STEAMhouse wins Innovation Award

STEAMhouse has won the prestigious Technology Innovation Champion – Organisation award at the Innovation Awards 2023

STEAMhouse, powered by Birmingham City University, was opened in October 2022 at a cost of £75 million. With dedicated facilities including product development, maker space, business incubation, and specialist AR/VR discovery services; and through working with collaborative research partnerships, the innovation centre has helped bridge a regional gap in provision to drive innovative solutions to complex societal challenges, using science, digital transformation and creativity to underpin progress. 

The Innovation Awards were created to recognise, celebrate and reward companies, individuals and organisations dedicated to innovation. 

Richard Scutt, Head of Growth and Incubation at STEAMhouse, said ‘This year’s ceremony secured the highest ever number of nominees with over 22,000 people posting over 90,000 votes. 

STEAMhouse was shortlisted alongside some leading examples of organisation-led innovation such as Wolverhampton University’s Spark Innovation Hub. After we were nominated, it then went to a public vote which reduced the shortlist to 5. We were then interviewed by a panel of judges who assessed what we did to nurture and promote innovation, so it was fantastic to secure the win.’ 

STEAMhouse announced as winners at Innovation Awards 2023

 Richard continued ‘In terms of entrepreneurship and innovation the judges saw how we supported students and graduates through the annual hatchery programme designed for those with an innovative and exciting business idea who wish to develop it into a viable business. In part due to the success of STEAM-based business support, BCU (which powers STEAMhouse) is ranked 14th nationally and 1st in the West Midlands for business start-ups.  

They also saw first-hand our support for local entrepreneurs and businesses using our Incubator and Accelerator, Production and Studio spaces as well as our programme of Events, business Innovation Services and Membership options. They also cited the vibe and buzz of STEAMhouse which is fostering innovation through a unique collaboration between students, graduates, academics and local businesses.’ 

 The awards raised the fantastic sum of £8,473.50 for Acorns Children’s Hospice on the night, Friday 27 October 2023. BCU was also shortlisted for Manufacturing Innovation Champion for the Help to Grow scheme, whilst the SuperTech project, for which BCU  is the accountable body, was nominated under Tech Innovation Champion. 

Link to the original article can be found here.

Driving competency in the construction industry following the Grenfell disaster

On 20th September, participants from across the Built Environment came together at STEAMhouse to discuss the urgent need to adapt the way they do business, in light of the significant legislative changes coming into force on the 1st October under the Building Safety Act. This requires all employers to ensure their workforce is ‘competent’ to carry out their duties.

The Grenfell tragedy claimed the lives of 72 innocent people. Richard Millett QC, lead counsel to the Grenfell Tower Inquiry, describing how a ‘long run-up of incompetence’ led to the deadly events, and that every death was ‘avoidable’.

The associated introduction of the Building Safety Regulator (BSR) and the national oversight of construction product regulation within the Office for Product Safety Standards (OPSS), aims to encourage increased competence. The BSR and OPSS will be given powers to enforce the rules and act against those that break them.

Whilst the changes are welcome and many know why change is needed, we heard there is a lack of awareness and clarity in what the changes mean and how to get to a place of compliance and competence.

‘Since the Great Fire of London in 1666 politicians have legislated by disaster, driven by a huge public outcry following events such as the Summerland fire on the Isle of Wight in 1973, the Bradford City stadium fire in 1985, the fire at Kings Cross station in 1987 and most recently the inferno at Grenfell.  The Building Safety Act 2022 aims to create a change in culture, behaviour and working practices across the Built Environment to ensure that through increased competence the events which happened at Grenfell can never happen again.”

Mike Leonard – Building Alliance, Visiting Professor at Birmingham City University 

Enter STEAMhouse…

Our STEAM Challenge event was designed to enable cross-industry conversation and collaboration, resulting in actionable outcomes that enable businesses to respond to this gargantuan task.

Keynotes from the Building Safety Regulator (BSR) and Office for Product Safety Standards (OPSS) set the scene providing an opportunity for businesses to work directly with those setting out the new agenda, giving space to exchange knowledge, (respectfully!) challenge one another and share perspectives to find common ground to work together.

Participants from across the industry, including materials manufactures, installers, designers and engineers in roles from marketing to technical then worked collaboratively to get to know the problem better and asked themselves the big question, what does competence actually mean?

We heard that the act provides a ‘new era’ for the Built Environment and an opportunity to step away from ‘Grandfather rights’ (thank you for bringing that phrase to our attention!) to a progressive, inclusive and bespoke way of developing and maintaining skills.

