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Our January Ignition Awardee is…

Marco Rodriguez Frias, an Early Career Researcher (ECR) from The School of Electrical Electronic Engineering (EEE).

Congratulations to Marco Rodriguez Frias, winner of a £2,000 Ignition Award through the UMIP Innovation Optimiser; an initiative that empowers innovators across the University campus. Marco, whose idea aims to support the UK Environmental Agency’s mission to prevent contaminating sewers with large quantities of oily water, will use the award to test the feasibility of his proposal.

Marco commented, “I have an idea for a product derived from my research that can be implemented within industries to vastly lower the risk of oil being released into our sewers, and ultimately back into our ocean. I heard about the Ignition Award during a UMIP event on campus and thought it was a brilliant, risk-free opportunity.

“I will use the funding to make samples of a product which I’ll apply to oil separators across industries. I will be monitoring the results over a period of time to ensure the product is ready; I’m excited to get my idea out of the lab and into industry.”

The Innovation Optimiser Ignition Award of up to £2000 is available every month* until the end of July 2019 for staff and ECRs at The University of Manchester with innovative ideas.

Do you have a solution to a commercial, societal, or environmental problem? Then you could be our February Ignition Awardee – apply now and get your idea off the ground. Closing date 25th Feb.

For an informal chat about the Ignition funding opportunity, please don’t hesitate to get in touch at ignitionawards@umip.com or for more information, please visit our website: www.innovationoptimiser.com

*Subject to availability

“We pledge to inject up to £2,000 each month into a new idea that we believe to be innovative.” – Innovation Optimiser, UMIP.

Do you have an innovative business idea? Are you a staff member at The University of Manchester? Apply today for a grant of up to £2,000 to test its viability.

The Innovation Optimiser pledges to inject up to £2,000 each month*, to the end of the current academic year into new ideas that we believe to be innovative.

This Ignition Award allocation supports our vision to inspire and further build on the spirit of innovation and entrepreneurship across The University of Manchester. Available every month until the end of July 2019, staff and early career researchers at The University will have the opportunity to apply for an Ignition Award of up to £2,000. This funding may be used to test the idea, find out if the idea is viable, learn more about what is needed to progress the idea and even create a prototype product.

For more information about the Ignition Awards and to obtain an application form, please email ignitionawards@umip.com

The closing date for the February Ignition Award is Monday 25th February 2019.

For inspiration, take a look at some CASE STUDIES to read about University of Manchester innovators who received support through the Innovation Optimiser programme.

*Subject to availability.

A new fully-funded training programme available for 30 UoM Early Career Researchers

An exciting opportunity for 30 University of Manchester Early Career Researchers* (ECRs) will take place on Wednesday 20th February 2019 here at the Core Technology Facility on Grafton Street.

The UMIP Innovation Optimiser Researcher to Innovator (R2I) event is the first in a series of bespoke one-day training programmes for ECRs.

This event will enable the participants to explore their own capacity to innovate and be entrepreneurial. It will allow them to explore opportunities in commercialisation and equip them with strategies to move forward with ideas, as well as discover new pathways to funding.

As a researcher at an early stage in your career, it can be both daunting and exciting to discover that, increasingly, universities are encouraging you to maximise the potential impact of your research. This fully-funded, one-day ‘boot-camp’ style event comprises a series of interactive professional development sessions, which will enable you to identify skills and opportunities to develop impact through commercialisation.

This is likely to be of particular interest to those working within the Faculty of Science & Engineering.

If you would like to benefit from this bespoke programme of support, please register using EVENTBRITE by the 31st January 2019. Places are available on a FCFS basis.

Please note: this event is exclusive to Early Career Researchers at The University of Manchester. 

*UK Research Council definition of ECR: an individual who is within eight years of the award of their PhD or equivalent professional training, or an individual who is within six years of their first academic appointment. These durations exclude any period of career break, e.g. for family care or health reasons. The ‘first academic appointment’ is defined as the first paid contract of employment, either full-time or part-time, which lists research and/or teaching as the primary functions. The award of PhD is defined at the point of successful PhD viva.

UMIP-supported social enterprise launches the Recipe for Success course to support new Manchester food enterprises

Former University of Manchester student Amy Win has launched a new food business training course for local people through her social enterprise 4Lunch.

Amy received funding and support through a dedicated Social Enterprise competition managed by UMIP to start 4Lunch after graduating with a degree in Politics and Economics in 2013. After 5 years in business, Amy has launched a new course to inspire the next generation of food entrepreneurs.

So why this course? Amy says that through her work at 4Lunch, she found a lot of culinary talent out there in the community and people wanted to know how they could start a food business from home.

“As someone without a business background, I relied on the support, generosity and knowledge of others to help me get started with my social enterprise. This included accessing expertise from UMIP in the early stages. It has always been fundamental to my work at 4Lunch to give opportunities to people whenever I can and keep the circle of learning going.”

The Recipe for Success course provides all the information and support needed to establish successful and sustainable food businesses and community food projects.

