Innovation and enterprise blog

The British Library Business & IP Centre can help you start, run and grow your business

Introduction

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

25 May 2021

Start-up Stars: Eco-conscious entrepreneurs

Last week at our Start-up Stars: Eco-conscious entrepreneurs event, we were lucky enough to speak to some great green businesses; Asquith London, FRUU Cosmetics and Two Lives. They gave invaluable insight into what it takes to turn an idea into an eco-enterprise that’s built to last.

SUS Eco

“If you bring anyone into the business, it should really be a positive addition to what you already have and not overlap too much with your own skills. Really look for someone that adds a lot of value to what you're doing.” - Tina, Two lives

“Don't underestimate those really genuine opportunities to interact with the customers, just as a founder, because customers really value that.” - Terence, FRUU Cosmetics

“If you have a product, take it, sit somewhere and get people to feedback on it and say, don't just give me positives, I want genuine positive and negative feedback. Honest feedback is what matters.” - Alice, Asquith London

 

 Let’s hear more about our panellists⁣…

Alice Asquith, founder of Asquith London

Alice started Asquith London in 2002. She had a stressful job in TV and was doing a lot of yoga and pilates, this was when she decided to set up a yoga clothing label. Alice noticed that the only product available at that time was sportswear which was all made from very synthetic fabrics, she had grown up in an environment where her mother, grandmother and great grandmother, had all made their own clothing. Alice made the decision to work in all natural fabrics.

“All this nasty synthetic stuff I just thought, hold on a second. This isn't right. I decided to do something that was very different and not available at that time.” 

 

Terence and Kelly, founders of FRUU Cosmetics

Terence started FRUU five years ago when he was working as a science teacher.  He had graduated from university and then went into antibiotics research, which he felt was one of the most urgent things that needed to be solved in the next 10-20 years. FRUU was started after Terence and Kelly noticed that the cosmetic industry is like a sister of the chemical industry, and essentially an entire industry is set up on the back of the petrochemical industry.

“FRUU is set up as a way to not necessarily guide people away from it but it is kind of like a shining light to go, actually there's a way away from petrochemicals.”

He looked into utilising waste from the food industry; specifically the fruit juicing industry, where there is an excess of fruit pulps and access to materials like wonky fruits, skins and peels.

 

Tina and Niklas, founders of Two Lives

Tina and Niklas founded Two Lives in 2019 with the mission of giving textile waste a second life, hence the name, Two lives. Both Tina and Niklas have worked in the creative industry for a number of years and realised they wanted to do something about the waste generation that's happening within the textiles industry.

“We went to factories, warehouses full of dead stock that sometimes ended up in landfills or just being burned. So we just thought, there's so much available material there, why can't we just utilise that, why do we have to make new stuff all the time?”

 

To find out more about our Start-ups in London Libraries and Innovating for Growth communities, visit bl.uk/SiLL and bl.uk/grow.

17 May 2021

Meet Marjorie Price, founder of Price Management Consultancy Ltd.

Introducing Marjorie Price, founder of Price Management Consultancy Ltd. Marjorie 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 – supporting leaders and managers with some of the more difficult decisions they may face. As well as coaching – Supporting managers and leaders to harness their ideas, and turn them into action.

We spoke to Marjorie and asked her to tell us about her business and how it came into being…

Marjorie Price

Why did you want to start up a business? What was your motivation? 

Having 20 years of management and leadership experience, I was very aware of some of the challenges and pressures managers face, on a day to day basis. Particularly in the area of staff management.  I knew from experience that it is the most unpredictable area of your management responsibilities, and it is also the area where you will receive the least help. I wanted to change that narrative.

One of my specialist areas is working with managers in the area of “Managing with Emotional Intelligence”.  I am passionate about it, as I have seen too many staff leaving their managers and not their jobs, as I have also done in the past, research also supports this.   Too many managers manage without enough control of their own emotions, and often don’t recognise the emotions of their staff.  This is largely done unconsciously, due to a busy workload.  I teach managers that managing with emotional intelligence will leave their team motivate, increase productivity and increase staff retention.

 

How did the SiLL project help you in setting up your business?

The SiLL programme has been an invaluable resource, that has supported me with setting up and running my business. 

 

What was the most helpful part of the SiLL project for you?

1-2-1 and the training provision.

 

Can you tell us a bit about Sarah and/or the Waltham Forest business community that is coming as a part of SiLL?

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.

 

What advice would you give anyone looking to start up a business?

Don’t start your business to make money.  Only start a business because you are passionate to make a change, in the lives of the people your business is set up to serve. It's hard work and takes time. if you're only in it to get rich quick, you won't last, as the journey is tough.  Often, it's only your passion to make a difference that will keep you going.

Marjorie Price BIPC Quote Tile

What are the key things you have learnt while starting up your business?

  • Get as much help and support as you can from free services, as you won't be making any money while you are setting up.
  •     Use the funds you do have wisely
  •     Clearly define who your customer is
  •     Join relevant business networks with like-minded people, they will be able to offer you help and support, without an agenda
  •     Call on friends and family to support you were they can
  •     Your mind will be constantly thinking about the business, always have a notebook or your phone available to jot down your thoughts
  • Remember to take a break during the day and book yourself time off for a holiday.  It is so easy to become a workaholic you need a good work-life balance.  If you burn out there is no one to take the reins

 

What would you say to anyone looking to go to a SiLL workshop?

'Talk to their local SME Champion.  Don’t hesitate, there is nothing to lose but everything to gain.

 

What have been the biggest challenges or opportunities associated with the Covid-19 lockdown?

 The biggest challenge I faced with Covid-19, was how to continue working through it. 