Knowing what you don’t know and having the confidence to say ‘that’s not my skill but I know who’s it is” can lead to a shift in behaviours and create a culture of responsibility, pride and trust that breaks the ‘model of cheap wins’.

“From a regulator’s perspective I would say the key to meeting the new requirements under the Building Safety Act 2022 and the new fire safety legislation which will come into effect at the same time is ‘design, design, design’. From now on, it won’t be possible to put a spade in the ground until the building design has been approved by BSR.”

Andrew Moore – Head of Operations, Building Safety Regulator, part of the Health and Safety Executive.

We gave space to challenging the current model of skills training and heard best in class examples of learning that works, from bitesize micro modules and evidence based on site experience to self paced web based courses and independent accreditation.

Later we moved into action planning, using STEAMhouse tools to identify weaknesses and opportunities to get to a place of competence. Whilst much of this is confidential, we heard overwhelmingly that a human-centred approach is essential in creating a vision for this new era of change.

We must support not only those doing the jobs to take pride in their roles, but at all stages from design to build remember that these aren’t just buildings, they are the spaces and places where people live and work.

If we’ve learned anything from the tragedies that led to where we are now, it’s that we all have a responsibility to create a Built Environment to be proud of.

‘OPSS is delighted to see construction product manufacturers and suppliers collaborating to ensure the competence of their workforce. It’s this sort of cooperation that will help the UK deliver better, safer buildings.”

Duncan Johnson – Deputy Director, Construction Products Regulation, Office for Product Safety Standards.

Amazing sponsorship opportunity for an established artist

Amazing RESIDENCY opportunity for an EARLY CAREER artist


🌟 Are you an early career artist in Birmingham/West Midlands? We’ve got an AMAZING opportunity for you at STEAMhouse. Thanks to a visionary business committed to empowering artists, we’re offering a FREE 6-month full-time Residency and Maker/Studio Membership at STEAMhouse. 🎨🏭

🔥 Fuel your creativity and join our vibrant community:

✅ Access state-of-the-art tools and facilities 5 days a week
✅ Collaborate with diverse professionals for innovative ideas
✅ Dive into bespoke workshops, events, and skill-building sessions
✅ Thrive in a creative community built on collaboration

At STEAMhouse, we’re all about experimentation, pushing boundaries, and nurturing fresh insights! 🚀

This residency embodies our core principles: Conversation, Exploration, Collaboration, Openness, and Newness. 🤝🌐

📅 Application Deadline: 5th October 📣 Interview date for Applicants successfully shortlisted: 13th October

Don’t miss this golden opportunity to supercharge your artistry! Apply now HERE  🌟🎨

STEAMhouse hosts Project 80 report presentation on Sustainable Homes

STEAMhouse saw an excellent turnout for the presentation of the Project 80 Eco Drive Interim Report which details learnings and outcomes from the very first ‘at-scale’ demonstrator of the Future Homes Standard.

Eco Drive is a groundbreaking sustainable development of 12 properties in Handsworth, Birmingham. Constructed by Bromsgrove-based construction firm Tricas, the homes have been occupied by tenants of Midland Heart Housing association for the last 12 months.

The project represents a highly effective partnership between BCU, housing providers, housebuilders, suppliers and residents, whilst generating a plethora of recommendations for policymakers and industry.

Professor Nasser Sherkat, Head of BCU’s Faculty of Computing, Engineering and the Built Environment opened the event with a welcome address.

Joe Reeves and Tony Hopkins from Midland Heart Housing Association then described the sustainability concepts behind the pioneering Eco Drive housing development, which has delivered beautiful properties specifically designed to produce at least 70% fewer CO2 emissions in line with the Future Homes Standard.

Professor David Boyd and Dr Monica Mateo Garcia presented a brilliantly informative session on Project 80’s learnings and outcomes. Fascinating (and occasionally unexpected) occupier lifestyle insights have been revealed through real-time monitoring of energy usage and air quality, together with feedback from face-to-face tenant interviews.

Visiting BCU Professor and CEO of Building Alliance Mike Leonard then shared an overview of the impressively wide-ranging portfolio of other programs currently being undertaken by the Centre for Future Homes.

For the final session of a thoroughly enjoyable event, the speakers convened for a lively audience Q & A.

For those who couldn’t make it to the Eco Drive presentation but would be interested in the Interim Report’s findings, you can download the entire document here.

Holly Hendry sculpture unveiled at STEAMhouse

On a fantastic evening at STEAMhouse, a specially-invited audience celebrated the official unveiling of Lip-sync, a new sculpture created by artist Holly Hendry.