To promote the new course, Amy is also putting on a series of food business start up events  at various venues around Greater Manchester. These events are open to anyone interested in starting a food-based project and is a chance to meet established food business owners.

For further information visit https://4lunch.co.uk/recipe-for-success/



Ignition Funding Opportunity 2018-19


We are pleased to announce the launch of our OPEN FUNDING CALL for the Ignition Awards aiming to inspire and further build on the spirit of enterprise and innovation across the campus. By supporting new opportunities, we aim to bring into reality the ideas of academics and support staff to help maximise their potential for ‘real world’ use or societal benefit.


  • Are you currently working at The University of Manchester?
  • Is your idea an innovative solution to a commercial, societal, or environmental problem with the potential to become a sustainable business?
  • Do you feel inspired and motivated to create something exciting and feed your curiosity about entrepreneurship and start-ups?


Husband and wife team Russell and Catherine Miller are hoping to change the way children play freely with the launch of playscapes company Sleeping Lions Adventures.

Through the creation of temporary destinations (playscapes) Sleeping Lions Adventures allows children to take charge of the way they play while giving parents peace of mind.

The pair have received significant funds from both an angel investor and The University of Manchester’s Innovation Company, UMI3 Ltd, through the UMIP Innovation Optimiser Programme as they bid to grow their offering.

Co-founders Russell and Catherine, believe children are turning to i-pads for entertainment rather than playing alongside other youngsters in immersive environments that bolster creativity and sociability.

He said: “Our playscapes are like mini theatre sets and are a starting point to an adventure. Our latest indoor playscape is Pirates and Sea Monsters – a giant octopus, shipwreck that children can play in – that was recently hired for a wedding in Cheshire.

“The playscapes encourage children’s curiosity, playfulness and sociability while allowing children’s families to have fun elsewhere – just like they did at the wedding.”

Russell, 45, who works at The University of Manchester, and Catherine, founded the idea after having two children of their own.

“Our children are both under the age of four,” said Russell. “Two years ago Catherine and I talked about how we played in fields, dens and in the street when we were younger.

“Sadly, children don’t tend to play like that anymore. There’s a restricted nature to play now and more and more children are using i-pads which we feel is detrimental, particularly when it comes to social interaction.

“Following lots of research we realised that we could create something that could make play possible almost anywhere and that’s what Sleeping Lions Adventures is.”

One of the company’s aims is to make it easier for children to attend weddings. The other is creating mini immersive experiences for use in cafes, car showrooms and other retail environments.

“The average transaction time to buy a car is three hours,” said Russell, “so we are talking to dealerships about the potential of setting up playscapes so parents can focus on the car they might want while children play freely but with a sense of creativity too.

“With weddings, it can often be a case of children not being invited, which can alienate some family members. We are planning to change that.”

He added: “It’s also important to thank UMIP’s Innovation Optimiser team for helping us shape our business idea – they’ve been incredibly supportive.”

Kate Park, Director of Kate Park Events, worked alongside Sleeping Lions Adventures during the recent wedding in Cheshire.

She said: “Inviting children to weddings has just been made a whole lot more fun with Sleeping Lions Adventures. Their playscape made a huge and positive impact on the wedding party. It looked great in the venue and importantly it kept all the children entertained – leaving their parents able to enjoy the celebration.

“Children used to find weddings long and dull – not anymore.”



UMIP Innovation Optimiser Celebrates Success at the IO Showcase 2018

Over 100 entrepreneurs, colleagues from The University of Manchester and wider support partners gathered at the Showcase to hear how the UMIP Innovation Optimiser (IO) has supported and nurtured new businesses coming out of the University.

2018 sees another eight IO supported University of Manchester Start-Ups begin their journey including- Dataviewer Ltd, Sleeping Lions Adventures Ltd, The Pentone Family Ltd, Neurolytics Ltd, IMPACT CIC, Macawly Ltd, Third Floor Systems Ltd and PABBS Ltd. This brings the total to have graduated through the UMIP Innovation Optimiser programme to over 20 within three years.

Innovation Optimiser Showcase 2018

IO Director, Tony Walker revealed that over £265,000 worth of support and awards have been provided by the IO in less than three years while 164 entrepreneurs from across The University of Manchester campus have engaged in the programme.

Professor Luke Georghiou, Deputy President and Deputy Vice-Chancellor at The University of Manchester, emphasised the importance of supporting staff, academics and research students who may have an idea for a commercial start-up or social enterprise.

Speaking after IO Showcase –Tony said: “IO was launched just over two-and-a-half years ago and is proving to be a huge success boosting the Manchester start-up scene”

“It provides a vibrant and supportive environment for individuals or teams with an idea, innovation or venture in which they are empowered to develop and build their business.”

He added: “The IO Showcase 2018 very much highlighted some of the fantastic businesses and innovations being developed by staff, academics and research students at The University of Manchester.

“It’s now about IO going from strength to strength and building on the partnerships we have created including with Business Growth Hub, dwf, Manchester Enterprise Centre, TiE Global and many more, and continuing to engage with active entrepreneurs across the campus who we may be able to support through our Ignition, Roadmap, Momentum and Spotlight programmes.”

