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A natural centre for innovation

London is a city of contrasts ? it has the UK?s highest productivity rate, one of the world?s largest economies and a gross value added of over £160 billion a year. Its global transport links are second to none and the skills and diversity of its people are world class

However, London also faces challenges to maintain and build upon its current market position. At the London Development Agency, the Mayor?s agency responsible for driving London?s sustainable economic growth, it?s our job to ensure that London remains a global success story ? in the next year, the next decade and in the next century. We work to deliver the Mayor?s vision for London to be a sustainable world city with strong, long-term economic growth, social inclusion and active environmental improvement.

This article shows just what London has to offer with regards to its university base and details several working examples of LDA initiatives that demonstrate the innovative potential of London?s businesses.

What can London offer you?

London brings together the four crucial elements in successful innovation ? all in one city:

It is the working combinations of these varied elements ? often developed over many years ? that makes London different. There is no other city that can match it for diversity and flair. If it?s going to happen, it?s going to happen in London. Shouldn?t you be involved?

Take a look at what?s on offer.

London has the highest concentration of higher education institutions in Europe, with over 20,000 world-class researchers, attracting more than £600m in research funding every year. The city?s HE institutions range from large, multi-faculty and multi-site universities to highly specialist single-site colleges, all of which provide world-class education and research.


The British Library Business & IP Centre

The British Library Business & IP Centre at St Pancras, London is designed to support entrepreneurs and small businesses from that first spark of inspiration to successfully launching and developing a business. Since it opened in March 2006, over 25,000 people have been through its doors.

Users will find a wealth of free information to help them develop their ideas, protect their intellectual property, pinpoint customers, analyse a market or write a business plan, including market research reports, industry journals, high-value on-line databases and patents, trade marks and registered designs. Experts are on hand to guide people to the information they need and there is a range of free and subsidised workshops, as well as ?Inspiring Entrepreneurs? events, where entrepreneurs reveal the secrets of their success. One successful entrepreneur to benefit from the British Library?s facilities is Brendan O?Neil, inventor, KryoMedic:

Brendan was at university when he invented KryoMedic ? a portable cooler that allows aid workers to safely drop medical supplies in disaster zones. With a finished product he needed help to file a patent to protect his ideas so turned to the British Library Business & IP Centre. He attended one of our understanding patents workshops and took advantage of a one-to-one advice session with the in-house patent expert, Steve Van Dulken, to find out how to make his application. Brendan is now looking at developing the design prototype of KryoMedic with the company he works for, CRDM.

To find out more visit

Your next big idea is here ?

Whatever your business demands are for innovation, technology transfer or commercial exploitation, London?s world-class cluster of universities and colleges can meet them. There are particular innovation strengths in:

And with many of the world?s top researchers and academic leaders choosing London to develop their ideas, the chances are that the big idea you?ve been looking for is right here. And so is the person who will make it happen ?

London is also the first choice for high-quality graduates and postgraduates. The city?s HEIs teach over 300,000 students directly and another 100,000 by innovative distance learning programmes. The range of courses available is extensive ? over 30,000 at every level and mode of study, including professional training to support business and for people in employment.

In fact, London?s HEIs have a wealth of experience in providing courses customised to meet the specific needs of business, with programmes delivered at flexible times and locations, including in-house. All around, London?s universities and higher education colleges are another good reason to ?think London?.

Proof of Concept Funds

The second phase of Proof of Concept funding kicked off in 2007, involving 30 HEIs and several non-HE partners, and will have overall value of £11.8m, comprising £5.75m of LDA funding and £6.05m match funding from other sources. These funds are available for the five consortia to finance early stage commercialisation. The first-stage programme has achieved all its objectives to date, including creating opportunities for spin-outs, licensing and jobs. In addition private sector investors? confidence in London?s HEI technology transfer operations has been raised, with substantial follow-on funds being attracted.

For example, three projects that were funded at the proof-of-concept stage from the Imperial College have attracted in excess of £2m in private followon investment. In the first funding stage the Dash Proof of Concept fund, led by Imperial College, invested in a total of 15 projects.

Four of these projects have successfully progressed into technology businesses. These are: Midaz Lasers Limited, a company which develops lasers for the industrial markets, Sensixa Limited, a leader of miniaturised wireless pervasive sensing devices, PPU Soft Limited, a company pioneering applications of ?Pay Per Use Software?, enabling software to be offered as a service, rather than hosted directly on clients? computers, and Evo Electric Limited, a producer of high-performance electrical motor/generators for use in gensets, powertrains, and as traction motors, in the hybrid-electric vehicle market.