This beautiful work of art is the first public sculpture commissioned by Birmingham City University and it now stands proudly outside the STEAMhouse building at the junction of Jennens Road and Cardigan Street.

Holly gave a fascinating talk about what inspired ‘Lip-sync’ and guided a rapt audience through the inception and development of the piece.

Tributes were delivered by BCU Vice-Chancellor Philip Plowden, IEE Director Joanna Birch and GBSLEP Chair Anita Bhalla.

If you haven’t yet seen ‘Lip-sync’ in real life, do yourself a favour and go. While you’re there, drop into STEAMhouse and see all the other great things that are happening!

STEAMhouse artists reflect on successful completion of Skills Bootcamp

The first schedule of Skills Bootcamps delivered by Birmingham City University (BCU) concluded recently and were a huge success, attracting learners from a wide range of disciplines including urban planning, architecture, built environment and the arts.

Skills Bootcamps are part of the Government’s Lifetime Skills Guarantee and are funded by the Department for Education. Those delivered by BCU are supported by West Midlands Combined Authority.

Two of the Skills Bootcampers were former STEAMhouse Create program artists Julia Snowdin and Ildiko Nagy. Both successfully completed the Climate Literacy for Sustainable Futures course.

We spoke to Julia and Ildiko to hear their impressions of the inaugural Skills Bootcamps and how they plan to apply new methodologies in their respective practices.

Ildiko Nagy

“I’m an artist who works with natural and recycled materials. I heard about the Skills Bootcamp in an email from STEAMhouse and I instantly thought “Yes this is it! I’m going to sign up!”

On the Bootcamp, we’ve learned about a lot of environmental issues and about the climate emergency. Personally the way I think I can contribute to this is on a local level, so I’m going to start working with local communities and introducing them to everything I learned here. I’ll provide workshops where people can learn new skills, appreciate nature, spend more time with nature and as a result make their own lives better.

My hope is that this will change the system from the bottom up rather than ‘top down’.

I’d definitely recommend the Climate Literacy Skills Bootcamp to everyone – in fact I think it should be taught in early years because we are facing huge issues. We all need to connect and create change for a greener future. It’s very important that people understand how much damage they might be doing to the planet.

I firmly believe that people’s carbon footprint is directly relatable to wellbeing. The more time we can spend in nature and the more activities we can do like cycling and walking, it will not only benefit our mental health but the climate too.”

Julia Snowdin

“I’m an installation artist. I make playable and playful installations for families, working with galleries like the Baltic and with festivals like Art in the Park. I work outside predominantly!

For a long time, I’d been wanting to understand the environmental impact of the work that I create and how I could do better. I got an email about the Climate Literacy Skills Bootcamp and I immediately thought ‘That’s perfect for me. It could help me begin this journey and understand how I can reduce my footprint as an artist.”

The big takeaway from Skills Bootcamp that I’m going to bring to my job is circular design. That means thinking about installation design from the beginning and looking at the materials I’m using.

Could I re-use materials that I’ve already got in stock, could I look at using recyclable alternatives, are there previously-used materials out there that I could source?

I like to use steel, so could that steel go back to the manufacturer to be melted down and used again? I also use a lot of Perspex, so I know that can be returned, ground down and made into new Perspex.

Then in the way I construct the installation, can it all be taken apart and used again? Can I create something that’s tour-able so it goes on to other locations rather than just being used once for the first commission? Once we get to the end of the cycle could I then gift the piece on to a school, for example?

I’d absolutely recommend the Skills Bootcamp to others. Some of the sessions were really inspiring to me and I’ve learned so much, especially that climate action comes into the everyday. Really, just give it a go!

I think it’s vitally important that everyone considers how they can reduce their carbon footprint in their working lives. Maybe in how they commute to work and once they’re at work, how they might inspire their colleagues to do the same thing and implement new climate policies in the workplace.

This is something we’ve all got to think about, it’s not something we can ignore. It’s real and it’s happening.”

STEAMhouse welcomes its first sculpture!

A new public sculpture has been installed outside STEAMhouse!

In 2022 we invited artist Holly Hendry to develop a sculpture for STEAMhouse, the first public artwork that the University has commissioned for the City Centre Campus. We are really excited that Lip Sync is now in place on the corner of Cardigan Street and Jennens Road.

Made from rolled, formed and laser cut steel with smaller hand-cast elements, the brightly coloured sculpture’s surface features cartoonish, body-like shapes co-developed with students from Birmingham City University and pupils from Chandos Primary School in Highgate in a series of drawing workshops.

