2022 Review for the IoT Engine: Sensors, Showcases and Successes!

2022 Review for the IoT Engine: Sensors, Showcases and Successes!

We have had an incredible year in Barnsley at the IoT Engine pre-accelerator programme! We are supporting 23 start-up and small businesses to adopt, integrate, and develop any aspect of the Internet of Things (IoT) into their company through 1:1 mentoring, hands-on-validation and prototyping support. The programme is part of the TEAM SY project powered by Connexin and delivered in partnership with Barnsley Council and Capital Enterprise. The aim is to validate business concepts, build an early version of a prototype, and expand companies by introducing a new product or service to them.

One of our key aims for the year, alongside running the programme, was to make IoT more accessible and break down its complexity to show how beneficial it can be to businesses. To do this, we created a few short video guides, explaining all about what the IoT is, how it works, and how it can help startups and SMEs in the region and beyond:

We are so proud of the companies we are working with through the programme, and we have had some incredible successes with them throughout the year. There are certainly too many to name them all, but we have to highlight a few of our companies who have completed, or are near closing their projects with us, and are driving their businesses forward as we head into 2023.

We have supported;

  • Co-founders Grant and Fran at Family Phone to build a prototype for an ambient assisted living device for those living with dementia. They told us that this has accelerated their business by three years, and are now ready to seek investment!
  • Sheffield Tribology Services, using the facilities at the excellent Barnsley DMC MakerLab to 3D print their initial prototype for rail friction testing – which will hopefully be adopted across the rail industry and avoid some of those dreaded delays!
  • Andel Ltd to diversify their existing flood and leak monitoring systems to utilise the IoT. We’ve designed a new device with them which interfaces between their existing products and a cloud solution to enable remote monitoring, alerts and control, and have supported them to engage with Binary Forge to develop a robust cloud platform and mobile app to allow easy provisioning and management of a fleet of devices.
  • Twin Dynamics to develop an IoT sensor suite to provide live temperature, pressure, humidity and door activity data from the co-working space at DMC 02. The data provided via this IoT solution enabled them to develop their novel air quality/energy monitoring software.

 

We have also been working with a whole host of companies across South Yorkshire in a variety of different sectors from manufacturing to machine automation, and cyber security to astronomy! Many of these businesses spoke at our IoT Engine Showcase evening, which was an amazing night celebrating all of their successes and the achievements they have made whilst being on the programme.

But, it doesn’t end there. We have also been a part of growing a connected and collaborative IoT Community in South Yorkshire, and organise regular Internet of Things Meetups for likeminded individuals to come together, listen to some great speakers, and network with beer and food. We have had topics ranging from IoT in Space, Agritech, Rail and Flood Defence, and are looking forward to hosting more in the New Year! Recently, we took to the (cinema) stage at the South Yorkshire Tech Summit in Barnsley to share everything we have been up to recently and spread the word about how great the programme is (of course!).

At the Summit, TEAM SY launched their ‘Tech 100’ Report, of the hottest 100 tech start-ups in South Yorkshire, and we are so proud that 7 IoT Engine participating companies were listed! We are really lucky to work with such brilliant start-ups and SMEs across the region, and it is great to see so many of them getting the recognition they deserve in this report!

So, overall, it has been an extremely rewarding and successful year for the IoT Engine, and we look forward to what 2023 has to bring! We accept rolling applications for the programme until June 2023, and if you would like to find out more you can visit our website or email me at l.shale@connexin.co.uk – we would love to chat with you more about the work we are doing!

Announcing the South Yorkshire Tech 100

Announcing the South Yorkshire Tech 100

We are delighted to announce the launch of the South Yorkshire Tech 100, a new report highlighting the extraordinary growth and promise of the tech startup ecosystem in South Yorkshire. 

In this new report, we highlight the 100 hottest startups across Barnsley, Doncaster, Rotherham and Sheffield. The South Yorkshire region is now home to more than 3,000 tech startups, and business birth rates are growing again post-COVID.

