Innovate Manchester was a series of focused-led innovation workshops, designed to find fresh ideas and tangible solutions to challenges faced by businesses and society today.
Funded through the European Regional Development Fund and delivered by Elevate GM, with the dedicated and ongoing support of MIDAS and the GC Business Growth Hub Innovation team, The sessions facilitated collaborations between large organisations, SMEs within Greater Manchester and academics.
During the workshops that took place from January 2022 to January 2023, exciting and unique ideas were presented by some of the best in their fields, tackling topics such as decarbonisation, supply chain and job creation.
Workshop one – taking innovation further, faster
musicMagpie is a leader in the re-commerce of consumer technology in the UK and US.
Founded in 2007, the Group has an established presence in the UK, with operations in Macclesfield and Hazel Grove, Greater Manchester, and in the US in Atlanta, Georgia.
Operating through its two trusted brands - musicMagpie in the UK and Decluttr in the US - the Group's core business is to provide customers with a smart, sustainable, and trusted way to buy, rent and sell refurbished consumer technology and physical media products – these include smartphones, tablets, consoles, personal computers), disc media (including CDs, DVDs and games) and books.
The Group sells its products through its own online stores and their mobile application, and through third-party online channels, principally eBay and Amazon.
musicMagpie currently deploys numerous Smart Drop Kiosks in Asda stores nationwide and aimed to take their latest digital innovation further, faster.
This enables customers to trade their mobile phone devices at a convenient location, collect an instant payment through a simple process; most importantly its aim is to prevent e-waste and protect the environment.
The first stage of the challenge is to improve the automatic valuation in the Smart Drop Kiosks, using AI and machine learning, to ensure customers receive the correct amount for their device.
At present, there is a manual dependency on assessing a device via the kiosk, the aim is to reduce the reliance on this resource and increase consistency of the grading.
Chris Lee, Head of Product at musicMagpie
“When it comes to working with SMEs, it’s fantastic because you get a level of agility that you don’t necessarily get with a large corporation”
Mindtrace.ai was established in Manchester in 2017 with a mission to push the boundaries of Artificial Intelligence and reimagine the possibilities of this technology.
Their solution was for their technology to complete a full diagnosis of every mobile device once they are placed within the kiosks. Multiple photos are taken from within the kiosks, these images are then sent to the AI algorithms which Mindtrace has designed. These algorithms are designed to deal with a limited amount of data, which computes a ‘real time’ prediction of the phones’ condition, providing a price for the user if they were to trade the item.
Once this solution has been successfully implemented, musicMagpie will look to roll the technology out across their other product lines.
Workshop two – protecting the environment
In a world undeniably facing a climate crisis, waste management is a key issue specifically for businesses that have extra responsibilities to protect and improve the environment.
Chiesi Limited is the UK affiliate of the Italian, family-owned pharmaceutical company, Chiesi Farmaceutici S.p.A. and has been at the forefront of campaigning to raise public awareness on the need to return inhalers to pharmacies for safe and environmentally appropriate disposal.
The company has been developing innovative medicines to treat respiratory diseases for more than 30 years, growing to become one of the leading suppliers of treatments for respiratory conditions such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Over 70 million inhalers are used in the UK every year to treat respiratory conditions, of which most will be disposed of as household domestic waste.
The majority of inhalers are made from plastic casings and some contain an aluminium canister and fluorinated gas propellant. As there is no separation process for an inhaler’s components at municipal waste processing plants, all the device’s constituent parts often end up in landfill sites. Not only does this constitute a significant amount of waste material, but the propellant that remains in some inhalers can leak into the atmosphere.
Chiesi decided to explore how the waste processing system could be managed to capture and recycle the inhaler’s component parts after it has been thrown away.
Since 2016, Dsposal has been building the next generation of waste compliance software designed to help waste managers and waste producers ensure that all materials are being processed legally, safely and sustainably.
To achieve this, Dsposal creates digital systems that provide real-time overviews of waste streams, providing valuable data and a transparent picture of this aspect of a business’ operations.
In partnership with the University of Manchester, the businesses have teamed up for an impactful initiative which is still ongoing.
