APPENDICES TO THE MINUTES OF EVIDENCE
Memorandum submitted by the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA)
"The NESTA award has given my project a life. Without this support I wouldn't be talking about my invention today, it simply wouldn't exist."
Dr Josaphat Kabukoba, who has created an innovative loop and clip device that could help make keyhole surgery more widely available, helping patients and saving the NHS money.
"I've got a lot from NESTA, I mean more than a lot. My levels of confidence have been transformed, my vision of what's possible has been transformed, but not changed, because actually the more I do with NESTA, the more committed to the vision that I proposed to them I am."
"My dedication to my vision is strengthening through NESTA, but my understanding of how I get there is becoming more creative, more relaxed, more confident, more flexible. And that's brilliant, it's really good. And I just wouldn't be there without NESTAno question of that."
Paula Watson, a NESTA Fellowship awardee, working to enhance the opportunity for Black film-makers to create and distribute their films.
"I cannot stress how helpful the NESTA award was in taking forward the Centre of the Cell. It has helped us to achieve so much, particularly in supporting the design production with Central St Martin's College of Art and Alsop architects, and building a framework for the project that covers our relationship with the community and ongoing funding."
Dr Fran Balkwill, The Centre of the Cell project. This is set to become the world's first interactive science centre inside a working medical school.
"This is our first relationship with a funder that is a real collaboration. It is an amazing growth process for us. I feel like I'm 21 again and the world is my oyster, instead of being a beleaguered, forelock-tugging charity."
Susan Benn of Performing Arts Labssupported by NESTA to develop ideas and talent across a range of creative industries.
"Medical Futures is honoured to be working with NESTA, whose support provides a great incentive for medical professionals wishing to commercialise their ideas. NESTA's commitment to supporting innovation at an early stage is essential in developing these ideas, that will hopefully bring valuable returns to the NHS increase productivity and boost morale. There is a tremendous amount of innovation within the medical industrywho better to think of new ways to improve healthcare than those individuals who deliver it."
Andy Goldberg FRCS, Founder of Medical Futures and a Specialist Registrar in Orthopaedics. NESTA works in partnership with Medical Futures to support innovation in medical science.
NESTA was trailed in the 1997 Labour Party Manifesto. In the same year, the Government White Paper "The People's Lottery" developed the idea further, setting out a case for ensuring that the UK had a real resource for identifying and developing talent, innovation and creativity.
The White Paper recognised the importance to the economy of enhancing the nation's capacity to develop and commercialise ideas. This was, and continues to be, a pressing issue for the UK economy. The following indicators illustrate the potential gains which could be made:
The UK has an excellent track record in the creativity of its individualsthe Japanese Government has estimated that 57% of the major technological innovations which have been of most benefit to the Japanese economy originated in the UK;
Despite this, these creative ideas are not sufficiently developed into products and services: while we rank second in the world, and above Japan, in terms of producing papers in science, Japan had filed more than three times more patents in Europe than had the UK;
There was a lack of support for inventive individualsin the UK at any one time there are 50,000 private inventors, who submit around 20,000 initial patent applications each year. Of these 4,000 are granted full patents. Only 60-80 of these patented innovations make it to market each year.
"The People's Lottery" therefore proposed that NESTA would help to address this loss of British talent and ideas overseas by providing investment and protecting intellectual property for the benefit of the UK. NESTA was established under the 1998 National Lottery Act to support and promote talent, innovation and creativity in the fields of science, technology and the arts. We were charged with achieving these objectives by:
helping talented individuals (or groups of individuals) in the fields of science, technology and the arts to achieve their potential;
helping persons to turn inventions or ideas in the fields of science, technology and the arts into products or services, which can be effectively exploited and the rights to which can be adequately protected; and
contributing to public knowledge and appreciation of science, technology and the arts.
NESTA is funded from the income from a £200 million endowment from the National Lottery, invested primarily in treasury bonds. At the time of our inception, we expected income to be around £12 million per annum. However, due to sustained low interest rates, income is currently running at around £8 million per annum.