Details, marks and shapes from the workshops were fed into computer software where they were simplified, and amalgamated into a colourful, sheet rubber-like ribbon which weaves through a series of industrial rollers seeming to appear from, and disappear into, the ground. If you get up close you will see that Lip Sync’s surface is made of a puzzle of individual elements that are rolled and fixed together, different parts engineered, coloured, stretched, and flattened by multiple industrial processes.

Holly’s work uses the language of slapstick and cartoons to create joyful and materially rich sculptures which explore the role of the human body in industrialisation and encourage us to think about our current, and future, experiences of being human in relation to new and expanding digital technologies. This is her first permanent public artwork. Working with project curators Eastside Projects she has put together this series of prompts, thoughts and ideas to use as starting points when looking at the work. If you’re coming along to STEAMhouse, take a look and reflect…


Flattened. Extruded. Condensed. Material. Physical. Tangible. Steel mimicking rubber Looping down and around beneath our feet, like the mechanics of the building – the air conditioning, the data cables, the water supply. Tensions between bodies and machines, mechanisation and digitalisation. Steam rollered through the computer Computing – the act of calculating or reckoning A group activity, physical bodies working things out together Following a fixed set of calculations and rules Individual acts become collective, leading from one to another. Tiny details, marks and gestures emerging from many conversations, little elements from somebody else’s hand Bodies dispersed through mark making The history of this building is of bicycles and rubber. Machines enabling forward motion, extensions of the body. Technological augmentation. The structure of a Jacquard loom – the original computer. Controlled by the punch of a hole. From far away an image, a painting or a drawing. On closer inspection a puzzle of small parts; drawings, cutouts, and layers folded into a continuous loop. Punctuated by cast elements – perhaps teeth or vertebrae. Digital processes physicalised in the making. Handmade drawings pushed into simplified lines and gestures, reflecting the language of advertising and traffic signs. Breathe

Dispelling Five Common Innovation Myths

Innovation is a big word – it can mean so many things to so many people. It can be daunting for anyone to start to think about, as it may seem inaccessible to anyone who doesn’t see themselves as creative.

That’s not the only misconception around innovation – there are some common myths around innovation that can be hurdles to achieving what you want.

But in this blog, we’re looking at dispelling some of the most common myths surrounding innovation, and hopefully give you the confidence to try.


Innovation is about creating something new

Many believe that in order to innovate, you need to create something completely new, essentially re-invent the wheel. That’s true in some cases, but in most cases, innovation is about creating change – and change can be small, big, new or reinvention of something that’s worked before.

If you’ve got something that works that could be improved, that’s innovation! Innovation is all about looking at new and creative ways to find solutions, and that “new and creative way” could be a small extension of what’s already working.


Innovation is a solo activity

Some believe that in order to come up with a creative and innovative idea, you have to work alone. This is definitely not the mindset to have. Some of the best ideas and solutions can come from group conversations and thinking.

If you find working alone to be more conducive to creative thinking, then go ahead, but it’s still good to involve others in the final stages before launching an idea, as they can offer feedback you might not have thought about (just make sure it’s not friends and family).


Innovation can’t be taught

Everyone has an innovator inside of them. You have the power to make changes big and small. You might think that you’re not creative, and so resign yourself to never being an innovator.

However, innovation is within everyone – it’s all about learning to listen to that voice within you. Surround yourself with innovative people and a space that encourages you to think differently, and you’ll be surprised with how innovative you might be!


Innovation can’t be forced

This is a half myth, because you can’t force yourself to do anything, certainly not innovation. This should be an organic experience from you, but you can cheat the system if you need to.

Much like the above, if you surround yourself by innovative people and put yourself into new and creative spaces, you can encourage yourself to think different and advance your ideas through innovation.


Innovation isn’t for everyone

This is the biggest myth of all – innovation isn’t for me.

Innovation is for everyone. We wouldn’t be in the place we are now if it weren’t for innovation! All you need to do is open yourself up and give yourself the freedom to think about new ideas, and dispel any of those other myths you might be thinking about.

Should you ask friends and family for business insight?

You can’t always afford focus groups when you’re starting out – all you have is a great idea and the drive to go for it. So, in this scenario, where would you most likely get your advice from about getting started, or thoughts on how your idea might work?

Most people would ask their family and friends – which is what you should avoid!

Many successful entrepreneurs put down the success to launching an idea to not consulting those closest to them – and there’s even a famous book all on the subject.

