Innovation never stops

The pandemic has led practically every business to innovate in some way. Simon Edmonds profiles a fascinating project by Bristol-based Open Bionics, a new report on innovation support for artificial intelligence, and also highlights this year’s Made Smarter Innovation Alley and the Emerging Technology Show.

During the pandemic innovation in Britain did not stop. At Innovate UK we have been helping businesses and people through the pandemic, and nowhere is this more clear than our work with Open Bionics, which has launched its first clinic in the UK to deliver 3D printed bionic arms for amputees.

The work it does every day brings hope and help to those who need prosthetic arms. Not only is Open Bionics transforming lives, it is also creating new jobs and driving economic growth. The clinic received a grant under Innovate UK’s Sustainable Innovation Fund, aimed at building UK resilience following the coronavirus outbreak.

It enabled Open Bionics to switch from being a manufacturer of bionic limbs to a clinical provider. Based in Bristol, the new clinic produces the Hero Arm, the company’s product for individuals with below-elbow limb differences.

Since the clinic launched, the company has experienced an influx of patients travelling from all around the UK to have access to the lifechanging bionic technology. One of the first patients to receive medical care at the clinic was Caroline Coster.

A COVID-19 survivor, Caroline also suffered from viral sepsis as a result of catching the virus, requiring her to undergo a quadruple amputation. Using new technologies such as 3D scanning, 3D modelling, automation, and 3D printing, the Open Bionics clinic is the first clinic in the UK to offer 3D printed sockets.


Joel Gibbard CEO and Samantha Payne COO of Open Bionics
Joel Gibbard, CEO and Samantha Payne, COO of Open Bionics

These are a critical part that ensures a prosthesis like the Hero Arm fits like a glove, and offers optimal comfort. Since launching, the clinic has fitted bionic arms for adults and children from as young as eight years old with below-elbow limb differences.

Open Bionics was founded in 2014 by Joel Gibbard MBE and Samantha Payne MBE with the goal of developing affordable, assistive devices that enhance the human body. The Bristol-based bionics company is known globally for using 3D printing and 3D scanning to make advanced, affordable and accessible bionic limbs.

R&D spend for AI sector

I would like to draw your attention to an interesting new study into the impact of Innovate UK grant support in creating jobs and new opportunities in artificial intelligence (AI) across the UK.

We are supporting some of the brightest prospects in British business to develop and deploy AI technologies. These technologies are already on the way to revolutionise the economy and society.

The report, by market research company Ipsos MORI, showed that support by Innovate UK for the burgeoning AI sector has boosted the number of jobs by over 1,100 and has seen grant funding of £323m matched by £202m of private investment.

I was particularly pleased to see manufacturing as a sector figured prominently in the applications of AI which Innovate UK has funded. Innovate UK grant funding for AI has broadly mirrored global and domestic private investment. One key exception would be Innovate UK has funded a substantially higher share of companies operating in the commercial products sector – predominantly manufacturers in traditional industries.

Access to data was the most widely reported barrier by firms awarded grants, with many firms reliant on access to data or the generation of new data. A number of sectors, including manufacturing, are more dependent on the generation of new data through projects.

It is vital that the UK maintains its position in this global sector. It is clear from the findings in this study that Innovate UK’s support is making a real difference but also importantly highlight some key lessons for future public support to help increase this impact even further.


Innovation Alley, Smart Factory Expo 2019
Innovation Alley, Smart Factory Expo 2019

Showcasing the latest technologies

A regular and valued feature of Digital Manufacturing Week, Made Smarter Innovation Alley and the Emerging Technology Show are the UK’s leading showcase of all the new and developing technologies that will change the landscape of manufacturing over the next five to 10 years.

Located at the very heart of Smart Factory Expo, the exhibition (running alongside Digital Manufacturing Week), Made Smarter Innovation Alley and Emerging Technology Show is an amazing opportunity for disruptive technology businesses to showcase their game-changing innovations targeting the UK’s manufacturing sector.

KTN and Innovate UK have been working alongside The Manufacturer to enable 50 of the UK’s most innovative businesses to exhibit free at Innovation Alley on Wednesday 10 and Thursday 11 November 2021. To be eligible companies must:

  • Be less than five years old OR have less than 10 staff
  • Be based in the UK
  • Have an innovative product/service targeted at manufacturers
  • Not have previously exhibited on Innovation Alley

For more information visit www.ukri.org/councils/innovate-uk


To see some of the best technology available at Made Smarter Innovation Alley, register for free here

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