NESTA's work in Science and Technology
Since our inception, we have made a substantial contribution to the development of scientific expertise in the UK. We have begun to ensure that creative individuals in the sciences have the opportunity to bring their ideas to fruition. We have also made substantial progress in communicating science to the public. The work of our programmes is set out in more detail later in this document. However, the following section sets out some of our achievements in science since we made our first awards in 2000.
The NESTA Education Programme has been operating as a "think-lab" for the last two years and has successfully trialed new ways of stimulating creativity and learning. We have invested over five and half million pounds in 75 new education initiatives, many of which have become national models of excellence. Many of these awards use new technologies as a way of increasing participation in science, technology and the arts. For example, we are supporting the development of "Online Jemma", a web-based online drama, which will use new technology including email and text messaging to encourage teenage girls to participate in the sciences. We have also supported, in association with Lego, the development of resources for schools which allow pupils to design, build and programme robots for the home and classroom. These complement the Design and Technology Curriculum and allow young people of all abilities to engage with this technology in a user-friendly way.
NESTA has won the DfES contract to run its £3.35 million Science Year Projectfollowing on from the National Year of Reading, and Maths Year 2000. This project aims to encourage participation in science, particularly among young people. Science Year has been such a success that discussions are ongoing with DfES to continue the project substantially beyond its initial end date.
Our Fellowship programme allows scientists working across disciplines time away from the work place to further develop their skills, which will be of benefit to them in their work for many years to come. For example Caroline Wilkinson, one of our Fellows who is a medical artist specialising in facial reconstruction, is in the process of developing a computer-based forensic tool which combines scientific and sculptural techniques which will increase accuracy and speed in facial reconstruction following accidents.
In addition, through our Invention and Innovation programme, we give practitioners in science, technology and engineering the chance to develop their ideas into products and services, which will be of benefit both to them and to society as a whole. For example, a NESTA award has enabled awardee Charlie Paton to develop a device which will allow sea-water to be used in the irrigation of plants. Another award will support research into the development of a new generation of robotic limbs.
One of the distinctive aspects of NESTA's work in science and technology is our ability to work across traditional disciplines and unleash synergies between different branches of the sciences, and between science and the arts. This gives us a distinctive role from other funders, who find it difficult to support projects which do not fall completely within their remit. A good example of this is with Mike Hobson, an astrophysicist specialising in work on cosmic microwave background. It was Michael's innovative techniques that gave us the strongest images yet obtained of the after glow of the Big Bang, which have helped expand our knowledge and understanding of the origins and structure of the universe. His Fellowship has enabled him to develop his work on image reconstruction algorithms (new methods of mathematical analysis providing a way of turning hundreds of complicated observations into one clear image) to bring benefits in other areas of science. For example, they could help in the early detection of breast cancers, or be used in geographical mapping from low-orbit satellites.
Our risk-taking ethos also allows us to back innovations in the sciences and in technology which would find it hard to attract funding elsewhere. While there is no guarantee that these projects will all be successful, being able to fund them allows really creative innovators in the sciences to develop their ideas in ways which were not previously possible.
From the outset, NESTA aimed to be an ambitious organisation. Our remit gives us broad scope to unleash individuals' creative potential, help realise innovative new ideas and bring about a shift in the understanding of creativity and innovation in science, technology and the arts.
We developed our statutory remit into three funding programmesFellowship, Invention and Innovation and Education, devised and developed after a period of public consultation from December 1998 to April 1999. Our first funded projects were announced in July 1999 and the programmes have rolled out progressively since then. We wanted to be a creative catalyst forging partnerships and collaborations to bring about new and unexpected approaches and an 'intelligent investor' that shared the lessons of our support through evaluation, dissemination and policy promotion.
Our three programmes work as follows:
Invention and Innovation:
Invention and Innovation helps to turn ground-breaking ideas into innovative products, services or techniques with commercial or social potential. It is an open-access programme, with individuals able to submit applications electronically via our website. We fund 50-100 projects per year, with financial packages ranging from £5,000-£150,000 (though most of the projects we fund are for amounts between £30,000 to £85,000). Support is tailored to the needs of the project and could include anything from research and development, to securing intellectual property rights and business development. We fund at a very early stage of project development, often much earlier than conventional venture capital or business angel support. In return for funding, we take a stake in any future commercial success of the invention. If the project makes money, then the return is invested into other awards. To date, we have received more than 2000 applications to this programme.