Dr Laura Etchells, UMIP Enterprise Development Manager said: “We were delighted to showcase a range of new and established entrepreneurs today including ESOL Stepping Stones, Bundlee Ltd and UrbanChain Ltd, all eager to inspire and motivate tomorrow’s innovators.”

IO, which provides support for aspiring entrepreneurs wishing to develop start-up businesses, social ventures and research student enterprises, through educational resources and agile mentoring, was developed by UMIP to complement its renowned Intellectual Property (IP) commercialisation activity.

Since its inception IO has held 62 events and engaged with more than 1,300 people in outreach activities across the University campus.

Ellie Buckley, UMIP Enterprise Development Executive and event organiser said: “Our second Showcase was attended by more than 100 people and the feedback has been incredible.

“This event is a fantastic opportunity for our entrepreneurs to share their stories, connect across campus and network with the wider enterprise community in Greater Manchester. We’re looking forward to the next 12 months at IO.”

The IO Showcase 2018 was held on Thursday 26th July at The University of Manchester Innovation Centre on Grafton Street.


To find out more, contact one of the Innovation Optimiser team:

Ellie Buckley, Enterprise Development Executive ellie.buckley@umip.com or 0161 606 7265

Laura Etchells, Enterprise Development Manager laura.etchells@umip.com or 0161 606 7264

Tony Walker, Director of Innovation Optimiser, tony.walker@umip.com or 0161 603 7780

Ignition Funding Opportunity May 2018 Now Open

We are pleased to announce the relaunch of the UMIP Ignition Awards aiming to inspire and further build on the spirit of enterprise and innovation across the campus. By supporting new opportunities, we aim to bring into reality the ideas of academics, support staff and research students and help to maximise their potential for ‘real world’ use or societal benefit.

  • Are you currently working or studying at The University of Manchester or a recent graduate (within 2 years)?
  • Is your idea likely to be an entrepreneurial or innovative solution to a commercial, societal, or environmental problem?
  • Do you feel inspired and motivated to control your own destiny and want to feed your curiosity about entrepreneurship and start-ups?


Funding of up to £2,000 is available, for individuals to test or grow their entrepreneurial ideas. This can include finding out if an idea is viable, learning more about what is needed to develop the concept and trying the project on a small scale, right through to more robust road testing of the idea.

Feedback and one to one provision will be provided to support your applications.


This funding opportunity provided by UMIP is open to all staff, research students (inc. DBA, MBA) and recent graduates (graduated within the last 2 years) at The University of Manchester.

Closing Date:

The first call closes on Friday 1st June 2018.

To apply, please download an Application Form and return to ignitionawards@umip.com



Startup uses Mathematics to Revolutionise the Little Black Dress

Manchester sisters Rachel and Laura Beattie apply Mathematics to create a first of its kind dress, the perfect black dress, for all women


Laura and Rachel Beattie

Growing up, I remember always stealing my sisters clothes…” says Rachel Beattie, Co-Founder of Careaux, “I always found I wanted to change something about each dress, but I couldn’t!

This insight stayed with Rachel who, when she was fourteen, had a dream of a dress that could adapt to each woman’s unique shape and different style preferences. The dream continued to develop into reality when Rachel was studying Maths at the University of Manchester. She delved deeper into the Mathematical principles behind Careauxcombinatorics (abstract algebra) to study the size, fit and style  of dresses, and the size and shape of women; finding patterns to match the two much better than conventional fashion.

Rachel and Laura  wanted to address the longstanding issue that has faced so many women, namely the issue of a dress that they love just not fitting them. For years, women have had to struggle with the one size fits all mentality whilst many of the fundamental aspects of fashion (particularly cut and fit) have remained unchanged for decades. But now Careaux is here to change that with  the Careaux magic – a concept never seen before that creates something unique, innovative and beautiful; giving the little black dress a new DNA.

“I love Rachel and Laura’s passion for Maths and fashion which they’ve used to reinvent the little black dress in such a clever way!  For any woman with a top half bigger or smaller than their bottom, their idea solves the ill-fitting dress problem in a stylish and comfortable way – well done girls!”
– Rachel Riley, TV Presenter and Mathematician.


Pitch@Palace 9.0 – Applications NOW OPEN!

The Pitch@Palace 9.0 applications are now open and we would like to encourage you to apply.

The programme offers mentoring and advice to those developing business ideas around data, intelligence and the future of security.


Whether you simply have an idea on paper or your business is at the point of scaling up Pitch@Palace 9.0 seeks to discover entrepreneurs and companies that have identified opportunities in the following areas:

  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Machine Learning
  • IoT
  • Cyber-security
  • Blockchain
  • Defence
  • Cloud
  • 3D Printing

Manchester Enterprise Centre, UMIP and Business Engagement at The University of Manchester are delighted to announce that HRH, The Duke of York, is bringing a key boot camp event in his Pitch@Palace initiative to our campus in 2018.