Opportunities – I looked at my business as a whole and what I could do to support others through it.  As a business development trainer, I looked at what challenges Covid-19 through up for businesses.  Then looked at what I could offer to support them.  After speaking to various businesses, I  developed a group of training courses that would help them through; Change Management, Managing Stress & Anxiety for Self & Others and Managing Staff Remotely.

The biggest change was moving from face to face training, to delivering training live through an online platform.

 

For more on Start-ups in London Libraries and how to register for our upcoming workshop, visit www.bl.uk/SiLL.

SiLL_logo_lockups_RGB_large

12 May 2021

Innovating for Growth Diary Part 2 - Sian Zeng

Every quarter, Innovating for Growth: Scale-ups chooses a cohort of high-growth businesses to take part in our 10 week programme designed to help business owners re-evaluate their business across areas such as marketing, products and services and business model.

We caught up again with Sian, founder and director of luxury wallpaper business Sian Zeng to see firsthand the impact of the programme on her business. You can read about the first half of her Innovating for Growth journey in the first installment of her diary.  Having finished the programme, Sian can now reflect back on what she has discovered and the improvements she has already been able to put into action.

'Since our first post, we’ve now finished the Innovating for Growth Course. And in that time, my team and I have already made so many changes to how we organize ourselves, what we prioritize and how we present our brand.

Before joining the programme, one of my biggest goals was to find out how accurate our financial figures were; our inventory system often failed us and without an accurate stock figure, it was difficult to gain a real insight into how much profit we were making! Up until recently, I’d been keeping our books myself, which was another pressure on my workload and time I could be using elsewhere. 

SianZeng_031_landingpage

During the course, I was lucky to have two one-to-one Financial Planning Sessions with Suzie Campbell from The White Space Collective. In these sessions, we discussed the issues I was facing with bookkeeping, how I could improve our inventory system, our wholesale profit margins and worked through our cashflow forecast so that we can make an informed decision on which projects to invest in and people to hire going forward.

On the book keeping side, Suzie referred me to a company that was very well suited to our ecommerce business and was able to give advice on installing a good inventory system. We’ve now switched to an accountant that can fulfill our business needs.

As a creative business owner, I’m always tempted by so many projects I could invest in or hiring more help, but seeing the cashflow forecast with Suzie and the advice she gave me, I’m now a lot more strategic when making these decisions. I now know what to prioritize and when to stop an investment if isn’t working. 

When it came to my session with Oliver Henderson, I already had several questions I wanted to ask him specific to my sector. Oliver has great research skills and found valuable market information for me to work with.

Hua_Trees_Green_1square_photo_Veerle_Evens_Styling_Charlotte_Love_Sian_Zeng_wallpapers-500x500-ace4382d-3d99-4298-a327-359518a99e96

During my one-to-one with Dave Vann from ABA Design, I came to realize that some of our branding wasn’t translating effectively on our website. Even though our site is very functional and visually compelling, it lacks the storytelling element our brand is known for as a whole. Dave helped me tease out some of the stories I could share on my site, which is something that I hadn’t thought about before.

Next up, I had a marketing session with Izzie Sully from ABA Design. Using Trello, we went through my marketing plan and it was really helpful to visualise and create it in this way. One of the priorities we discussed was developing a CRM system to help create bespoke customer journeys specific to my business. I have now implemented it for our trade customers and have already seen a massive improvement in how we interact with this audience. We feel so much more organized with a system in place.

Both Dean Wilson and Ophelia Spowers from Fluxx were extremely helpful. I enjoyed speaking to Dean because he often questioned my assumptions. I assumed I needed stock of all my patterns in the new magnetic wallpaper material which we would be launching soon. This would have been a very large financial commitment. He was suggesting perhaps if customers were happy to wait for stock in the past then I might be able to print on demand rather than pay everything upfront. This also means I don’t have to wait until all collections are printed before I start launching this material. 

We also discussed that we should have more regular and personal communication with our trade partners going forward, to build those relationships and explore how we can work better going forward. It was suggested that I start arranging catch-up calls with our partners and Ophelia was kind enough to draft a list of questions I could ask during these meetings.

I had a session with Robert Foster from Red Ochre at the very beginning of my course and it was there that we set out a series of goals to guide me through this course and beyond. I was happy to see how much I’ve already tackled. We have agreed on a new set of objectives for the next few months for myself and my team, and I am excited to see where else we are able to simplify and streamline our business. 

Overall, the Innovating For Growth Programme has made such a big difference to my business. I feel I understand it on a deeper level and know which systems I need to put in place to not only grow faster but ensure I do more of what I love - painting, designing and creating. I’m very grateful to all the experts for the valuable advice and the British Library staff for organising everything so smoothly, especially during these difficult times.

If you are thinking of signing up for this course, I can’t recommend it enough!'

To find out more about Innovating for Growth and to apply for our next cohort, visit bl.uk/grow

10 May 2021

Meet Donelle Grant, founder of The Brave Project

Today marks to the start of Mental Health Awareness Week, it's important that we are checking in with ourselves, talking and being kind and supportive to others. The Brave Project community interest company, is a non-profit suicide prevention and wellbeing service; for BAME boys and young men. The mission is to prevent suicide through public awareness and education.⁣ We spoke to Donelle Grant, founder of The Brave Project and asked her to tell us about her business and how it came into being…

Donelle_Grant

'I am a 39 year old community development worker; holistic coach and mother, born and raised in East London. I decided to set up the Brave Project because I have always wanted to give back to my community that I grew up in and after extensive research I discovered that due to disparities and inequalities; BAME boys and young men found openly talking about their mental health/wellbeing difficult which and are at higher risk of suicide.