Fellowship provides support for exceptionally talented and creative individuals in the fields of science, technology and the arts. We select 25-50 Fellows each year. Awards range from £25,000 to £75,000, spread over 3-5 years. Fellows are nominated by a network of 'talent scouts', experts in their field who are likely to come across new and developing talent. This process builds in refereed recommendations at the outset and enables NESTA to seek a range and spread of awards across disciplines and different communities. Each nominator can only make 2 nominations in their time working with us.
Support for Fellows is tailored to fit individual needs, but can include anything from attending courses and specialist advice to income substitution. We are continuing to develop our Fellowship programme, by introducing a number of initiatives to broaden the scope for identifying exceptional talent and making a range of interventions in the lives of creative people. Some recent initiatives include piloting a network of "talent scouts" in the East Midlands, inviting nominations from organisations and piloting a new "Dreamtime" awarda short-term award (from three months to a year) to allow individuals at the very top of their field to take some time out for personal development.
Our Education programme contributes to public understanding of science, technology and the arts through collaborative projects. We seek out initiatives which improve the public's understanding of creativity and we pilot new methods of creative learning and support ways of fostering individual talent. Each year, we have a list of priority areas for which we invite proposals. These include gifted and talented pupils, stimulating interest in Design and Technology, and the re-engagement in learning of low-performing groups. We aim to support 10-15 projects per year and funding levels are decided on a case-by-case basis.
Other partnerships and projects:
In addition to our core work, we've established a number of other activities and partnerships to take forward our statutory remit. We successfully won a Department for Education and Skills' contract to deliver the "Science Year" project which is aimed at increasing public knowledge of, and participation in, science in the UK, particularly among school-age children. This project has been sufficiently successful that negotiations are currently ongoing to extend it significantly beyond its initial one-year lifespan.
We have also established NESTA Futurelab, a project to research and develop new ways of delivering education through the use of new technologies. NESTA Futurelab, established in 2001, has already attracted £3 million of additional funding from the DfES and the DTI.
A wide range of partnerships and competitions have also enabled us to extend our support to an even wider range of people. These include:
the Tomorrow's World Awards for inventions/innovations, in association with the BBC;
the Medical Futures Awards, for entrepreneurs and inventors in medicine;
in association with the Millennium Commission, the Wellcome Trust and the British Association, we have developed a website which disseminates information and encourages visits to science centres and other scientific visitor attractions, such as zoos;
with the Science Museum and the Royal College of Art, we have supported the "Product of the Future" exhibition which showcases the very best of young design talent;
a digital animation project, MESH, which we have supported in association with Channel 4 and Blackwatch TV;
with the Association for Science Education, we have developed a CD-Rom, which will be distributed free of charge to primary schools,
we are currently preparing to create a digital film archive in Northern Ireland, in association with Apple Computers.
the Design and Art Directors Students Awards, to stimulate new ideas in product design;
the Lighthouse's Creative Entrepreneurs' Clubs in Scotland and Northern Ireland, providing business support and networking opportunities for people working in the creative industries.
WHAT MAKES US DISTINCTIVE
From our inception, NESTA has been determined to be distinctive from other funders. We have achieved this in a number of ways.
The bulk of support for science, technology and arts projects and programmes in the UK focuses on organisations, companies, businesses or academic institutions. NESTA is almost alone in being able to concentrate on the creative development of extremely talented and innovative individuals, wherever they are, enabling them to overcome economic and social barriers to success.
We can take managed risks with our awards in a way which other funders are not willing, or able, to. Through our Invention and Innovation programme, we provide support for projects at a very early stage of development, often when no other funding is available. By its very nature, this sort of support carries riskwhile a number of these projects may be successful, others may not.
By way of comparison, venture capitalists (who operate at a much later stage of development) estimate that, out of any ten projects, two will be successful, another two or three will be the "living dead" (remaining in existence but with little hope of a substantial return), and the remainder will fail.
