Thanks to two micro-companies brought together by the Enterprise Europe Network, there is now a new range of wildlife identification apps for smartphones and tablets.
The innovation is the brainchild of Mark Haley, a British software developer with an environmental biology degree, based in Bath. To find specialised content providers for his company, Isoperla, he turned to the Enterprise Europe Network, whose 600 or so partner organisations in more than 50 countries match SMEs with technology and commercial partners.
"We had developed an interesting product," says Haley, "but needed help taking it to the next level and expanding overseas."
The Network team at Enterprise Europe Southwest in Bristol got straight to work. "We entered the request into the Network's powerful technology transfer database, one of many tools we use to help businesses grow internationally," said innovation team manager Paul O'Collins.
Isoperla's partner profile was a fairly open request, as the firm was seeking pictures of wildlife, flora and fauna. Because the profile attracted many expressions of interest, the Network expert had to work closely with Isoperla to find only the most relevant ones for its niche app.
Meanwhile in Germany, Sabrina Wodrich from the North Rhine-Westphalia Network partner ZENIT flagged the entry to Sunbird TV, a three-person science-focused media consultancy based in Wülfrath: "I know the company inside out and immediately passed along the information."
The companies agreed to develop several apps, with Sunbird providing text and photographs. They started with Tree Id, which features all trees native to the British Isles plus naturalised species. It helps users identify trees by asking questions and then provides a list of ranked options similar to a Google Search. Tree Id quickly proved a hit, thanks to extensive coverage in popular UK media. It is also among the World Wide Fund for Nature's top 10 apps and one of Apple's leading apps.
"Together, Sunbird and Isoperla have created a range of nature apps for Europe and the USA," says Mark Haley. "Our best-known app is Bird Song Id, which allows users to identify birds by recording their singing on a mobile phone or tablet. We are now the top-selling wildlife apps brand in the British Isles and Germany, and are starting to do well in the USA and Canada."
Mr Haley adds that the division of work between the two companies is always fairly clear and that they often collaborate in parallel when creating new products.
Sunbird co-founder Georg Pohland says that both firms have grown as a result of their longstanding partnership. He adds that his firm also translated one of the wildlife apps into French, in order to enter the French market too.