22 April 2017

Accelerators and Incubators in the Leeds City Region

Jane Lambert

The Government has recently published the first comprehensive directory of accelerators and incubators in the UK compiled by Nesta researchers (see Business Incubators and Accelerators Directory 20 April 2017 NIPC News). The Directory has identified 4 accelerators in the Leeds City Region and 5 incubators. The difference between accelerators and incubators was summarized neatly byTina Nielsen in Business accelerators: a financial shot in the arm for startups 24 Oct 2013:
"The terms business accelerator and incubator are used interchangeably and the distinction is vague, but broadly speaking accelerators offer funding and incubators mainly mentoring."
Both accelerators and incubators help to launch fledgeling businesses. Accelerators offer structured development and training with opportunities to attract funding for the most attractive businesses. Incubators are more like serviced offices with mentoring and other forms of business and technical support thrown in.

The four accelerators are all in Leeds. Each of them is part of an enterprise that also operates in other parts of the country:

Entrepreneurial Spark
ODI Leeds
The Young Foundation
Dotforge operates in Sheffield and Manchester as well as Leeds. It measures a business's social impact as well as its commercial viability. It offers mentoring and workshops as well as investment. According to its website, it has worked with 31 startups in the three cities. Dotforge claims to be different in that it is "focused on doing good" (see the About page of its website.

The Entrepreneurial Spark claims to be "the world’s largest free business accelerator for early stage and growing ventures." It has 12 hubs around the country in all four nations of the United Kingdom with a 13th about to open in London. The Leeds operation is at 2 Park Cross Street. The Entrepreneurial Spark offers "mentors, ambassadors and supporters, workshops, pitch practice and a full time ‘entrepreneurial enabler'",

ODI Leeds opened in May 2014 shortly after Sir Tim Berners-Lee and Sir Nigel Shadbolt set up the Open Data Institute. The ODI Startup Accelerator is "a year-long, bespoke programme for data-oriented startups". It offers businesses office space at Munro House (which is close to the BBC, Dance Yorkshire, Leeds College of Music, Northern Ballet, Phoenix Dance Theatre and West Yorkshire Playhouse) and various mentoring and other support services for 10% of the issued share capital of the company.

The Young Foundation supports organizations currently under-served by traditional private and public sector funding routes. The Accelerator is a "competitive entry programme for social ventures that are ready to scale, incorporating four months intensive business model development followed by twelve months investment readiness support." The Leeds Accelerator operates in conjunction with the City Council and the Joseph Rowntree Trust. Details of the programme can be downloaded here.

The five incubators in the Leeds City Region are in Barnsley, Bradford, Huddersfield and Leeds. All but one is connected with a university:

3M Buckley Innovation Centre
Barnsley Business and Innovation  Centre
Leeds Innovation Centre
University of Bradford Business Bioscience Incubation Suite
University of Huddersfield Enterprise Scheme

The University of Huddersfield operates the 3M Buckley Innovation Centre and the University of Huddersfield Enterprise Scheme.  The 3M Buckley Innovation Centre is named after Sir George Buckley, a graduate of Huddersfield University, who became CEO of 3MUnited Kingdom Plc. The Centre "facilitates business growth, encourages business to academia collaboration and actively promotes innovation". It caters for all businesses from startups and other small businesses to multinationals and offers "traditional and alternative funding support, national and international markets, skills partners, and access to technology, through a range of commercial, technical and support services." Facilities include hot desks, office space, flexible workshops, laboratories meeting and conference rooms. The University also provides office space, mentoring and other services to undergraduates and recent graduates who wish to set up their own busines.

The University of Bradford supports businesses in bioscience through the Institute of Cancer Therapeutics and digital health through the DHEZ (the Digital Health Enterprise Zone). The University has created a bioscience business incubation suite with offices and laboratories in its ICT building which has so far attracted three companies. Businesses and scientists outside the University are encouraged to join the incubator. The DHEZ offers business support, product design, testing and marketing services and funding.