NESTA feels that it is necessary and desirable to take these risksprovided they are properly managed - in order to make the difference that we were set up to make. Not to do so would be to fail in our statutory duty. However, this means that not all projects will be successful. In the present risk-averse political and media climate, there is a danger that we could attract negative publicity if supported projects fail. However, when NESTA was investigated by this Committee in 1999, the members endorsed our risk-taking ethos. We hope that the Committee will re-affirm this endorsement now.
Acting as an investor
NESTA is not a traditional grant-giver. We match the risk we are taking in supporting specific projects with a stake in the potential returns from projects. This demonstrates our long-term commitment to the projects which we support.
We act as an "intelligent investor", an organisation which makes strategic interventions and learns from its experiences. Our experiences inform our actionsboth the support of future projects and the way in which we seek to inform and influence public policy and popular debate.
Working across disciplines
NESTA is interested in projects which cut across traditional disciplines, believing they release original and imaginative ideas in science, technology and the arts. It is significant, for example, that NESTA does not have a "Science" or an "Arts" programme. Rather, all three programmes cut across all of science, technology and the arts.
We fund projects which take thinking forward in areas as diverse as health, education, transport and the environment. This allows us to support individuals whose talents cannot easily be pigeonholed, but who can make a real contribution to creativity in the UK. It is this ability which enables NESTA to make a different contribution to that made by the Research Councils. We are able to support scientists who take knowledge from one field and apply it in different areas. Among our awardees, a good example is Michael Hobson, an astrophysicist whose award is described above.
NESTA gives much more support than simply money. We provide a raft of non-financial support, tailored to the needs of the individual awardee. This can include mentors, project champions, promotional and public relations support, advice on marketing, business planning and media relations, as well as introductions to potential business partners, investors or other funders.
It is these "extras" which awardees often say are the most useful part of their relationship with NESTA. For example, Norman Lindsay, an awardee who has received funding to develop a range of technologically advanced golf putters, has said:
"Obviously there's the money. But just as importantly, it gives me access to experts and puts me in contact with people who have so much knowledge and influence in the field. These kinds of introductions are priceless"
By tailoring our support in this way, we are able to do much more than traditional funders in bringing the creative potential of our awardees to the fore. We are able to support the long-term needs of the individual awardee, rather than prescribed inputs and outputs.
OUR ACHIEVEMENTS SO FAR
NESTA's key achievement has perhaps been the successful establishment of the organisation and delivery of what we were set up to do (operating in the spaces between other bodies interested in creativity and innovation, taking risks and adopting new approaches in order to make a real difference in the sectors covered by our remit).
Our programmes "went live" in November 1999 and we announced our first awards in May 2000. To date we've made around 200 awards, with a total commitment of £20.5 million. We've supported an extraordinary range of people and ideas covering everything from particle physics to poets, new media to new circus. Our awards have been described as "a superb collection of the zany, the inspired, the speculative and the might-just-change-the-world".
Breakdown of awards
Commitment (£ m)
Invention and Innovation
NESTA Enterprises Ltd (including Science Year and NESTA Futurelab
Although it's still early days, we're delighted to be seeing some positive outcomes from our fundingeconomic, artistic, cultural and social. Our awardees have filed 30 new patents, registered 25 new companies and several have attracted substantial additional funding. Many new works of art, design and multi-media have been commissioned, exhibited, performed or written. We've even earned our first royalty cheque, from an awardee who has developed a new diagnostic tool for fuel injection engines.
This shows that high-risk public investment can generate real returns for the future. We believe that longer-term outcomes will demonstrate that our awardees will be of real value to the economynot just in terms of patents and business start-up, but also in terms of wealth generated and jobs created. It is hard at this relatively early stage to put a value on our portfolio, but we can already identify a number of promising ideas with considerable commercial potential. Our Fellows have produced, and are continuing to produce, a body of work which would not have been possible without our support. This includes poet Tom Paulin's , "The Invasion Handbook", which looks at the way we view the events of World War II; Jonathan Hare, who has established a "creative science" lab in Brighton and has produced a number of "Rough Science" programmes for the Open University and BBC; and Andrew Stone, who is producing a work of acoustic arta "Sound Corridor" with the Royal Institution.