Secondment into Knowledge is an LDA-funded innovation initiative to facilitate relationship building between London-based SMEs and Universities, Research Councils or Regional Technological Organisations (the Knowledge Base) and to increase their capability for innovation by:

The Project so far ?

Secondment into Knowledge is a pilot project that has approved funding to support at least 47 secondments from industry into the Knowledge Base. It kicked off last December and will run in its pilot phase until 31 March 2008. There are currently 24 projects up and running that are across a wide range of industries and disciplines.

If you are a London-based SME that could benefit from this initiative and want to join the list of programme participants piloting the project, contact for more information.

Capoco Design and the Royal College of Art Case Study

Capoco Design is an SME with a 30-year track record of automotive design consultancy specialising in bus and coach design. Led by founder and design director Alan Ponsford, an engineer by background, it has built a strong international reputation.

However, as a small-scale design business, Capoco faces enormous challenges to maintain its market position. In classic SME mode, it is a dynamic operation but faces critical competitive pressures. The main ?knowledge gap? for Capoco is in changes to the design process itself due to a combination of rapid advances in digital technology, shortened project lead times and a growing emphasis on usability, access and user need in public transport.

Through the LDA?s Secondment Into Knowledge programme, Capoco worked closely with the Royal College of Art in London to access the knowledge it required to stay ahead of the game. Ponsford and his team worked closely with College academics and experts in such areas as vehicle design, computer modelling, digital visualisation, rapid prototyping, new materials, colour and interior trim, inclusive design and usability studies. Interaction between SME and academics was centred around a new concept in public transport called Mobilicity that Capoco is developing.

Alan Ponsford found the whole engagement with the RCA extremely helpful to his business and his reasoning for participating on the programme stemmed from his motto: ?Even after 30 years in business, if you think you?re safe, you?re dead!?

For more information, contact:
Emma Shelley
Development Manager
Tel: 020 7593 8158


The Innovation Placement Programe

The Innovation Placement Programme is an LDAfunded initiative delivered by Step Enterprise Ltd which assists London-based SMEs to take on a student for eight weeks to carry out a specific innovative project to benefit their business. Projects range from grass roots to blue sky innovation and it is really amazing to see what can be accomplished in such a short time scale. The programme has seen companies? sales increase as a result of product, process and service innovation.

Innovation Placement Case Study

Jenny Runnacles, studying Geography at The University of Bristol, was placed with Ming Foods to develop a new product. The company owners required a solution for how to use the waste pancake dough that was a bi-product of their automated process.

The waste dough was currently being thrown away and was costing the company £15,000 in landfill costs. Jenny?s project was to find a use for the leftover dough. She began by testing out her own recipes at home and by getting to know the company?s products. From her early investigations, she came up with the idea for a new ?on the go? snack that would fill a gap in the market. She developed the snack to be eaten with a dipping sauce and recommended that Ming Foods teamed up with a specialist dip manufacturer rather than try and make it themselves, as this was more cost effective.

Jenny spent the rest of her time developing the packaging, sourcing the machinery to make the snack and market testing it on as many people as possible. By the end of her placement, Jenny was in the position to meet with one of Ming Foods? biggest customers, Northern Foods, to present the prototype. The meeting was successful and Ming Foods has been asked to look at incorporating the new snack into one of Northern Foods? ready meals.

Ming Foods estimate that they will increase their profits by £230,000 in the next three years due to this project and Jenny came second in the Shell Step national final for the UK?s most enterprising student.

If you are a company and feel that this opportunity may be right for your business, visit :


SME Innovation Support Programe

The SME Innovation Support Programme stimulates the development and growth of SMEs in the London Objective 2 areas by supporting improvements in product, process, technology and business practices. The Programme is supported by the London Development Agency, part-funded through ERDF and managed by ANGLE plc.

Building on the success of the earlier initiative, the current programme ? which runs to March 2008 ? is able to support many more companies and provide additional benefits including the secondment of innovation facilitators to support project implementation.

