SME Leaders 2018 - Cohort 4

Alex Appelbe, CEO and Co-Founder, Metis Labs

Metis Labs' mission is to enable manufacturing engineers to improve the resource efficiency of their factories through intelligent software tools. Its first product, Kelvin, learns the unique characteristics of a wide range of manufacturing processes by continuously monitoring plant data and correlating how each variable affects performance. This increases the profitability of factories and processing plants by warning before inefficiencies occur and instantaneously recommending improvements.

Alex Appelbe, Co-Founder and CEO, started Metis Labs to address specific challenges that he faced during a decade working in the manufacturing sector. Alex will use the SME Leaders Programme to help him refine his leadership, negotiation and financial skills to support a rapidly growing business.


Mohammed Belal, Business Development Director and Co-Founder, MIRICO

MIRICO’s new laser sensing technology allows real-time, accurate gas sensing. Its solutions measure a range of gases, providing the tools to better quantify emissions, enhance analytics in industrial operations and improve safety across facilities through reliable detection of harmful molecules. MIRICO’s primary product platform can remotely track emissions of gases such as methane, a potent greenhouse gas that causes more than $2 billion in lost revenue due to product loss from accidental emissions.

Mohammed Belal, Co-Founder, leads business development and draws on support from the SME Leaders Programme as he builds skills for leading a strong sales team, negotiating new business partnerships and strategically mapping the market for new products and ventures to help MIRICO’s continued growth.


Dr Liucheng Guo, Chief Technical Officer and Co-Founder, TG0

TG0 has developed a new technology for making interactive 3D controls that are ergonomic, intuitive and engaging. TG0’s platform technology is driven by artificial intelligence algorithms and advanced signal processing to accurately detect variations in touch across a single flexible surface. Its material can easily sense pressure, location, speed, direction and movement. TG0’s solutions replace complicated networks of electronic sensors with one material that can be used in many applications including tactile gaming controls, car dashboard controls and ergonomic computer accessories such as keyboards.

Supported by the SME Leaders Programme, Liucheng’s vision is to increase the company’s customer base while leading a rapidly growing software and hardware team as TG0 expands its product portfolio.


James Howarth, Engineering Director, Cambridge Mechatronics Ltd

Actuators are miniature motors that are typically responsible for moving a system. Cambridge Mechatronics Ltd’s (CML) actuators deliver high force in a small size and enable positioning to the accuracy of the wavelength of light. CML’s actuators contain shape memory alloy (SMA) material, which can be controlled by software algorithms to achieve sub-micron accuracy. CML's licensees have shipped millions of SMA-based camera actuators into smartphones, wearables and drones. The company is developing technology for further applications in haptics, facial recognition and augmented reality.

James Howarth, Engineering Director, has a key role in developing the technology and supporting the company as it expands into new areas.


Paul Jackson, Operations Manager, Femtogenix

Femtogenix is an established drug discovery start-up that specialises in the development of payloads - one of three key components in a group of targeted chemotherapies known as antibody-drug conjugates. Payloads are molecules that are toxic to living cells and kill cancer cells. When combined with antibodies to target cancer cells, and a linker to bring all these molecules together, it creates a highly targeted cancer treatment that is less likely to cause side effects than current chemotherapy. Femtogenix’s discovery platform uses computational chemistry and state-of-the-art synthetic chemistry methodologies to design and synthesise payload molecules that can bind to DNA and effectively kill cancer cells at low concentrations.

Paul Jackson, Operations Manager, is supported by the SME Leaders Programme as he helps define Femtogenix’s scientific and commercial strategy for growth.


Steve McNamara, Physics Programme Manager, Tokamak Energy

Fusion, the energy source that powers the sun and stars, could also provide a clean, safe and abundant energy source on Earth. Energy can be generated by using fusion reactions produce heat for electricity generation. Tokamak Energy’s mission is to accelerate the development and commercialisation of fusion power by combining two emerging technologies: spherical tokamaks (a device in which controlled fusion can take place) and magnets made from high temperature superconductors. These two technologies will create a compact and efficient fusion power plant.