NESTA's Education Programme has been operating as a "think-lab" for the last two years and has successfully tested new ways of stimulating creativity and learning. We have invested over five and half million pounds in 75 new education initiatives, many of which have become national models of excellence.
Projects include "Motivate", video-conferencing in the classroom for talented maths pupils, which has now been rolled out across the UK; workshops to inspire robot building for the successful BBC series Technogames; "Drawing Power", a nationwide campaign for people of all ages to use drawing as a creative tool; "Amazing Children"a conference to spark the debate on the best way to nurture talented and gifted pupils; and "Children's Palaces", developing a "Chinese approach that fosters and encourages creativity in very young people". A full list of our awards is enclosed.
As well as successes among our awardees, NESTA has also gained praise for the way it conducts its business. We won a Vision 100 award, sponsored by BT, Management Today, Sunday Business, and the Cranfield School of Management. These awards celebrate visionary companies, and we won an award for pioneering electronic business methods.
We believe that NESTA is filling a real gap in the public, charitable and private sector support structure. We have worked closely with a range of other bodies whose aims complement ours. Our profile has steadily risen and key networks such as Business Links, the Small Business Service, RDAs and UK Business Incubation are recognising that NESTA is the essential "missing link" in the chain of support and investment for the new, knowledge-based economy.
One of the great benefits of NESTA's status as a public body is the range of external expertise to which it gain access in order to add value to its work. Our Fellowship programme for example has used the expertise of 150 nominators to identify up and coming exceptional talent. NESTA has also made contacts with over 200 independent assessorsexperts in their fieldfor our Invention and Innovation programme. Every awardee from each of these two programmes has the opportunity to work with a mentor or project champion, and education projects have dedicated project supervisors. The result of this wide network of experts is that prospective NESTA awardees are assessed by specialists in the applicants' field, and that our awardees gain the best possible support and guidance.
AREAS FOR IMPROVEMENT
Of course we've found it harder to make progress in some areas than others. It's been a challenge to balance competing demands. Areas of particular tension include:
balancing the accountability requirements of a public sector body with the desire to respond quickly to opportunities in a commercial environment;
needing to produce results, within the context of developing new approaches to supporting creativity and innovation;
tempering the ambition of a small organisation with a huge remit to suit its capacity;
developing a reputation in our areas of focus before we have been able to evaluate project outcomes; and
the need to ensure that we add value to our awardees by giving more than just money, while at the same time balancing our expenditure on overheads.
Our experience of making and managing awards has also revealed that there are gaps in our support.
NESTA has a challenging UK-wide remit, yet we know from our monitoring of awards that there are gaps in our national and regional coverage. We believe that we are under a duty to find excellent people, ideas and projects from across all communities, regions and disciplines and that our methods of working should not create barriers to identifying and supporting potential. We therefore find it extremely disappointing that there are "hot" and "cold" spots for NESTA awards. For instance, we have received very low levels of applications from the East Midlands region and have not made any Fellowships awards in the region. We are attempting to address this in the Fellowship programme by appointing a number of "talent scouts" in the East Midlands, who will pro-actively seek out talent in the region. However, longer-term, we believe that national and regional representation is by far the most effective solution for locally promoting what we offer and finding the right local routes to talent. Our intention is to improve the spread of awards rather than generating additional demand for already over-subscribed programmes. We need to find an approach which allows us to target communities more effectively and to solicit the right kinds of approaches. In Wales, and in two English regions (North West, and Yorkshire and the Humber), we have been piloting different models of regional representation. In the next year we will be developing a UK-wide model.
In addition, we believe that NESTA could do more to champion potential excellence in young people and remove obstacles to their success. This would allow talented and innovative young people to be able to bring their ideas to fruition more easily than they can at present. Presently, most support mechanisms rely too much on a track-record of achievement, rather than potential, which inevitably disadvantages young people, while favouring the "usual suspects". We want to begin to redress this imbalance by focusing some resources on people at the beginning of their creative careers. Details of how we might be able to do this are discussed later in this memorandum.
