O'Really?

May 5, 2017

Venturing Further in 2017 with student entrepreneurs in Manchester #VentureFurther

venturefurtherVenture Further is a business startup competition that awards £50k of prize money to eight student entrepreneurs in Manchester. Running annually, #VentureFurther showcases the enterprising talent of students and graduates of the University of Manchester in four themed categories: Business, Research, Digital and Social. Here is a quick summary of results from the 2017 competition, now in its twelfth year.

This year there were were 16 finalists selected from a total of 73 entries. I was pleased to be invited to judge on the panel for the digital category, which saw some impressive and well polished business propositions. It was really was hard picking the winners!

The awards ceremony and dinner were held in the Whitworth Hall and attended by members of the North West business community. After a keynote from Dale Murray CBE on her distinguished career as an entrepreneur and angel investor, the awards were announced as follows:

Business category: Commercial potential for new products or services

First prize: Eleanor Trimble, Siddharth Kohli, Mohammed Abdulaal, Meera Dulabh, and Dr Alex Casson for Neurolytics, working on biometric data analysis

Second prize: Amir Khorasani and Mohammad Hajhashem for Russell Food Group’s Locally Sourced, a farming supply chain disruptor.

Runners-up: Bilal El Sayed and Benedict Vardey for UWispa a mobile phone case and Crystal Bromwell for Wardrobe in the City a clothing-rental subscription service

Research category: Businesses that focus on the application of university-based research

First prize: Salman Malik and Muftau Akanbi for Microspray Technologies enabling industrial and research scale particle manufacture using aerosols.

Second prize: Denis Bandurin and Alexander Obraztsov for GrapheX, developing portable x-ray sources with graphene-based cathodes.

Runners-up: Mohammad Nazmul Karim and Shaila Afroj for 2DTronics wearable e-textiles and Niall Coogan and Barry Johnston for Cable Coatings a novel low cost method to boost electricity grid capacity.

Digital category: Businesses that apply digital technologies

First prize: Rishabh Jindal for Otterly a food ordering service

Second prize: Michal Wisniewski and Edmund Moore for Simple terms crowdsourcing and gamifying recruitment.

Runner-up: Mubashshar Rahman, Jonathan Tang and Ali Ibrahim for HollaMe a student services exchange and Caleb Conner for SpareSpace Airbnb for luggage

Social cateogory: Businesses that improve the lives of people and communities

First prize: Duncan Swainsbury, Eve Chancellor, Jessica Stalmach, Ashton Coates and Neil Stewart for Bounceback Education a ‘buy one, donate one’ tutoring service giving disadvantaged students access to free tuition.

Second prize:Kathryn Pierce for Somewhere MCR CIC a social enterprise supporting the LGBT community.

Runner-up:Salman Malik and Jamshed Malik for Second Shave Barbers CIC a barbershop for homeless people and Hamza Arsbi and Farah Abu Hamdan for The Science League an educational platform

Congratulations to all the finalists, making it to the final 16 is an achievement in itself. Thanks goes to

If you would like to get involved in the next round of the Venture Further competition in 2018, as competitor, sponsor or supporter see the Venture Further website and details of the 2017 competition on LinkedIn.

June 18, 2013

Peter Suber’s Open Access book is now freely available under an open-access license

Peter Suber's Open Access book

Open Access by Peter Suber is now open access

If you never got around to buying Peter Suber’s book about Open Access (OA) publishing [1] “for busy people”, you might be pleased to learn that it’s now freely available under an open-access license.

One year after being published in dead-tree format, you can now get the whole digital book for free. There’s not much point writing yet another review of it [1], see Peter’s extensive collection of reviews at cyber.law.harvard.edu. The book succinctly covers:

  1. What Is Open Access? (and what it is not)
  2. Motivation: OA as solving problems and seizing opportunities
  3. Varieties: Green and Gold, Gratis versus libre 
  4. Policies: Funding mandates (NIH, Wellcome Trust etc)
  5. Scope: Pre-prints and post-prints
  6. Copyright: … or Copyfight?
  7. Economics: Who pays the bills? Publication fees, toll-access paywalls and “author pays”
  8. Casualties: “OA doesn’t threaten publishing; it only threatens existing publishers who do not adapt”
  9. Future: Where next?
  10. Self-Help: DIY publishing

Open Access for MACHINES!

A lot of the (often heated) debate about Open Access misses an important point about open access being for machines as well as humans, or as Suber puts in Chapter 5 on Scope:

We also want access for machines. I don’t mean the futuristic altruism in which kindly humans want to help curious machines answer their own questions. I mean something more selfish. We’re well into the era in which serious research is mediated by sophisticated software. If our machines don’t have access, then we don’t have access. Moreover, if we can’t get access for our machines, then we lose a momentous opportunity to enhance access with processing.

Think about the size of the body of literature to which you have access, online and off. Now think realistically about the subset to which you’d have practical access if you couldn’t use search engines, or if search engines couldn’t index the literature you needed.

Information overload didn’t start with the internet. The internet does vastly increase the volume of work to which we have access, but at the same time it vastly increases our ability to find what we need. We zero in on the pieces that deserve our limited time with the aid of powerful software, or more precisely, powerful software with access. Software helps us learn what exists, what’s new, what’s relevant, what others find relevant, and what others are saying about it. Without these tools, we couldn’t cope with information overload. Or we’d have to redefine “coping” as artificially reducing the range of work we are allowed to consider, investigate, read, or retrieve.