I wanted to change the narrative, reduce the stigma associated with mental health issues and empower BAME boys and young men to speak up and reach out for help when they need it. Also raising two young black boys, it is very important for my boys to be able to express themselves freely; without any fear of judgement and I was very disappointed when I discovered that there are a lack of culturally appropriate accessible services who enable this.

Prior to registering my organisation, I had a moment . I asked myself the question ' Can I do this, can I influence change? I thought about all the founders who were currently influencing change and wondered if I had what it takes to do the same. As always, I spoke to my trusted advisor; My mum, told her what I wanted to do and why. My mums response was ' If not you, who?  My mum has always encouraged and empowered me to reach my full potential but stepping out of my comfort zone was my superpower. 

From that moment onward I got to work building the brave project.  One of the first things I wanted to do was register my organisation. I approached the SILL team at Newham as I wanted to speak with an experienced business Mentor in my area who could support me with this process. I also wanted to make sure I had access to all the necessary business workshops/training I needed to successfully run my non-profit. 

I was provided with the contact details for Rashed Belal , a Newham SME champion. Rashed has provided me with access to a number of business workshops and support for Marketing, to finance, and many more. 

Donelle Grant BIPC Quote Tile

I am so grateful for the SiLL programme and my SME Champion Mentor Rashed Belal, who has been a great business Mentor,  consistently empowering me to  push forward with my business. 

Navigating and launching a business can come with challenges unique to BAME women; this is doubled when the service you set up is for the benefit of a community that has experienced so many inequalities and injustices. I would recommend that anyone setting up a business to connect with your business values; work out what your strengths are and find ways to overcome any challenges that may be presented, as this will support you to achieve your goals.

Get yourself a coach or mentor who understands your business values; encourages and believes in you, as this can support you to overcome any challenges or fears, bringing out the best in you.'

 

For more on Start-ups in London Libraries and how to register for our upcoming workshop, visit www.bl.uk/SiLL.

SiLL_logo_lockups_RGB_large

06 May 2021

A week in the life of Zachary Pulman, founder of Zachary Pulman Design Studio

Zachary Pulman is the founder of award-winning Zachary Pulman Design Studio, fast becoming the go-to design agency for the competitive socialising sector. The team recently took part in Innovating for Growth: Scale-ups.

Also designing high-end residential homes and developments and retail projects for the likes of Nike, Adidas and Sonia Rykiel, the studio began to expand their scope and in designing Swingers City and Swingers West End crazy golf venues, found their niche – competitive socialising spaces that evoke imagination, conversation and memorable experiences. 

Now working with Swingers, Top Golf and Hoyts internationally as well as London’s new Pop-music themed crazy golf venue Pop Golf to name a few, the studio are putting into practice learnings from the British Library’s Scale Up Programme to take their designs and concepts worldwide. Competitive socialising never looked so good. 

Big Wheel Course at Swingers West End (Photo by Edit Photo)

Monday

Mondays usually start with an early morning yoga session. If I can fire of a few emails to my team – before my wife Gosia and I take Hugo, our Kerry Blue Terrier out for a walk – then we’re off to a good start! Gosia and I try to find some quiet time before the day fully kicks in. 

Recently, we’ve been trying to change up our walks and today, we’re off to Wanstead Park. Hugo currently has zero interest in other dogs but is fascinated by rats, squirrels and ducks. We feel this time is like his version of gaming or competitive socialising. He is extremely high energy!

We get back around 9am and I move to my mezzanine home office to meet the rest of the team. Like most, we’ve all been working remotely for the past year or so, so our team daily meetings are on online. Today, we review projects and plan out the week ahead. The rest of the day is a mix of client meetings on zoom, and site visits for our London clients. 

ZP Home Studio

Between 5 - 7pm I usually work on business development and after that it’s time for an episode of Brian Johnson’s Optimize. I’m finding his podcasts on leadership and productivity from his Optimal Living 101 Master Classes to be fascinating and I have been listening to the same 30 podcasts for the same 10 years. Today’s episode is all about leadership. Apparently, there’s no such thing as a bad team, only a bad leader. Johnson shares an example from the Navy Seals – a badly performing team swapped leaders with a top performing team. Before they knew it, that new leader transformed the worst performing team into the best!

Tuesday

This morning starts with vitamin day for Hugo. He automatically sits up, knowing he’s getting last night’s leftovers (disguising his supplements!). Once he’s revitalized, we head off to Hampstead Heath for a quick walk/hunt for squirrels.

Zach  Gosia and Hugo

They say you should plan your high brain power tasks for the morning, shifting admin to the afternoon or evening. So I start with some work on our projects for our clients in China. 

Recently, we’ve been batching our international meetings and on Tuesdays we have our calls with China, so I start with prepping for those. Now that we’re working much more internationally, we’re better understanding the nuances between different regions. It's been great to be working with local teams of executive architects and interior designers to keep designs sensitive to local culture. The first example given to us in China is if you were to open the same KFC as you would in America, it would be almost pointless to unlock the door. With our designs in China, it seems to be a higher-end VIP, private, luxury experience. You really feel the sheer size and quality and speed of fabrication is mind-blowing. 

Early evening, I catch up with a friend in Regents Park, since walking is the new socialising! Back home, it's time for evening exercise. I alternate legs (cycling using Zwift) with upper body (TRX - ropes). Today it’s cycling!

Wednesday

Wednesday is Hugo’s girlfriend day so we head to Camberwell to meet a blue whippet called Poppy for their rendezvous. Back in the home office and my inbox is filling up fast so I start the day catching up on client emails. We have our team call at 10. 