Finally, we are aware that NESTA has not in these early years established a role as an "expert witness" on creativity and innovation. We are committed to learning the lessons from our support to feed back into both internal and external policy debate. However, to date, many of our people and projects have been at a very early stage of their development and we have not had the evidence upon which to draw. NESTA is now planning in-depth research and evaluation with our awardees which will enable us to draw out the lessons from their experiences to build the basis for wider dissemination and policy work.
HOPES FOR THE FUTURE
Our understanding about our role has naturally evolved since the early days of our existence, and the external environment has clearly changed too. We are now undertaking a process of widespread consultation on our future strategic priorities to inform the next three years of our development.
Our initial conclusions are that from 2003 to 2006 we should aim neither merely to consolidate our achievements to date, nor to use the freedoms of the Lottery Act by radically changing the way in which we try to fulfil its objects. We are still a relatively new organisation. We're therefore minded to continue with our programmes, since they have not yet been running long enough for us to evaluate the extent of their contribution to our mandate. On the other hand, we would like to tighten the focus of our programmes and other activities in order to maximise the value of our limited resources and make a significant impact in the sectors of our remit.
As part of this we are keen to demonstrate more effectively what we have learnt from our activities to date, and to use that as a basis for improving our own support across science, technology and the arts, and for influencing the policy and practice of others operating in these sectors.
At the same time we have identified several areas within our current focus in which we would like to make more of an impact than we have done to date. When and how we move forward in these areas very much depends on available resources. Some of the ideas we are considering include:
Broadening and deepening our existing programmes. As well as continuing to distribute awards as at present, we will need to develop our core programmes further. As the first round of Invention and Innovation awards comes to an end, we will need to decide whether there is a case for funding a number of existing projects over a longer period. This would help to ensure their continued existence and to reduce the risk of good ideas "withering on the vine".
We would like to do more to improve the effectiveness of our Fellowship programme by exploring more ways to identify exceptional talent and interventions in creative people's lives.
In Education there is more we can do to build on the legacy of Science Year, improve imaginative interactive exhibitions in museums, galleries and Science Centres and promote entrepreneurship in education (complementing the results of the recent Davies review).
Graduate Incubator Grants Scheme (GIGS). At present, many educators have told us that few degree courses in the sciences, art and design provide even very basic classes in business skills and, where they do, these are optional rather than required. Upon leaving college, many graduates do not know how or where to access support to take entrepreneurial ideas forwards. NESTA's core concept for GIGS is to give the best entrepreneurial talent, aged 21-30, the opportunity, knowledge and skills to succeed with their commercial ambitions. This can be done by combining mentoring opportunities with the financial support necessary for sound business preparation. The best ideas from this initial pool would then go on to receive a second round of assistance in the form of intensive business skills funding, combined with further funding. Independent research suggests that this proposal is a particularly attractive proposition to this cohort. There is also evidence that currently no-one is fulfilling this role. This is one model of how GIGS could be operated. In practice we would test and evaluate what works.
Fellowships for young people. We propose a specific development of the existing fellowship programme to be targeted at young people. Financial awards of up to £25,000 over three years would be available to cover tuition, travel, equipment etc, with a particular emphasis on mentoring. The scheme would be aimed primarily at young people with exceptional promise, but whose development is likely to be hindered by various obstacles (poverty, lack of opportunity, lack of family support, geographical remoteness etc).
BARRIERS TO PROGRESS
As in so many cases, NESTA's main barrier to further development and improvement is lack of resources. The original conception (before it ever appeared on the statute book) was of NESTA as a half a billion pound endowment supporting talented and creative people and securing and exploiting intellectual property. As the idea for the organisation has evolved, NESTA's Trustees have held onto this original concept in the hope of maximising the value and impact of its contribution to UK culture and the economy.