Among the key findings contained in the report, which can be downloaded here:

  • Investment in South Yorkshire’s early-stage tech companies has doubled in the last four years. 
  • Data from analysts Beauhurst reveals that the region’s tech startups secured equity funding totalling more than £52.6m in the first ten months of 2022. 
  • This is 42 per cent more than in all of 2021 (£37m) and 129 per cent up on the £23m recorded in 2019, when Beauhurst started tracking investment activity in the region.
  • The report reveals South Yorkshire is now home to at least 3,000 active tech startups and growing clusters of AI, Data Analytics, IoT, NetZero and EdTech companies. 
  • More than 400 tech companies have already been formed in South Yorkshire this year, 14 per cent more than in all of 2021, as business birth rates start to rebound following the COVID pandemic.

The South Yorkshire Tech 100 lists the region’s hottest startups and scaleups. It includes the most successful tech companies born since the start of 2000 with headquarters in South Yorkshire and emerging startups with tremendous growth potential.

Between them, companies on the South Yorkshire Tech 100 employ almost 4,000 people and have raised more than £720M in funding.

View the report here

South Yorkshire Internet of Things Meetup, 8th November 2022

South Yorkshire Internet of Things Meetup, 8th November 2022

South Yorkshire Internet of Things Meetup: Tuesday 8th November 2022

By Lauren Shale

Last week, members of the Internet of Things (IoT) community were welcomed to Gatsby Bar in Sheffield for a night filled with excellent speeches, plenty of networking and – of course – some delicious Mexican food! Although the meetups have been themed in the past, with the topics of IoT in Space, or in Food and Agritech for example, this event was focussed on a more general theme to celebrate and showcase just how broad all of the IoT activity in the region is.

 

The evening was hosted by Mark Davies, CEO and Co-founder at Sheffield-based cybersecurity company Ioetec. Welcoming regular and new faces, Mark stressed the importance of these meetups for creating moments of serendipity, building strong networks and bringing people together.

He then introduced our first speaker: Paul Ridgway from The Curve, a general technology consultancy based in Sheffield. Paul braved a live demonstration using a raspberry pi, showing the benefits of Alpine Linux, which he described as the ideal operating system for single board computers in IoT due to its lightweight distribution and potential for full system updates over-the-air. His talk was insightful, and the attendees definitely learnt something new from the demonstrations!

Taking back the mic, Mark shared the fact that 5 million homes in the UK are at risk of flooding, demonstrated perfectly with a photo of him chest-deep in water in his back garden! This was all to highlight the importance of our next speaker, Gerbren Haaksma from the Flood Defence Team at Andel Ltd. Andel is an environmental service company, focussing on sensor based monitoring to solve issues for clients across the nation. Gerbren talked us through Andel’s Flood Defence end-to-end solution, including a Flood Alert system which measures surface and ground water levels as they rise and sends alerts when needed. Andel also provide various solutions in response to flooding, including flood barriers and pumps – which Mark may need to make an investment in!

Last to speak was Ben White, of Sheffield Tribology Services, a start-up based in Sheffield focusing on friction wear testing of railways. STS are working with TEAM SY’s IoT Engine pre-accelerator programme to build a prototype of their portable tribometer (friction testing device), which is the first of its kind to be designed for widespread industry adoption. Currently, the reaction between leaves and the steel on the rail costs the UK £350million a year and industry workers have a total lack of suitable test equipment. With their tribometer, STS will be able to optimise friction measurements to help prevent damage, reduce safety incidents and decrease delays – which the audience were particularly happy to hear. IoT connectivity will be integrated into the device with centralised sensors measuring contamination, temperature and humidity, and LoRaWan networks automatically uploading this data to inform decision makers of the environmental conditions, ultimately helping to create a safer, faster, and more efficient rail industry.

