Meet the innovator cleaning the air in train stations

Matteo Maccario and his start-up company Pluvo are about to install new air filtration devices on train platforms in Birmingham and Salisbury.

“Sometimes you can literally taste pollution in the air,” remarks industrial product designer and entrepreneur Matteo Maccario. “Once you know it is there – and exactly what you are breathing in – it’s hard to ignore.”

Matteo and colleagues from start-up company Pluvo have developed an air purification device for use in large public spaces, known as the ‘Pluvo Column’, and is about to install its first units on two railway station platforms: a couple at Birmingham New Street and one at Salisbury station in Wiltshire.

The company has been supported by Connected Places Catapult on two recent accelerator programmes: one focused on Intelligent Mobility in association with innovation agency Wayra UK and another set around Milton Keynes. It has also been part of an SME engagement programme and network with the Catapult.

The Pluvo Column features a three stage filtration system to remove airborne pollutants including exhaust gases – such as nitrous and sulphur oxides – and particulate matter. Air is sucked in from the base of the unit, filtered and released back into the local environment above head height. The units can operate either to a pre-determined schedule, or start working when air quality monitors housed inside the unit detect that levels of pollutants have reached a threshold.

“We are confident that the devices can have a significant impact on air pollution within a radius of 25 metres or greater,” Matteo says. “And as you get closer to around 13 metres, levels of particulate matter have been found to reduce by about two thirds.

“For the trials in Birmingham and Salisbury we are targeting areas with seating where people are waiting for trains, in order to create cleaner air zones, as both stations see a fair amount of diesel trains passing through. But the devices could also help station managers to better understand the impact that certain trains can have on air pollution; highlighting the times of day when spikes in pollution are being seen – and for how long.”
Matteo Maccario, CEO, Pluvo

Aiming for form, function and return

Matteo developed the air filtration device alongside company co-founder Rikesh Chotai after graduating from a double Masters in innovation design and engineering with Imperial College London and the Royal College of Art.

Their aim was to develop a system that not only improves air quality, but looks attractive in an urban setting – and can generate revenue.

Matteo and his team researched and tested a series of existing filtration technologies – most of which were designed either for small enclosed spaces like homes, or larger industrial processes – and refined them for use in public settings.

They set about designing infrastructure to house the purifier and came up with a 2.7 metre high ‘totem’ which has an elliptical form and no sharp corners. “We were very focused on how the column should look. The fact it is an elliptical shape makes the engineering a bit more difficult, but we were keen to maintain the aesthetic,” Matteo says.

Each totem features advertising screens on two sides as a mechanism to help pay the running costs and generate income. Static advertisements will be displayed for the initial station trial sites, but digital LED screens are planned for future iterations of the device.

Matteo adds that if the units prove to be a commercial success, they may incentivise clients to install more of them; helping to clean even more of the air at railway stations.

Pivoting from streets to stations

Pluvo’s original plan was to install air purification devices alongside busy roads and in town centres. Trials took place beside the North Circular Road in London but when it came to permanent installations, council planning processes proved slow and unpredictable. Matteo decided to pivot towards transport hubs and the rail environment and partnered with Network Rail (which manages Birmingham New Street) and South Western Railway (which looks after Salisbury) to trial the Pluvo Column.

The company realised that the device’s impact may be even greater at stations than beside streets because the units can be placed at pollution hotspots, close to where many people gather and wait.

Matteo adds that the devices could work equally as well in other transport hubs, such as metro stations, inside multistorey carparks and beside pick-up and drop-off zones at airports.

Placing clean air devices prominently in public spaces could also help to raise the importance of clean air among the public, Matteo suggests – especially if the messaging of the brands being advertised on the side of the units has an environmental theme. “Everyone talks about sustainability and the need to limit climate change, but unfortunately the threat of air pollution to human health doesn’t get as much attention. The more people can become educated about the importance of clean air, the more chance we have of seeing legislation introduced to help reduce the problem.”

Pluvo’s participation in the Intelligent Mobility accelerator with Connected Places Catapult and subsequent showcase day led to discussions with rail industry representatives, including an innovation manager working for South Western Railway which resulted in the Salisbury trial.