However, at present, NESTA is a relatively small funder in UK terms, and tiny in world terms. With its present £200 million endowment, NESTA would lie 31st in a table of UK charitable funds, between the Rank Foundation (£209 million) and the Rhodes Trust (£197 million). To put this in context, the largest UK charitable fund is the Wellcome Trust with £11.26 billion. As such, NESTA finds it relatively difficult to lever economies of scale which would deliver more "bangs for the buck". Allied to this is the fact that, as public money, NESTA's endowments must primarily be invested in low risk (and low return) Treasury Bills, linked to interest rates. With interest rates currently running at a 40 year low, this means that NESTA's income, which was forecast to be £12-13 million p.a., is currently around £8 million.
As a result, NESTA is currently able to do much less than we would like - or envisaged that we would be able to do at our inception. At present, without a fairly dramatic increase in UK interest rates, it is unlikely that we will be able to deliver any of our desired additional work, as set out above. It is for this reason that we are currently seeking an increase to our endowment, in line with the powers given to the Secretary of State in the 1998 National Lottery legislation. Initially, it was envisaged that NESTA's endowment would be £500 million. We are seeking a graduated increase to this level in order to allow us better to fulfil our statutory remit, and have submitted a document setting out the case for extra funding to the Department. Ministers are currently considering this document. We hope to achieve the Committee's support in achieving this aim.
CASE STUDIES OF FUNDED PROJECTS
INVENTION AND INNOVATION
Urban transport for the 21st century
Professor Martin Lowson and his colleagues at Advanced Transport Systems Ltd (ATS) have designed a whole new type of urban transportthe ULTra (Urban Light Transport) system, which is cheaper, quicker, more energy efficient and more passenger-friendly than buses, taxis or trains.
NESTA's award of £75,000 made a vital contribution to the projectby helping ATS to develop a marketing and business approach that attracted the attention of Cardiff County Council. The system is now being piloted in Cardiff and should be operational by 2005.
New developments in keyhole surgery
Keyhole surgery is accepted as being much better for patients than open surgery because recovery time is quicker. But it isn't offered as widely as it might due to its cost and complexitysomething that frustrated surgeon Dr Josaphat Kabukoba so much that he decided to do something about it. The result is a new kind of loop and clip device that could make keyhole surgery a lot simpler and cheaper.
NESTA has given Dr Kabukoba funding of £65,500 to protect his intellectual property rights (prohibitive to an individual) and to help him develop his product to a stage where it can be tested and licensed.
Turning amphibious vehicle design on its head
Inventor David Royle has been involved with boats and cars all his life and like most amphibious vehicle designers strove towards the "holy grail"a vehicle that could travel at high speeds on the land and the sea. His inspiration was to turn traditional amphibious vehicle design on its head. He stopped trying to adapt land vehicles for travel on water and instead adapted a boat to be driven on land.
NESTA's award of £124,172 has enabled David to test, complete and demonstrate his latest design and take an earlier design into the pre-production phase. These prototypes have now attracted the interest of a major company, and have considerable commercial potential.
Biochemist Dr Linda Long is creating music derived from the human body's protein molecules to increase understanding of science and for therapeutic purposes. She uses a technique called x-ray crystallography which produces strings of numbers to represent the three dimensional structures of protein molecules. By passing these through a computer programme Linda is able to convert them into a sequence of musical notes. The advantage is that proteins with very similar complex mathematical formulas actually sound quite different to each other.
NESTA's award of £49,990 is helping Dr Long to develop the use of music as an innovative teaching method and to produce and market two commercial cds for therapeutic use (protein music sounds very nice). It has also funded an interactive exhibit at Bristol which encouraged people to take a fresh look at how their bodies work.
NESTA has worked with the BBC and others to develop Technogames, an exciting new robot-building challenge designed to stimulate interest in design and technology. The project involved young people, their schools and families and was recently televised on the BBC. NESTA's award funded prizes, workshops and taster sessions around the country aimed at stimulating uptake and interest in robot building. An ongoing event, the entries for this year's Technogames challenge are well up on last year, with over 360 robots in the making.
How can you attract more girls to study science at school and continue into a science career? Interactive digital pioneers XPT Ltd have created a funky cyber heroineonline Jemmato do just that. Jemma challenges the "white lab coat" image of science and encourages teenage girls to think more positively about taking science further.