The Leeds Innovation Centre already provides office space on the University of Leeds campus for businesses that are connected with or work closely with the University. It plans to move to new premises in September 2018 which will offer laboratory space as well as meeting rooms, a lecture theatre, cafĂ© and other facilities.

The Barnsley Business and Innovation Centre ("BBIC") is the only incubator in the list that is not connected with a university. It offers office accommodation and a range of business support services including a monthly pro bono IP clinic between 10:00 and 12:00 on the second Tuesday of every month from me. Those services have recently been extended to businesses outside the Centre with the BarnsleyBiz Surgeries initiative which will include regular talks by me (see Lunchtime Talk - "How can I protect my Business Idea?" Barnsley BIC 9 May 2017 12-15-13-15 21 April 2017).

Should anyone wish to discuss this article or startup support in general, they should not hesitate to call me on 020 7404 5252 during office hours or send me a message through my contact form, Readers may also be interested in my accelerators and incubators resources page on my Inventors Club blog.

21 April 2017

Lunchtime Talk - "How can I protect my Business Idea?" Barnsley BIC 9 May 2017 12-15-13-15

Standard YouTube Licence

Jane Lambert

I have been holding free 30-minute consultations on intellectual property and related areas of the law at the Barnsley Business and Innovation Centre ("BBIC") between 10:00 and 12:00 on the second Tuesday of every month for the last 10 years and at other venues in the North of England for even longer. During that time, the question that I have been asked most frequently is "How can I protect my business idea?"

It is not an easy question to answer because it depends on the type of product and the nature of your business. A patent may afford the most extensive protection for a new product or process but if the costs of patenting, insuring and policing the are likely to outweigh the income likely to be generated from the invention you would be better off looking at other forms of legal protection.

To help start-ups and other small businesses work out the answer for themselves I shall be giving a talk entitled
How can I protect my Business Idea?
 at Barnsley BIC on 9 May 2017 between 12:15 and 13:15.

I will introduce you to all the tools in the legal toolbox such as patents, trade secrecy, unregistered design rights, trade marks et cetera.

I will tell you the advantages and disadvantages of each type of protection. For example, patents offer the most extensive protection but they are expensive to get, maintain and enforce, they are not always easy to get, they may be revoked after grant and you have to disclose to the world including your competitors how to make or use them.

I will explain how to get each type of IP and how much it will cost.

I will give you some useful tips about insurance, watch services and enforcement.

I will advise you on the different types of IP professional, where to find them, how to instruct them and how much they are likely to cost.

Finally, I will share a methodology for working out an IP strategy.

Space is likely to be limited so call Christine Mason on 01226 249590 or  George Scanlon on 020 7404 5252 to book your place.

The full address of BBIC is

Barnsley Business and Innovation Centre
Innovation Way
S75 1JL

Tel: 01226 249590

You will find full directions on the BBIC contact page. Usually, there is plenty of on-site and street parking. The BBIC is not far from the town centre from where there are good rail links to Huddersfield, Sheffield, Leeds, Wakefield, Doncaster and the rest of the country and well served by local buses.

10 April 2017

CIPA York Meeting

Brighter Days in York?
(c) 2016 Jane Lamber: all rights reserved

Last Thursday I was one of the speakers at the York meeting of the Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys ("CIPA"). The other speakers were Louise Edwards of Mazars, David Bloom of Safeguard IP and Kalim Yasseen who is a patent examiner with the Intellectual Property Office. CIPA's president, Tony Rollins, chaired the meeting.

I spoke about IP Litigation after Brexit.  Although we Brits tend to be seen as the awkward squad when it comes to the European project there has been one initiative upon which we have been commendably communautaire. That initiative has been a single European patent for all the member states of the European Union with a single court for the resolution of disputes relating to such patents. The reason why we have always supported that initiative is that patent enforcement litigation in the UK is the most expensive in Europe. The cost of enforcement probably has a lot to do with why the UK trails not just Germany and France in the number of European patent applications but also Switzerland with one eighth of our population and the Netherlands with one third. Something that I have been saying for most of the last 10 years (see Why IP Yorkshire 10 Sept 2008),