As part of the leadership team, Steven McNamara is responsible for Tokamak Energy’s scientific development strategy. This includes planning for accelerated growth as the company demonstrates the viability of its approach with its latest tokamak.


Jonathan Quinn, Head of Software and Games, Reach Robotics

Reach Robotics has developed MekaMon, a unique gaming robot that is transforming consumer robotics and creating new opportunities in education and entertainment. MekaMon engages users with lifelike, expressive movements and augmented reality.

Jonathan Quinn, Head of Software and Games, has a central role in delivering the company’s vision to develop technology that inspires, entertains and educates. Supported by the SME Leaders Programme, Jonathan is focused on optimising development processes and steering the development of high-quality products. This includes developing educational and entertainment software that will help Reach Robotics target several intersecting markets, including the educational and consumer robotics markets that are currently valued at $1.2 billion and $10 billion respectively.


James Roberts, CEO and Co-Founder, mOm Incubators Ltd

The World Health Organization estimates that there are 15 million premature births each year, and up to one million preventable neonatal deaths. Ensuring that babies are kept warm can help to preventing neonatal fatalities. mOm’s incubators are compact, cost-effective and inflatable so can be used in environments where conventional incubators are not available.

James Roberts, Co-Founder and CEO, led the strategic development of the robust but lightweight incubators in close collaboration with clinical specialists. The resulting incubator provides a level of thermoregulation that meets the standards set for conventional incubators at a fraction of the cost. Supported by the SME Leaders Programme, James is aiming to strengthen his strategic leadership skills to help the award-winning startup increase access to healthcare through its affordable technology.


Oluwaseyi Sosanya, CEO and Co-Founder, Gravity Sketch

A new software platform developed by Gravity Sketch pushes boundaries in design by allowing people to craft digital 3D content using gesture and touch without having to use complex computer-aided design programs. Gravity Sketch uses augmented reality, virtual reality and touch technologies to create a fast, intuitive solution for developing 3D models and concepts. Its tools can be seamlessly integrated into real-world engineering workflows, helping design teams to reduce the time spent on initial design processes by up to 60%. Launched online in 2017, Gravity Sketch sells to customers in industries including automotive and furniture design.

Oluwaseyi Sosanya, Co-Founder and CEO, has a vision to strategically build the company’s customer base while supporting a rapidly growing team.


SME Leaders 2018 - Cohort 3

Dr Cristina Blanco Andujar, Head of Research and Development, Medisieve

Medisieve helps doctors to rapidly target and remove infected cells from a patient’s bloodstream using a technique known as magnetic blood filtration. Cristina has responsibility for all aspects of product development from design to clinical trials and regulatory approval.  She is motivated to improve her commercial skills and establish a sales-to-market strategy that can adapt and respond to different audiences and markets.


Dr Daniel Elford, Co-founder and CTO, Sonobex Ltd

Sonobex develops engineering solutions to increase capacity for effective noise control in a range of environments, such as mechanical plant machinery. Daniel leads a team of acoustic engineers and is responsible for developing Sonobex's technical vision as the company enters a phase of high growth. On the programme, Daniel’s focus is on strategy development as the company establishes licence and distribution agreements to expand into global markets.


Virginia Gardiner, Founder and CEO, Loowatt

Loowatt designs and manufactures high quality, waterless flush toilets that could significantly improve access to adequate sanitation and hygiene where it’s most needed. Virginia developed the technology and now leads the company in establishing a robust strategy and vision for growth. She aims to use training and support from the SME Leaders Programme to advance the company’s fundraising strategy as it develops plans to scale manufacturing processes and sell its products to international utilities.


Jack Greenhalgh, Head of Artificial Intelligence, Skin Analytics

Skin Analytics has developed a new screening technology that uses artificial intelligence to quickly and accurately detect melanoma skin cancer. Jack leads in designing and validating the machine learning algorithms behind the technology. His ambition is to build a research team to help the company explore how its technology might support diagnosis of other skin cancers along with skin conditions such as acne and eczema.