“The Catapult made several important connections for us, including with Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital in London which carries out air quality research,” Matteo says. “We were also invited along to various events such as rail investor days, and have been kept in the loop when opportunities arise.”
Matteo Maccario, CEO, Pluvo

Early Years

Matteo Maccario was born in Nashville, Tennessee to Italian parents and the family moved to Canada when he was 11. As a child, he remembers wanting to be an inventor and took a keen interest in the environment and nature.

His father was an engineer “which probably influenced my career” and Matteo enrolled on a mechanical engineering degree at Western University before spending four years of his early career at a heavy machinery firm involved in fabrication and assembly.

He later worked as a lean business consultant, and participated in a climate impact and entrepreneurship programme with the European Institute of Innovation and Technology. He also enrolled on a circular economy fellowship programme with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, led by the former sailor.

In 2016 he enrolled on the double Masters course with Imperial and the Royal College, which gave him an appreciation of how engineering and design can come together. Five years ago, Matteo co-founded Pluvo. The team outsources the manufacturing of the new devices in the UK, but for now Pluvo assembles the units itself. “I enjoy getting hands on; it’s important to physically feel the joy or pain of how the design comes together,” says Matteo.

“Our primary focus with the units is functionality, but we also consider the sustainability of the materials we use, their embedded carbon and whether our units can be easily updated, upcycled or reused, rather than ending up in landfill in some distant future.

“The start of our journey has been full of learnings,” he adds. “We are still in our early days, but have investors on board and are looking to raise £1 million to help with our expansion,” he says. “I’ve been fortunate to work on many interesting projects, but this has been the most exciting journey yet.”

Get more insights from innovators at the cutting edge. Register now for the Connected Places Summit.

Matteo also joined us on a previous episode of the Connected Places podcast – listen below. 


London Real Estate Forum 2023

Together we will shape better cities

When and where?

Barbican, London
27th - 28th September 2023
9:00am - 6:00pm


This event is now complete

Sam Markey, Ecosystem Director, will join the panel titled ‘The rise of Innovation Districts: Knowledge, Inclusion, Growth’ at 15:15 on 27 September, and he will also contribute to the Roundtable on the Power of Partnership.

Dr. Rachna Lévêque, Senior Housing Innovation, will contribute to the Retrofit Roundtable.


London Build 2023

The UK's leading construction & design show returns at Olympia London

When and where?

Olympia, London
15th - 16th November 2023
9:00am - 6:00pm


This event is now complete

Dr. Rachna Lévêque, Senior Housing Innovation Lead, will host a retrofit panel in the Built Environment Hub on 16 November from 11:45, titled ‘Accelerating residential retrofit for health and climate resilience’ and will be joined by retrofit leaders and innovators from Arup, Gbolade Design Studio, and Twin Sustainability Innovation / LETI.


UK Construction Week 2023

The UK's largest event bringing all parts of the industry together

When and where?

NEC, Birmingham
3rd - 5th October 2023
9:00am - 6:00pm


This event is now complete

On Wednesday 4 October (Day 2) from 15:00, we will host our very own Connected Places Catapult panel titled ‘Home Retrofit: Moving beyond EPC to improve health, wellbeing, and climate resilience’. Speakers include Andy Mitchell, Managing Director, Green Building Store; Dr. Rachna Lévêque, Senior Housing Innovation; and Alanna Gluck, Delivery and Engagement Manager, both from Connected Places Catapult.

That same day from 15:15, Gavin Summerson, our Built Environment team lead, is joining the panel titled ‘Beyond the Numbers: Building Trust in Data in the Built Environment’.

Colleagues and SME’s part of our network will be onsite for the duration of the event. Come by our stand to speak with one of our experts and to learn more about our projects and other opportunities.


Connected Places Networking Reception at UKREiiF

Join local government, built environment leaders, and regional, national and international investors to close Day 1 UK’s Real Estate Investment and Infrastructure Forum (UKREiiF)

When and where?

Royal Armouries Museum, Armouries Drive, Leeds, England, LS10 1LT
16th May 2023
5:45pm - 8:30pm


This event is now complete

Connected Places Catapult is pleased to invite you to the Connected Places Networking Reception, an official UKREiiF event.

Meet existing and new key stakeholders and industry experts, national and international local government, investment community and built environment stakeholders driving the levelling up agenda, innovation and green finance. You’ll learn more about the Cities Commission for Climate Investment (3Ci) and Connected Places Catapult flagship initiatives in the levelling up and green finance agenda.