Team call

On Wednesdays, we also have our Marketing and PR Manager in the studio (or more recently online!), we plan out our social media and I usually have a check in with Jessica in the afternoon. Recently there’s been a lot of buzz around the opening of Pop Golf so we meet to chat through progress with that PR campaign. 

On Wednesdays, we also have our calls with clients and collaborators in the US, and today feels pretty flat out with Zoom/Skype/Teams etc! We catch up with our client Swingers Crazy Golf who are expanding into the US, reviewing designs for their upcoming Washington DC and New York venues.

Zachary Pulman - Bandstand Bar 1 (photo by Edit Photo)

Thursday

Today the focus is on our Australia and Argentina-based projects so after our team meeting at 10am, the day’s a mix of client meetings on zoom and progressing projects. Today, we review designs for Be West, a new development based on sustainable architecture and wellness in Buenos Aries. 

Never feel like it but always do it, I think I’m the laziest hard-working person I know. Today’s evening exercise is upper body and I’m working on TRX with ropes. In normal times, I’d usually be off to a competitive socialising venue in London on Thursdays with the rest of the team to see what our competitors are up to. 

Friday

I try to keep Fridays clear of meetings. I find it’s important to have some uninterrupted time for deep thinking to get fully immersed in creative projects. The idea is the phone goes off on Thursday night and doesn't go back on again until Monday morning. 

Zachary-Pulman-Image-

Today, I’m working on a new VR bar concept where gaming pods become spectacles for unforgettable nightclub experiences. I’m really enjoying working on concepts with emerging technologies and the space to explore new ideas.

Usually I would go to exhibitions and events but over the lockdown’s that’s been replaced with gardening, reading and life drawing. 

Weekend

I love to start my weekends by going for a super early morning drive, in my 1960/70s classic car or a friend’s car for variety. I get on the road by 5.30am before the cyclists are out and about, and usually do a 2.5h lap. My friends and I made a car collective where we share classic cars – a small collection of Italian, English and German 60s, 70s and 80s cars. It’s an analogue experience.

We’ve got a new arrival coming soon and it’s not the most baby friendly house in the world! We’re changing a house that's purely about flow of space and daylight. The new arrival will mean we've got to add some safety elements, pull up our socks on health and safety. The choice is either to do it in an elegant and permanent way or inexpensive and reversible.

It’s the weekend, so I take Hugo out for a longer walk today in Victoria Park. One thing Hugo loves to do is to get into the water and cross over onto an island. He’s happy to swim over to the island... but refuses to come back. Today, that results in me turning heads, by wading through the lake to rescue him. 

For me the weekends are all about family and spending time at home, I do try to have a good switch off from work.

05 May 2021

Inventor of the Month: Lucean Arthur Headen, 1879-1957

Introducing our latest blog feature: Inventor of the Month! In our first edition, our IP expert, Jeremy O'Hare explores the fascinating life of Lucean Arthur Headen.

'For someone to be both an inventor and an entrepreneur is a unique thing. To be someone who overcomes racial prejudice and become a pioneer in his field is truly exceptional.

I discovered the story of Lucean Headen while answering an enquiry for an historian and author, Dr Jill D. Snider, who has written a recent biography about this extraordinary man. Jill had used our historical collections of patents in order to track Headen’s achievements in engineering.

Lucean Headen, an African American, born in 1879 in North Carolina, was to become an important figure in manufacturing and engineering in Camberley, Surrey before and after the Second World War.

Passport Photo of Lucean Headen

How then, did Headen travel from a segregated USA to England in the early 20th Century and prosper in what was an extraordinary life journey and adventure for his time?

The answer is, invention. Quite a few of them in fact.

Headen, was born into the generation after the American Civil War where racial inequalities and prejudice were the norm. He belonged to a family of artisans, who had learned their trades while enslaved.  His father was exceptional in his own right as an entrepreneur and owner of a sawmill  and his family had acquired strong connections with other African American entrepreneurs.

The social networks his family built were what Headen needed to get ahead, and they became vital to his securing future opportunities. They included contacts through the Northern Presbyterian church, a network that would continue to be a place of social as well as spiritual support for Headen. But also a wider circle of investors, both black and white, who saw promise in Headen’s early inventions.

His first two patents, in fact related to cars as he established a car manufacturing business producing car bodies and engines. But it was the promise of overseas opportunities that saw him travel to the UK. He made his first trip toward the end of the First World War, to demonstrate to the British Admiralty an optical device referred to as the “Headen system of mirror camouflage,” used to make small patrol craft invisible to German submarines.

This of course helped to get him known in inventing circles. However, with the war soon to end he didn’t receive the opportunity to fully develop his idea, though his talent was commended.

Illustration from patent GB381588A Improvements in or relating to vaporizers for internal combustion engines
Illustration from patent GB381588A Improvements in or relating to vaporizers for internal combustion engines

After some time back in the USA, Headen returned to the UK in 1931 not with patents for the military, but for the car industry.

Again, the trip was because of an opportunity. England had a petrol problem; there wasn’t enough of it, and it was too expensive. Something that wasn’t a problem in the US at the time. So Headen had developed a converter kit that allowed petrol engines to burn heavy oils instead of petrol. This was a big advantage for England at the time because heavy oils were more plentiful and cheaper.

The invention certainly created a stir and was demonstrated at the Royal Motor Club. Off the back of its early interest, Headen formed a company in 1932, first in London, then relocated to Camberley, the place that would become his home. Having formed a partnership with another entrepreneur, George Hamilton, and later Camberley builder James Richard McLean Keil, this gave Headen the local network and connections to get his invention to market.

Headen and his company would become central in the local business community, and he emerged as a leading industrialist for his time in the region.

