Read more about what the Nexus community has been up to over the past 12 months as Nexus Director, Martin Stow, looks back on an eventful year as we mark our second anniversary.
In a week which marks the end of many lockdown restrictions and a careful return to normality, the Nexus community should allow ourselves a celebratory but cautious hug.
It’s a milestone week for us too – Nexus’ 2nd anniversary – and what a second year it’s been. Against the backdrop of the global pandemic and the personal, operational and economic challenges that created, the Nexus community and businesses across Leeds City Region have once again demonstrated huge resilience, adaptability and plain brilliance as we’ve worked together to innovate and grow at a time of international crisis.
The creativity of our entrepreneurs, unparalleled expertise of our academics and invaluable support of our partners and wider networks across Leeds City Region, means we have a great deal to celebrate and even more to look forward to.
Looking back, initially, to the challenges we faced, many Nexus members were part of the vital business and societal response to COVID. They now continue to play a vital role in our post-pandemic infrastructure and support mechanisms.
Data collection and analysis experts, Innotech Insights, launched a COVID-safe “digital trigger” to revolutionise contactless safety at pedestrian crossings. Working closely with a number of disability organisations, the company is ensuring the software also caters for people with mobility issues, as well as those who are partially sighted or have sensory sensitivities. Already in demand with local authorities across the UK, the company will launch to its international customer base later this year.
AI and human behaviour specialists, Scaled Insights, carried out research into the impact of the pandemic on vulnerable groups, providing vital insights to inform public health services, charities and government on future support services.
Personal change management and performance consultancy Tougher Minds launched a virtual coaching service to support remote workers. And – after ensuring Nexus and the University were well-supplied with hand sanitisers – skincare specialists Keracol, created a sustainable, plant-based hand cream for our well-washed hands.
Our member businesses continue to innovate and grow – often on a global scale. Here’s just a sample of the innovative ideas and groundbreaking products and services they’re developing:
Digital healthcare specialists, Itecho Health, are accelerating their “virtual clinic” platform at pace as they strive to cut waiting times and relieve pressure on the NHS, whilst Scaled Insights have launched a new spin-out, BiasProof – a mobile-enabled unconscious bias test, which played a major role in the World Obesity Day conference and is now being developed to tackle wider diversity and inclusion issues.
Slingshot Simulations – global pioneers in the field of “digital twin” technology which creates 3D simulations of every “what if” scenario to predict the real impact of projects – have raised significant investment and expanded its team as it rolls out its innovative system to commercial customers. The company has had expressions of interest from some 100 potential customers, including construction firms and local authorities across the UK, Canada and the US.
And global supply chain management provider, Ligentia, has secured major funding from European private equity investors to support its international expansion.
Growing our community
Our Community Memberships launched just before the first lockdown, which proved to be a major support for businesses who don’t yet have the need for a physical office or lab space, but need to access the wealth of business support and world-class research expertise available at Nexus and the University of Leeds. They are also able to benefit from our strengthened professional support network, through our strategic partnerships with KPMG, Squire Patton Boggs and HGF offering a wealth of business advice and services.
That membership continues to grow, with award-winning Israeli based bio-technology company Betalin Therapeutics deciding to base its UK subsidiary in Leeds as it takes its revolutionary diabetes treatment to the next level with a major international expansion programme.
We’ve also welcomed Liber Larus – global experts in alternative fuels and emissions reduction – as they develop an international platform for the thriving sector and Yondar – science and technology teaching experts from Hong Kong – who have chosen Nexus to help drive their ambition to increase STEM learning across the UK.
We’ve also been proud to play a leading role in supporting high growth potential start-ups and early-stage businesses across our region through the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Programme (REAP,) now called ide@.
Its BUILD, initiative (an intense pre-accelerator designed by entrepreneurs for founders in the region) is committed to working with under-represented groups and continues to inspire entrepreneurs with big ideas that can positively impact society.
Listening to our entrepreneurs
When we gauged the opinions of start-up businesses in our region towards the end of last year in our inaugural Business Barometer survey, 71% told us they were confident about business growth this year, with 96% of those businesses believing that innovation was the critical factor.
That will continue to be the key driver for Nexus – there is enormous potential to scale fast, create jobs and generate vital products and services to drive the economy forward and we know that expanding and supporting our base of innovation-driven entrepreneurs is critical to that aim. We hope many more of those brilliant business minds will choose Nexus as their home and the Nexus community as their catalyst for innovation and collaboration.
As we work to rebuild economies post-pandemic, the role of innovation as a tool for growth will be crucial and the role of collaboration will become increasingly important driving impact and value both for business and the university.
Communities and networks like Nexus, which are specifically designed to cultivate innovation, will be fundamental in helping businesses to optimise innovation to deliver real impact for our economy and society.
As adoption of hybrid working models allows businesses to increase connectivity and tap into networks and resources nationally and internationally, established communities like ours, will offer an environment – both physical and virtual – where introductions can be made and collaborations developed to boost innovation and help organisations thrive.
We have a great deal to look forward to as Nexus enters its third year and I can’t wait to share the initiatives and achievements of our members and colleagues as we continue to grow. I know that whatever we do our community will keep on inspiring.
Interested in finding out more about how being part of the Nexus community could benefit your business? Get in touch with us.
Investment Zone boosts Leeds’ innovation ambitions and vision
The investment in digital and healthtech will accelerate plans for the Leeds Innovation Arc, kickstarting the development of the Innovation Village on the Leeds General Infirmary site with the refurbishment of the Old Medical School to create a healthtech innovation hub.