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xim’s Lifelight™ Attracts Investment

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We are delighted to announce that current Catalyst Centre tenant xim has secured funding with the assistance of the Wessex Academic Health Science Network (WAHSN) to help bring its Lifelight™ product to market sooner. This builds on a grant recently awarded to xim by Innovate UK.

Andy Burroughs, Director of Wealth and Enterprise at WAHSN, said: “This funding will help accelerate technical and commercial developments to enable xim to be market ready sooner and help them raise future finance to allow for further growth. We wish xim every success with this project, and look forward to hearing the progress with great interest.”

xim CEO Laurence Pearce added: “It is incredibly exciting to see our innovative ideas attracting the attention of others because it underlines their potential as real game-changers. This important funding boost means that we can look to expand the team, develop marketing materials and work on building a user base for our product – and we can’t wait!”

xim’s solutions build on the team’s heritage in game development and eHealth to create low cost, discreet ways of monitoring and improving someone’s wellbeing through computer vision and machine learning. Lifelight™ is a discreet early warning system for potential critical health events like a heart attack. It works by enabling clinicians to detect deterioration in a user’s vital signs and prompt pre-emptive interventions.

The technology aims to help people to remain at home, out of residential care homes and hospitals, thereby reducing costs and risks for health providers. At the same time, it provides relatives peace of mind as indications are provided to a GP or out-of-hours health service in real time.

Everyone in the Catalyst team applauds xim’s success and we wish them luck in taking the business to the next level sooner than anticipated.

Dynamon Takes to the Stage in the Middle East

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Dr Angus Webb, founder of Catalyst Centre start-up Dynamon, is off to Dubai next week to take part in a leading telematics conference.

Telematics Conference Middle East and Africa brings together over 150 key stakeholders, experts and R&D companies in the field of telematics, logistics and transport, which makes it a perfect place for Angus to network.

He is particularly excited to be pitching at the Telematics Start-up event, a competition for young businesses looking for investment and partnership opportunities. Angus will pitch to an audience of investors and industry leaders the benefits of Dynamon’s cutting edge software which is designed to help logistics companies to save money by saving fuel.

Angus commented: “The telematics industry needs value-added services to realise its full potential to improve automotive efficiency. It’s a fantastic opportunity to pitch to a global network of telematics professionals in a region where there is considerable market growth and an increasing need for efficiency.”

Dynamon has received media attention for its ideas. This includes being highlighted as one of seven most promising technologies by the Royal Academy of Engineering as reported in The Telegraph.

We wish Angus the best of luck with his pitch on Thursday and look forward to reporting on the outcome.

The Peak of Success

Twitter has been in the news again. The social media site has seen its user growth stall at 320 million monthly active users. This is the first time in Twitter’s history that this has happened, although, the BBC reminds us, this is a quite normal growth pattern for a hi-tech business.

However investors are not at all happy and it’s created quite a stir on Wall Street. Shares in Twitter immediately fell by a not insignificant 10% as a result of this news breaking.

As John Naughton writing for The Guardian puts it: “If there’s one thing Wall Street and the tech industry fears, it is the idea that something potentially profitable might peak or reach some kind of equilibrium point. Endless exponential growth is what investors seek. Whereas you or I might think that a company with more than 300 million regular users that pulls in $710m in revenues is doing OK, Wall Street sees it as a potential zombie.”

In a month when our colleagues at SETsquared announced that its member companies raised over £90m of investment in 2015, there’s no shortage of people out there looking to fund innovative high potential businesses. However, if ‘endless exponential growth’ is what investors are looking for, it got us thinking about how early stage businesses can calculate what their ideal ‘peak of success is’ and how they can manage investor expectations effectively around this from the start.

In the flurry of excitement at attracting funding, it can be all too easy to get carried away and promise investors the earth (with your fingers crossed behind your back!).  However we all know of the dangers of over promising and under delivering in business so how can this pitfall be avoided? Here are five tips:

  1. Get talking: by creating a dialogue with your potential investors and keeping lines of communication open, you’ll be able to mutually agree expectations at the start and continue to get their buy-in as things change. It’s important that what success looks like to you looks like success for them.
  2. Be realistic: challenge your business plan assumptions at every opportunity and with all the resources that you have available to determine whether the goals that you have set are achievable.
  3. Minimise exposure: naturally investors are looking for a fast and larger than expected return so look at a variety of ways to achieve the funding you need. A good rule of thumb is to think about how much time and money you need and double it! Things always take longer and are more expensive than expected.
  4. Stay focused: all entrepreneurs know that they have to give their all to their business but working hard and staying focused are two different things. Stick to your plan to deliver what you say you will to your investors. If you need to deviate, consult with them first and explain what’s in it for them if you take your desired course of action.
  5. Share success: going back to point one, regularly feed your investors with information about when things are going well. It will give them confidence and they should be more on-board when there’s a slow-down or a blip in the game plan.