Sophie Walker, CEO and co-founder of Dsposal
“I definitely don’t think this would’ve happened without the Innovate Manchester programme, ...it really helps to get the right people in the room and frame the conversation so that you get straight to the point”
Workshop three – revolutionising staff training
Syngenta is one of the world’s leading agriculture companies, comprised of Syngenta Crop Protection and Syngenta Seeds, with an ambition to help safely feed the world while taking care of the planet. Their technologies enable millions of farmers around the world to make better use of limited agricultural resources.
Syngenta Crop Protection and Syngenta Seeds are part of Syngenta Group with 49,000 people in more than 100 countries working to transform how crops are grown.
The challenge revolved around upskilling Syngenta's employees to create a workforce for the future. They needed a new system for training their staff without removing them from the shopfloor, for commercial reasons but also to avoid reliance on simple online training workshops.
Syngenta was looking for a partner that can work closely with the team to produce a “Digital/Data Literacy” learning model and, crucially, to advise on how to deliver this model suitable for a manufacturing / shop floor environment. The aim was to improve employee capabilities in data literacy and digital ways of working that will effectively address current business challenges and support Syngenta’s strategic ambitions.
The solution was proposed by augmented reality experts – Evidential. Evidential specialise in producing Electronic Presentations of Evidence in Courts. They use Augmented Reality displayed through headsets to reinact specific situations. Together they plan to revolutionise staff training by creating immersive virtual experiences for mastering machinery handling. This hands- free design will enable employees to continue with operations while learning a new skill or completing training.
Marion Matthewman, Head of Global Production and Supply Centre of Expertise, Syngenta
“Here we are today actually piloting today and offering it out to the Manchester community”
Workshop four – fostering a stronger sense of community
Accenture is an international professional services company, specialising in information technology services & consulting. With over 725,000 employees globally, with 15,000 in the UK and Ireland and 1,300 in the North West, maintaining a sense of togetherness is a huge task and a key strategic goal for the company.
As much as technology can keep us apart, it is often also the same means to bring us together.
Accenture was looking for a partner who can help them build a sense of community among their employees in the North West - as they operate in geographically diverse project teams.
The company already offers work-based events and initiatives, so their preferred approach was to offer employees the chance to connect on interests outside of the workplace. Ideally, they wanted an online platform to drive in person activity.
Andrew Finlayson, North West Regional Lead at Accenture
“The only way we’re going to get regional growth is by helping each other”
Mouflon Software Solutions is a Manchester based digital agency creating innovative solutions that help businesses bond with their different audiences. They proposed to provide a platform allowing employees to connect with each other, build relationships, and organise physical events based on shared interests. The proposed project aligns with Accenture’s strategic goal of increasing community interaction between their employees
Kirsty Devlin, Consultant, Mouflon Solutions
“It’s been invaluable to have the time to be able to prove yourself, to be able to bring your experience, your knowledge and demonstrate that you have what it takes to build something that’s valuable for a company like Accenture’
The Innovate Manchester programme was previously funded by ERDF. To find out more about our previous ERDF funded offer click here.
MIDAS is Greater Manchester’s investment promotion agency, responsible for attracting inward investment from national and international companies and creating jobs for the people of Greater Manchester. This is achieved through the global business marketing of the city region across four primary sectors (financial and professional services; creative, digital and technology; advanced manufacturing; and life science and healthcare) as well as the provision of an extensive package of free, confidential and bespoke services for business of all sizes as well as location consultants. For more information, visit: www.investinmanchester.com, MIDAS is proud to be part of the Growth Company
Business Growth Hub Innovation Team
GC Business Growth Hub’s (BGH) innovation specialists deliver tangible benefits to hundreds of SMEs and understand the challenges companies face in getting new ideas moving. Their mission is to help businesses overcome these issues and accelerate the time it takes to bring new products or services to market. Areas BGH provide support for include: addressing technical challenges with short or long-term solutions; accessing research or testing; transferring knowledge, data and expertise into your business; and access to innovation funding and supporting your application
Elevate GM is a business development consultancy with a keen focus on sustainability, innovation and community. Their collaborative approach connects businesses and individuals with exciting opportunities, to create new partnerships and connections. Working closely with their partners to raise the profile of both their employees and their wider business.