UK’s first animal healthcare start-up incubator launches in Surrey

The UK’s first start-up incubator dedicated to livestock and companion animal health – vHive – has opened its doors at the University of Surrey’s Vet School.

The Veterinary Health Innovation Engine – vHive for short – will support a cohort of start-ups and small companies looking to bring their innovative animal health products and technologies to market faster and more efficiently.

The business incubator is the result of a strategic alliance between alliance the University of Surrey and Zoetis, the world’s leading animal health company, to pursue collaborative research in areas that are beyond or complementary to Zoetis’ in-house activities.

vHive’s vision is to become a world-leading centre for data-driven innovation and to catalyse the creation of new products and services to improve outcomes in livestock and pet care.

Based at the University of Surrey’s Vet school, a short walk from Surrey Research Park, along with office and lab space, it will provide start-ups and small businesses with access to vital opportunities to access funding and investment.

vHive will also spearhead collaboration between companies in the incubator and businesses across the Surrey Innovation District, including those at the Surrey Research Park, and beyond as well as members of the Animal Health Innovation Network.

It officially launched on Wednesday 17th April with an introductory showcase of the first cohort of startups, an expert panel discussion and networking opportunities.

The move underpins Surrey as a leader in animal health, making it one of the county’s key sectors which we are proud to support and champion.

Background to vHive

Established in 2015, vHive is an international player in animal health research and collaboration. In 2023, vHive 2.0 was given an updated mission to build on the achievements of the original partnership by investing in state-of-the-art technologies adapted from human health, such as AI, biomarkers, big data, and health informatics.

Visit the vHive website for more details.

AI and public services of the future

From board rooms to bus queues, there’s no hotter topic of discussion right now than Artificial Intelligence (AI).

As the recent AI Safety Summit at Bletchley Park looked to establish a rulebook for how this powerful technology will be utilised, society remains divided over the new technology.

For some, it will herald the start of robots taking over; others are enthused at the opportunities to transform, innovate, and improve efficiencies.

Within local government, the question is how do we harness AI to elevate our economies and increase accessibility to public services without damaging our communities?

It’s a discussion that we here in Surrey are already thinking about deeply.

On the eve of the Bletchley Park summit, government announced funding to create a new Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) within Surrey, establishing more than 80 industry-ready PhDs to lead the transformation to responsible AI-enabled inclusive media.

It will be led by academics at two world-leading centres within the county: the University of Surrey’s Institute for People-centred AI, which has been pioneering research within AI and machine learning for 35 years; and the StoryFutures unit at Royal Holloway University of London, which is leading creative innovation in next-generation inclusive digital media.

The CDT will seek to remove significant real-world barriers to media inclusion, using AI to create intelligent content that adapts to individual preferences, such as age, language, and sensory and physical abilities.

As the authority for strategic oversight of our regional economy, Surrey County Council was pleased to support the proposal.

For a start, it places the region at the centre of this exciting, innovative, and emerging technology.

The CDT will complement Surrey’s already highly-skilled workforce which has world-leading cybersecurity, gaming, and creative industry clusters.

The challenge for us now is to work with industry and academic partners to develop a regional economic ecosystem which champions training, community-building, and knowledge exchange around AI.

If we get it right then, rather than making roles redundant, AI will be the driver for upskilling the labour force and freeing people to use their talents in more creative ways.

It will also place Surrey as a national – perhaps even world leader – in digital media inclusion, supporting job creation, inward investment, and wider economic prosperity.

But utilising AI within digital media goes beyond the bottom line.

Creating content and services that are inclusive and accessible for all is essential for society.

While Surrey has a thriving and vibrant economy second only to London in size, we know there are sections within our 1.2 million population who need a little extra help, as reflected in the County Council’s organisational mission of No One Left Behind.

If we can harness AI technology in a safe and trustworthy way, it could have a significant positive impact on our ability to deliver high-quality and sustainable services for all.

We could use the learning from the CDT to improve service reach to our most vulnerable residents, including those with special educational needs and disabilities.

Collaborative research projects could also focus on improving the accessibility and impact of services on hard-to-reach groups, leading to greater overall resident satisfaction and increase in participation.

The development of more interactive and creative content in fire prevention and community safety services could also increase engagement – reducing demand for emergency intervention down the road.

AI could also be used to drive community engagement around green agendas, such as identifying and promoting measures where local authority interventions could catalyse a broader change on the transition to net zero.

The balance between opportunities and risks remains very real. But harnessed the right way, AI could have transformative impacts on our regional economies and delivery of public services, creating a safer and fairer society along the way.

Dawn Redpath is Director for Economy and Growth at Surrey County Council. This article first appeared as a thought leadership piece in The MJ in November 2023.