As always, the meetup closed with the chance for attendees to share any relevant IoT activity or interests. Sam Jones from the IoT Tribe stood up to speak about their new equity-free programme ‘DECARBONISE SY’ which they are running with TEAM SY. The programme is for outstanding startups and scaleups with a product or service built around the Internet of Things (IoT), helping cities and industries achieve a net zero future. Applications to the programme close on November 18th. For more information, and to apply. Visit: Decarbonise SY

Lauren Shale reminded attendees that for those with early-stage IoT ideas, their pre-accelerator programme, the IoT Engine, can support SMEs and start-ups to adopt, integrate and develop IoT through 1:1 mentoring, prototyping and proof-of concept support. Applications for the programme are open on a rolling basis, and you can find out more here: IoT Engine – TEAM SY (weareteamsy.org)

She also invited attendees to the South Yorkshire Tech Summit, taking place at Cineworld in Barnsley on Thursday 24th November from 12-6pm. This will bring together industry expertise, business leaders and senior decision makers from across South Yorkshire and beyond to hear from a range of thought leaders and experts about the importance of a vibrant tech and digital economy in the region. You can find out more, and register for a ticket here: South Yorkshire Tech Summit Tickets, Thu 24 Nov 2022 at 12:00 | Eventbrite

Finally, Ceri Batchelder from TEAM SY stood up to speak about their latest support programme, the AI Academy, which is taking place on 29th and 30th November at Sheffield Tech Parks, which will support businesses to introduce artificial intelligence and grow their business. Applications are open until 22nd November, and you can find more information here: AI Academy – TEAM SY (weareteamsy.org)

Ceri also extended an invitation to the TEAM SY Christmas Showcase, taking place at the DMC in Barnsley on Thursday 8th December from 5-8:30pm. This will be an amazing evening celebrating all programmes across TEAM SY, including the IoT Engine, with ‘market stall’ style exhibitions and plenty of chances to network over festive food, drink and entertainment. You can get your tickets here: TEAM SY Christmas Celebration Event Tickets, Thu 8 Dec 2022 at 17:30 | Eventbrite

The event finished with further networking opportunities over Mexican tacos, nachos and cocktails – the perfect end to the evening!

Resources and Staying in Touch:

To join the regional IoT community, please sign up to the South Yorkshire IoT Meetup newsletter, which will keep you up to date on IoT news and activity. Follow this link and select ‘SY IoT Meetups’

You can also join our Meetup Page: South Yorkshire Internet of Things Meetup (SY IoT) (Sheffield, United Kingdom) | Meetup

Acknowledgements: Thanks to the team at Gatsby for hosting the event, Barnsley DMC and TEAM SY for sponsoring, and the brilliant You & Us Events for managing all the logistics.

South Yorkshire: decent lodgings for impact startups

South Yorkshire: decent lodgings for impact startups

South Yorkshire: decent lodgings for impact startups

By Samantha Deakin Hill

“It’s time that we pivot the idea of a unicorn. Let’s think about 1bn also meaning positively impacting 1bn people.”

 A recent Sifted article hit close to home and had me drawing parallels with the social impact scene in South Yorkshire.

 Stockholm in Sweden is the ‘home of impact startups’ with impact startups raising €3.6bn of venture capital in 2021. Last year, there were 460 impact startups in Sweden.

 I’ve been working with founders in South Yorkshire for over a decade now and social enterprise has always been woven into the entrepreneurial culture here. It feels as if it’s part of the Sheffield identity. There has often been a tussle and debate over impact vs profit and growth (such dirty words!), but what Stockholm shows us is what many of us already knew – social impact and high growth are NOT mutually exclusive.

 It is OK to be mission-driven and raise venture capital investment. It is OK to have social impact at the core of the business and have exponential growth.

 The article mentions Sweden’s reverence for the environment, something I felt keenly when I moved to Sheffield in 2006 for university, in awe of all the parks and trees making this big city feel like a collection of little villages. Only last year, Sheffield was named the greenest city in the UK by the Natwest Green Cities Report.

 As in Sweden, Universities play their part in our region too with research centres such as the Centre for Energy, Environment and Sustainability at The University of Sheffield. Sheffield Hallam’s recent innovation conference focused on Green Futures research, climate change and the net zero agenda.

The Electric Vehicle industry is also a growing sector across the UK and Europe and South Yorkshire has some notable startups in this space. Mina, the EV charging company has its headquarters in Sheffield and raised £2m in 2020, further funding in 2021 and 2022, and has a valuation of over £6m. It now has official B-Corp status. 