More patents were soon to follow, each developing his automotive innovations, but it was the onset of war that proved to be of such importance for Headen’s contribution to the war effort.

His engines were instrumental in British agriculture and logistics because tractors and lorry operators were able to switch to oil, therefore allowing scarce petrol for military use. His engine gasket also increased the efficiency of oil-burning engines and reduced the maintenance required.

It was clear that Headen had grown to love England and indeed had remarried here and adopted a son. He never gave up his US citizenship but was very much considered a local, and even served in the Home Guard. It’s true to say that he had created opportunities as an African American here in the UK that were so much more difficult for him in the US at the time.

But it would be wrong to see Lucean Headen as either American or British. He was bigger than that, a man who would never allow his race, background or lack of higher education hold him back, Headen succeeded with talent, determination and an instinct to chase an opportunity wherever it led him.

Illustration from patent CA376999A ‘Ice formation preventing apparatus for aircrafts
Illustration from patent CA376999A ‘Ice formation preventing apparatus for aircrafts

To use a cliché, the ‘sky’s the limit’, would even be a little limiting, as Headen was also a pioneer aviator, among the first African-Americans to fly. He added to his automotive achievements with aeronautical inventions. One of these, an anti-icing technique for planes, has been cited as an early patent for later developments by Curtiss Wright, GM Grumman Aerospace, Boeing and Rolls Royce right up to a recent thermal patent method to de-ice turbine blades in 2018.

His inventive and personal legacy continues to inspire to today. Lucean Headen is a man whose time for recognition has come.'

26 April 2021

IP and SMEs: taking your ideas to market

Guy Robinson, Divisional Director for Innovation at The Intellectual Property Office (IPO) reflects on the support available to SMEs to help them – and ultimately the UK - build back better after the Covid-19 pandemic.

Today marks the celebration of World Intellectual Property day. This year’s theme is intellectual property (IP) and how small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) take their ideas to market. 

IPDay2021

We are now emerging from the global Covid-19 pandemic with caution, but throughout, companies of all sizes have been focused on adapting for survival. As those firms begin to look towards recovery, it is an excellent opportunity to reflect on the important role IP plays in setting solid foundations for future growth within SMEs.

SMEs account for 99% of all UK businesses and they contribute 21% of turnover in the UK, so they are vital to the UK and the global economy.

The UK has always been a nation of innovation and entrepreneurialism, with investment in IP rights and intangible assets reaching almost £64 billion in 2016. Those businesses that rely on IP have accounted for over a quarter of UK employment and almost half of GDP.

All firms own or use some form of intellectual property. Within that I include intellectual property rights such as patents and trade marks and intangible assets such as trade secrets and knowhow. World IP Day 2021 seeks to cast a light on how SMEs can use their IP assets to build stronger, more competitive and resilient businesses in order to generate growth.

For a business to benefit from the IP they own they will first need to identify or recognise the IP assets they hold. To emphasise my earlier point, your IP might not only be formal intellectual property rights (IPR) but some other intellectual asset that forms a vital part of your business; you might consider an IP audit to reveal what IP you hold.

Scott-graham-5fNmWej4tAA-unsplash

Once identified, a business will need to weigh up how best to protect the intellectual assets that have been identified. This might mean putting in place formal IPR’s providing they ‘qualify’ or it might mean ensuring the confidentiality of the information held by the business. The form of protection will depend on the nature of the IP.

This step will lead to exploitation of the IP to make money from it. Perhaps the biggest challenge can be in understanding the value of the IP and the business opportunities it can create. These opportunities could include franchising, licensing, collaborating and securing investment.

It is also necessary to review the IP identified and to ensure that any new IP created is properly considered.  Discussion about your intellectual assets should form a part of the strategic narrative in your business plan.

SMEs that can identify, protect and manage their IP go on to generate value and monetise their efforts. This creates employment and enriches the market, offering consumers a broader choice of new and better products and services. We recognise that SMEs need the right support to navigate this journey. The Intellectual Property Office (IPO) in the UK provides a catalogue of IP information, guidance and support to SMEs for when they most need it.

We have developed our range of free to access resources on our IP for Business website, IP Audits scheme and in addition, our package of webinars, events and practical guides. These tools are aimed at supporting businesses to recognise their IP assets, their value and how to protect them appropriately. Importantly, the tools will help businesses identify the opportunities to commercialise their IP, leading to the best possible chances for business growth.

Help is available to keep business advisors up to speed with IP, too. The IPO has developed its flagship IP Masterclass, which is now being delivered virtually in response to the pandemic, to provide business advisors with the competence and confidence to engage their clients routinely on IP and IP rights. In the last 3 years, the IPO has supported advisors to reach over 60,000 businesses, helping them to set solid foundations.

Markus-winkler-9XfSFjcwGh0-unsplash

Additionally, the IPO has established relationships with a range of business intermediaries. We have a proud and longstanding partnership with the British Library and the Business and IP Centres, who offer invaluable practical guidance and signpost information and resources. Their network supports businesses across the UK to take practical steps in recognising their IP assets, getting their products to market and reaping the financial rewards.

Our aim across all our support is to ensure that SMEs make informed decisions in respect of their IP assets and to ensure that IP is included as an integral part of business planning. IP makes life better for everyone. Making the most of IP helps SMEs to thrive and, ultimately, make a valuable contribution to helping the UK Build Back Better.

For more information on our free business tools and activities at our Intellectual Property for Business site on GOV.UK  go to http://bit.ly/IPOBusinessTools

25 April 2021

How has IP played its part in finding a Covid-19 vaccine?

It has been just over a year since the WHO declared a global pandemic. Today, we have the widespread rollout of a number of vaccines to combat Covid-19. 

