Japanese printer company Konica Minolta has set up a €10m fund to help startups in Europe over the next two to three years.
The fund is managed by the European Business Innovation Centre (BIC), based in London, set up this year. Any startup can apply to the fund, which is focussing on the digital workplace, healthcare business, information automation and business technologies.
“Our vision is to develop innovative products, which will revolutionise the market. That is why we are now going through an amazing and radical change. A company, whose roots are printers, is now involving the community and start-ups in order to create innovations on a common basis. This is a radical change – from exclusively proprietary products to collaborative co-innovation,” said Dr. Dennis Curry who heads up the European BIC.
“Start-ups profit enormously from collaboration with established companies like Konica Minolta”, said Curry. “We own resources, networks and management know-how. Being a partner with us means always playing a part in designing the future and obtaining privileged access to Konica Minolta’s industry-leading know-how. Our partners get access to our leading R&D, including top-tier scientists and engineers worldwide.” Start-ups in particular can speed up the time to market for their new products by leveraging our supply chain and sales channels. They accelerate their return on investment and company growth.“Konica Minolta wants to draw in Europe’s top talent from start-ups. To create this win-win situation, we need platforms upon which companies and start-ups can meet,” he said.
The first strategic partner of Konica Minolta is the Austrian augmented reality start-up Wikitude. Today, Konica Minolta announced its initial intention to partner and investment in the company. “When a multinational company like Konica Minolta engages in a partnership dedicated to augmented reality, the possibilities are enormous. While we at Wikitude will provide our award-winning technology, expertise and vision, it will be Konica Minolta’s market presence and business network to mark the next milestone on our mission to augment the enterprise world”, Martin Herdina, CEO of Wikitude says.
Konica Minolta is also launching a “Leading Edge Partner Community”, a pan-European tool to build up new partnerships and develop innovations together with these partners. The community is a place to collaborate online, i.e. in special Leading Edge Networking Sessions (LENS), as well as during client events and start-up events. It is a place to achieve knowledge transfer and advance the commercialisation of ideas and prototypes.Anyone with an idea can join the community and apply for funding. Promising development ideas will pass through a formal investment process consisting of five review points, which Konica Minolta will use to filter the most viable partners to take a business idea right through to commercialisation. The emphasis is on co-innovation, on working with others in related fields to accelerate a proof of concept or vision.
It has set up a specific platform especially for startups at https://pioneers.konicaminoltabic.spigit.com. If start-ups have an idea, a concept or product connected to the related fields, they can join the platform and submit their ideas. The best ideas will win the opportunity to shape the future digital workplace in the Konica Minolta labs and receive funding.
The key investment is £189 million for big data and energy efficient computing to build on the research base’s capacity for analysing big data sets, in areas like earth observation and medical science, but there are other significant areas of funding.
There is a £35 million for centres of excellence in robotics and autonomous systems aiming to bring together the research base and industry. The Bristol Robotics Lab is the largest in Europe and at the forefront of such developments. Science and universities minister David Willetts (right) also announced a £1m Technology Strategy Board competition to help to accelerate the development of concepts where robots are able to interact with each other and humans.
There will also be £25 million of additional funding for the National Space Technology Programme for the development of commercial products and services using space technology and data from space-based systems which can benefit space technology companies in the region such as SciSys in Bristol.
There is also £45 million for new facilities and equipment for advanced materials research in areas of UK strength such as advanced composites, high-performance alloys, low-energy electronics and telecommunications, as well as £28 million to the National Composites Centre in Bristol.
In newer areas such as smart grid, the government plans to invest £30 million to create dedicated R&D facilities to develop and test new grid scale storage technologies, an area where the region is strong withthe Low Carbon South West group.
The Grant for Business Investment (GBI) scheme has reopened to applications in the SouthWest after an announcement that they would close to new applications from 1st February.
The Grant for Business Investment is a discretionary grant that supports businesses with investment projects which will increase productivity, skills and employment. It is specifically targeted at those businesses with high skills and salaries that contribute above industry average benefits to the economy and does not support projects which offer a purely local consumer-type service, so should be aimed at innovative technology projects, although the focus seems to be more on capital equipment.
In the South West GBI grants are funded by the European Regional Development Fund (which is also backing the iNets), and the outgoing South West RDA has applied for and received its own State Aid notification enabling it to continue to receive applications for the time being. This is not the case anywhere else in the country, says SWRDA
“We have worked hard and very closely with the Department for BIS and the European Commission and the decision to reopen GBI is a real boost to the region and will be supported by many small and medium sized businesses throughout the South West,” said Richard Hoskin, SWRDA’s Business Investment Manager.
For most of the SouthWest outside Cornwall, applications are for 20% of the capital costs of the project for a small company (under 50 people) and 10% for a medium sized company (up to 250 people) and can range from £10,000 to £1m. Details are here.
- INets launch to stimulate SW innovation (swinnovation.co.uk)