Niall Haslam, CTO, axial3D

Globally, over three million complex surgical cases could benefit from 3D printing. Through a combination of software and expert services, axial3D aims to make 3D printing more accessible across the healthcare sector. Niall leads a rapidly-growing team of engineers involved in refining manufacturing processes and designing new services. His vision is to support the development of the team while fostering a culture of innovation and continued growth at axial3D.


Dr Graeme Karney, COO, VOID Technologies

A patented technology, developed by VOID, is enabling the production of a new generation of high-performance products with significantly reduced levels of plastic, such as flexible packaging. Graeme leads the company’s business development activity, manufacturing operations and supply chain. He aims to strengthen his skills in managing technical operations and development, while also drawing on guidance from a mentor with experience in the materials manufacturing sector.


Peter Schrammel, CTO, Diffblue Ltd

Diffblue is disrupting traditional computer programming by automating everyday tasks such as bug fixing, test-writing and translation across computer languages. With increasing sales of its core product, Peter has a key role in coordinating technology development to support sustainable growth at Diffblue. He aims to extend his leadership skills beyond engineering management and strengthen skills in effective communication and engagement to improve decision-making across both technical and non-technical challenges as the company grows in scale.


Dr Phillipa Smith, CTO, Duvas Technologies

Duvas Technologies has developed the DV3000 for rapid, real-time environmental air monitoring. This patent-protected technology ensures that air pollution can be effectively detected and monitored, allowing protective legislation to be enforced at the earliest opportunity. Phillipa’s current goals include developing a technological vision and diversifying the company’s products. Phillipa aims to use the training and networking opportunities gained through the SME Leaders Programme to complement her technical and business skills as she develops a clear strategy for growth as the company scales up.


Dr Simon Thomas, CEO, Paragraf

Paragraf has developed transformative manufacturing processes to make high-quality, large area graphene, bringing the full capabilities of the material to a range of advanced technologies. Simon manages strategy and operations as Paragraf moves from technology transfer to commercial viability. Training through the programme will help to develop partnerships and build strategic business management skills to support the early-stage company in further commercial exploitation as its first products go to market.


Dr Dan Tilley, Principal Analytics Scientist, CyberOwl

CyberOwl develops technologies to help industry tackle the rising levels of risk associated with cyber threats. Dan manages the team that drives the analytical capability behind CyberOwl’s solutions and is developing a corporate strategy for scaling the technology to access the market for cyber-security in industrial systems, which has an estimated value of over £13 billion by 2022. He aims to strengthen his technical expertise, leadership and management skills to build a high-performance team to support the company’s growth.


Umar Wani, Co-founder and CTO, Accelerated Dynamics

Accelerated Dynamics (AD) is a deep technology company that uses artificial intelligence to create software for mission control, coordination and collaboration of robot fleets. Umar Wani, Co-Founder and Chief Technology Officer, leads AD’s product development as it defines key features that can be scaled up for various sectors within the drone industry. He is motivated to strengthen his commercial and management skills and embed a culture of good leadership as a foundation for growth in the early stages of the company’s development. 

SME Leaders 2018 - Cohort 2

Christoph Birkl, CEO, Brill Power

Brill Power’s battery control and management system extends the life of multi-cell lithium ion batteries by up to 60%. Through smart battery design, their technology ensures that energy-storage capacity is no longer limited by the weakest cell in the pack. Brill Power’s solution monitors, regulates and adapts the current load for individual cells at every charge so that they reach their full potential. This extends battery life in a safe and reliable way that could significantly impact their use in a wide range of everyday items from laptop batteries to electric cars.


John Burton, Founder and CEO, Metronome Energy Ltd.

Demand side response technologies are creating opportunities for smart grid management by providing information that can help with managing fluctuations in energy supply and demand. Metronome Energy Ltd.’s low-cost technology achieves this by seamlessly integrating with its customers’ power consuming assets to generate live data on energy usage that can be used for balancing energy services. The technology can be used by customers including homeowners, small businesses, farms and supermarkets. Metronome Energy’s services enables customers to generate revenue whilst monitoring the performance of their energy-consuming assets.