The Uniform Patent Court, which will probably come into being towards the end of this year or the beginning of next, would have put British industry on a level playing field with its continental competitors. Unfortunately, the chances are that we shall have to leave when we quit the EU. After we go it will be even more important to do something about reducing the cost of IP litigation in the UK. One solution will be to make better use of the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court ("IPEC") and, in particular, its small claims track. Another consequence of Brexit is that we shall be looking for new export markets outside Europe where the IP environment will be quite different. Not all those markets protect intellectual assets adequately and I suggest that the UK's bilateral investment treaties with 117 foreign states might help. I discussed all these items in greater detail in IP Litigation after Brexit 9 April 2017 IP North West).

Louise gave is a Patent Box Update in which she discussed the effects of the Finance Act 2016 and proposed Finance Bill and considered a number of case studies. She covered some of the rules on patent box relief contained in the 2016 Act and gave us some statistics on take-up. There were apparently 55 companies that took advantage of the scheme in North West England but rather more in Yorkshire. She mentioned the base erosion and profit shifting project of the OECD and how it will affect IP and in particular licensing and distribution. Finally, Louse spoke about three cases that were on her desk right now. One concerned an "ideas company" and its licensing activities. Another, a patentee who had found a new use for his (or her) invention. Finally, a "serial inventor" who insisted on holding onto his IP even though it was not at all tax efficient.

Louise illustrated her talk with bear traps, signposts to "opportunities" and gold nuggets of which there were many. She also had a short sighted computer literate bespectacled terrier under the caption "No tax tail wagging me!" A useful reminder that tax schemes with the primary purpose of avoiding tax will not be bought by HMRC or, for that matter, the courts.

David spoke about IP insurance which is a topic very dear to my heart. I have written quite a lot of articles about it over the years, the last being IP Insurance: CIPA's Paper 1 May 2017 NIPC Inventors' Club. In my view, there is no point in spending a lot of money on obtaining a patent unless you are prepared to enforce it. Despite IPEC and the UPC which I mentioned in my paper it still costs an arm and a leg to enforce an IP right in England. IP insurance can help with that and David said that the choice of insurance products was going up and the cost of premiums was going down. At one time, patent agents used to warn their clients not to waste their money on insurance. I am glad to say that I don't think they do that anything like as much nowadays. If I were a patent or trade mark attorney I would make all my clients aware of such things as IP insurance and watch services and point them in the direction of someone who could give them some dispassionate advice and information.

Kalim, whom I had met when he gave a super talk to the Sheffield inventors club entitled "Filing a UK patent application - process and procedures" on 6 Feb 2012, discussed changes to the Patents Rules 2007 some of which were coming into effect that very day (see Changes to Patents Rules on 1 October 2016 and 6 April 2017 1 Sept 2016 IPO website). These included "omnibus claims" - not an application for a patent for a new kind of charabanc but a basic repetition of the description in the specification - and the communication of patent renewal reminders. Some of these new rules such as the examiner's notification of intention to grant seem to me to be very useful and most have actually been in force since October.

Kalim also spoke about changes to the IPO's portion of the .gov.uk website which seems to reinstate some of the useful bits of the old professional pages section of the IPO's old website. One useful feature is password protected access to the examiner's file. Another is the updating of the Manual of Patent Practice.

Finally, Kalim gave us some tips on working with your examiner. He assured us that he and his colleagues were quite approachable and perfectly reasonable but there are some things that get their goats of which we should be aware. Fairly common sense things in my view.

The meeting took place in the Principal Hotel next to the station. It seems to have undergone considerable renovation and refurbishment. It was much smarter than it was when I last visited it. They laid on a hot and cold buffet with soft drinks for lunch, tea and coffee at half time and gallons of prosecco for those who did not have to drive. Patent seekers generously added some Welsh whisky, easter eggs and chocolate bunnies to the festivities and we were well away. As I was precluded from partaking in the whisky, I was tempted to mention Mr Justice Laddie's decision in Matthew Gloag and Son Ltd and Another v Welsh Distillers Ltd and Others: The Runes 27 Feb 1998 but thought better of it.