Innovation and enterprise blog


This blog is written by members of the Business & IP Centre team and some of our expert partners and discusses business, innovation and enterprise. Read more

28 July 2021

Inventor(s) of the month, Alexander Fleming and the story of Penicillin

Miracles happen and they happen in labs. The modern laboratory has been a place of great discovery where the destinies of so many lives have been changed.

Among these great ‘miracles’ of the 20th Century was the discovery of penicillin. Millions upon millions of lives have been saved because of it. Perhaps you’re among them.

Anyone who has ever been prescribed an antibiotic will attest to its incredible effects.

But the story behind Penicillin’s discovery and use is fascinating, surprising and telling for our time today as we grapple with the a very different health challenge to what its pioneer, Fleming was addressing.

Sir Alexander Fleming (1881-1955) has long been credited as the person who ‘invented’ Penicillin. The man and the myth play upon a popular idea of the scientist as the lone genius and discoverer of new natural knowledge, previously hidden by nature. Fleming has come to embody this and he was quite happy to encourage it.


But the story of Penicillin is not the story of one person but of at least three. Among those who made it a reality are also, Sir Ernst Chain and Baron Howard Florey (the titles came later).

The story begins in 1928, when Fleming, by now a respected bacteriologist at St Mary’s had returned from holiday. On his return he noticed a discarded plate culture by an open window, where some of the micro-organisms were missing thanks to a contaminated mould. The contaminant was a common mould called penicillium notatum. What could’ve been ignored as a passing oddity sparked the curiosity of Fleming who saw the potential of what it could do against pathogenic germs. Concentrations of his ‘mould juice’ against the germs proved quite successful and Fleming reasoned this could be an effective, non-toxic, antiseptic for humans.

However, the concentrations weren’t high enough to have a significant effect on infected areas of the body, outside of very local treatments. Nonetheless, a paper was submitted in the British Journal of Experimental Pathology in 1929 summarising his findings.

The experiments weren’t taken much further until the late 1930s when the story of Penicillin takes another serendipitous twist.

Then, a brilliant Australian ex-pat by the name of Howard Walter Florey (1898-1968), who had earned himself a scholarship to Oxford to study Physiology was now the Chair of Pathology at Oxford.


Florey’s force of personality had forged a culture of team work and collaboration that was to serve him well with an astonishing breakthrough. Working on a relative shoe string and hiring talented post-graduates with their own research grants Florey put in motion a number of research projects.

Among them was to establish whether there was a clinical value in working with the enzyme lysozyme and how that dissolves bacteria. Florey had some previous interest in this but was uncertain to the significance of it.

That was until one of his new hires, Ernst Boris Chain (1906-1979), a gifted biochemist and German-Jewish refugee who had fled Hitler’s Germany, embarked on new research. Chain had completed his second PhD, this time from Cambridge, and in working through the literature on lysozyme came across Fleming’s 1929 paper. It described how the penicillium mould seemed to dissolve any pathogenic bacteria in its vicinity. Chain became convinced that the problem of Penicillin’s instability of use could be overcome. Eventually after many experiments and collaborations, a bio-chemical breakthrough was discovered. A change of substance stabilised the Penicillin into a pure form to be effectively used.


Soon experiments with mice had proven that Penicillin protected them from the deadly infections of streptococci and staphylococci. The results pointed clearly to the need for human trials, which Florey could now push for.

And so by January 1941, there was a limited trial on patients at the Radcliffe Infirmary, Oxford. Despite some restrictions the results were clear, Penicillin was demonstrated to overcome infections where other treatments couldn’t. Further trials over the next couple of years put its efficacy beyond doubt.

With the Second World War raging and its considerable loss of life, the necessity for new medical interventions to treat the wounded was overwhelming. The question now was how to utilise the incredible effects of Penicillin further.

And this is where industry gets involved. Florey needed funds and an expansion of infrastructure to scale production. However, the war had restricted the use of supplies and infrastructure in the UK so Florey had to look to the United States to overcome the next challenge. This one was technical, how to produce large quantities of the new drug?

This problem was solved during the war with the aid of American industry supported by President Roosevelt’s War Production Board. A technical solution was engineered using deep fermentation to mass produce the product for the front-line war effort.

By now the power of Penicillin was clear to industrialists and not just scientists and clinicians.

But it was a great irony that Florey was actively discouraged from taking out a patent on Penicillin as being unethical. Instead, in the US, a patent for methods of mass production of Penicillin in 1945 was filed by Andrew J Moyer, a microbiologist. The UK was soon to catch up regarding the importance of patent protection and industry, post-war.

