This week: green shoots and the search for skills

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This week’s Briefing has its sights set firmly on innovation and entrepreneurial endeavour, with the latter receiving a high-profile shot in the arm today.

Micro businesses and small firms have received a boost from Lord Young’s report, Growing your Business: A report on Growing Micro Businesses which sets out new measures to increase confidence in this patch of the economic jungle.

Around 4.8 million firms make up this business demographic, which accounts for 95 per cent of all business in the UK. Key to Lord Young’s second report to the PM is an expansion of the government’s Start-up loan scheme and opening up £230bn of public sector contracts to small businesses.

You can read the full report here.

In the tech space, a survey of 125 UK-based C-suite executives – who work for companies that generate less than £25m in annual revenue and employ fewer than 100 staff – has revealed encouraging and worryingly familiar statistics.

The survey, introduced by Silicon Valley Bank, found that 87 per cent of start-ups plan to hire in 2013, with 77 per cent adding that workers with STEM skills are critical.

It probably won’t come as a surprise to read that 89 per cent said it is ‘challenging’ to find workers with the right skills needed to grow their business, with 69 per cent saying candidates with engineering skills are the hardest to find.

There won’t be a shortage of talent at this year’s Discovering Start-Ups 2013, which has begun its search for the most innovative wireless technologies and entrepreneurs from across the UK.

Run by Cambridge Wireless and Silicon South West the competition will give 15 finalists an opportunity to pitch their ideas, technologies and business plans to 20 leading wireless industry investors and experts.

Five winners will receive a £500 cash prize each, a Discovering Start-Ups Trophy and the chance to pitch to 400 global wireless delegates in the Innovation Hothouse at The Future of Wireless International Conference 2014.

Organisers Cambridge Wireless and Silicon South West add that the winners will also receive one year’s free virtual membership to Cambridge Wireless and SETsquared, including a business MOT, networking and mentoring support, investor readiness training and the opportunity to be selected for various investor showcases in London and the US.

The closing date for entries is 15th August.

Last year’s winning technologies included silicon carbide power semiconductors; a single-antenna for portable devices; and a mobile-phone based service from Skin Analytics to detect skin cancer with image processing algorithms.

The Cambridge-based company says it has built and tested its technology on real clinical images of mole evolution over time and at the end of April they issued a call for volunteers to help take it forward.

They say they need images of unchanged moles in different lighting conditions, angles and so on so that they can train their algorithm to understand the ‘noise’ that gets introduced and separate this from real change in the mole itself. 

The call is open to anyone who has signed up for one of Skin Analytics’ surveys, beta or newsletter.

From five winners to 15 and news that the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) has launched the ninth IET Innovation Awards.

Free-to-enter, the Innovation Awards are designed to recognise excellence across 15 categories that span the breadth of science, engineering and technology. They include the built environment, communications, healthcare technologies, model-based engineering, power and energy, plus sustainability and are open to any individual, company or organization.

IET told The Engineer, ‘The judges will be lookingfor evidence of a plan or design for a new, altered or improved engineering product, process or service for commercial use; ones that demonstrate the application of innovative design, technology, techniques and processes.’

Winners will be revealed at a ceremony in London on 20 November. More details can be found here.