Abstract image of a woman with computer code projected onto her face

Boost for gaming sector with £2.4 million GAIN programme

Businesses working within the gaming sector in Surrey are being encouraged to get involved with a new £2.3 million programme to tackle challenges in the industry.

The Games and Innovation Nexus (GAIN) will focus on ways to promote growth and innovation in this growing sector.

Already more than 60 companies and 3,000 developers work within the gaming sector in Guildford, earning the town the title of “the Hollywood of Gaming”.

Among the priorities for GAIN will be developing infrastructure for the sector to enable greater collaboration, with the aim of ensuring Surrey continues to be a world leader in this creative sector.

The catalyst for the project is £1.5 million of funding from Research England aimed at allowing two of the UK’s biggest gaming clusters – Guildford and Leamington in Warwickshire – to drive innovation in the sector.

If you’re working in or interested in gaming, the GAIN project team are keen to hear more about your industry challenges, opportunities and ideas for research collaboration.

Sign up here.

GAIN launch

GAIN was officially launched at the Guildford Games Festival in February.

The project will look to:

  • Connect university researchers with games companies with challenges to solve
  • Connect the Guildford and Leamington games clusters
  • Invest in an innovation ecosystem, including a new Games Innovation Zone at the University of Surrey; and a town centre incubation centre at UCA Farnham that support games innovation commercialisation.

As part of the launch, Caroline Fleming, Director Surrey Innovation District, University of Surrey, chaired a panel session titled ‘Connecting Capabilities, Research to Revenue’ involving industry and academic representatives.

The prestigious panel comprised of Charity Joy from Criterion Games, which is part of the gaming giant Electronic Arts (EA); Steve Cuss of The GamePlan Consultancy; Andrew Bossom from the University for the Creative Arts (UCA) and the University of Surrey’s Dr Stephen Mooney.

Together, the industry experts explored the relationship between universities and the games industry, delving into issues around people and skills, research, and the value of connections and networks.

Caroline Fleming, Director Surrey Innovation District, University of Surrey, said: “The University of Surrey is particularly excited to develop our innovation collaboration with Guildford’s vibrant and exciting games cluster.

“GAIN is designed to tackle the challenge of development of a new diversified innovation model that bridges across academic research and the IP sensitive Games industry, creating opportunity for regional economic growth and positive societal impact.

“I would like to thank the Guildford Games Committee, for inviting us to host this session, Surrey County Council for their ongoing support for the games sector in our region, and Research England, for recognising the value of our regional games cluster and committing £1.5m to funding it.”

Why does GAIN matter?

Dr William Lovegrove, Director of Innovation Strategy at the University of Surrey, who led the consortium bid, said: “The UK consumer games industry generates over £3 billion a year for the UK GDP and hires almost 50,000 people. It’s a UK success story.

“This project will help connect world-class researchers in the fields of AI, psychology, music, media, literature and languages with the two largest regional games clusters in the UK to collaborate, solve industry challenges and drive growth. It’s an exciting initiative which will redefine how universities collaborate with the UK games industry.”

Dr Amer Alwarea, Acting Director of Research and Innovation at the University for the Creative Arts, said: “This collaboration will stimulate our research communities, invigorate innovation in CreaTech, and champion sustainable expansion within the gaming sector. The fusion of academia and the gaming industry sets this partnership apart and establishes a new standard for the creative sector.”

Cllr Matt Furniss, Surrey County Council’s Cabinet Member for Highways, Transport and Economic Growth, said: “The games industry is one of Surrey’s real success stories, showcasing our county and its talented workforce on a global stage.

“This funding has the potential to take this growing, innovative sector to new heights, creating high-quality jobs and generating inward investment into our communities – both of which would be good news for our residents.”

For more details visit:

GAIN funding

AI training hub coming to Surrey

Surrey is set to become home to a high-quality training hub in Artificial Intelligence (AI), a move which could have transformative impacts in the way vulnerable residents engage and access public services.

Government has announced that the University of Surrey and the StoryFutures unit at Royal Holloway, University of London (RHUL) will be the home of a new UKRI Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) in AI for Digital Media Inclusion.

The funding will help establish a unique creative industry hub for high-quality training in responsible AI, inclusive design, and creative skills within the county.

In addition to creating 80 PhD posts, the centre will look at using AI to transform digital media into intelligent content that adapts to individual preferences, such as age, language, and sensory and physical abilities.

The aim will be to place Surrey – and the UK as a whole – as the world leader in media inclusion for the whole population.

Surrey County Council was proud to support the bid with leaders keen to work with the new centre to establish how public service could be made more accessible to its 1.2 million residents.

In a letter of support to the bid, Cllr Tim Oliver, Leader of Surrey County Council, said: “We are excited by the CDT’s proposed approach to responding to the national need for a new community of experts who individually and collectively will deliver resilience for our digitalised Critical National Infrastructure. 