The story of Penicillin is one that rings true for us today. The lone visionary scientist is an exceptional person indeed. There is only one Newton or one Einstein. But here instead we have brilliant individuals in their own way brought together by serendipity of circumstances, curiosity of subject and outstanding abilities.

Penicillin is a modern miracle in every sense. Its creators had crossed continents and borders to bring about its existence. In the case of Chain he had fled persecution or for Florey who found a new world of opportunity from outback Australia or for Fleming who had found fame from humble beginnings. Each were of their time but living in extraordinary circumstances, all working to bring about a little less suffering in the world.

Fitting indeed, that all three men were recognised by sharing the Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine in 1945.

And for that, and for our time, we have lessons to learn and gratitude to give.

21 July 2021

Waltham Forest Winners

This week we are celebrating the launch of the new Business & IP Centre local in Waltham Forest. Over the last two years, the Libraries in Waltham Forest have played a major role in our Start-ups in London Libraries programme. Our Champions Sarah and Jacqueline have been working hard to support a number of aspiring entrepreneurs in Waltham Forest to get their businesses off the ground.

Here are just some of those flourishing businesses...


Sweet Paper Creations

Sweet Paper Creations - Ice Cream Pinata

Sweet Paper Creations, founded by Patty and Ali Gurman, is a not-for-profit business that is here to support those with poor mental health through crafting and creation. Sweet Paper Creations make and sell piñatas, made from recycled materials, for any occasion via their online shop, where customers can also commission their own bespoke character. The profits from the shop help them to deliver their 'Make It and Break It' workshops, where they provide a creative outlet for those suffering from mental health issues, stress, bereavement, or those helping support someone going through such issues.

“From the time I met Sarah at the Walthamstow Library, I felt reassured and confident to be able to develop my ideas into reality. She listened to my ideas, helped me to organise my priorities and to develop an action plan which includes looking at ways to fund-raise in order to deliver our pilot workshops. Attending the library events and workshops also provided me with the opportunity to learn about legal requirements and to identify new opportunities to continue my business development. As a new business with limited experience, we believe that Sarah’s support and encouragement has helped us to be where we are now.”


Price Management Consultancy

Marjorie Price

Price Management Consultancy Ltd. was founded by Marjorie Price, who is a specialist in training those in a management of leadership position with the essential skills to manage their workforce more efficiently and effectively. She provides mentoring services and coaching, supporting managers and leaders to harness their ideas, and turn them into action.⁣

"The SiLL programme has been an invaluable resource that has supported me with setting up and running my business. The 1-2-1 support with Sarah has been brilliant, from signposting me to relevant services outside of the programme, to practical help with developing my website and much more.  Sarah is friendly, supportive, encouraging and a good listener. The overall training provision has been well thought out; there is a course to help you at every stage of your business journey."


Firm Feet

Charlie Boyd

Charlie Boyd’s business, Firm Feet, focuses on various sessions to achieve movement and connection with your own body. Soon after setting up her business, she met with one of our local business Champions in her borough as part of our Start-ups in London Libraries programme. Charlie designed a session drawing on her qualifications and experiences that she knew worked for her, to try and help others.

“My local SiLL Champion, Sarah, has been brilliant and someone I respect and feel as an equal which is a wonderful person to have as support. She is always extremely helpful and supportive and great at listening and understanding the direction of my business. She always goes above and beyond supplying me with important documentation and hints and tips.”


Haven Coffee

Haven Coffee

Haven Coffee is a socially-conscious coffee company, founded by Usman Khalid. Each cup of Haven Coffee bought supports refugee communities across the UK, providing barista training for refugees building new lives for themselves in the UK. The Haven team also organise events to promote refugee artists and creatives. Usman has recently introduced a virtual coffee scheme allowing customers to purchase a coffee in advance. And many of their events, including their art exhibition, have moved online.

“Networking and meeting new people is always something I’ve loved. Through the SiLL platform, I got to know more like minded people and small businesses operating in Walthamstow and had a chance to speak with them.⁣”


Bushwood Bees

Salma Attan

Salma Attan decided it was time to turn her hobby into her livelihood and started her beekeeping business Bushwood Bees. She maintains hives on the roof of the East London Mosque, making honey and other bee-based products from her local source. On top of this, Salma offers paid beekeeping courses to beginners and provides guidance to experienced beekeepers.

“In the early stages of asking myself “Is this really such a good idea?”, I took part in the Start-ups in London Libraries workshops which made me realise that, actually, it was.  The plan was sound, I had the beekeeping skills to execute the practical aspects of my idea and with the SiLL workshops I could focus on the practicalities of starting up a business.