Venue: The Royal Armouries Museum, Armouries Drive, LS10 1LT, Leeds
Room: The Tournament Gallery

Places are limited to 200 attendees only. If you would like to attend please register your interest as soon as possible and we will get back to you if you have been successful.

Please note that to attend this reception you need to have a valid UKREiiF delegate pass. If you don’t, unfortunately you won’t be able to attend.

Cllr Susan Aitken
Leader of Glasgow City Council
Susan Aitken was elected as Leader of Glasgow City Council in 2017, forming a Scottish National Party (SNP) led City ...
Susan Aitken was elected as Leader of Glasgow City Council in 2017, forming a Scottish National Party (SNP) led City Government in the first change of political administration in Glasgow in 40 years. She was first elected as a councillor for the Langside ward (where she lives with her husband) in 2012, following a career in public policy and communications in the third sector and the Scottish Parliament, and as a freelance writer and editor specialising in social care issues. Susan was reappointed to a second term as Council Leader following the 2022 Scottish Local Government elections.


Under her leadership, Glasgow has hosted the UN Climate Summit COP26, which led to the formation of the Glasgow Climate Pact; was awarded Global Green City status by the Global Forum on Human Settlements in 2020; has been named host of the inaugural UCI World Cycling Championships during its year as 2023 European Capital of Sport; and secured host status for the World Indoor Athletics Championships in 2024.

Susan was awarded Scottish Local Politician of the Year in 2019 for her work to end historic gender pay discrimination and deliver compensation for thousands of women Council workers. She was also awarded Scottish Council Leader of the Year in 2021 for her leadership on climate issues, including plans to remove private car use in the core of Glasgow city centre by 2025. Susan was selected as one of 40 global city leaders for the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative Class of 2023.

Nicola Yates OBE
Chief Executive Officer
Connected Places Catapult
As CEO of Connected Places Catapult, Nicola Yates OBE works to put UK innovators, businesses and places at a competitive ...
As CEO of Connected Places Catapult, Nicola Yates OBE works to put UK innovators, businesses and places at a competitive advantage at home and overseas. Nicola led the creation of Connected Places Catapult through the merger of the Future Cities Catapult (of which she was CEO) and the Transport Systems Catapult in 2019.

With experience leading two major British cities (Bristol and Hull) as well as a rural Midlands district, Nicola is an expert in building visionary ‘roundtable partnerships’ which are key to cultivating successful places, and understands the power of technology to transform the destiny of local economies. In 2018, she harnessed these skills to broker the ground-breaking Belfast City Region Deal which secured more than half a billion in investment and an estimated £2 billion GVA benefit to Northern Ireland’s innovation economy.

In addition to sparking the innovation potential of places, Nicola has expertise in accelerating net zero transition. Whilst CEO at Hull City Council, she helped catalyse the Humber clean energy cluster, and under her leadership Bristol was the first UK city to be named European Green Capital, delivering one of the most technologically-enabled programmes to date.

Nicola is currently a trustee for the independent policy think tank ‘Centre for Cities’ and is a member of SOLACE (the Society for Local Authority Chief Executives) and the Chartered Institute of Housing. She has featured in the Local Government Chronicle’s ‘Top 50 most influential figures in local government’ and was awarded ‘Woman Achiever in Housing’. In 2010, Nicola received an OBE for services to local government.

Greg Clark CBE
He is chair of the Connected Places Catapult (CPC), the UK’s innovation accelerator for cities, transport and place-leadership, ...
He is chair of the Connected Places Catapult (CPC), the UK’s innovation accelerator for cities, transport and place-leadership, and Chair of the UK Cities Commission for Climate Investment (3Ci) which convenes city leaders and urban investors to finance a just net zero transition. He is a Board member of Transport for London (TfL) and the London LEP. He chairs TfL’s new Land and Property Committee that oversees TfL low carbon property and housing company (TTLP).  He is a member of the WEF Global Future Council on Cities & Urbanisation and a member of the Bloomberg NEF Council on Cities.  He is Hon Prof of Urban Innovation at Strathclyde University and Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences. He is author of 10 books and 100 reports on cities, innovation, investment and place-leadership. His monthly column: The Planet of Cities, is hosted by RICS. He is Global Cities expert on the BBC World Service Series, My Perfect City.