“We recognise and support the CDT’s aim to develop the underpinning research, training, community-building, and knowledge exchange, contributing 80 highly skilled and connected resilience experts to the workforce.

“The funding bid and subsequent CDT and associated research and expertise will have a significant positive impact on our organisation’s ability to deliver high-quality and sustainable services for all.”

Cllr Oliver added the local authority was interested in exploring how new technology could improve the way its most vulnerable residents access services, including those with special educational needs and disability. 

There was also potential to look at increasing engagement with businesses, fire prevention and community safety services and community engagement around greener futures and net zero.

The Surrey hub will be one of 12 Centres for Doctoral Training in AI across the UK that will benefit from £117 million of funding through UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), 

It was announced at the global AI Safety Summit held at Bletchley Park held in October 2023. Since then, teams have been working together to progress the project.

Cllr Oliver added that Surrey County Council has an established track record of working successfully with the county’s universities to drive innovation and economic growth.

This includes the local authority’s cabinet agreeing to investment £3 million to support the establishment of a new CoSTAR (Convergent Screen Technologies and performance in Realtime) satellite studio and incubator space on the RHUL campus.

The new centre for the creative industries – which will have direct links to the national lab based a short distance away at Pinewood Studios – will create 300 jobs, support 200 businesses and contribute £30 million to the Surrey economy.

The Council is also partner in a successful bid by Surrey’s Guildford Games Cluster and Warwickshire’s Silicon Spa for £1.5 million from Research England.

The funding will support two of the UK’s biggest gaming clusters to work with higher education to drive innovation, invest in infrastructure and support growth in the wider regional economy through the Games and Innovation Nexus (GAIN) project.

Cllr Matt Furniss, Surrey County Council’s Cabinet Member for Highways, Transport and Economic Growth, said: “The games industry is one of Surrey’s real success stories, showcasing our county and its talented workforce on a global stage. 

“This funding has the potential to take this growing, innovative sector to new heights, creating high-quality jobs and generating inward investment into our communities – both of which would be good news for our residents.”

Artificial intelligence

The Sussex and Surrey Institute of Technology opens at Nescot

A multimillion pound investment into Surrey’s future workforce has officially opened.

The Sussex and Surrey Institute of Technology (IoT) at North East Surrey College of Technology (Nescot) in Epsom provides new cutting-edge facilities for higher level technical training with a focus on digital, sustainable technologies, engineering and construction.

The IoT at Nescot is the first new space to open as part of the Sussex and Surrey IoT. Available courses and apprenticeships include software development, cyber security, AI (Artificial Intelligence) and networking to cloud computing, data handling, ‘internet of things’ and IT support.

Applications from individuals and employers are open now, on the links below

Institute of Technology launch

The Sussex and Surrey Institute of Technology (IoT) at Nescot officially launched at the end of February with more than 60 guests at its opening event. 

Visitors had the opportunity to explore the state-of-the-art facilities, participate in hands-on activities and discover the wide range of resources and training opportunities available at the newly opened IoT.

Attendees included representatives of Business Surrey, Surrey Careers Hub and partners and employers from varied industry sectors who were able to find out the many ways in which they can support the future of skills development in the IT sector. 

Anchor employers including NatWest, Roche Diagnostics, Southern Water, Pearson and Gatwick Airport pledged their ongoing support in various ways, from recruiting apprentices and upskilling existing staff to working with curriculum experts to help shape study programmes and providing mentoring.

Computing staff, and students on our computing courses were on hand to showcase the specialist technology facilities and share their excitement with visitors about the courses available.

Man wearing a virtual reality headset and holding controls

Julie Kapsalis, Principal and CEO at Nescot said: “We were delighted to welcome our first guests to the IoT at Nescot which was buzzing with activity the whole day. It’s been wonderful to showcase our specialist digital technology facilities, resources and training. We are looking forward to working with businesses and partners to address current skills gaps and prepare for future skills needs.”

Paul Rolfe, Director of the Sussex & Surrey IoT said: “It was fantastic to be at the opening of the first Institute of Technology space here at Nescot. I am very proud to have such state-of-the-art facilities, teaching and learning, to enhance skills development across our region. I am thrilled that so many important employers and businesses could join us today.”

Demonstrating some of the technology, Joseph, a student on our Level 3 Computing course said: “The focus on specialist digital technologies is a great opportunity to enhance my knowledge. Nescot is the perfect choice for the IoT with great access and networking opportunities.”

Peter Goodenough, Computing tutor at Nescot, said: “With the Institute of Technology we can offer progress. Computers are in every walk of life and every industry. The IoT at Nescot is offering courses to enhance future skills and aid long term sustainability. You can choose from a wide range of courses on offer, from learning how to design, create and program smart devices, industrial and home robotics to making you mindful of your digital footprint.”

Woman talking to a young student in front of a robot

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