Hugh Christensen, Researcher, BMLL Technologies

The financial markets are complex and a significant challenge lies in working with large-scale, highly dynamic data sets in rapidly evolving contexts is a significant challenge. BMLL Technologies (BMLL) offer a range of solutions to make this easier for customers ranging from tier one US investment banks in the US to hedge funds and trillion-dollar investment managers. BMLL’s platform brings clarity and ease to data management and analysis, enabling data scientists to efficiently interrogate data, allowing them to quickly generate insights that add value.


Benjamin Crowther, Co-Founder and Engineering Lead, LettUs Grow Ltd.

Vertical farms are a rapidly developing solution for increasing the world’s food supply. Improving irrigation and management processes could significantly increase crop yields. Co-Founder Ben, and the team at LettUs Grow, have developed a technology, known as aeroponics, that allows plants to grow without soil, by watering their roots with a fine mist. When combined with the company’s integrated farm management software, farmers gain a hassle-free way to optimise crop conditions and increase yields whilst saving water. With a pilot R&D vertical farm being built in Bristol in 2018, the company plans to scale up with a view to accessing a global farming technologies market that is forecasted to grow 27% annually in the coming years.


Claire Fenwick, Managing Director, nuron ltd.

nuron has developed a dual-purpose fibre sensing technology that allows more efficient sewer management. It also creates opportunities for smarter cities by improving infrastructural capacity for fibre networks, including fibre to the premises (FTTP). nuron creates networks of optical sensing fibres that extend through sewer pipes to provide real-time measurements on flow, depth, temperature and structural integrity. This can be used to improve sewer performance and reduce costs and environmental pollution in wastewater management by helping to identify and manage blockages, highlight irregular use and give early indications of structural damage.


Alan Finnerty, Head of R&D, Grant Instruments (Cambridge) Ltd.

Grant Instruments (Cambridge) Ltd. (Grant) is a global leader in the design and manufacture of equipment for gathering and analysing research data. With a 65-year history of innovation, Grant continues to develop reliable, high-quality equipment that meets the adapting demands of customers across scientific, healthcare and industrial markets. For rapidly growing sectors, such as gene therapy and stem cell research, amongst others, Grant’s solutions are evolving to accommodate Industry 4.0 and the Internet of Things. This is leading to the development of new, customised laboratory equipment with unique applications and features, such as secure remote data access and increased connectivity.


James Gough, Chief Business Development Officer, Cydar Ltd.

Cydar’s cloud-based solutions are helping surgeons with the delicate task of navigating complex networks of arteries and veins in vascular surgery. Cydar’s game-changing advances in imaging fuse live 2D X-rays with the patient’s CT scan to create 3D overlays that provide deeper insights. Core algorithms recognise and adjust to the patient’s anatomy in real time, giving surgeons automated access to more accurate information. This improves patient outcomes, reduces operating times by 28% and reduces radiation exposure, a significant benefit to medical staff.


Pawel Kisielewski, CEO, CCm Technologies Ltd.

A patented technology developed at CCm Technologies Ltd. can use industrially produced CO2 to make valuable products such as fertilisers and replacement plastics. This highly adaptable technology adds value by cleverly combining CO2 with other waste streams, leading to more efficient and environmentally sustainable processes. A target market for the team at CCm Technologies is agriculture, where the technology brings together farm waste and CO2 captured from power generators to produce fertiliser for crops. The company’s first full-scale commercial units for fertiliser production launch in early 2018 and have capacity to produce 10,000 tonnes of fertiliser per year.


Ian David Macafee, CEO, Oxsensis

Oxensis have developed optical sensors to meet the challenge of taking precise measurements for variables such as temperature, pressure and acceleration in harsh, industrial conditions. Oxsensis manufacture optical sensor systems for industries relying on high-accuracy measurements, such as aerospace, energy and oil and gas. Oxsensis’ sensors provide an efficient, cost-effective way to capture data at the heart of the action and deliver it via optical fibres for use in monitoring systems. This helps to enhance performance in critical applications such as flight systems for managing safe propulsion of aircraft and gas turbine monitoring for clean energy production, amongst many others.


