The Academy has awarded the first Engineering Enterprise Fellowships to six outstanding innovators at UK universities.

The projects chosen demonstrate the breadth of opportunities within engineering, with research ranging from an innovative satellite dish to ground-breaking medical tests. Providing up to £85,000 of funding and support per awardee, the Fellowships allow researchers to spend 12 months developing the commercial potential of their research. The Fellowship awardees will receive business training and mentoring from Academy Fellows with entrepreneurial experience, as well as access to business angels and venture capitalists.

Ian Shott CBE FREng, Director of Shott Consulting Ltd and chair of the selection panel, said: “It is vital to the UK economy and the engineering sector that cutting edge research is directed to effective innovation. Business-minded engineers need investment and support from industry to exploit their research, filling gaps in the market and providing solutions to industry problems, which could become the commercial success stories of tomorrow.”

The six Enterprise Fellows are:

Dr Neil Buchanan – Flish, the flat satellite dish
Queen’s University, Belfast

Consumer satellite dishes are difficult to move and can lose signal easily, so Neil has developed a prototype self-steering antenna satellite dish, Flish, which knows where the signal is and therefore does not need to be manually aligned – even on the move. Flish offers wireless broadband in ‘not spots’ and at sea, picking up satellite broadband signals in milliseconds. This is especially compelling at a time when there is a shift to cloud computing and Ericsson has predicted that 50bn mobile devices will be inter-connected by 2020. As Flish has no moving parts, it is cheaper, lighter and more portable than current mobile satellite dishes, which Neil hopes it will replace.

Dr Susannah Clarke – High-accuracy surgical instrumentation for acetabular cup alignment
Imperial College London

Poor positioning of acetabular cups (the pelvic part of a hip replacement) can result in failed hip replacement surgery, yet only 1% of operations in 2011 used surgical positioning systems because they are expensive and require additional expertise. Susannah has designed a low-cost acetabular cup alignment guide, designed to improve surgical accuracy and minimise invasive surgery for patients whilst working with Professor Justin Cobb at Charing Cross Hospital. She will establish a spin-out company from Imperial College to commercialise her instrument and develop further orthopaedic solutions.

Dr Daniel Elford – Novel noise barrier technology
Loughborough University

Current noise reduction solutions are expensive and short-term and noise pollution is estimated to cost the UK £7bn every year. Daniel, who specialises in acoustics, will commercialise his novel noise barrier technology. It was pioneered through a new area of physics called sonic crystals – a periodic array of wave scatterers that severely reduces sound waves in specific frequency ranges. His noise barriers are more cost-effective than current solutions and crucially can be tailored to cut certain types of noise and allow light and air to pass through, making them more useful for an array of industrial situations.

Dr Peter Köllensperger - A diagnostic test platform for clinical use and home monitoring
Imperial College London

Most diagnostic medical tests are run in centralised laboratories based on economies of scale, requiring specialist equipment and operation, but there is growing demand for medical tests that are conducted near or at the site of patient care. Peter is involved with the commercial development of e-Gnosis, an electrical bio-detection technology that can directly read out diagnostic tests on computers or smartphones without the need for expensive optical systems. Once fully developed, the tests could reduce the cost and complexity of testing certain samples, such as blood and could be used by GPs or even at home, opening up the consumer market for diagnostics.

Dr Joshua Reiss – Automatic music production system
Queen Mary University of London

Consumers are demanding more digital music and recordings, which can be expensive and time-consuming to mix. To solve this problem and meet demand, Joshua has created an automatic music production system, which replicates the plethora of actions that sound engineers make when creating professional-grade musical material. The technology uses signal processing and intelligent systems design to create a mix from multiple audio channels in real-time and can be used by experts in professional mixing consoles to save time or by musicians to replace the sound engineer altogether! Joshua intends to create a spin-out company to exploit his technology.

Professor Rhodri Williams - New test for early detection of blood clotting abnormalities
University of Swansea

Blood clotting abnormalities can cause death but can also be difficult to detect using conventional tests. Rhodri has created a spinout company at Swansea University to commercially exploit the invention of a new test that provides biomarkers for blood clotting abnormalities. It has no direct competitors in terms of its screening capability and is superior to other anticoagulant monitoring tests. His work involves developing a commercially available form of the test that uses disposable sample cartridges and an automated instrument so non-expert operators can use it, instead of relying on sophisticated hospital kit.

Notes for editors

  1. Founded in 1976, The Royal Academy of Engineering promotes the engineering and technological welfare of the country. Our fellowship – comprising the UK’s most eminent engineers – provides the leadership and expertise for our activities, which focus on the relationships between engineering, technology, and the quality of life. As a national academy, we provide independent and impartial advice to Government; work to secure the next generation of engineers; and provide a voice for Britain’s engineering community.
  2. The Enterprise Fellowships are prestigious awards that provide funding and support to researchers working at a UK university to enable them to spend 12 months developing the commercial potential of their research. Enterprise Fellowships provide: up to £85,000 seed funding and salary support per Fellowship, to build a commercial enterprise at a UK university, business training, business mentors and access to business angels and venture capital networks.
  3. Ian Shott CBE FREng is the managing Director of Shott Consulting Limited and was founder and CEO of Excelsyn, a pharmaceutical development and manufacturing business, which he sold to AMRI in 2010. He has held senior executive positions in the International Pharmaceutical and Biotechnology Industry for over twenty years. He chaired the UK’s Innovation Growth Team for Industrial Biotechnology in October 2007, subsequently joining the government’s Ministerial Advisory Group for Manufacturing Strategy in early 2008. In late 2009 he launched the Leadership Forum for Industrial Biotechnology, which he chairs with the support of the BIS Minister of State for Business and in 2011 was appointed a Board Member of the Technology Strategy Board.

For more information please contact

Jane Sutton at The Royal Academy of Engineering
Tel. 020 7766 0636; email: Jane Sutton