As the old adage goes, ‘the bigger you are, the harder you fall’ and if the Twitter frenzy is anything to go by, it still rings true today. However, for those of us that don’t have 320 million customers, it’s worth taking a moment to consider what success looks like to you – and sticking to it.

Big Ideas Spring from Leakage

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Utilities companies and networks are rarely out of the news. Price hikes fuelled by uncertainty in financial markets, flooding and droughts caused by ineffective water management, and environmental concerns over fracking, solar and wind farms make for frequent headlines. However, the underlying technical and ecological issues are complex and market deregulation can further inhibit speedy solutions. But one thing’s for sure – there is broad agreement that our precious natural resources need to be preserved and managed with care.

Gas reserves are of particular interest. Utility Week reported recently that the Energy Networks Association’s Gas Futures Group had appointed KPMG to evaluate different possibilities for the future of gas in the UK over the next 25 years. The report will consider the main drivers and trends that influence the long term development of the energy system such as technology, decarbonisation targets, and demand profiles and their impact upon the gas network.

Gas being in the spotlight is good news for current Catalyst Centre tenant Utonomy. The start-up here at the University of Southampton Science Park is developing new technology which will reduce leakage in the UK’s gas distribution networks.

There are eight gas distribution networks throughout the British Isles which take gas from the high pressure transmission system and distribute it to the consumer. Maintaining a consistent pressure throughout this network can reduce leakage of methane gas into the environment.

Utonomy’s solution works by automatically managing pressure in the network so that it is consistently at the right level no matter what the demand. This smart network pressure management is expected to reduce leakage by more than 20%. This will give a significant payback for gas network operators and make a big impact on greenhouse gas emissions.

This is important because methane gas is a potent greenhouse gas with 84 times the global warming potential of CO2 over 20 years. It accounts for 14% of all greenhouse gas emissions, 30% of which derive from oil and gas production.

Technology is only one part of the total energy management and conservation solution of course, but it’s reassuring to know that our entrepreneurial spirits here at the Catalyst Centre are leading the way!

Catalyst Centre tenants onto something big!

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Encouraging recent reports suggest that Catalyst Centre tenants Cynaptic and xim could be at the beginning of a very exciting journey indeed.

We read with excitement Robert Glatter’s article for Forbes entitled “Wearable Technology And Digital Healthcare Strategies Should Shift Focus To Chronic Medical Illness.” In it, he argues that the giant steps forward that we’ve taken into the world of wearable tech (which can monitor heart rates, calories and sleep patterns for example), are not currently being fully exploited for the good of society. Dr Glatter endorses the opinion that this kind of technology is currently more of a novelty embraced by the tech-savvy or fitness-focused few, as opposed to a solution that could be adopted to assist with global chronic health conditions.

Indeed, it seems that there’s a burgeoning interest in the field from many parties in the US. PricewaterhouseCoopers’ Health Research Institute published an in-depth report evaluating the state of wearable digital technology and Forbes forecased Health Tech as the most profitable market in the US for 2016.

It’s all good news for two of our current Catalyst Centre tenants who are both exploring opportunities in the field of digital health.

The xim team is developing technology designed to recognise early warning signs before they turn into critical health events, like a heart attack or a stroke, through the use of cameras with computer vision technology. The idea is to issue a preventative warning so that intervention can happen before a major health problem occurs. Founder Laurence Pearce believes that, once thoroughly tested, his company’s solution could scale globally with considerable social benefits through helping people to remain at home, out of residential care homes and hospitals.

Just down the corridor, the Cynaptic team is working to support stroke sufferers by encouraging them to take ownership of their rehabilitation. Using gaming technology, patients will be able to pass through game levels while being monitored and measured by health professionals. The technology recognises finger movements alongside hand and body movements, and hopes to support the increasing number of younger stroke sufferers for whom age-old rehab tools are no longer relevant or motivational.

In the context of a government drive towards people taking more responsibility for their own preventative health and rehabilitation in their home environments, there seems to be a willingness amongst healthcare providers to utilise digital solutions to enable this Stateside. Adopting digital healthcare solutions, they say, could deliver a double-whammy by not only enhancing the efficiency of the healthcare system, but also, critically, the quality of the care provision itself.

