More than 250 people attended an inaugural public showcase of cutting-edge business innovation in Hampshire. The packed event was held at Fareham Innovation Centre, home to more than 40 enterprises in marine, aviation, aerospace engineering and advanced manufacturing.
With the recent addition of a £7.3m extension, the centre by Solent Airport now has a total of 57 offices and 20 light manufacturing workshops and regularly puts on innovation events.
Oxford Innovation, the UK’s leading innovation centres specialist, runs the centre on behalf of building owner Fareham Borough Council.
Fareham Innovation Centre co-hosted the gathering with the UK Space Agency and Satellite Applications Catapult.
Centre director Stephen Brownlie said: “The cutting-edge innovation being showcased by the 30 exhibitors here today is breathtaking.
“Examples include automated flight technology and the Internet of Things to virtual reality training in warships and remote monitoring of pipe corrosion in explosive environments, such as oil rigs and petrochemical refineries.
“There are some of the brightest research and development minds in the country at Fareham Innovation Centre, designing and manufacturing world-class products which enhance productivity and efficiencies across a diverse range of sectors.”
Richard May is the Innovation Director for South region which includes four Oxford Innovation-run centres in Hampshire – Fareham, Ocean Village, Portsmouth Technopole and BASE Bordon innovation centres.
He builds supportive ecosystems for 140 micro and small businesses in Hampshire and provides founders and managers with strategic planning and general business advice.
Many of the supported business are start-ups and early-stage and the ecosystem partners make a significant impact and help founders grapple with a range of challenges they face in their venture’s infancy and beyond.
Richard said: “Today has given the innovative businesses in the Fareham Innovation Centre and OI Space Incubator an opportunity to celebrate their successes of achieved during 2018, showcase their latest innovations and canvass peers about how to improve the offering and best routes to market.”
Earlier this year Oxford Innovation (OI) was elected as one of the 15 incubators on the nationwide UK Space Agency Incubation Network, with the OI Space Incubator having its first cohort in the newly-enlarged Fareham Innovation Centre and BASE Bordon Innovation Centre.
Ten innovation projects were chosen during a special workshop and gala dinner event in June, winning valuable expert business and technology guidance, a sponsored intern resource from the University of Southampton and intense incubation workshops within the two centres’ research and development facilities.
The six-month programme is designed to help commercialise their ideas for the UK’s multi-billion pound space industry.
They identified downstream space solutions that leverage existing assets in space, such as satellites and GPS technology, to create new frontiers in data applications and usage across sectors.
These include aviation, marine, transport and logistics, agri-tech, big data and manufacturing.
Richard added: “Over the last months three innovation grants have been awarded to cohort projects, at least two contracts won and a number of strategic partnership agreed – including with the University of Athens and companies in Europe.
“Having the interns during the summer was a highlight. They came, they got stuck in, they designed, they developed, they pivoted designs, they got recruited for further work, they were brilliant.”
The 2018 cohort exhibited their prototypes at the public showcase – of these were KOIOS, BaseJump and Agrinav.
KOIOS, based at Fareham Innovation Centre, has won two oil industry clients which will use the firm’s ISO-standard digital data to reduce data handling costs and improve data quality.
Pictured above are KOIOS’ chief executive, Simon Towner, left, and Matt Fancourt, who became chief operating officer at the firm after an internship there from the University of Southampton two years ago.
KOIOS now employs a number of similar graduates; the team conceived KTrak that won a place in the space cohort – it gives a Geo location for important assets – especially useful for buried equipment.
Stephen Smith, pictured below, of Chemical Design has produced BaseJump hardware which has a performance activity tracker for skydiving, monitoring heart rate, altitude and location. A parachute stunt team will be trialling the extreme sports monitoring equipment in 2019.
As part of its technology focus, Fareham Innovation Centre has held a number of innovation challenges, involving a suitable mix of top expertise in each relevant sector.
One of the challenges looked in detail at automated flight technology for search and rescue missions, with a roadmap created to see what needed to be done to make unmanned aerial vehicles an operational reality.
Richard said: “There is a bigger picture from today’s showcase, our Innovation Challenges and the space business incubator – it’s about generating inward investment and providing commercial opportunities to grow local supply chains, creating further high-value local employment.”
Solent Local Enterprise Partnership, an exhibitor, contributed a £2 million grant to Fareham Innovation Centre’s new extension as part of the organisation’s programme for supporting innovation across the Solent region, which is home to 50,000 businesses.
The public showcase was held at the centre’s high-tech conference centre and events space, The Bridge, which overlooks Solent Airport.