 But impact isn’t just about climate. South Yorkshire cares deeply about the health and wellbeing of its residents too. World class assets are available to entrepreneurs through an accelerator programme run out of the Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre (AWRC). In fact, an impressive health and wellbeing cluster is starting to form around the Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park. Well Rotherham supported local people with great ideas to support their local community.

 P4SY Precision Medicine Accelerator South Yorkshire, has attracted a number of high growth potential impact startups to the region, including Holly Health, who recently raised investment through the South Yorkshire Angel Hub, a collaboration between TEAM SY and NorthInvest.

 South Yorkshire is also home to Unrest North, a social impact accelerator in the TEAM SY family that works with mission-driven B2C startups to develop their brand, grow fast and scale their impact. Later this month, Unrest and TEAM SY are hosting a Tech for Good event at the Barnsley DMC, with a panel made up of social impact startups in the region, including Tickets for Good and FutureGreens.

It’s the culture of caring and collaboration in South Yorkshire that draws you in and back, even when you’re miles away. The social investor, Key Fund Investments, has its headquarters here. South Yorkshire Housing Association has its own Social Value Fund. And there are multiple networks such as the Sheffield Social Enterprise Network and the Social Enterprise Exchange to share ideas, challenges, or even just some fresh air.

Like Stockholm, we’re impacted by things not fully in our control – national policymaking immigration policy, taxation, patenting law, etc. I don’t know the stats on impact startup teams and how many of them are woman-led… I imagine they’re not much, if at all, better than the standard startup stats. And the same goes for social impact investing in the region. It’s something to work on.

There’s a lot to be learned from our European cousins (not least the ways that so many cities successfully engage the public sector in the nurturing of startup ecosystems). But South Yorkshire is an incredibly exciting place to be for tech startups right now, including those with mission at their core. And if Stockholm can call itself the ‘home of impact’ for startups, I think South Yorkshire offers pretty decent lodgings too. 

In putting together this article, I’m aware there are so many great organisations, initiatives and startups in this space that have been missed. Please do give them the shout out they deserve by commenting on this post with a LinkedIn tag or a URL.

 

TEAM SY contributes to the Chambers of Commerce quarterly podcast

TEAM SY contributes to the Chambers of Commerce quarterly podcast

Ecosystem image

TEAM SY contributes to the Chambers of Commerce quarterly podcast

By Laura Bennett

I was delighted to be invited to take part in the latest edition of the ‘South Yorkshire Policy Pod’, a quarterly podcast hosted by the Chambers of Commerce in Sheffield, Doncaster, Rotherham and Barnsley. The topic at hand was innovation, and I was joined by Steve Foxley, CEO of the AMRC, and Tom Rumboll, CEO of Synetiq.

I was invited to talk about our work at TEAM SY to develop the entrepreneurial ecosystem in South Yorkshire. TEAM SY is now working with 16 partners across the region who are running a range of different business support programmes covering everything from Artificial Intelligence and Internet of Things to Gaming, Social Good, and MedTech. Understanding how entrepreneurial ecosystems work is also the topic of my PhD which I’m currently writing up at the University of Sheffield.

This blog post summarises some of my responses to the topics we covered in the podcast. For the full discussion, and to hear the contributions from Steve and Tom, you can listen to the podcast via your favourite podcast app here

Innovation in South Yorkshire: attributes and challenges

 

As a region, we are collaborative and genuinely want to see business owners succeed. We have two world class universities spinning out businesses, for example FourJaw who have recently raised £1 million, supported by one of the TEAM SY partners, NorthInvest. I’m excited about the activities that will support these spin-outs further, for example the Northern Gritstone fund which is seeking to raise £500 million to invest in businesses. The Sheffield Incubator and Accelerator Network (SIAN) brings together programmes managers from accelerators and incubators to share knowledge and best practice. This means that entrepreneurs and businesses are well signposted between the various offers. 

