Massive grants: Zoo Digital in Sheffield secures sixth grant from InnovateUK taking total to £2.4m

Zoo Digital chief executive Stuart Green
Zoo Digital chief executive Stuart Green

Sheffield tech firm Zoo Digital is set to receive £820,000, its sixth grant from the Government to research new technology, taking the total to £2.4m.

The subtitling and dubbing specialist will work with Sheffield University to improve the quality and speed of lip-syncing when programmes are dubbed in another language.

The aim is to make dubbing faster, easier and less technical to ‘deliver better performances from voice artists’.

It will also help the industry, which has a shortfall of dubbing experts, keep up with demand from around the world.

Recent research by the Media Entertainment Services Alliance (MESA) reveals that around $1.4bn was spent in EMEA on dubbing in 2016, a figure that is expected to grow at a rate of more than 10 per cent annually.

Zoo has had five grants from government body InnovateUK in recent years totalling £1.6m, as part of investments in research and technology totalling £3.6m.

Stuart Green, ZOO Digital’s CEO said: “We’re delighted to have the backing of Innovate UK to develop machine learning technology for tackling major challenges for the global TV and movie business.

“With the recent growth in demand for dubbing, the entertainment industry faces a significant shortfall in talent used to create foreign language dubs.

“This research project will help pave the way for a substantial increase in capacity for high-quality dubbing.

“It will help us take another step towards making life easier for content creators looking to share their TV and movie content around the world.

“We’re delighted to be collaborating with leading academic research specialists. This is another opportunity to make an impact in the entertainment industry by rethinking how things can be done.”

MASSIVE GRANTS MADE OUR BUSINESS

Two Sheffield tech start-ups discuss the cash that made them

Sheffield inventor-founder Richard Mills is a start-up expert having launched Swellaway - a digital medical device that minimises swelling - and SleepCogni, a hi-tech sleep aid.

SleepCogni employs two full-time, four part-time and 12 contractors. It is just about to commence clinical trials and aims to be selling its first products to sleep professionals Jan 2019.

Here, Richard describes the process which led to a £485,000 grant from Government department InnovateUK.

How did the idea of applying for a grant come about?

Grants are advertised regular through industry bodies such as the Chamber of Commerce and Medilink.

We made an application. The InnovateUK grant is by far the largest and most relevant provided by the UK government.

Why did you choose the grant you chose?

InnovateUK typically has the larger funds available and will fund up to 70 per cent of the total funding needed. Your company should provide the missing 30 per cent but this can be a great incentive for investors to back you .

How long did the application process take?

It starts as soon as you download the application form – it generally takes around three months. Once the deadline is announced, you will hear back within a month. The feedback you gain from reviewers that are industry experts is great advice. I think it really helps you focus as a business and generate your bigger business plan and investors also gain some critical feedback.

Our feedback was: ‘This could have a significant impact on a large proportion of the population – both economic and social.

‘The potential benefits of SleepCogni could be relevant across a wide section of society and the verification of performance would support its use in the clinic.

This substantiates the use of public funding for the project’.

Was it simple or complex?

It is time consuming especially as we are at such an early stage and resources are limited. We could have employed an outside agency. They will mostly want a fee for this, successful or not.

What difference has it made to your business?

A huge difference, not only does this show investors that we are investable and capable of applying for such grants, it also de-risks future investments knowing that the government backs our technology and innovation development.

Did it come with many ‘strings’ or targets?

You have to complete a number of due-diligence documents and gain legal and accountancy support. Each grant needs to be signed off by a monitoring office that is assigned by Innovate UK. This is just good housekeeping and completely understandable considering you are receiving taxpayers’ money.

Would you recommend it?

Definitely, we really hope this grant helps accelerate our progress as a company and prove our game-changing technology.

‘A £420,000 GRANT MADE MY BUSINESS’

A Sheffield firm has received a £420,000 grant to develop a pioneering machine to smooth 3D printed parts - just one of a string of local companies to receive massive grants from Innovate UK.

Most 3D printed parts have a rough finish and up to now companies have used hand polishing to finish them off, which is costly and time consuming.

Additive Manufacturing Technologies overcomes this with a fully automated smoothing process.

Its machine is called Postpro3D and can tackle products ranging from sports shoes to dental implants.

The firm received a huge grant from Innovate UK, a Government body which ‘drives productivity and growth by helping firms develop ideas and make them a commercial success’.

AMT boss Joseph Crabtree talks about the process.

How much did you receive?

The total grant was for £624,000. AMT is the lead company with a partner, Xaar Ltd. We get around £420,000.

How long did the application process take?

You are given around two months to prepare the application. It is quite specific – there are word-limited answers to each question that require specific answers. They are marked by several examiners. The company with the highest score gets an IUK award. IUK also provides feedback. It takes about three months, the process is extremely straightforward.

The biggest challenge is explaining complex technical or commercial issues in a few hundred words and without diagrams!

What difference has it made to your business?

IUK has made our company because it has allowed us to lead the world in the field of post processing 3D polymer parts. Our PostPro3D machine is the first of its kind and has already led to awards.

Did it come with many ‘strings’ or targets?

You have to set out a project plan and budget. You are expected to stick to both. Your accounts are audited and you are required to have quarterly meetings to report on progress and spend.

Was it worth it?

Absolutely, InnovateUK is a great Government scheme that really helps start-ups like ourselves. It is taxpayers’ money well spent. We have created four jobs since we were awarded the project and developed a world class product.