The question is: are we ready, willing and able to take the plunge here in the UK? Follow our future blogs to see how xim and Cynaptic set about taking their businesses forward in this exciting and cutting edge field.

The Secret to a Successful Sabbatical

Last week we reported that one of our Catalyst Centre tenants, Dr. Tom Gernon, was in the spotlight as a result of research that he undertook during a six month sabbatical from the University of Southampton. He chose to spend his time in the Science Park’s Incubation Centre, developing a hypothesis that undersea volcanoes played a critical role during global glaciations, and in stimulating the origin of animal life. This proved to be groundbreaking research of considerable academic value.

It got us thinking about the value of sabbaticals and how you can make them work for you. For some, largely in the commercial environment, taking a sabbatical is about simply taking a break to fulfil a personal ambition, an ‘adult gap year’ if you like.  For those in the academic world, it’s quite different – sabbaticals are an opportunity to work even harder: perhaps conduct intensive research, prepare a grant application or write a book! For most academics, it is usually a once in a lifetime opportunity and one not to be taken lightly.

Despite the challenges that an absent valuable member of staff creates for an organisation, sabbaticals have been a growing trend in the UK. 20% of companies had a career break policy and a further 10% were considering introducing one according to the CBI survey in 2005. Why? Perhaps because both organisation and employee recognise that getting out from behind the desk or classroom can advance an individual’s career development and encourage staff retention in the longer term. It’s a potential win-win if it’s done well.

Tom said of his experience: “My sabbatical demonstrated how important it was to focus on one scientific problem without any distractions. I achieved so much more – it would have been extremely difficult to work on this paper amid other day-to-day commitments. Going into an environment that is linked to academia, but also with vital connections to the outside entrepreneurial world, created a very thought-provoking environment to work in. The benefits of being in a shared workspace with others interested in research and innovation cannot be understated. Having been immersed in this environment for 6 months I was even inspired to take my idea of starting a business and make it a reality in the Catalyst Centre”.

Our top five tips for a successful sabbatical:

  1. Get the timing right. To ensure that you get the most out of your planned leave – particularly if you are taking refuge to focus on a research challenge – you must be able to leave work behind. That means getting on top of the day job first so that you’re not feeling pressured by what’s going on without you. It also means ensuring that your research is at a stage when your time can be used to best effect. For example, are you ready to start developing a prototype or is it ready to be written up for peer review? If, like Tom, you’re working with others around the world, you need to plan carefully to coincide with your colleagues’ personal plans.
  2. Location, location, location. Many university staff taking sabbaticals find refuge in other universities, but this can be counter-productive as it won’t necessarily stimulate new idea generation. Working in a co-work space like the Incubation Centre here on the Park allows you to broaden your horizons, meet people you would never otherwise have met and keep abreast of commercially-minded developments in your field. It could move your thinking to the next level.
  3. Make it easy on your employer. Think ahead in terms of how your job role (ie teaching commitments) will be covered by others. How will your students be supported without placing undue pressure on your colleagues, or undue expense on your employer? If you think this through and present a solution rather than a problem, it’s more likely to be taken seriously.
  4. Make new friends. Networking is important in any walk of life and the broader your network, the more opportunities you will create for your future. If you’re taking an academic sabbatical, you’ll be motivated by the science and theory of your work initially. However, academics can turn this to their future advantage and be successful in business if they find the right partners to work with. A sabbatical is a wonderful way to broaden your sphere of influence.
  5. Dot the Is and cross the Ts. Make sure that the terms of your leave are unequivocal. Consider your financial position carefully if an element of the sabbatical is to be unpaid and what, if any, impacts there are to be on contractual benefits. It’s also important to understand whether your current role will be kept open for you when you return and if not, how this will be managed. You may wish to visit the Chartered Institute of Personnel & Development website for further advice.

Catalyst Centre Tenant’s Research Unlocks The Dawn of Animal Life on Earth

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Catalyst Centre tenant, Dr. Thomas Gernon of Volturnus, has been the centre of attention in the media this week as awareness grew about some groundbreaking research which he conducted during a sabbatical at the Science Park’s Incubation Centre last year.

As the lead author of the study, together with colleagues from the Universities of Southampton, Bristol and The Australian National University, Tom has suggested an intriguing solution to an age-old conundrum for geoscientists: how and why did ocean chemistry change as Earth emerged from its deep freeze 700 million years ago?