Greg is a world expert on cities, urban innovation, investment, and the net zero transition. Over 35 years, he has worked with more than 300 cities, 40 national governments, 20 multilateral institutions, and multiple global corporates and investors. His previous roles include Group Advisor, Future Cities & New Industries at HSBC Investment Bank, Chair of the OECD Forum of Cities & Regions, Global Fellow on Cities and Metropolitan leadership at the Brookings Institution, and Global Fellow on Urban Investment at the Urban land Institute. He was Lead Advisor on Cities to the UK Gov, and was Executive Director of the London Development Agency and Managing Director of Greater London Enterprise. He has been a senior advisor on urban investment to the World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank, and the European Investment Bank.

He has chaired more than 20 internal advisory boards for individual cities that are reformulating their future investment strategies, long term plans, and governance, including New York, Mumbai, Sao Paulo, Johannesburg, Mumbai, Sydney, Auckland, Barcelona, Vienna, and Oslo. He has led comparative studies on Chinese, Australian, European, North American, Latin American, Middle Eastern, Chinese, ASEAN, and Indian Cities.  Since 2020 he has been tracking the impact of the COVID pandemic on 100 cities globally, and has developed a unique framework for assessing the post-pandemic city.

Georgia Gould
Councillor for Kentish Town Ward
Camden Council
Georgia Gould was elected a Councillor for Kentish Town ward for Camden Council in 2010 at the age of 24. ...
Georgia Gould was elected a Councillor for Kentish Town ward for Camden Council in 2010 at the age of 24. After holding a range of Cabinet portfolios, she became Leader in 2017 and as Leader has made citizen voice, participation and co-production a priority for the organisation. Under her leadership the Council held the country’s first Climate Emergency Citizens Assembly in 2019 to inform the response to our climate and ecological emergency. Georgia is Chair of London Councils and Co-Chair of the London Recovery Taskforce as well as a member of the London Economic Action Partnership (LEAP) Board. @Georgia_Gould
Day 1
16th May
Registration and Networking
Welcome from Connected Place Catapult
Welcome from 3Ci
Reflection from Councillor Susan Aitken, Leader of Glasgow City Council
Reflection from Councillor Georgia Gould, Leader of Camden Council
Networking drinks and refreshments
Event close

MK Accelerator Cohort Booklet


A data-led renaissance in city twinning

Some may think that the era of ‘twin towns’ or ‘sister cities’ is over. But in our globalised innovation economy, city twinning is having a data-led renaissance – and the UK and South Korea are leading the way.

This article features in the first edition of the Connected Places Magazine

It’s a story that begins and ends with cities as the engines of national growth. According to the World Bank, more than 80% of global GDP is generated in cities. By halfway through this century, three out of four of us will live in cities.

Cities are not just our past, they’re also our future. But we don’t always recognise that.

We know, for example, that cities drive economic and social change thanks to their concentration of people, academic institutions, and access to new technologies and ideas. But traditionally when we think of bilateral innovation and R&D partnerships, we tend to think at the national level.

For instance, countries will agree to cooperate. Missions are held between capital cities, and perhaps a handful of smaller cities are included where possible. That centralised model is now changing. Governments and cities around the world are recognising that economies and place are closely intertwined, and you can’t grow an economy without strong local leadership.

This is why the Catapult has been supporting the governments of the UK and South Korea in breathing life back into the idea of city twinning. It’s doing so using new data models and insights into the unique personality of a city’s innovation economy. And rather like a dating app, it can help match cities anywhere in the world that have complementary governance systems, business climates, and innovation markets.

The UK and South Korea are highly developed, innovation-based economies. The UK is the fifth largest economy in the world, and the third top destination when it comes to private technology investment. Similarly, South Korea is an urbanised, tech-enabled society with a highly skilled workforce. It was ranked by the Bloomberg Innovation Index in 2021 as the most innovative country in the world. This is nothing short of staggering for a former agricultural economy that emerged from civil war in the 1950s.

Both countries also have a strong policy focus on innovation-led growth that creates opportunities across and between regions. For the UK this speaks directly to the Government’s commitment to ensuring the innovation economy is playing its part in levelling up growth right across the country.

The adoption of smart and resilient technologies in cities is also a shared aim for Britain and South Korea. So too is creating new markets for smart city solutions, regeneration projects and urban testbeds. This is why the Catapult is fostering city-to-city relationships. It’s providing UK and South Korean companies new opportunities to collaborate and to remove barriers to market access for small businesses seeking to gain a foothold in their partner cities.