It’s worth pausing to reflect on the enormity of this. It’s unprecedented. 

While all countries are a way off from vanquishing this deadly disease, we have a window of opportunity and reason to be hopeful that one day we will have control over it. 

How have we made such progress, so far? 

Today is World IP day. A year ago, I wrote about how Intellectual Property will play a major part in vaccine development. This is its follow-up. 

And you won’t be surprised to discover that it has. Innovation protected by Intellectual Property has delivered results. 

I want to follow-up by going into some of the specific innovations deployed, looking at what IP has been covered and secondly, what policy makers may choose to do to maximise the uptake of vaccines in all regions around the world. 

Recent moves by around 100 countries, led by India and South Africa are asking WTO members to agree to a time-limited lifting of IP rights. IP has never been more prominent in the debate of how to vaccinate the world.

What IP is required for creating a vaccine? 

Covid vaccine hakan-nural-jNs8ZNLbdaU-unsplash

But first, to better understand how IP applies to vaccine development, it’s helpful to imagine making a vaccine by having a recipe. Within that ‘recipe’ are ingredients and some of those ingredients are created using patented bio-technology. Some are not. The unique combination of these 'ingredients' is a trade secret (another type of IP) and the method of manufacturing the vaccine is confidential know-how. 

It’s a common myth to assume a single patent covers one vaccine. A patent is one aspect, albeit an often essential one. 

But it’s the unique combination of all these elements, be they patents, trade secrets and know-how that create the final product and deliver the ultimate value, immune protection from Covid-19. 

We’ll look at each of these and see why it’s this combination of IP that’s at stake in allowing more countries access to the technology.

What patent technology has been used in Covid-19 vaccines? 

Patent 1

So when we’re talking about patents in vaccines, what exactly are we referring too? 

A patent protects inventions and or processes and are the primary form of IP protection that biopharmaceutical companies rely on to protect and commercialise their innovations and discoveries. Patents do not last forever and are limited to a standard twenty years (with some longer exceptions to cover R&D development time in the industry). 

There are also significant risks and costs associated with drug and vaccine development. Though arguably in the situation of a Covid-19 vaccine, these risks have been mitigated with large contracts from countries that guarantee a return on investment.  

So, are we able to have some idea of what patents have been recently used? In some of the current vaccines, yes. But there is often an 18-month delay between the filing of a patent and its publication, so we don’t have all the relevant patents associated with all the primary vaccines used. However, we do have some and we can make some educated guesses about others. 

Here's an IP overview of the vaccine technology in use, specifically for the Pfizer/Biotech, Oxford/Astrazeneca and Moderna vaccines approved for use in the UK.

Vaccine patents currently in use to fight Covid-19

Patent 2

Moderna has published all the patents used in their vaccine on their website. Furthermore, they have declared they will not enforce their patent rights against infringement. 

Of particular interest is the patent US10702600, Betacoronavirus MRNA Vaccine. Moderna have developed this using an artificial mRNA strand encoding a coronavirus gene. When injected the MRNAs are translated into virus proteins that stimulate an immune response. A key technique to build immunity against infection of Covid-19.

We can take a guess at the Astrazeneca’s Oxford collaboration by looking at previous patents filed by Oxford University, notably patent US9714435 Simian adenovirus and hybrid adenoviral vectors. This patent is based on a weakened version of a common cold (adenovirus) causing infection in chimpanzees. We know this was the area of research used in the development of the current vaccine, so a patent like this is an important step to more discoveries.

In regard to the Pzifer/BioNTech vaccine, less is known. Although we can see that BioNTech has a patent granted US10576146B2 Particles comprising a shell with RNA. This has likely contributed to some of the recent discoveries in their vaccine.

From an IP point of view, it’s also interesting to see that Pfizer/BioNTech have a trademark granted for their vaccine, which is called Comirnaty This is filed just in Trademark Classification 5, which is ‘vaccines for human use’. The name is purportedly a mash up of community, immunity, mRNA & Covid. Though this brand is not a household name, everyone has heard of the ‘Pzifer vaccine’. In these times, standard branding for pharmaceutical companies has clearly changed!

The power of trade secrets and know-how 

Patent 3

We have seen how a patent can play an important role in protecting the IP of vaccine development but it is a piece in the puzzle. Despite recent discussion of IP waivers for patents (something possible within existing laws). Of far more significance are areas not often talked about in relation to IP, trade secrets and know-how.

The ‘ingredients’ to the recipe may be complicated but making the product can be even more so. To give you some idea of what’s involved, a commentator in the industry has provided us a fascinating best guess here in Exploring the Supply Chain of the Pzifer Moderna Covid 19 Vaccines.

The fact that such a complicated process is involved with specialists and supply chains does put a brake on any potential freeing of patent rights. It’s all very well to have all the ingredients we need, it’s ‘baking the cake’ that requires significant resourcing and sharing of valuable industry knowledge. In other words, proprietary know-how.

This form of IP may be what’s holding up a generic vaccine being distributed more widely around the world. Pharmaceutical companies would argue that if all the know-how could be released, it would take up to a year to implement. A simpler solution, they argue, would be to increase the number of licenses to other companies being able to manufacture. They would still retain IP rights and be paid (presumably at a reasonable rate) for their IP rights.

Some redress to the current imbalances in global vaccine distribution is helped by schemes like COVAX though its effectiveness is also under review. 

These are the IP choices that policymakers around the world face. It’s likely that some balance of interests will need to be struck. 

Firstly, a recognition that public money has funded the significant sum of capital and mitigated some of the risks of development by bio-pharmaceutical companies. But also acknowledging that we have a vaccine so quickly because of an effective, existing infrastructure of private and public research over many years. Their strength and skills have been enabled from the IP system in the first place! 