“The Mom Test” by Rob Fitzpatrick looks at how you should ask the right questions to reveal authentic insights into ideas and pitches, rather than looking for compliments.

Looking at the concept of “The Mom Test” itself, it’s meant to be a demonstration why you shouldn’t bring your new idea to your mum, as all she’ll do is compliment you and tell you it’s a great idea…even if it’s not.

You need to remember that when you speak with friends and family, they may say compliments over harsh truths to avoid offending you. They may also not be a part of your target audience, so wouldn’t have the right insight into how much your idea might be needed.

If you do only have that group to consult with, here are our tips for getting the most out of the conversation:


  • Look for truths instead of aiming for compliments

This can be done by framing questions differently. Rather than asking “what do you think about my idea of…”, think about “what do you feel the need for…is in society?”. This shifts the view of the idea away from you and more about the general populous.

By aiming away from compliments, the people you’re asking will be able to deviate their opinion away from their personal relationship with you, and so if they need to deliver some hard truths, it will feel less personal and more informative.


  • Aim for a wide range of ages, genders and mindsets

If you are going to speak with friends and family about your idea, it’s a good idea to aim for a wide range of differing characteristics. Much like any successful focus groups, you want to make sure you’re speaking with a wide range of ages, genders, mindsets and backgrounds.

Without diverse thoughts and opinions, you’re once again aiming for compliments rather than the hard truths. It can also be a great idea to see if your idea if suitable for all audiences, or very specific ones.


  • Take everything with a pinch of salt

Unless all your friends and family are entrepreneurs and creative geniuses, it’s not likely that they will have any expertise on running a business and what makes a successful idea. They can relate to what the product or service is that you want to run, but everything outside of that is not within their wheelhouse.

So, it’s very important that any opinion they give, or any advice, is taken with a pinch of salt. It’s good to gauge the need of your idea with your close group but leave the advice to the experts.


Experts can be hard to come by, but at STEAMhouse, we’re not short of experts in a wide range of entrepreneurial and practical subjects. For our Incubator and Associate members, they have access to free business support when they need it, and our Maker members can rely on specialist technicians for informal, one-to-one support.

STEAM Challenge Event explores solutions to improve homes and lives

What’s was this STEAM Challenge about? 

Across the country, millions of people live in houses which have a negative impact on their health, finances and the planet. Almost 40% of UK homes pre-date 1945, meaning they have low energy efficiency making them expensive to heat and in Birmingham alone, 21.8% of households live in fuel poverty. Retrofit (the improvement of existing housing) is widely accepted as the solution.  

On 23rd June, STEAMhouse and BCU’s School of Architecture welcomed over 40 representatives from local communities, industry and civic institutions to work collaboratively to explore how the sharing of knowledge might improve the way in which people live and the access they have to green, healthier homes.   


How does sharing knowledge play a role? 

The ‘why’ of this challenge is well understood, but what’s less clear is the ‘how’. 

…We know the products and materials exist that can do what’s needed to make peoples homes warmer, healthier and better for the environment.  

…We know that our Local Authorities are committed to upgrading the homes of their citizens.  

…We know that people have want to live in healthier homes.  

 But we also know that something isn’t working and there’s a huge knowledge gap between the those with the tools to help and the people who will benefit most from change.  

Collectively we explored how the sharing of knowledge at all levels might empower and equip communities, industry and institutions with equitable opportunities to create affordable, inclusive and regenerative solutions that improve homes and lives. 


What we heard. 

“We should be working constantly all together to do whatever we can to make sure that everybody lives in decent, affordable conditions…but we won’t ever come up with those solutions unless we take all the people with us”. 

 Jess Phillips, Labour MP for Birmingham Yardley 

There’s a breakdown of trust, we need to rebuild that trust but it won’t happen without commitment from everyone involved to earn it. 

Knowing who our ‘Community beacons’ are and working with them is essential in influencing change within communities. 

We need to ditch the jargon and speak to people in a language they understand about the things that matter to them.  

There are scales to the problem and people and organisations should try to find out what their best role is and at what scale. 


So what, what’s next?

Challenges at this scale can’t be tackled alone and collaboration is key to developing new and meaningful solutions that work. Our STEAM Challenge Event was the first step in supporting BCU’s School of Architecture in their vision to “provide climate leadership in the just transition in the region to building sustainable and inclusive futures.” 

Watch this space for what happens next. 


With thanks to our kind supporters; BCU’s RAAD fund (Research in Art, Architecture and Design) and Ecrofit.