'Smart' clothes to protect the elderly from hip fractures, a half-size catalytic convertor that reduces vehicle emissions and saves fuel, and software to crowd-share smartphone data bandwidth in congested places are just three of the most promising new technologies that the Royal Academy of Engineering has identified as having outstanding business potential.
Each has been awarded funding and will receive 'money-can't-buy' mentoring as part of the Academy's Enterprise Fellowships scheme.
Eight researchers from UK universities will receive up to £85,000 each to develop a spin-out business based on their technological innovations. As members of the Academy's new Enterprise Hub, they will also receive one-to-one mentoring from some of the UK's top technology entrepreneurs. Volunteer mentors include Sir Robin Saxby FREng, former Chief Executive and Chairman of ARM, and Professor Neville Jackson FREng, Chief Technology and Innovation Officer at Ricardo.
Funded technologies also include low cost cutting-edge research tools for scientists in cancer research and Armourgel, an energy absorbing 'smart' material that stiffens on impact and could be used to protect the elderly from hip fractures, which cost the NHS over 1.73 billion annually.
Another innovation to receive funding and support from the Academy is software that enables smartphone apps to crowd-share data bandwidth in congested areas such as stadiums by building a network directly between smartphones and using them as the basis for distributing information.
The world's fastest atomic force microscope also got the judges' vote, as did a new goods and luggage tagging and tracking system that can pinpoint items with near 100% accuracy and over a much greater distance than existing technology. The PervasID system has the potential to save airlines millions of pounds annually by allowing frequent fliers access to fully automated self-check-in, and to enable high-value goods retailers to benefit from secure self-service checkouts.
This is the third year of the Enterprise Fellowships scheme and is the largest cohort to date. President of the Royal Academy of Engineering, Sir John Parker GBE FREng, said, "Engineering already contributes at least £480 billion to the UK economy each year, and the ability to create wealth from innovation is essential in building a stronger and more competitive economy. By bridging the gap between industry and academia and enabling entrepreneurship to thrive, the Academy's Enterprise Hub aims to ensure that the country's brightest entrepreneurial minds are given the best possible chance to succeed, whilst helping to bring new technologies and services to market for the benefit of society."
Arnoud Jullens, Head of Enterprise at the Royal Academy of Engineering, added, "UK universities produce some of the greatest innovations in the world, but getting them out of the lab and into the marketplace remains a huge challenge. Business-minded academics need investment and support from experienced industry practitioners to exploit their research, which could become the commercial success stories of tomorrow, and this is exactly what the Academy's Enterprise Hub provides."
Further information on all of the current and past Royal Academy of Engineering Enterprise Fellows can be found on the new Enterprise Hub website that launched today.
Full list of this year's eight Enterprise Fellows:
Dr Benjamin Kingsbury - Half-size catalytic converter that reduces automotive emissions and saves fuel
Imperial College London
Ben is a founder of MicroTech Ceramics Ltd, developers of a new half-size catalytic convertor that reduces the environmental impact of vehicles and saves fuel. Catalytic convertors are used in engines to convert the toxic pollutants in exhaust gas into less toxic pollutants. They use ceramic substrates to connect the exhaust gas with the catalyst, and Ben has developed an advanced structure of the substrate that provides a larger surface area for this contact in order to make it more efficient, drastically reducing the quantity of precious metal catalyst needed and therefore the cost of the catalytic converter.
The new structure can also achieve a 2-3% fuel saving in engines, or offer high performance cars an equivalent increase in engine power. It also means the size of catalytic convertors can be reduced by around 50%, offering engine and exhaust system designers greater freedom.
Richard Nock - Low cost cutting-edge research tools for scientists in cancer research and quantum computers
University of Bristol
High-resolution timing instruments are used by scientists in many domains, from bio-medical imaging in cancer research to quantum information processing research with the aim of speeding up computers in the future. Many advanced and extremely useful research tools, however, are not widely used by scientists because of the cost of the precision timing technology in them. Richard has developed a device using digital timing techniques, rather than the traditional analogue, which dramatically lowers the cost without sacrificing quality of results and could therefore make cutting-edge research tools more accessible to scientists solving problems all over the world.
Dr Philip Orr - Advanced instrumentation for next-generation energy systems such as smart grids
University of Strathclyde
Philip is pioneering a new design of photonic sensors to make them more suitable for use in complex modern energy systems, such as smart grids and the low-carbon technologies that will underpin electric power generation and distribution in the near future.
Philip's technology eliminates the need to duplicate expensive measurement hardware by simultaneously taking measurements from across the power grid, without the need for infrastructure. Philip is currently working with industry on using the technology to improve the detection of faults and identifying their location on the grid.
Dr Loren Picco - The world's fastest atomic force microscope
University of Bristol
Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM) is one of the foremost tools that scientists use to examine matter at the nanoscale, such as biological cells and bacteria. AFM technology gathers information by 'feeling' the surface with a mechanical probe, but the process can be time-consuming and requires highly-skilled operators.