As is often stated, we live in unprecedented times, and I suspect an unprecedented public/private agreement over IP rights and redistribution will find a way through the challenges of global production and supply, one hopes quickly and effectively.

A cause for hope

In time, these questions and issues will become clearer. But my hope is that the development of these multiple vaccines against Covid-19 will be viewed as one of the great scientific achievements of the 21st Century.  

Comparable to the Apollo programme or the microchip in the 20th?

I think so. Like millions of others, I’ve never been more inspired by joining a queue to receive my dose. It’s IP and innovation that has got us this far and it’ll require more innovative ways to extend this incredible benefit to all.

24 April 2021

A week in the life of Edward Draper, founder of Ortheia

Edward Draper is an alumna of the Innovating for Growth: Scale-ups programme and a founder of Ortheia Ltd, a start-up company in the early stages of development of new medical technologies. He leads on commercialising novel products in collaboration with UK-based Universities and other technology-based SMEs, Small and Medium-sized Enterprises. The current flagship product they are developing is a new biomaterial that, when implanted into the body, does two things: helps bones to heal, and fights infection without the need for antibiotics. This is especially important at a time when there is a world-wide increase in resistance to antibiotics.

Edward leads the small but talented team of three that make up Ortheia, which has only been trading for three years. He has a lot of experience of R&D in the MedTech sector and has worked in Universities such as Imperial College and UCL, as well as leading innovation teams in industry. He has led on the technical aspects of product launches in the UK and across the globe and has his name on many patents. The whole Ortheia team share his passion for the challenges of getting new MedTech innovations into the clinics and onto the markets across the world.

Today the team are all working from their homes in different parts of the country because of the COVID19 Lockdown. We spoke to Edward to find out more about what a typical week looks like for him. 

Monday

Welcome to my Lockdown Lair. It’s an ex-bedroom that I have converted into an office/workshop (I am an inveterate maker). Most of my work is collaborative and is about making sure all the aspects of the work are progressing, despite the restrictions imposed by COVID19. Today I had three major tasks.

First, I am working with my three fellow directors on our Business Risk Register, which may sound a little boring, but in fact it makes us can go through all aspects of the business in quite a lot of detail. This is so important right now because we know from the statistics that Companies at the stage we are in now are most likely to fail. Going through the Business Risks will not guarantee us success, but it is more likely we can spot things early before they go wrong. The meeting was done by the inevitable video call sharing documents over three hours. It was tiring but productive. We are about a quarter of the way through the Register.

Second was the final tasks needed before filing our next patent. This involves chasing up our collaborators for the necessary paperwork and finalising the Figures we need to add.

Third and final, there was some consultancy work I am doing with an exciting Oxford-based company who want to launch new 3D-printed metal implants and I am helping them get regulatory approval here the UK and in the USA. The current work was deciding how best to explain the quite complicated case to the Regulatory Authorities.

Edward holding Ortheia's biomaterial-min

Tuesday

We are leading a large project with University of Cambridge and two other SMEs on a grant funded by Innovate UK. Today was the monthly meeting so it was yet another videoconference. The product we are developing looks a bit like granulated sugar (you can see it in the image above), but it is technically quite advanced. This is our flagship product design to speed up bone healing and damping down infection. Today’s meeting was to go through where we were with the manufacture and the lab testing. This needed some preparation time before the meeting and then quite some time in the meeting picking the best option to go forward. I also did some more work on the patent.

Wednesday

I have been elbow deep in Excel. I had two quite critical tasks that I needed to progress quite urgently. The lab results from Cambridge looked as if we’d had a ‘bad cell’ day and I was looking at how the data compare with previous work. It is quite common that data need to be scrutinised in detail like this. We exchanged a lot of emails and we did come to an agreement as to what to do next (wait for the next lot of data that should arrive in a week or so). Once that was settled, I was back in Excel looking at the biomaterials formulations to make sure we have the specifications right. Last part of the day was spent trying to find slots in peoples’ diaries before the end of the week so I can help resolve any issues before they become problems.

Edward reviewing laboratory data

Thursday

We have several months left in the current Innovate UK grant. This has been fabulous and has allowed us to really test out the early formulations of the biomaterials. However, at the end of the grant we will still have a long way to go before we will be investment ready. This means we must plan the next grant in detail. Today we were mapping the technology development out to clinical launch and beyond. To attract the next round of grant funding we have to package up the next few years work in a way that will be attractive to the viewers. So it was another long video call with the three of us sharing big virtual whiteboards. It was very productive, but we still have much further to go before we have an application that is strong enough. Fortunately for us we have some time. The next suitable grant call from Innovate UK will be announced in a few months.

I also had a call with an Academic in the University of Sheffield about an academic project we are planning together to help us understand the underlying phenomena associated with some work we have done in the past on early joint disease and healing cartilage. It is good to keep it progressing. Today also saw my take 30 minutes off to dash to my GP’s surgery for the first of my COVID19 vaccinations; a miraculous technology that hopefully sees the world getting out of this ongoing craziness.

Friday

This was a day in which I was being pulled into different directions. We had a call with our Patent Attorney about the final stages of preparing the new patent; we were very nearly there. I just needed to chase up comments from our Collaborators on the patent wording and sort out some Figures. It is not unreasonable to think that we will file in the next month or so. Then a sharp pivot in attention. The consultancy work I am doing needs for me to define what is known to the Regulators as a ‘predicate device’. It needs a detailed search through the FDA’s database, which are all online, and find a product that is currently being sold that is like my client’s. I have come up with a choice of three, which I will work on next week.

