Finding support for your great idea(s)

The sociable existence of the techie type

As mentioned in my previous post, this year we’ve launched a new award category, the Young Innovator Award. But what's out there for innovators over 25 (other than all the other NMA categories, of course)?

Events and conferences

Most nights of the week in London and in other large cities across the UK there are technology events taking place that are great for finding out the latest thinking and are fantastic for networking. If you still think that techie people are anti-social, think again. There are a huge variety of topics, themes and industry sectors catered for, from groups devoted to talking about the programming language Ruby on Rails to nights showcasing the latest start-up companies. And a month rarely goes by without a large technology/new media based conference of one sort or the other.

If you have a digital idea or concept you'd like to take further then these events should be your first port of call. They’re ideal for finding like minded others, encouragement, and building your contact base – you never know you may even find someone to invest in your plans.

Naturally, online social networks have become the way to find out about what is going on, and the top favourite at the moment for finding out about UK tech events is Upcoming, where the New Media Awards listed here.

Investment from government agencies
As well as running services such as Business Link, Regional Development Agencies across the UK are investing in various ways in technology, creative and digitally based ideas, events and businesses. One of the ways that the London Development Agency supports this area is via the strategic agency Creative London. Creative London is particularly active in supporting the new media, digital and computer games industries and recently sponsored ten companies £5,000 each to attend the week long London BBC Innovation Lab.

Venture Capital and Angel Funding
Many Venture Capitalists got burnt back in 2001/02 and as a result those who are investing in the UK technology sector are being far more cautious. Recent success stories include Trampoline Systems and Trusted Places who recently received £3 million and £500,000 investment respectively. But there is nothing like the billions of dollars sloshing around as there is over in the US. To get this kind of investment your idea needs to have got off the ground and already proven to be a success, you’ve also got to be ready to part with a considerable share of the business you’ve built up.

There are a number of sites and organisations providing information and support in this area, here are just a few of the main ones:

Open Business

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Why have men become so lonely – and how does it affect their health?

New findings show the consequences of having a lonely heart.

Go out and get some friends. No, seriously. Hop on the Tube and act faux-interested in the crap-looking book your fellow commuter is reading, even if it's on their Kindle. Chances are it's better than the one in your bag, and they're probably a decent human being and just as lonely, like you and me.

A new slate of facts and figures are showing just how widespread loneliness, is while simultaneously being amazingly terrible for your health.

Research led by Steven Cole from the medicine department at University of California, Los Angeles is showing the cellular mechanisms behind the long known pitfalls of loneliness. Perceived social isolation (PSI) – the scientific term for loneliness –increases the exposure to chronic diseases and even mortality for individuals across the world.

The authors examined the effects of loneliness on leukocytes, also known as white blood cells, which are produced from stem cells in the bone marrow and are critical to the immune system and defending the body against bacteria and viruses. The results showed loneliness increases signalling in the sympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for controlling our fight-or-flight responses, and also affects the production of white blood cells.

Recently, the Movember Foundation, which focuses on men's health and wellbeing, carried out a survey with the help of YouGov investigating friendship and loneliness amongst men. The results are alarming, with only 11 per cent of single men across the spectrum in their early 20s to late-middle age saying they had a friend to turn to in a time of crisis, the number rising to 15 per cent for married men.

Friendship has shown not only to be important to a person's overall wellbeing, but can even add to a person's earnings. A previous study involving 10,000 US citizens over 35 years showed people earned 2 per cent more for each friend they had.

The Movember Foundation survey comes soon after the Office for National Statistics (ONS) showed that men in Britain make up 58 per cent of the 2.47m people living alone between the ages of 45 and 64. The reasons behind this figure include marrying later in life and failed marriages, which usually result in children living with the mother. Women still make up the majority of the 7.7m single-occupant households across all ages in the country, at approximately 54 per cent.

Chronic loneliness seems to have slowly become a persistent problem for the country despite our hyper-connected world. It's an issue that has made even Jeremy Hunt say sensible things, such as "the busy, atomised lives we increasingly lead mean that too often we have become so distant from blood relatives" about this hidden crisis. He's previously called for British families to adopt the approach of many Asian families of having grandparents live under the same roof as children and grandchildren, and view care homes as a last, not first, option.

The number of single-person households has continued to increase over the years. While studies such as this add to the list of reasons why being alone is terrible for you, researchers are stumped as to how we can tackle this major social issue. Here's my suggestion: turn off whatever screen you're reading this from and strike up a conversation with someone who looks approachable. They could end up becoming your new best friend.