XPT are creating an online drama which shows Jemma embarking on a life of scientific study and combining this with the usual social aspects of being a studentgossiping about potential boyfriends and the various "goings-on" on campus. She shares her experiences via an interactive website and email. XPT are enlisting the help of scientific advisers and writers to develop compelling plotlines which tackle science related issues of topical interest. NESTA's education award is enabling them to develop and test the site.
Nobel prize winning scientist Sir Harry Kroto and Poet Laureate Andrew Motion are NESTA's first two "innovators on the move"part of a new education programme called Inspire. This outreach programme uses inspiring individuals to share their experiences with audiences across the UK to promote fresh thinking in the education sector.
Science on show
NESTA is supporting the "Product of the Future" exhibition at the Science Museum in London to showcase the UK's best young design talent and to help increase public understanding of, and engagement with, science.
Eye-catching exhibitions include a tooth implant which can pick up transmissions from radios or mobile phones and transmit them directly to your ear via your jawbone.
Engaging the public in science
Physicist and exhibition curator Rachel Souhami is challenging traditional methods of engaging the public in a dialogue about science. She believes that visitors to museums have become accustomed to playing with lots of interactive press buttons and learning factsbut this doesn't necessarily increase their involvement and understanding. She wants to encourage a more personal, questioning and philosophical approach to science exhibitions; an approach which will lead to more discussion and debate. NESTA's support is giving Rachel time out to explore these approaches and funding travel, research and a mentor.
Reducing hospital stress for children
Medical procedures are traumatic for everyone, but especially children, as computer programmer Mark Jones knows only too well from personal experiencehe spent two years in hospital as a twelve year old. He's using his computer programming and design skills (he worked on Red Dwarf and Teletubbies) to develop ways of helping people through the stress of serious medical procedures by designing on-screen games and puzzles which help children and parents to understand what's going to happen to them. Ultimately the technology could evolve for use on handheld computers like Gameboys and mobile phones, providing both fun and much needed emotional support. NESTA's award of £71,000 will enable him to further develop his innovative computer programme.
Story telling and science
In 1768 Captain James Cook set sail from Deptford on a journey that would see Britain making giant leaps forward in science, navigation, geography, natural history and art. Internationally renowned and innovative educator Bob Bloomfield is using Captain Cook's amazing adventures as a springboard for engaging a young audience in science. He's using his Fellowship to research original first person accounts of the Endeavour expedition, following the trail of Cook's voyage to gather new media and new content. He aims to use this to explore new ways of story telling as a means of communicating science.
Automated tissue engineering
It will not be long before tissue engineering allows routine replacement of failing organs, a breakthrough which could transform the realms of surgical possibilities and save hundreds of lives every year
Chris Mason, a medical research fellow at University College London, has developed a new process for mass-producing human tissue that could revolutionise cardiac surgery in Britain. Dr Mason was the overall winner at Medical Futures' second annual awards ceremony in London, in May, which was supported by NESTA. The award is one of the ways that NESTA hopes to uncover the wealth of innovation and inventiveness that exists within the NHS.
1 Japanese Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) Report, 1985. Back
2 Science Vol 275, February 1997 and Annual Report of the European Patent Office, 1996. Back
3 Source: Institute of Patentees and Inventors. Back
4 National Lottery Act (1998). Back
5 These totals include all awards approved to 8 April 2002. It includes both hard commitments (contracted) and soft commitments (those approved but awaiting contract finalisation). The totals are comprised of the direct award to the awardee, contingency and non-cash support (cost of project mentors, media support etc). Back
6 "...networking and mentoring is key. People who are a few years down the line can give valuable advice to those who are about to embark on the same path. It provides confidence and sound business knowledge" . Caroline Underwood, Development Director, London Institute. Back
7 "The average cost of starting up is £13k-this is more than Shell Livewire or the Prince's trust is prepared to give, but too small to be considered by venture capitalists. If you're looking for a gap in the market, I reckon it's there" the Director of Shell Livewire offering his view on the GIGS idea. Back
8 Source: charities Direct Website: www.caritasdata.co.uk. Back