I finished the day preparing for next week’s business planning. We have adopted a graphical approach to the five years, and I need to prepare to facilitate the big meeting next week, Yet another video call with a complex ‘Orbit’ on a virtual whiteboard. This afternoon’s efforts were handwritten notes on an A3 copy. I am looking forward to working through this with the team next week.

23 April 2021

IP in the BIPC community

In the run up to World IP Day (26 April 2021), we are highlighting just how crucial intellectual property is when starting a business. Whether it’s a brilliant and unique product creation, or a name that’s just got a ring to it, IP is there to help you keep your ideas safe. Keep reading to find out about the fantastic businesses that we’ve helped with patents, trademarks, copyright and registered designs, here at the BIPC, and in our Network of centres across the country.

 

The Wood Life Project, Hazel Russell

The Woodlife Project

Hazel is the co-founder of The Wood Life Project, alongside her husband Jimmy. The Wood Life Project manufactures beautiful, innovative, eco-friendly, practical products for the family home, with a focus on mealtimes. The product range consists of children's tableware, pet bowls and a range of boards for grown-ups. All products are manufactured in the UK and use sustainably grown and harvested wood from the UK.
Hazel and Jimmy decided to register the design rights on all of their products prior to launching them to the world. The decision to register their designs was made after listening to a podcast with Julie Deane of The Cambridge Satchel Company, who gave the advice to seek support from the Business & IP Centre at the British Library. They booked themselves into a one-to-one IP session with the BIPC and sought advice on the process. Their first designs were registered in April 2019.


Faraday Drinks, Omar Bahadur

Faraday Drinks

BIPC Leeds’ entrepreneur, Omar Bahadur, founded Faraday after graduating from Bradford University. Faraday is natural raspberry rose flavoured water with similar caffeine to your typical energy drink but without the artificial ingredients, high sugar content or carbonation. Sustainability is also at the fore of the business as it’s served in an aluminium bottle that’s resealable and reusable.
Omar made sure to protect his intellectual property, taking out UK and US trademarks and a patent for the resealable bottle. This allows the product to be cheaper and more sustainable than using a traditional glass or plastic alternative.
Customer feedback is key to Omar’s plan, “we’re keen to implement the feedback from our customers across all areas. This also includes packing less into a case, strengthening our online presence via our website and Amazon, as well as tweaking the flavouring. Increasing our retail presence is likewise on the agenda. The pandemic has been beneficial for us in the sense that we landed the loan last year, without this I don’t think Faraday would exist today.”


Akila Dolls, Olivia Thompson

Akila Dolls

Olivia Thompson is the founder of Akila Dolls, which provides a range of diverse and disability baby dolls. After Olivia left her full-time job in a law firm to become a carer for her then seven year old daughter. It was on a shopping trip with her daughter, Amira, that they both noticed the lack of diversity and disability dolls in the high street shops.
With only a few savings Olivia began work on the doll illustration, packaging and concept book. During a global pandemic and home-schooling her daughter in June 2020 she successfully raised £6,000 through a crowdfunding platform to begin the manufacturing of the doll prototype. In the early stages of the business, Olivia used Business & IP Centre Leeds and one of their IP sessions to protect her idea.

 

Nimble Babies, Von Sy

Nimble Babies

Von Sy had always dreamed of being an entrepreneur and eventually decided to set up his own business using his skills as a chemist to help parents keep their babies bottles from smelling of stale milk. Unlike regular washing-up liquids that are made for heavy food grease, Nimble's patent-pending formula detaches milk fat and proteins from plastic surfaces.
Getting a granted patent is something that every inventor hopes for. Aside from protecting your invention from copycats and the honour of being a fully-fledged inventor, having a granted patent is a great intellectual property that can give your business economic benefits as well as better valuation later. After two years, Von Sy’s UK patent has been granted which gives us exclusive rights to the technology until 2035 and this has improved the chances of getting the patent applications approved in other countries too.

 

SnapDragon Monitoring, Rachel Jones

Snap Dragon team

Rachel Jones is founder and Head Dragon at SnapDragon Monitoring in Edinburgh. SnapDragon delivers online brand protection, seller insights and market intelligence to brands around the world. Rachel founded SnapDragon based on her experiences of defending her first creation the Totseat – a washable squashable highchair for babies who lunch – from counterfeits. The British Library's Business & IP Centre played a significant role in the market research undertaken for both businesses.
SnapDragon Monitoring fights fakes online. They identify and remove infringing products from online marketplaces, social media sites, and websites. Intellectual property (IP) means they can remove the fakes. With the correct IP to prove originality, they can remove a link from Amazon in as short as four minutes.

 

Petvictus, Peter Hill

Petvictus

Peter Hill appeared on BBC's Dragons' Den in 2018 and won an offer of investment for his inventions, Pedaldish: The Lunchbox for Pets and Katfone: The Ultrasonic Whistle for Cats. As well as the product side of his business, Peter developed a series of lectures, team games and skills workshops to guide people through the core skills needed to start a new business.
Peter previously used BIPC Birmingham to get advice on registering his trademark. Since then, he’s been asked if he’d be interested in doing some more business presentations with them.

 

Cyclehoop, Tony Lau

Cyclehoop

Cyclehoop is an award-winning design that converts existing street furniture into secure bicycle parking. This innovative product won the Reinventing the Bike Shed international design competition and has been installed by local authorities across the United Kingdom.
It is a quick and cost effective solution helping local councils solve the problems of bicycle theft and the lack of on-street cycle parking. Their award-winning solutions rely very heavily on well-protected intellectual property. Tony received support on registered designs and patents from the Innovating for Growth programme and this free support helped elevate his business.

 

Click here to learn more about intellectual property and how you can use it to protect your business.