In the last budget in March, a new Research and Development Grant was introduced, to be administered by the Technology Strategy Board, providing up to £25,000 of funding for business in 3 areas:

  1. Proof of market grants of up to £25,000 for companies to assess commercial viability;
  2. Proof of concept grants up to £100,000 – to explore technical
  3. feasibility / prototyping / specialist testing; and
  4. Development of prototype grants of up to £250,000 – developmnent of a technological innovative product, service or industrial process, including IP protection, market testing and product design.

In 2010 the US Patent Office granted 244,358 patents and yet there are 700,000 yet to be reviewed. On average, according to The Economist, inventors wait for 2 years for the application to be reviewed and a further 10 months to find out whether they have been successful.

Gartner’s latest global forecast indicates that the Android operating system (OS) will be pre-installed on just under 50% of all smartphone devices by 2012. Apple’s OS 19%, RIM (Blackberry) 13%, Microsoft 11%, Symbian (Nokia) 5% and others 2%. Nokia’s fall from grace (37% of market share in 2010) highlights the pace of change.

After the surprise -0.5% Q4 2010 GDP numbers, Q1 2011 GDP came in at +0.5%. Underlying growth is therefore at best flat to small positive. 2011 full year consensus of 1.7/1.8% is by no means certain and the UK lags Germany and the US in terms of recovery since the peak in early 2008.

Viewranger now used by 50% of all mountain search and rescue teams in England and Wales.

Ever doubted the value of professional business networking?

Last week Linked In past 100 million members and is now growing at the rate of 1 million new members per week. It is now in use in over 200 countries and over half of all members are based outside the US. The fastest growing membership is in Brazil.

Do you want to unlock the value in your innovations? Then take a look at Inngot, an IP valuation tool established in conjunction with Grant Thornton.

The EU has proposed unitary patent protection for 12 member states (including the UK). The hope is that other states who are dragging their heels (Italy for example) will join in time. In the long term this will result in significantly reduced cost for early stage companies seeking to invest heavily in R&D and an associated patent.

Watch out for small companies invoicing you for VAT when they are not registered and pocketing your money. There is a handy little tool to check the validity of a VAT registration number at Simply enter the VAT registration number and it will tell you whether it is a valid number and if so who it is registered to.

Alternatively you can use an App available on the iPhone called Calc VAT which has a VAT Validator embedded within it.

Capital for Enterprise Ltd (CfEl) is proposing to launch a £100m co-investment fund to leverage the potential of business angels as the most significant source of early stage capital in the sub £1m investment market. The fund will aim to act as a “big business angel”, sharing the risk with private investors and investing as a partner alongside angel networks and syndicates with a view to achieving £2 angel investment to match every £1 invested by the fund. The bid for funds is being made to the Regional Growth Fund and if successful the new co-investment fund will be managed by CfEl.

The latest fascinating major milestone in the global smart phone sales race is Nokia and Microsoft’s recent announced alliance. Nokia is having to respond to its fast declining market share where it has been losing ground to Android (open source) and Apple (consumer favourite). For reference Q4 2010 shipments by Operating system (OS) were Android 33%, Symbian 31%, Apple 16%, RIM 14%, Windows 3%, Others 3%. (Source Canalys).

It is telling that Nokia chose a non exclusive deal with Microsoft where it has to pay a licence fee to use the Windows OS in preference to Android’s OS which would be free.

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