Loren has developed a new high-speed atomic force microscope that is the fastest in the world and unique in that it can map not only the height of the sample surface, but also its stiffness and conductance with nanometre resolution. It also uses a touch screen interface that means scientists can use 'multi-touch' gestures (like those used on the iPhone to zoom, for example) to interact with samples in real time, unlike traditional methods. This significantly improves its usability, making analysis quicker, opening up new ways of manipulating samples, and enabling even non-skilled operators to control the instrument effectively.
Daniel Plant - 'Smart' clothing to protect elderly from hip fractures
Imperial College London
A frustratingly common injury amongst the elderly is fracture of the hip, often caused by a fall. Indeed, hip fracture accounts for 20% of orthopaedic hospital beds in the United Kingdom. Daniel, who has helped NASA develop smart textiles in the past, has developed Armourgel, an energy absorbing 'smart' material that stiffens on impact in the event of a fall. Similar technology is used in protective clothing for motorcyclists, but its bulky nature has limited its use in other situations. Armourgel is up to four times thinner, more flexible, and could be incorporated into everyday garments for the elderly.
Dr Sithamparanathan Sabesan - Goods and luggage tagging and tracking system that can pinpoint items with near 100% accuracy
University of Cambridge
Sithamparanathan has developed a battery-less radio frequency identification (RFID) system that will allow airlines, retailers and other businesses to inexpensively track the locations of merchandise and passenger luggage over a wider area and with much greater reliability than conventional systems.
The PervasID system can successfully detect items with near 100% accuracy, and a single reader can cover an area up to 400 square metres. It can also scale up to accommodate much larger deployments and has already been deployed in several field trials. The system has the potential to save airlines millions of pounds annually through allowing frequent fliers access to fully automated self-check-in, and to enable high-value goods retailers to benefit from secure self-service checkouts. Sithamparanathan and his colleague Michael Crisp also won the Royal Academy of Engineering's ERA Foundation Entrepreneurship Award for the system in 2011.
The system was developed in collaboration with Michael Crisp, Richard Penty and Ian White at Cambridge University.
Professor Jon Timmis - Computer modelling software for drug development to treat autoimmune diseases
University of York
Autoimmune conditions, where the immune system attacks its own tissues, affect 10% of the UK's adult population and are a leading cause of death and disability. Rheumatoid Arthritis, Type 1 Diabetes, and Multiple Sclerosis are all common examples.
Jon has developed new computer modelling software to help drug developers predict the effects of new drugs on autoimmune diseases. His software is capable of integrating more data types than current systems, resulting in improved confidence in the computer simulations for drug developers who are devising clinical trials of new drugs.
Dr Ian Wakeman - Software that enables smartphone apps to crowd-share data bandwidth in congested areas
University of Sussex
Ian has developed software to overcome the problem of poor smartphone data connectivity in crowded places. His innovation enables individual smartphone apps to crowd-share data bandwidth by building a network directly between smartphones and using them as the basis for distributing information. With the technology, apps can reliably deliver match-related content and social media feeds to football fans in stadiums, for example. His start-up company TribeHive has already successfully trialled the technology with fans at Brighton & Hove Albion F.C.
Enterprise Hub website
Notes for editors
The Enterprise Fellowships. Enterprise Fellowships provide funding and support to outstanding entrepreneurial engineering researchers, working at a UK University, to enable them to develop a spin-out business around their technological idea. The award provides up to £85,000 to each Enterprise Fellow to enable them to spend 12 months establishing their own business. In addition to the financial support, training will be provided to develop business skills. Mentors from the Academy's Fellowship are also allocated to each Enterprise Fellow to provide additional support, advice and access to their entrepreneurial and venture capital networks during the Fellowship. Further information can be found on the Enterprise Hub website.
The Enterprise Hub. The Royal Academy of Engineering's Enterprise Hub is a new national resource for the UK's most promising technology-intensive SMEs and entrepreneurs. It provides money-can't-buy bespoke support and one-to-one mentoring from its Fellowship, which includes prominent tech entrepreneurs such as business icons Dr Mike Lynch FREng, Sir Robin Saxby FREng, Professor Anne Glover HonFREng and Ian Shott FREng.
The Royal Academy of Engineering. As the UK's national academy for engineering, we bring together the most successful and talented engineers for a shared purpose: to advance and promote excellence in engineering. We provide analysis and policy support to promote the UK's role as a great place to do business. We take a lead on engineering education and we invest in the UK's world-class research base to underpin innovation. We work to improve public awareness and understanding of engineering. We are a national academy with a global outlook. We have four strategic challenges: Drive faster and more balanced economic growth; foster better education and skills; lead the profession; promote engineering at the heart of society.
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