The one area I seemed to have zero skills was technology! This is where Sarah (the Waltham Forest Business Champion) was a great help. She was happy to meet and give me plenty of ideas on how to get started. Sarah also let me know about where to get further free help to improve my use of social media in terms of business promotion – this is something I’m still learning but less anxious about. Sarah also gave me really good ideas for improving my business plan. It was helpful to have someone with fresh eyes looking at my ideas. She was willing to help put a pitch together, gave really practical advice and was able to give me fresh perspective on parts of my plan that I would not have had otherwise.”


Authentic Worth

Esther Jacob

Authentic Worth, founded by Esther Jacob, is a book publishing company that is dedicated to help aspiring authors to write and publish a book. The purpose of starting up Authentic Worth Publishing was due to a family bereavement in 2018. Esther wanted to continue the legacy and continuation of her books to make an impact, helping others to build their storytelling at a confident level. 

“The SiLL project helped me in setting up my business through their workshops I attended in 2019. On the first day, I was able to connect and network with other aspiring entrepreneurs that had different ideas about what they wanted to achieve in their businesses. I was able to share ideas with them and vice versa which helped stimulate trust and the tenacity to grow my business gradually.”



For more on Start-ups in London Libraries and how to register for our upcoming workshop, visit

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19 July 2021

Introducing Authentic Worth, founded by Esther Jacob

Authentic Worth is a book publishing company that is dedicated to help aspiring authors to write and publish a book.⁣ It was founded by Esther Jacob in 2018, we spoke to Esther about her business journey and experience on the Start-ups in London Libraries programme.⁣

Esther Jacob

'My business, Authentic Worth was Founded in October 2018 providing bespoke face-to face-workshops initially. As a multi-published author, I took the initiative to use my two books that were published in 2016 and 2017; It’s Time to Heal and Completion to continue the face-to-face workshops in 2019. During that period, I held workshops on the fundamental and basics steps on how to write a book for beginners. I decided to utilise and share my expertise on helping aspiring authors write a book, and has now become a book publishing company. Due to the demand of the workshops being popular, Authentic Worth Publishing now offers bespoke book publishing services, monthly online seminars, 1-2-1 consultation support on writing and tailored online course(s) to reach creatives and aspiring authors to learn about publishing and how to market their book effectively. 

The purpose of starting up Authentic Worth Publishing was due to a family bereavement in 2018. I wanted to continue the legacy and continuation of my books to make an impact and would be the starting point to help others to build their storytelling at a confident level. I also wanted to give back to the community, reminding them that their pain serves a purpose and that is to help someone use their challenges to make a difference. For this reason, Authentic Worth Publishing is making a positive impact in the lives of those that are willing to share their story and build upon their own confidence. 

Authentic Worth Homepage

The SiLL project helped me in setting up my business through their workshops I attended in 2019. On the first day, I was able to connect and network with other aspiring entrepreneurs that had different ideas about what they wanted to achieve in their businesses. I was able to share ideas with them and vice versa which helped stimulate trust and the tenacity to grow my business gradually.

The most helpful part of SiLL were the 1-2-1 meetings with one of the SiLL champions. It was very useful and I was able to get more clarity about starting my business, including creating further awareness through the use of social media, being able to connect and collaborate with other aspiring authors and business owners in my field and ultimately, focusing on my target audience which helped to create a catered/tailored service to those that publish their book with the Authentic Worth brand. 

Covid-19 had an impact on my business as a client’s family member had a bereavement. I decided to take the opportunity to pivot and strategise, whilst working on my fourth book; The Power of a Forward-Thinking Mindset published in July 2020. The purpose of this book is to support people’s mental health during the Covid-19 lockdown and beyond. I then decided to host virtual workshops from July 2020 onwards on several topics including how to write a book during Covid-19, how to set up a business, how to build confidence and personal development, and combining them with new clients that were able to use their free time at home to write their manuscript and turn it into a book. 

My advice to anyone looking to start up a business is; get a mentor who understands the vision of your business – don’t be afraid to ask questions and network. Build your connections on LinkedIn and always remain a student, willing to learn from those that are ahead of you.

BIPC Quote Tile

It is important to reach out and attend one of SiLL’s workshops as they are not only free, but they offer valuable insight into how to start a business. They are able to help aspiring entrepreneurs to find their passion and turn it into useful resources to serve their audience. The workshops also teach the fundamental steps it takes to run a business, the pitfalls that one may encounter, but above all, they share a common trait which is to work together. This has helped the growth of Authentic Worth Publishing and would recommend any new starter that is willing to learn about business from a basic level to attend their workshops.'


Click here to visit the Authentic Worth website.

Authentic Worth logo


For more on Start-ups in London Libraries and how to register for our upcoming workshop, visit

SiLL logos