But the unique ingredient is the new intelligence this approach offers. It’s now possible to analyse which British and South Korean cities would twin best with each other.

This is based on a rigorous understanding of:

  • 1The overlap between two cities’ performance and trajectory
  • 2Similarities in their internationalisation appetite
  • 3Synergies between their various projects and ambitions

Because long before the post-war town twinning movement, cities had been trading, exchanging and learning from each other for millennia. Our global economy began with the networks that connect cities. In fact, many of our cities pre-date the nation states in which they are located.

London is certainly older than the UK, or even England. Athens and Rome speak for themselves, and on the Han River near present-day Seoul, a city was first recorded over 2,000 years ago.

Yet Sejong only emerged on the map as a new planned city in 2007.

So perhaps the renaissance of city twinning we’re seeing between the UK and South Korea is as new as it is old – an embrace of the digitally-driven global innovation economy on the one hand, and a rediscovery of a deeper history of urban collaboration on the other.

According to the World Bank, more than 80% of global GDP is generated in cities. By halfway through this century, three out of four of us will live in cities as the world population moves towards 10 billion.

Enjoyed this article?

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Launch of Innovating for Sustainable Futures: A Playbook for UK and Indian Cities

Earlier this summer, Connected Places Catapult hosted a mayoral delegation from India to celebrate the launch of Innovating for Sustainable Futures: A Playbook for UK and Indian Cities.

This Playbook is the result of the UK Government commissioning the Catapult to conduct research and provide an overview of how two Indian megacities (Kolkata and Hyderabad) can learn from UK policy interventions in Manchester and London – and vice-versa – on topics such as clean and integrated transport, urban innovation, environmental initiatives, regeneration, and new infrastructure delivery.

It provides an overview of several case studies in these large UK and Indian urban centres and offers a framework for understanding and knowledge exchange between the UK and Indian approaches in planning, implementing and measuring the impact of projects and programmes to support their sustainable development. With a focus on ensuring local company involvement, the analysis also focused on how the two countries’ large cities can leverage and unlock investment with target ecosystems to catalyse innovation and economic activity.

The Playbook is ultimately a guide for local authorities and private sector actors in how to move forward with collaborative projects between the UK and Indian counterparts and the launch event in June was the first step towards achieving this goal. The Catapult hosted delegates from Hyderabad and Kolkata’s Municipal commissions and state governments in the UK to foster partnerships for sustainable urban development and bilateral collaboration.

Delegates present at Connected Places Catapult's London office

The Playbook’s findings are drawn from detailed analysis of policy and project documentation, and in-depth consultations with select stakeholders in the target cities (Manchester, London, Hyderabad and Kolkata). The delegates from India visited the sites highlighted in the report and were able to engage with the developments in practice. Accompanied by Connected Places Catapult staff, partners and UK government representatives, the delegates from Kolkata and Hyderabad visited Kings Cross Redevelopment and learned about the transformation that took place in the past decade in the area. The Kings Cross Visitors Centre showed the delegates an architectural model and provided and overview of the history of the redevelopment. This was followed by a tour of how facilities, including heating and water systems, are being made more energy efficient to tackle climate change.

Delegates tour the Kings Cross visitor centre

The delegates also undertook site visits to the Transport for London (TfL) HQ office where they received an informative presentation from Katherine Howatson, Principal City Planner, on the design and implementation of the Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) policy, as well as on the Road User Charging scheme also implemented by TfL to address air pollution and traffic congestion. Delegates were especially interested in the technology that has been implemented to track vehicles travelling between zones, and how the technologies and data generated were managed. In Kolkata, for example, police are already using similar technologies to enforce traffic violations.

Delegates at TfL
Delegates at The Olympic Park

Just around the corner from TfL’s HQ, the delegates were given a tour of Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park by Ben Coulter, Head of Sustainability for the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC), the publicly-funded body which manages the planning, prior development and current redevelopment of the park. Ben provided an informative tour, and offered candid insights into the sustainability success stories and lessons learnt by LLDC in building the park to net zero specifications. He touched on lessons related to embodied carbon, energy usage and water treatment.