And the answer? Underwater volcanoes!

It seems that widespread explosive underwater volcanoes were the catalyst for change, transforming the Earth from icehouse to greenhouse. These sub-marine volcanoes helped transform our planet, leading to a chemical chain of reactions, which ultimately led to life on earth.

In a nutshell, ‘Snowball Earth’ existed for tens of millions of years, buried in massive ice sheets with surface temperatures as low as -50°C. During this severe ice age the Earth was largely white, reflecting rather than absorbing the sun’s energy. However, below the surface of the oceans, the accumulation of carbon dioxide emissions from ongoing volcanic activity led to sufficient atmospheric warming to rapidly melt the ice cover.

This in turn resulted in high phosphorus levels, which helped oxygenate the atmosphere and oceans. Phosphorous is one of the key elements of life – crucial for the creation of DNA and cell membranes. It is now thought that an increase in phosphorous would have stimulated the transformation of the Earth’s inhabitants at this time (free-floating bacteria consisting of just one cell) into multicellular organisms. As these organisms – largely made up of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen – were continuously buried on the seafloor, the carbon remained there, leading to an increase in free oxygen levels in the water and atmosphere. The algae and cyanobacteria also produced and released oxygen via photosynthesis – crucial for animal life to evolve.

Tom’s research paper has whipped up considerable excitement in the scientific and mainstream media after it was initially published on Nature Geoscience this week, featuring prominently on its website too. Since then The Conversation, IFLScience (6,000 likes!) and the Daily Mail have picked up on it and there’s no doubt that more will follow.

“Being based in the Incubation Centre at the University of Southampton Science Park surrounded by a community of like-minded individuals really inspired me during the course of this project. It’s very pleasing to see such a positive response in the media” said Tom. “It was a major piece of work and hopefully it will stimulate further  scientific knowledge and technical advances. As well as writing this paper, being based on the Park meant that I was surrounded by an entrepreneurial buzz that has inspired me to start-up my own business as part of the Catalyst Centre programme.”

Time to Take Stock

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January is the time of year when many think about changing their lives and starting a business. For those that have already done so, it’s time to think about how they might do things differently: smarter, faster and more profitably. Love them or hate them, the concept of a New Year’s resolution – in fact, any opportunity to stop and think strategically about your direction in business – is a valuable one.

Many entrepreneurs testify to the importance of taking stock on a regular basis. Zach Davis’ “22 Essential New Year’s Resolutions For Entrepreneurs, From Entrepreneurs” for Tech.co gives universally relevant tips from those that have been there, done it and more importantly, learned from it. Many ideas put forward are those that we know we should be doing, but it really helps to hear from successful people just why. It makes for a good ‘take stock’ read if you need some inspiration.

For his New Year article, Martin Zwilling writing for Forbes highlighted the importance of being a happy entrepreneur. He cites staying rooted in the present, keeping expectations realistic, trusting employees and getting a good work/family/life balance as critical success factors in achieving satisfaction as an entrepreneur. He also suggests exercising the other side of your brain. “If your job is analytical, take some time regularly to explore the creative side of your personality, or vice versa. The happiest people are whole-brained, rather than just left brain or right brain,” says Zwilling.

At the start of the New Year, the people behind the fledgling businesses in the Catalyst Centre shared their business’s value proposition with the judging panel who were keen to check in on progress. This time round, their fellow Catalyst tenants joined the panel and were encouraged to ask questions and challenge. Each year, the value proposition is a major focus within the Catalyst programme. At its core, it is a summary of the benefit you provide and why a consumer should buy your product or use your service over another. It requires developing a deep understanding of the problems they face, and how you solve these better than similar products on the market, and the panel helped them do just that.
The value proposition is ever-evolving as it is constantly refreshed by customer feedback. Presenting a clear value proposition involves a great deal of taking stock, challenging what you think you know about your marketplace and the product or service that you hope will make you a success. So what did our current Catalyst Centre tenants make of it?

“I found the whole thing a little daunting, but exceptionally worthwhile,” commented Steve Khoo from Tidal Harness. “Whoever knew there could be so much value in a value proposition! From the moment you start a business, it’s go, go, go! You set yourself tight timeframes to achieve certain milestones and from then onwards you’re engrossed in the day-to-day running of your business. Taking the time out to review and challenge what I thought I knew about the direction of my business was extremely worthwhile. In fact, I think I will make a new year’s resolution to do it every January to guide me in the year ahead.”