Outcomes achieved up to June 2007 include:

The Virtual Craftsman Project Case Study

Bell Travers Willson are a young and growing architecture and design practice that originally approached the SME Innovation Support Programme with a highly-innovative concept for a modular building system and design approach. Their project involved the design and prototyping of a low-cost digitally manufactured case study house. The Innovation Support Programme and LDA Jumpstart Connect support allowed Bell Travers Willson to develop the concepts and methods required to design and manufacture their novel sectional building components through close work with both the Royal College of Art and Kingston University.

The project culminated with the construction and testing of full-scale prototypes of the house. The frame of the house ? its walls, floors and roof ? was assembled from structural plywood timber panels manufactured using CNC routing from digital 3D information and exhibited at a central London location.

As a result of the development and subsequent exhibition the practice has grown its reputation and order book through private commissions. Further, the business has expanded to cope with increased workload, developed a network of strategic partners and suppliers and has created a new construction company.

For more information or to take part in the programme, visit:

The LDA?s Gateway to Investment (g2i) programme is designed to maximise the success of all London-based sectors with the exception of financial services and property development companies receiving investment and is delivered by a consortium of Grant Thornton, e-Synergy, Library House, Quotec and The Innovatory.


G2I has seen 30 companies receive private sector investment of over £23m in 18 months. One of their successes is Trampoline, securing investment of over £3m. Using the latest programming methodologies the company set out to take the best of the consumer networking environment into the business world, helping individuals find and manage information.

After initial progress Trampoline hit serious competition. G2I helped the organisation to look at the company from an investor's perspective and question some deep-seated assumptions. Today Trampoline has refocused 90% of its development on to analysis, developing a new product, Sonar, that plugs into corporate networks to help employees find information. In addition to securing funding, Trampoline has signed up the likes of Channel Four and the Foreign Office as customers and is looking to the US for rapid growth.

If you're looking for early stage or first-round funding of £50K up to £5m, visit:

London?s strengths in science and technology offer significant competitive advantage in an increasingly dynamic global environment. The capital boasts 4,500 world-class researchers, renowned medical and clinical trial centres and internationally recognised centres of excellence in engineering and applied sciences and the greatest concentration of higher education institutions in Europe. However business R&D intensity remains low, issues in the supply of STEM skills prevail and London performs poorly in attracting new R&D-based businesses due to the fragmented business support offer and expensive facilities.

The London Development Agency?s remit in science and technology focuses on addressing these issues. Within Life Sciences key interventions have been developed around incubation infrastructure, professional skills development and access to finance. Our remit has recently expanded to cover high-growth areas such as environmental and new emergent technologies.

Catalyst: London?s Science & Industry Council brings together 12 leaders from industry, academia, finance and the public sector and advises the LDA on these longer-term interventions. Its focus is on building collaborative partnerships between businesses and London?s knowledge base to drive an increase in new R&D activity.

A number of the LDA?s key S&T projects seek to build upon and promote the research expertise in London?s HEIs and the NHS and within the wider business clusters. NHS Innovations London (NHSIL) was formed in November 2005 through the amalgamation of the four original London Hubs, with £1.2m in funding provided by the LDA. Since then a team of experts and a state-of-the-art IP evaluation process have been set up to assess new medical technologies and products coming from 63 London NHS Trusts. Most of these innovations are at a very early stage and NHSIL has provided management resources and funding to take them through to the proof-of-concept stage. To date some four products are in clinical trials, 19 are in business development and five educational products have been brought to market.

One example from the NHSIL portfolio of products in development is an ascending thoracic aortic graft (ATAG?), which through non-invasive surgery could help to prevent many of the 5,400 deaths from aortic aneurysms (ninth leading cause of death) in the UK each year. Currently there is no device on the market to solve this problem. The potential market for this product is over £50m of which there would be a significant return to the originating hospital each year.

NHSIL has patented the product and a cardiac device company PerQtechTM is also being formed. Visit:

The London Biotechnology Network and BioLondon are the LDA?s two flagship programmes to promote London?s biotechnology strengths on a national and international stage. BioLondon?s activities include leading a London delegation of biotechnology companies to the annual BIO conference. The initiative was awarded a Business Today, Services to Industry award in 2007 for its support of London?s biotechnology cluster.

IN Conclusion

All the information and case studies included here represent just a snap shot of what London has to offer; this includes:

The city?s knowledge infrastructure and networks are built around world-class universities and higher education colleges, plus first-rate resources such as libraries, museums and the headquarters of learned societies, charitable foundations and professional bodies.

All of these combine to form a diverse, vibrant and inclusive research and knowledge base and innovation hub.