Sharing ideas in science, technology and innovation

Monthly Archives: October 2017

By Alan Carr, Policy and Partnerships Manager (Low Carbon) at Birmingham Science City

Energy Systems Catapult (ESC) gave one of the most highly anticipated presentations for the SMEs attending Venturefest West Midlands. The talk was presented by Tony Diciccio and Phil Lawton of the ESC, along with Gavin Shone from the Energy Innovation Centre (EIC).

ESC is one of a national network of elite technology and innovation centres (Catapult Centres) set up by Innovate UK, based in central Birmingham.

It aims to stimulate innovation in UK industry and bridge the gap between businesses, research and government, to accelerate the development of new technology-based products and services in the energy sector.

The vision of the ESC, launched in April 2015, is to have a clean, intelligent energy system that unleashes the potential of this industry. This opportunity is realised through looking at the entire energy sector – from the generators, to the distributors, to us, the users.

Current infrastructure is becoming outdated as new technologies come to the fore, with the growth of electrification, decarbonisation, and digitalisation. The new technologies could lead to a potential £46 billion positive impact on UK GDP when the energy sector is transformed.

Furthermore, the increase in efficiency could achieve a saving of £27 billion. ESC does big things to meet these challenges across six different programmes, including its Future Power Systems Architecture and Smart Systems and Heat initiatives.

For SMEs, ESC offers a support scheme covering three basic principles: universal assistance, collaborative working, and commercial support. This can help SMEs to innovate in energy systems whilst saving money along the way.

Working with the EIC, ESC provides a list of rolling challenges to problems that SMEs can help to solve. Much of this is achieved through its dedicated EICHub – a digital platform that both the energy industry and SMEs can access. The industry can upload its problem and an SME can indicate that they have a solution to that problem in one click.

It is great to observe that the ESC, working in partnership with the EIC, is ensuring that the massive potential to innovate the energy industry is being made possible at grassroots level.

The ESC is also an active member of the Birmingham Science City-run Innovative Low Carbon Working Group (ILCWG) and recently hosted and presented at the latest ILCWG meeting on 21 September 2017 at its Birmingham headquarters. Many of the above initiatives were shared amongst ILCWG members.

By Jane Holmes, Project and Partnership Manager, Birmingham Science City

Companies must take advantage of the growing exports markets, according to the International Trade Advisor, Christine Hancock, at Venturefest West Midlands 2017.
Representing the Department for International Trade (DIT), Hancock led a lively and interactive session that explained how companies of all sizes are eligible for free, impartial and confidential advice from the DIT.

There is a dedicated DIT West Midlands Office to help companies to export and grow overseas. Their services, detailed at, include masterclasses, online training, tradeshow support and guidance on international communications. Further specialist support is available in market research, export finance, IP and online sales.

The export industry is increasing rapidly. More than a quarter of last year’s UK exports were by companies exporting for the first time, according to Hancock. The DIT has recently helped companies to export products in sectors as diverse as aerospace, animation, craft beers and medical technologies.
There are a range of factors that business leaders must consider when they are looking to export. In considering a location to trade with, companies must weigh up differing freight costs, package requirements, language barriers, currency costs, and local culture. Although this may seem complicated and risky, Hancock explained that exporting can bring new market share, new customers, and a higher profile for companies.

The DIT aims to make the transition into an exporting a company a smooth one, guiding businesses on information, research, and planning, including product and service tailoring. This is achieved through international trade advisors – such as Hancock – plus language and cultural advisers, and digital experts.
As a parting gift to guests, Hancock offered the sage words of James Dyson: “In the past, the UK got away with selling things that weren’t unusual. Now, it’s no use trying to export without having something that is unusual or better”. This means that there are particular opportunities for the innovative businesses that engage with Venturefest and the Birmingham Science City Alliance.
The West Midlands already records a strong exporting performance. It is the top exporting region in the UK outside of London and the South East, according to HM Revenue & Customs. Export businesses in the West Midlands grew by 12.3% in 2016, the highest of any UK region.

If you want to join this growing group of exporting companies in the West Midlands, the DIT West Midlands have events and support to help you. For more information, contact or 0345 222 0159, or visit the website at

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