We have innovative businesses and people here, but we need our economic landscape to accommodate more of them. This calls for a bolder approach towards taking risks, i.e. for more people to think about turning those innovations into businesses. This doesn’t need to be a risky endeavour per se – with the right support, potential entrepreneurs can be encouraged and supported to take risks and fail fast within a supportive environment. It’s this kind of business support that the TEAM SY programmes (and others in the region) can provide. If our region performed better at innovation (i.e. if more people were supported to take risks) then I think we’d see more businesses start up here, and grow here, creating jobs for local people and for graduates of the two universities.

What can we learn about innovation from elsewhere?

 

South Yorkshire has already learnt a lot from other regions, certainly in terms of entrepreneurship. The TEAM SY approach is based on CASTS, a highly successful entrepreneurial ecosystem support programme that Capital Enterprise ran in London in 2017-2019. Of course, the challenges in South Yorkshire are very different to those in the capital city, but the expertise in working with partners and in entrepreneurial ecosystem support means that we’ve been able to embed a lot of the learning from CASTS. Our 16 partners mostly come from outside the region, and through them we are able to learn more about high quality accelerator programmes as well as bring in specific technical expertise. 

The Super Connector role that myself, Ceri Batchelder and Samantha Deakin fulfil at TEAM SY is based in part on the Scaleup Enabler role that was successfully implemented in Bristol in 2018. The driving idea is that it requires dedicated resources to connect up the entrepreneurial ecosystem, thereby making it easier for entrepreneurs to access the support they need. You can read more about the Bristol experience here, and follow the link on this page to download the Scaleup Enabler Yearbook.

We also shouldn’t overlook the fact that South Yorkshire can act as an exemplar for other places too. For instance Barnsley is leading TechRev, sharing their examples of good practice with six European partners as part of an URBACT network. The good practice from Barnsley is two-fold: first, there’s Enterprising Barnsley which provides tailored business support and investment. Enterprising Barnsley has been successful at leveraging private sector investment too: for every £1 invested by Enterprising Barnsley, they have been able to secure over £5 worth of private sector investment into the local economy. The second part of Barnsley’s good practice is the Digital Media Centre, a hub for digital and creative businesses, which is at 95% occupancy and delivers surplus income to the council through a wide range of activities. 

How can we promote more business innovation in the region?

 

We are lucky in South Yorkshire to have Sheffield Technology Parks and the Barnsley Digital Media Centre, both of which provide high quality support for early-stage ventures. What STP and the DMC provide goes beyond traditional business support: they provide a supportive community for entrepreneurs; highlight success stories which can inspire others; and support entrepreneurs in gaining the skills they need for their business to succeed. Both centres provide that opportunity to “fail fast” and we’d love to see similar tech-focussed support and incubation facilities in Rotherham and Doncaster too

At TEAM SY, we’ve long advocated for a public sector led co-investment fund in South Yorkshire. A co-investment fund leverages public sector and private sector funding to provide startups with the cash flow to cover a 12-18 month period. It’s a clever way to double a public sector funding pot, as half is offered by the co-investment fund and half by market investors. It also attracts private investment to the region and showcases the ventures we have here. Our TEAM SY partner programmes are supporting a large number of early-stage ventures which have the ambition to raise investment. We are creating a strong pipeline and we don’t want to lose that to investors from outside the region, when we could be de-risking their growth and enabling them to stay in the region. Enabling startups operating in high growth sectors to make the crucial transition from the startup to the growth phase means those companies will have the potential to create high-value jobs. Furthermore, startups gravitate towards geographies where funding is available. By requiring them to maintain a presence in the region, a South Yorkshire co-investment fund would encourage businesses to stay in the region

Closing thoughts…

Innovation can feel like a buzzword. The focus of most business owners and entrepreneurs on a day-to-day basis is to keep their business going, to increase sales, and to keep evolving so as to respond to market demands, and / or to make the world a better place. A lot of businesses are innovating all the time, but they might not see it that way. A tweak to some internal processes or a new way to bring on board clients, are both ways to innovate for example. Our regional policymakers already recognise the value of entrepreneurs and business leaders, and at TEAM SY we would strongly encourage policymakers to continue to put those entrepreneurial individuals at the heart of policy design.