It’s refreshing to see someone making these points that are often ignored, forgotten or missed out of the public debate about Open Access. The book is available in various digital flavours including:

References

  1. Suber, Peter. Open Access (MIT Press Essential Knowledge, The MIT Press, 2012). ISBN:0262517639
  2. Clair, Kevin. (2013). Kevin Michael Clair reviews Open Access by Peter Suber The Journal of Academic Librarianship, 39 (1) DOI: 10.1016/j.acalib.2012.11.017

April 28, 2011

Are machines taking over the planet?

TastyTalk of machines taking over the planet is the stuff of science fiction but if world domination was just a simple numbers game, some machines have already “taken over” from their human masters.

One machine, the particular brand of computer processor found inside all iPhones and lots of other electronic devices, has been quietly spreading around the globe at a phenomenal rate. There are some interesting statistics on just how many of these processors are out there published in an interview with engineer Steve Furber [1]. Here is an excerpt from the interview:

“Around the end of 2007, the ten-thousand-millionth ARM [Advanced RISC Machine] had been shipped, so there are more ARMs than people on the planet. I believe production is currently running at about 10 million a day. It is projected to rise to about one per person on the planet per year within two or three years”.

Those numbers highlighted in bold (emphasis mine) are completely mind-boggling. As humans, we are outnumbered by just one brand of machine! Of course, they are just lots of “dumb” computer chips with no intelligence. But Furber suspects that:

“there’s more ARM computing power on the planet than everything else ever made put together” [1]

So if you could find a way of using all these processors at once, maybe they’d become magically self-aware in a neural network [2,3,4,5]? Cue ominous Terminator theme tune

References

  1. Jason Fitzpatrick (2011). An interview with Steve Furber Communications of the ACM, 54 (5) DOI: 10.1145/1941487.1941501 (since 2007, numbers have risen to 10 billion in 2008 an another one billion in the first quarter of 2011 alone!)
  2. Steve Furber (2011). Biologically-Inspired Massively-Parallel Architectures: A Reconfigurable Neural Modelling Platform Lecture Notes in Computer Science, 6578 (2) DOI: 10.1007/978-3-642-19475-7_2
  3. Steve Furber, & Steve Temple (2008). Studies in Computational Intelligence Computational Intelligence: A Compendium, 115, 763-796 DOI: 10.1007/978-3-540-78293-3_18
  4. An estimated one million ARM processors give you about 1% of the capacity of the human brain see the details of the Spiking Neural Network Architecture (SpiNNaker) project
  5. James Cameron, et al (1991) Terminator 2: Judgment Day (T2)

[Creative commons licensed picture of Terminator terror by Tasty by cszar]

April 6, 2009

Should We Boycott Amazon (again)?

Christopher North, Vice President of Media, AmazonMy first proper full-time job was working in the big bad world of scientific publishing for a family run company based in Oxford called Blackwell Science Limited, or blacksci.co.uk which is now part of wiley.com. Consequently, I’ve a few friends and former colleagues who still work in various parts of the publishing industry. Last week I got an email from one of these friends who works for a small independent book publishing company: I’ve reproduced an interesting email message about Amazon from them below (with permission):

This is very unlike me but I am sending a general email out because I am so outraged by something I feel I must share with you. In case you didn’t already know, I work for a small publisher. Times are hard – we all know that. Amazon.co.uk form a large part of our business. Recently they have changed their terms with all of their publishers. For us, and many other small and independent publishers, these new terms are completely unacceptable. We have no say about it and the way they went about it was frankly nasty (they basically sent an email out giving us a week to decide whether to give them more discount or more credit). For bigger publishers it may have a negligible effect but for smaller publishers, where cashflow can mean everything, the effect will be severe! And they have us over a barrel.

Amazon.co.uk so dominate the online market in books that they are almost a monopoly. The discounts we’ve been supplying Amazon for the last few years are outrageous – but what they have done recently is the last straw, and many small publishers could go out of business (luckily I think we’ll survive!). I am so outraged at how they are treating their suppliers that I am now boycotting Amazon for my own personal books and CDs. I have been using them for years and years. The only way to put a bit of healthy competition back into the system is by having more online book retailers become as successful as Amazon. Today we used The Book Depository bookdepository.co.uk for the first time. The books we wanted were all there, in stock and cheaper than Amazon and it was very easy to use. So we’re trying to help spread the word!

Another online retailer is waterstones.com, which separated from Amazon a few years ago due to their unworkable terms. I haven’t used them myself but I hear they are pretty good, and play.com can fulfil your DVD and CD requirements (and all delivery is free I think).

They may not always be as cheap as Amazon but now you know how Amazon get their low prices you may not be as happy to use them – if small, interesting, independent publishers go out of business it’ll just be the biggies left (which will mean much less choice).

So, is the behaviour of Amazon.co.uk just the all too familiar face of capitalism? Or should we boycott Amazon for being a big bully only interested in monopolising the marketplace and getting rid of some healthy competition?

References

  1. Catherine Neilan (2009) Amazon refused to budge on new terms, Bookseller.com 2009-03-30
  2. Liz Thomson (2009) Advantage Amazon? Publishers react to proposed new terms Bookbrunch.co.uk 2009-03-26
  3. Richard Stalman (2001) (Formerly) Boycott Amazon! – GNU Project – Free Software Foundation (FSF) gnu.org

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