Haikal Pribadi, Founder and CEO, and Tomás Sabat, COO, GRAKN.AI

GRAKN.AI (Grakn) has developed a knowledge graph technology to organise complex networks of data and make it queryable. Rooted in Knowledge Representation and Automated Reasoning, Grakn provides the knowledge base foundation for Artificial Intelligence systems. Effectively, Grakn is a database that allows AI systems in industries such as financial services, life sciences and cyber security to model, query and analyse complex information easily. Rather than relying on large, highly-skilled teams of data engineers, Grakn’s intuitive and expressive database streamlines the knowledge engineering workflow so that new insights, solutions and discoveries easily emerge.


Sithamparanathan Sabesan, CEO and Co-Founder, PervasID Ltd.

Ground breaking patented technologies developed by PervasID draw on advances in Radio-frequency identification (RFID) to create new opportunities to track items rapidly, accurately and in real-time. Developed from spin out technology from the University of Cambridge, PervasID’s solutions are made up of networks of antennas that detect and track items carrying passive RFID tags. They achieve an extremely high level of accuracy (99%+), enabling cost-effective, continuous monitoring for use in industries such as retail, healthcare, manufacturing and security.


SME Leaders 2017 - Cohort 1

The leaders and SMEs selected for the programme's inaugural cohort were:

  • Dr Peiman Hosseini, CTO – Bodle TechnologiesCreating a pioneering new ‘smart material’ that manipulates lights at a flick of a switch, enabling display devices with dramatically reduced battery consumption
  • Alastair Pettigrew, CEO, and Greg Francis, FD – BOXARR Ltd – Helping organisations save time and money by bringing together business processes in one place
  • Dr Siraj Shaikh, Founder and Chief Scientist – CyberOwl – Providing a ground-breaking early warning cyber threat system through real-time analysis
  • Phil Horton, MD – Dulas Ltd – Providing consultancy that delivers maximum output from renewable energy schemes
  • Khizar Ali, CEO, Fabio Nisitano, Chief Engineer, Sheeraz Ahmed – Operations Director – ONLICAR – Applying Formula 1 technology to fleet management to improve performance and save money
  • Shefali Sharma, Business Development Director – Oxford Space SystemsDeveloping lighter, compact space structures to pave the way for lower-cost commercial space ventures
  • Phil Redfern, MD – REACT Engineering Ltd – Changing how we clean up nuclear waste to improve environmental impact
  • Christine Boyle, CEO – Senergy Innovation – Creating and deploying a technology that reduces the cost of solar panels by 25%
  • Daniel Thorpe, Business Development Director – Spiro Control Ltd – Helping factories increase production rates and lower energy costs through analytics


Prior to the SME Leaders programme, the Academy ran a programme called Pathways to Growth, which provided training grants for upskilling of engineering and technical staff within SMEs. The awardees of the discontinued programme are listed below.


Pathways to Growth awardees in 2015-2016 were:

  • BPE Design and Support
  • Entropea
  • Eta Projects
  • Fianium
  • Hyperdrive Innovatio
  • Keit
  • Kiln Flame Systems
  • Lontra
  • Magnomatics
  • Mirico
  • Mo-Sys
  • OC Robotics
  • Oil and Gas Measurement
  • Oxford Space Systems
  • Photocentric
  • React Engineering
  • YASA Motors


Pathways to Growth grants were first made in 2014-2015. The awardees were:

  • 3D Laser Mapping
  • Capital Refractories
  • Cobalt Light Systems Ltd
  • Data harvesting
  • e2e Services
  • Embody Orthopaedic
  • ETA projects
  • Etdyn
  • Featurespace Ltd
  • Fianium
  • Firefly Clean Energy
  • Hireserve Ltd
  • HMD Seal/Less Pumps Ltd
  • Lindhurst Engineering Ltd
  • OC Robotics
  • PPM
  • React Engineering
  • Recycling Technologies Ltd
  • Shadow Robot Company
  • Sonobex
  • YASA Motors