Looking to perfect your pitch?

If you’re looking to perfect your pitch, here’s how by Simon White of Altitude Partners!

People
1. What was your motivation to start your business?
2. Talk about your strengths and weaknesses very honestly!
3. Keep your CV simple and relevant!

Business
1. How did you get there?
2. What does the business do?
3. Make no assumptions!
4. Clarity is everything!
5. Don’t oversell!
6. Be honest about everything!

Customers
1. Research!
2. Why will they buy?
3. Who?
4. How to get to the client?
5. Competition?
6. Sales?

How Much?
1. Be realistic about your valuation!
2. What will you spend the money on?
3. Be realistic!

Finance
1. Run the use of your funds very tight!
2. Forecast for a minimum of three years!
3. Seek help on forecasts!
4. Avoid fundraising!
5. Be careful with salaries!
6. Be realistic!
7. Be clear and concise!

Investors
1. Individual, Group or Institution?
2. Research!
3. Choose with care!

Opportunity
1. What’s in it for them!
2. Clear business summary!
3. Show you have an awareness!

Presentation
1. Honesty!
2. Simplicity!
3. Energy and Passion!
4. Stick to the pitch!
5. Show your value!
6. Appearance!
7. Leave additional materials!

For more information about Altitude Partners visit http://bit.ly/1SSf24J

This UK Export Week, is trading abroad plain sailing?

“Exporting is great” says UK Trade & Industry this UK Export Week. According to the UK government, there has never been a better time to explore new markets and seek out lucrative new relationships overseas.  Whatever your sector, they say, there’s a market out there for your products or services. And in the wake of the recent high profile visits from the Chinese and Indian premiers, it seems that SMEs, under the banner of Brand Britain, should be set on a course for global domination right now.

But is it as easy as it sounds and how feasible is it really for start-ups and budding entrepreneurs to get a foothold overseas?

UKTI representative Mark Robson points to key reasons why UK businesses should venture overseas in his blog ‘seven reasons you can’t afford not to export’. He points to: ease of access to the rest of the world through improvements in transport, trade finance, online communications and trade agreements; a renewed global appetite for the perceived high quality of British brands, faster growth and higher profits, enhanced innovation, upskilling and risk reduction as key drivers for considering exporting as a critical strategy for business growth. Read more at http://www.rbs.com/news/2015/november/seven-reasons-you-can-t-afford-not-to-export.html#Tbe56FmMREZksBv3.99

It all sounds very easy. However an ill thought through approach could sink a business before it’s got to the other side of the English Channel.  With promises of higher returns, come inevitably higher risks and this ratio can be hard to calculate in unchartered territories. Consider for example, the vagaries of currency exchange rates, longer supply times and payment terms creating potential cashflow blockages as well as factors that are completely outside of a business’s control like political contexts, cultural barriers and logistics challenges. The UK government also requires an export license for some technologies, such as those involved in the manufacture of controlled goods and this is of particular importance if you are working in the defence sector. It sounds like a minefield and one that is hard to navigate for a novice exporter.

So if you’re a fledgling business in the science and technology sector like our Catalyst Centre tenants, where do you begin? The UKTI has International Trade Advisors available via their regional networks and they’re easy to contact via its website. Open to Export at www.opentoexport.com offers an Export Action Plan, a free online planning tool for sharing with your chosen advisor.  It covers the basics like: are you ready to export?; which product should you export?; where should you export to?; how will you cover the additional costs?; and how will you make a profit? There are also online webinars covering specific markets and an ‘export bootcamp’.

“My advice would be not to run before you can walk,” says Phil Sharpe, Catalyst Centre mentor. “Ultimately, whatever sector you operate in, if you have the basics covered for an effective UK-launch and growth plan, your business will have firm foundations to expand abroad. A sound value proposition, rigid financial and intellectual property controls, a positive plan for human resources and a commitment to an ongoing quest for innovation are prerequisites for fast-track growth and global scaling.”

you make a profit? There are also online webinars covering specific markets and an ‘export bootcamp’.

“My advice would be not to run before you can walk,” says Phil Sharpe, Catalyst Centre mentor. “Ultimately, whatever sector you operate in, if you have the basics covered for an effective UK-launch and growth plan, your business will have firm foundations to expand abroad. A sound value proposition, rigid financial and intellectual property controls, a positive plan for human resources and a commitment to an ongoing quest for innovation are prerequisites for fast-track growth and global scaling.”

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