In the following leg of the visit, the delegates gained insights from Manchester’s leadership when it comes to catalysing transformation of city and wider-regional economy and creating high-value jobs and accelerating economic growth. The delegates met with Steven Cochrane, Partnership Director at Oxford Road Corridor in Manchester, who shared how stable and mature leadership have been key to building the long-term vision and partnerships in the area. He also highlighted the Manchester digital strategy as testbed for initiatives focused on infrastructure and innovation as well as arts and culture – fundamental to harness creativity across all sectors. Pat Bartoli, Director of City Centre, Growth and Infrastructure at Manchester City Council also joined the meeting.

The delegation then had a tour of part of the Oxford Road Development and the University of Manchester’s world-renowned National Graphene Institute led by Prof. Aravind Vijayaraghavan. The academic tours continued with UoM’s state of the art Engineering Campus, the new Engineering Building A, where the delegates were given a tour by Steve Jordan, Assistant Director of Estates and Facilities and Head of Capital Projects, and then a visit to Manchester Metropolitan University’s Fuel Cell Innovation Centre, where they saw hydrogen labs and understood future uses of hydrogen in the city space. Amer Gaffar, Director of Centre led the tour and through his genuine passion, provided an exciting and insightful meeting and tour.

Delegation tour Oxford Road Partnership in Manchester
Delegates meet Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham

The delegation concluded their tour with a meeting with the Mayor of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, Andy Burnham. Their conversation focused on exchanging best practices as well as challenges to policy implementation for green space provision, liveability and more inclusive place making, devolution, diverse funding sources for public projects, housing investment loans, and brownfield development among other topics.

The Greater Manchester Combined Authority team will be organising a mayoral visit to India in the coming year, which will provide an excellent opportunity to follow up from the Playbook and the delegation’s UK visit and create exciting trade and investment outcomes to work on for both countries and their cities.

If you are interested in finding out more about the Catapult’s work in India, please get in touch with Roxana Slavcheva at


Growing older healthily in an ageing society

A revolution in housing is harnessing innovation to help us live independently for longer. And it’s making us radically rethink what it means to grow older healthily in an ageing society.

This article features in the first edition of the Connected Places Magazine

By 2050, a quarter of the UK population will be over 65. That compares to less than 15% today. That’s why it’s vital we take an innovative and practical approach to building a future that prioritises physical and mental health as we grow older.

When it comes to healthy ageing, few UK homes are currently up to the challenge of supporting us throughout our lives. The UK has some of the oldest housing stock in Europe – 80% of the homes we’ll be living in by 2050 have already been built. But with the right technologies and innovative care solutions, we can get more from our homes for longer.

Tapping into the right technologies and innovations will mean the UK can:

  • 1Keep families and communities connected
  • 2Support health and independence
  • 3Reduce reliance on public services
  • 4Improve the provision of care at home
“One of the things that COVID has taught us is we don’t want to die in a care home. Most people now want to spend the last years of their life in their (own) home. And I think that that’s going to be an enormously important issue.”
Professor Lynda Gratton, Professor of Management Practice at the London Business School and best-selling author

In future, we will need smart homes to keep pace with the innovation around us. As Nigel Walley, Founder & MD of Chimni, puts it: the challenge is “to establish the role of smart homes in the emerging vision for smart, connected cities.” This means homes will need to connect intelligently to utilities and other networked services. But, as Walley points out, “Councils are currently struggling with legacy IT systems and budget constraints, so the private sector is going to have to step in and support them.”

Through the Homes for Healthy Ageing Programme, Connected Places Catapult is harnessing the expertise of industry leaders who can help us make the most of our existing infrastructure through scalable, consumer-friendly technology solutions.

The programme’s work is already underway. Its healthy ageing testbeds are gathering and testing new ideas and solutions in the area
of social isolation and improving cold and
damp homes.

“Wouldn’t it be great to have AI-enabled wheelchairs that can understand and act upon voice commands or eye movement to really enable mobility
for all?”
Scott Summers, CEO of Fuzzlab,a UK tech company specialising in AI products and services for the housing sector

The artificial intelligence company revolutionising care is a digital application that unites all those providing care to an individual – the ‘Thriver’. Using one single platform saves time and money, and improves coordination, communication and quality of care.

As Shainoor Khoja, Founder and CEO, explains, “Caregiving is fragmented, siloed and has been underinvested in. enables integrated care so everyone is on the same page, and can connect in real time.

