Science Capital in its element after securing award

(as reported in the Birmingham Post)

Giving individuals the right advice on growing their business is critical to getting our economy rolling again, according to Science Capital team which won the 2012 Local Business Accelerators competition.

Many small companies are hunkering down until the hurricane blows over, says CEO Michael Overduin. But the smart ones are starting to lay their plans for growth. Here Science Capital is offering help by enlisting the region’s top legal and financial experts to give pro bono support to entrepreneurial researchers and innovative companies.

With 25 teams having already benefitted, and with success stories mounting from its first two years, Science Capital is now redoubling its efforts to connect the best brains in the business. They focus on emerging automotive, energy, healthcare and digital technologies as these form the bedrock of what the West Midlands does best.

Would-be entrepreneurs are invited to present their business plans for free consultations at Science Capital’s quarterly events, which also feature evening presentations on the key technologies being developed to address today’s global challenges. Presenters have included some of the most promising start-ups emerging from Birmingham, and have gone on to receive funding and contracts to accelerate their growth. So what are some of these ground-breaking technologies?

• Aceon Solar is developing revolutionary solar power systems, and launched its new docking station after presenting at Science Capital’s Low Carbon event. Managing Director Mark Thompson said the experience helped them form a clear marketing plan, moving them to export to Ghana. Their new plug-and-play SolarSDS generators enable people to access low cost power for virtually any device from lighting and TVs, to games consoles and laptops, and phones and power tools.

• Do you want to save thousands? Ergohome is developing world-leading housing solutions that reduce household energy bills and, after presenting at Science Capital, they secured investments to expand. Director Paul Chadwick said that pitching provided “honest and critical feedback on our product. We learnt about very practical aspects of getting our message across.” Independent tests with the University of Birmingham show homeowners’ heating bills will be under £250 a year!

• At Science Capital’s Digital World Event, Pengower Limited seized the opportunity to present their platform of cloud-based solutions. Dr Luke Mulekezi recognised that “The benefits of presenting weren't just limited to the expert advice. The event also sparked new business relationships, leading to a number of very successful partnerships.”

Science Capital has built its own winning strategy by directly connecting academic, business, industry and investment experts through peer-to-peer networking. Its directors have experience from all camps, and formed a non-profit company that focuses specifically on helping individuals in the driver’s seat of growing companies, start-ups and spin-outs.

At quarterly events in central Birmingham, leading speakers from industry, SMEs and academia present their innovative ideas and technologies. But most importantly, these networking events are designed to maximize engagement. An open discussion allows the audience to compare views and to build a consensus on how to move forward. An evening meal allows partnerships to take root. Video interviews, web profiles and slide presentations are made freely available online to spread the message, with thousands listening in.

But before the keynote presentations in the evening, teams can discuss their products and plans at no cost to themselves. They can explore ways to manage and scale growth. A panel of experienced investment, financial and legal advisors from firms including FD Solutions, Marks & Clerk and Wragge & Co. give constructive feedback and pro bono follow-up support with no obligation. Mentors include seasoned experts who have been there, done that and now want to give back.

Science Capital’s third season of events kicks off on March 14, where the designs and technologies that are shaking up the automotive industry are presented at “Smart, Safe and Sustainable: driving into the future”.

Lord Drayson will unveil what’s under the hood of the world's fastest electric car and asks “Can motor racing be exciting and environmentally sustainable?” The former UK Science Minister is an entrepreneur at heart, and now runs Drayson Racing Technologies. Julia King, Vice-Chancellor of Aston University, will show how the UK’s Low Carbon agenda provides fertile ground in which companies can blossom. She’ll be joined by Liberty Electric Cars and Intelligent Energy’s directors to debate how best to support local companies who want to go global.

Looking further ahead, the rapid growth of renewable energy companies including E.ON will be on stage on June 13, with emerging solar, biomass and wind energy systems being contrasted. Then, on September 19, AstraZeneca and Sygnature Discovery will show how drug development is becoming much more personalized and targeted. To round off the year, Telefonica Europe’s Vice President Mike Short will outline at the Digital World Event on October 17 how learning, healthcare, transport and energy services are being transformed by mobile applications.

Through these inspiring evenings and lively debates, experienced leaders and recent start-ups are encouraged to link up. With everyone being invited to the inclusive events, the breadth of the audiences allows learning across sectors. And most importantly, individuals are given the clarity, confidence and connections to build and grow their businesses successfully.