Green finance database initiative aims to help environmental start-ups

Jason Ford - News Editor, The Engineer

Jason Ford
News editor

A new initiative aims to improve new start-ups’ ability to access funding in the low-carbon and sustainability projects

Entrepreneurs who are keen to get their solutions to market can often run into difficulties when finding people or organisations to support their business.

Cleantech start-ups aren’t immune to the complexities of finding suitable investors, which seems somewhat contradictory in what has been dubbed “Year of Green Finance” by the UN Environment Programme.

That said, the UK is believed to lead the world in spinning out low-carbon ventures from universities, but lags behind in scale-up performance due to access to finance barriers. In the USA, for example, equivalent companies tend to raise 50 per cent more funding, while only 3 per cent of UK start-ups grow to become midsized ventures, compared with 6 per cent in the US.

A new initiative launched today hopes to reverse this trend and provide new companies access to 84 sources of low carbon funding worth £157m.

Shell Springboard’s Access to Finance Navigator is an interactive, digital database that is expected to help SMEs identify funding opportunities in the low-carbon, cleantech and sustainability sectors.

In use, the Navigator uses a set of questions to help identify the most appropriate financing sources for entrepreneurs’ and SMEs’ needs based on business stage, location, sector, amount needed and preferred type of finance.

Based on these criteria, the online tool then provides information about relevant types of financing, such as angel investment, crowd funding, government grants, venture capital and incubation and investment.

Having selected a specific type of financing, users click through to see all the available sources of that type of financing.

The Navigator is available on the Shell Springboard website.

Dr Alejandro Granados and Dr Fernando Bello, from Imperial College London, demonstrate the robotic rectum technology, which they have developed to enable medics to practise rectal exams
Dr Alejandro Granados and Dr Fernando Bello, from Imperial College London, demonstrate the robotic rectum technology, which they have developed to enable medics to practise rectal exams

Another gloomy stat reveals that around one in eight men in the UK suffer from prostate cancer at some point in their lives, and that three quarters of men over 70 suffer from benign prostate enlargement.

However, an advance from scientists at Imperial College London looks set to improve doctors’ ability to diagnose the condition and the solution is based around haptics, which recreate sensations of touch.

Rectal examinations are necessary to diagnose prostate cancer and involve a medic placing their index finger into the anus and feeling the prostate gland, which is a walnut-size gland that sits below a man’s bladder. It can be felt just inside the anus, through the rectal wall. According to Imperial, a rectal examination is often the first test a doctor or nurse uses to recognise a problem prostate and determine whether to send a patient for further tests.

The so-called robotic rectum consists of prosthetic buttocks and rectum with in-built robotic technology. The device recreates the feel of a rectum, as well as providing feedback on their examination technique. The device contains small robotic arms that apply pressure to the silicone rectum, to recreate the shape and feel of the back passage.

When using the trainer, a doctor inserts a finger inside a silicone thimble attached to robotic technology able to recreate the exact sensation of the human rectum.

A computer screen behind the device can display a 3D model of the rectum and prostate, allowing the doctor, with the aid of 3D glasses, to see the anatomy while they perform the examination.

The technology – which is now being adapted for gynaecological exams – is to be presented at the Eurohaptics conference that takes place this week at Imperial.

Prostate cancer across the UK

  • Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men.
  • Over 47,000 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer every year – that’s 130 men every day.
  • Every hour one man dies from prostate cancer – that’s more than 10,800 men every year.
  • 1 in 8 men will get prostate cancer in their lifetime.
  • Over 330,000 men are living with and after prostate cancer.

Source: Prostate Cancer UK