“Underpinned by machine learning and artificial intelligence, delivers intelligent prompts, real-time data insights and more targeted engagement of Thrivers to help address issues of loneliness and isolation.”

Working with Connected Places Catapult has helped secure opportunities to pilot their solution and generate evidence for whether their app improves an individual’s care. Their help has given access to inputs on data security in collaboration with the ICO, and the chance to talk to – and design with – care providers.

“The programme has helped us tighten up our hypotheses and ensure we’re designing our pilot as independently as we can. It has specifically helped us meet with decision-makers and gain a deeper understanding of our target market.

“Advances in integrated, connected care technology will continue to deliver greater independence, healthier lifestyles, and lower costs for Thrivers.”

The data scientists predicting cold AND Damp

Bays Consulting, in partnership with Parity projects, runs Prediction to Prescription: a service that applies data science to identify and address cold and damp in homes. They’ve been working with the Catapult to help refine and showcase their idea. The programme has also helped them work on in-house research and development, and a long-term product development plan.

Sophie Carr, Director at Bays Consulting, explains more. “Our service is unique. It predicts the presence of cold and damp at the individual home level. It’s also accessed through a secure cloud-based portal, so different care teams can log in to one solution and use the same evidence to inform their decisions.

Working on the Homes for Healthy Ageing programme has provided great access to a wide range of stakeholders. They’ve also enabled us to link with Connected Places Catapult to develop a clear experimental design plan and access a far wider knowledge base.

“Future homes will need to meet the changing needs of an ageing population – including digital and transport accessibility. Our work with the Homes for Healthy Ageing programme can help make this happen.”

The Grand Challenge

The UK’s ‘ageing society’ is one of the UK government’s four Grand Challenges and its mission is to help people enjoy at least five extra healthy, independent years while narrowing the gap between the experiences of the richest and poorest.

But housing and health have until now been treated as two very different and disconnected worlds, which poses an opportunity for innovators and entrepreneurs in both the housing and the healthy living industries to introduce new technology and care solutions.

Enjoyed this article?

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Do you have a solution to making our homes better suited to people as they age? The next round of our Homes for Healthy Ageing programme is currently accepting applications. 


Levelling up the UK through inclusive innovation

The UK is positioning itself to be a global hub for innovation by 2035. But how do we make sure that the innovation economy creates opportunities for people and communities from all corners of the country?

This article features in the first edition of the Connected Places Magazine

For the benefits of innovation to be shared by all, we need a vision for what inclusive innovation looks like. So, the Research Commission on Inclusive Innovation is working with local leaders and innovation hubs across the country to get under the skin of some of these questions.

Levelling up the UK through inclusive innovation

What inclusive innovation will look like in individual UK towns and cities is beginning to become clear. But for more context on the wider remit of the commission, we spoke to Emma Frost, Chair of the UK Innovation Districts Group, which is leading on the Commission.

“Innovative, fast-growing firms account for less than 1% of UK companies, yet add £1 trillion to the UK economy. So what more can they deliver as they grow? And how is this best achieved and enabled?

“We need to understand the complicated dynamics at play, and what the link is between inclusive innovation and inclusive growth. This commission is aimed at doing exactly that.” Crucial, according to Frost, is hearing from those “in the thick of it.”

“We need to learn together and faster to avoid repeating the same mistakes or missed opportunities. We need it now to help inform policy and delivery as we respond to post pandemic, post Brexit and wider global economic forces. Put simply, we need to shake up who gets to innovate, on what and who benefits from it.”

Frost’s advice on the most important challenges facing all place leaders comes in four parts:

Get the basics right with respect to good growth

“We need a fast-growing innovation economy that pays real attention to fair employment practices, early and sustained education programmes, and diligent assessment of supply chains and added value.”

Focus innovation activity on societal challenges

“Encourage mission-led innovation and grand challenges everyone can get behind. Activate and strengthen partnerships between public, private, community and academic sectors – and be clear on the value each player adds. Bring people with you. Innovation districts can be agents of change but only if they’re able to connect people and purpose to build a coalition of the willing.”

Recognise that innovation districts often develop in areas of huge change, adjacent to areas with real socio-economic challenges

“Place leaders need to be aware of their role in the change. There are always inherent sensitivities and trade-offs. Monitor impacts and outcomes, good and bad. Track what’s happening, to whom, and respond.”

