enterprise Professor Martin Boddy – a key founder of Future Space – added: “There’s no doubt that Covid-19 has created unexpected challenges, with the situation still evolving. Future Space businesses have, however, shown great resilience in the face of these challenges and continue to innovate and grow.

“These funding awards are great news and we look forward to seeing the emergence of ground-breaking work as a result.

“Future Space has become synonymous with excellence in innovation, demand for our space and facilities remains buoyant and we look forward to continuing growth and development.”

The hub last year posted record results, with more than £9m of regional Gross Value Added (GVA) in its third year of operation.

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