Sustainable Innovation Fund: from alpacas to algorithms

Cameron Miller Open Bionic Hero Arm

A shout-out to some of the Innovate UK-funded Sustainable Innovation Fund’s incredibly innovative health projects.

After the positive reaction to my first blog I wanted this one to be more technical, maybe with some controversial opinions, more than a shout-out to my most successful projects.

First ideas

My initial thought was to write about the lack of projects addressing menopause. Half the population will go through this deeply unpleasant experience, yet it is vastly under-represented in the health sector. Hello Lumino Ltd are building a Cognitive Behavioural Therapy-based digital therapeutic app to support women going through menopause. It’s brilliant, but why are there no others?


Credit: Getty

Then I thought I might go for youth appeal and blog about the new Innovate Instagram page. Launched at the end of April, this aims to raise awareness of Innovate UK with young entrepreneurs and showcase the huge diversity of innovations we fund. This includes green fashion labelling that gives a red, amber or green rating to the sustainability of your clothes. Not to mention supporting farmers by turning alpaca poop into fertiliser as an additional source of income.

EdTech innovations

My background is in early years education, so I thought maybe there was a nice intellectual blog to be had in EdTech. I found one project that almost made me wish I was back there (not quite obviously, because you know: snotty noses, tying 20 pairs of shoelaces and Ofsted.) Developing Experts have launched a digital solution to bring together industry, parents, pupils and educators to increase the number of women and ethnic minority applicants for engineering jobs.

Their incredible platform not only has a wealth of learning resources and data, it links children’s interests to possible careers, right from Reception class. Starting young to grow the next generation of scientists and engineers: now there’s a return on Innovate UK’s investment.

But then I had a week of meetings with some of my incredibly innovative health projects, and my desire for controversy and youth appeal melted away. These projects make my heart sing. I can’t help it and I’m not even sorry: prepare for passion, praise and celebration of this wonderful work.

Health solutions

Open Bionics are using their grant to digitise the fitting of their incredible Hero Arm and develop an app that links to the limb via Bluetooth to support its users. Check out their website: the joy on those faces will make your day.

Senior couple exercising

Credit: Getty

Move Breathe Connect is a yoga app developed by Let’s Breathe Happy, to build physical and emotional resilience and aid recovery in vulnerable older adults impacted by COVID-19. Two phrases from their trial user feedback jumped out at me: “I no longer see myself as OLD” and “It gives me the very special Me Time I didn’t realise I needed so badly.” Real people, real positive changes to their lives.

Seroxo are combining a home blood test with a new smartphone app for the 100,000+ patients undergoing chemotherapy each year. The new system will prevent unnecessary trips to hospital which are not only time consuming and wasteful of resources, but stressful and scary: especially during a pandemic. Easing the life of a cancer sufferer, even a tiny bit, is a joyful thought.

Give these a watch

Explain my Procedure does exactly what it says on the tin, but it does it so well, in such a calm, reassuring way that you can feel the worries of a hospital patient dissolving with every word. The animations are easy to watch and pitched at the right level (not too technical but not patronisingly simple), informing a patient exactly what will happen to them in hospital.

The COVID-19 film was given free to many intensive care units around the country, helping families (who could not visit during lockdown) understand the treatments their loved ones were experiencing. The reassurance that must have brought to so many families is huge.

In my last blog I mention Freedom One Life and their amazing powered chair: check out their new video to see what their grant paid for. The new features on their chair will open up huge possibilities for its users and give them freedom and confidence beyond measure.

Impact of funding on real lives

And that’s why I can’t stop bragging about the wonderful work we support. Time and again in project meetings I hear the words “If Innovate hadn’t funded us we wouldn’t have been able to do this.” Surely the best way to measure the impact of that funding is to picture one patient, one real person, whose life will change for the better because of these projects.

The grants we give come from taxpayers’ money. I think every taxpayer would enjoy seeing the grin on this boy’s face as he shows off his bionic arm. They really should know what technical advances, world-saving ideas and joy this funding brings.


Read Jay’s previous blog.

View Innovate UK’s blog archive.

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Top image:  Cameron Miller with Open Bionics Hero Arm. Credit: Open Bionics

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