Inclusive innovation requires intentionality

“Trickle-down economics doesn’t deliver enough. True inclusive innovation requires us to rewire the value chains, existing systems and ways of working. Innovation districts offer a way to push forward this sort of transformation in a place-based way. But it doesn’t happen by accident. It has to be planned, prioritised and pushed every step of the way.”

So, what do places of innovation stand to gain? As Frost puts it: “If we get this right, places of innovation can future-proof themselves for the fourth industrial revolution – able to be part of it rather than reeling from it. They can also, hopefully, pave the way for a more sustainable and equitable innovation economy.”

Inclusive innovation hubs across the UK


Targeting under-served communities

Bradford’s Impact Hub is a social innovation hub and co-working space with collaboration and co-design at its heart. To target Bradford’s under-served communities – women, young people and people of colour – Impact Hub Bradford has aligned itself with the city’s economic strategy.

Chief Creative Officer, Imran Ali, summarises the hub’s approach:

“We believe diversity brings better outcomes to all entrepreneurial endeavours, but is absolutely vital to those pursuing social impact.”So how much impact is the Impact Hub having? We can point to a number of examples.

“Our two-day programme, The 35, brought together minority leaders from across the city for a series of workshops on common challenges. The cohort found mutual support in each other’s journeys, and strategies for building resilience into their work.

“Our 2019 edition of TEDxBradford was a day-long event connected by the theme ‘Radically Social’. Half the contributors were women and over a third were people of colour. This diverse representation helped attract over 300 attendees notably, as the audience could see themselves and their issues represented on stage.

“Finally, our SUSTAIN programme was a six-month series of masterclasses, workshops and individual coaching for social impact organisations challenged by the impact of COVID-19. SUSTAIN was developed in collaboration with PwC Foundation.”

Ali believes the Impact Hub’s ability to listen has been key to their successes.

“Think of compassion and empathy as core design materials. Use them to create products and services that matter. Inclusivity through co-design will ensure your communities feel ownership and agency over what you’re doing.”


Inclusivity through collaboration

Based in Birmingham, Digital Innovators facilitates collaboration between young people and businesses to unlock the potential of the next generation of innovators. In partnership with Greater Birmingham, Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership and Bruntwood SciTech, they recently launched The Ideator, a collaborative work environment on the Innovation Birmingham Campus.

This pilot programme establishes an incubator and development process for businesses to develop the ideas formed within the programme, with the intention of employing the young people who have created them.

As Mick Westman, Digital Innovators founder, explains,

“We believe everyone has the potential to succeed. We do not have entry requirements for students on our programmes. We do not look at grades or previous experience. All we ask is for participants to be eager to learn.”

For Mick, making innovation more inclusive is all about collaboration: “Collaboration is at the heart of what we do. Without our partnerships, our impact on a diverse pool of young people would not be as significant as it is today.”

Mick’s advice for more inclusive innovation? “Ask yourself, what are others doing which you could be doing better? How can you work together to increase inclusivity? What would this collaboration look like? The answers will help you identify the steps necessary to improve inclusivity through collaboration.”


Building community partnerships

The Glasgow Riverside Innovation District (GRID) works closely with community leaders and groups to understand the needs and ambitions of its communities. It’s a partnership between the University of Glasgow, Scottish Enterprise and Glasgow City Council, founded to drive inclusive innovation in the local community.

As a result of a partnership with InTo University they have located staff into community owned assets, which achieves a number of goals. GRID Director Benny McLaughlin explains: “Firstly, it creates economic activity within the community with associated spend and engagement. Secondly, it recycles rental income from tenancy agreements back into the community.

“And, as a result of situating some of our team in the community, we have engaged over 1,000 local school children in mentoring and educational activities.”

So where next for the GRID partnership? McLaughlin sees the work of the partnership as part of a wider contribution to the economic and social commitment across Glasgow: “The civic ambition of the partners is to ensure that where GRID has activity planned, the communities where that activity takes place are recognised and benefit from our presence.”

“My key advice to others trying to make places of innovation more inclusive is to listen to the community at all stages of interaction. This may elongate the delivery of initiatives but will help gain trust and support for the long term.”

The Research Commission on Inclusive Innovation has conducted a national study, looking into ten innovation districts across the UK to better understand what’s being done to address the challenges of delivering inclusive innovation and inclusive growth in those areas. You can now read the latest findings here