SY IoT Meetup – IoT in Food and AgriTech @ The National Centre of Excellence for Food Engineering at Sheffield Hallam University

SY IoT Meetup – IoT in Food and AgriTech @ The National Centre of Excellence for Food Engineering at Sheffield Hallam University

SY IoT Meetup – IoT in Food and AgriTech @ The National Centre of Excellence for Food Engineering at Sheffield Hallam University

By Lauren Shale, Programme Coordinator, IoT Engine

Members of the Internet of Things (IoT) community came together at the National Centre of Excellence for Food Engineering (NCEFE) for the latest South Yorkshire IoT Meetup on Tuesday 28th June. The theme was ‘IoT in Food and AgriTech’, with speakers focussing on the opportunity that IoT provides to monitor the food growing and manufacturing environments, and the solutions it offers to ensure that food production becomes more efficient and less wasteful.

Mark Davies, CEO and Co-founder of Sheffield-based cybersecurity company Ioetec, hosted the evening, welcoming guests to the NCEFE and introducing the theme of Food and Agritech.  Mark showed a video from Vodafone whose IoT technologies supported the production and delivery of strawberries to Wimbledon.

Deputy Director of NCEFE, Dr Hongwei Zhang, welcomed guests to the centre, sharing an overview of their key research themes and highlighting the work being done to apply and develop digital technologies including IoT, AI, and automation robotic solutions to accelerate the breakthrough of research in the region and beyond. 

Our first speaker was Ken Brockbank, Sector Manager for Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering at West Yorkshire Combined Authority, Leeds City Region Enterprise Partnership. Ken spoke about Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) in North and West Yorkshire, which has been recognised as a High Potential Opportunity for foreign investment, and promoted as a significant market opportunity to embassies and consulate offices around the world. CEA provides solutions to global supply chain and labour shortage problems, and the sector is looking to collaborate with IoT and tech companies to deploy sensors and make use of data analysis at an early stage in the supply chain.

Next to speak was Alec Anderson, Co-Founder and Managing Director of Koolmill Systems, who are working to provide a disruptive and sustainable processing solution for rice and other cereals. Rice is a $550 billion global industry and feeds 3.5 billion people daily, but current methods are  antiquated and wasteful, with enough rice to feed 600 million people being lost each year. Koolmill is developing the third generation of rice milling technology, introducing digitalisation, automation and IoT to optimise data capture and output, and create value. Their digital twinning technology further assists machine performance, enabling over 90% of power to be saved.

Finally, we were joined by David Dixon and Gabrielė Barteškaitė from Future Greens, a Sheffield-based indoor farm growing salad and microgreens in an innovative way that is good for people and the planet. They shared how their failed attempts to grow their own food during lockdown led to the discovery of indoor farming, which not only helped to overcome their own issues with poor soil, pests, and unpredictable weather, but also poses a solution to global supply chain issues. Future Greens now produces leafy greens at their indoor farm, using 95% less water and no pesticides. The pair are designing an automated system to reduce manual labour, and have developed a growing substrate that gives a clean crop, ready to eat. With machine vision and farm management software, they can apply IoT solutions to control climate and nutrient levels to optimise growing conditions.

All three talks stimulated discussion and questioning from the audience, before they were given the chance to take to the floor themselves to share any relevant IoT activity across the region. We heard from Advancing Digital at Sheffield Hallam University, offering training in key digital skills, as well as representatives from TEAM SY, who run various programmes of support from investment readiness to developing entrepreneurial mindset. One of these programmes is the IoT Engine, based at Barnsley DMC, which supports SMEs across the region to adopt, develop and integrate IoT products and solutions.

The evening finished with further networking opportunities over beer, pie and peas – which went down a treat!

Resources and Staying in Touch:

Link to the event recording: IoT Food – 28 June 22.mp4 – Google Drive 

To join the regional IoT community, please sign up to the South Yorkshire IoT Meetup newsletter, which will keep you up to date on IoT news and activity. SY IoT Meetup (list-manage.com) 

Acknowledgements: Thanks to the brilliant team at NCEFE for their support in hosting the event, Barnsley DMC and TEAM SY for sponsoring and You & Us Events for managing all the logistics.