We aim to foster a culture of entrepreneurship, innovation and success among engineers in the UK, creating economic growth and societal impact. At the heart of how we do this are the Hub Members, the promising entrepreneurs who we support through our programmes, and our Hub Mentors, the business leaders who volunteer their expertise and time to help the Hub Members succeed.
From manufacturing to medtech, our Hub Membership is made up of some of the UK’s most innovative entrepreneurs. But don’t just take our word for it: read more about our Hub Members to see how they are, without exaggeration, changing the world.
Developing new medicines takes an average of at least 15 years, costing more than £2 billion from discovery to patient. These efforts are often hindered by not being able to match the right compound to the right disease – 95% of chemical compounds being tested in the lab never make it to patient approval and use.
Micrographia Bio Ltd has built a deep-tech system that uses artificial intelligence to facilitate bio-image analysis. The application of computer-vision machine-learning algorithms enables rapid, scalable development of models and analysis. By combining these algorithms with autonomous microscopy and molecular biology, the total effects of small molecule compounds within human cells can be interrogated.
Dr Julia Fan Li is the Co-Founder and CEO of Micrographia Bio Ltd. Julia is responsible for providing the vision for the company and executing the financing and hiring. She joined the SME Leaders programme in 2021 and hopes the programme will provide her with additional operational knowledge that will help grow the company from seed stage to Series-A funding.
Micrographia Bio’s platform is generating an atlas for modern drug discovery by matching the right compound to the disease it is best suited to cure. Dr Julia Fan Li says “It is Micrographia Bio’s fundamental belief that all diseases deserve a cure.”
Neurological disorders and injuries of the nervous system, such as epilepsy, stroke and spinal cord injury, have caused death and disability for millions of people worldwide. It’s estimated that one-third of total disability is attributed to neurological conditions alone, carrying a significant burden to individuals, healthcare systems and society.
Although medicines have shown to be helpful in many cases, developing pharmaceuticals is becoming more expensive and less efficient. Currently, the most effective, clinically available devices for treating brain disorders are based on bulky, invasive units, typically implanted in the upper chest region. They house a battery, large electronic components, and connect to a handful of implanted electrodes.
MINT proposes a new approach for treating neurological conditions with novel implantable neurotechnologies. Its solution delivers fully wireless medical implants, 1,000 times smaller than current clinical devices, reducing surgical risk and paving the way for injectable bioelectronics. The implants can be arranged to form a distributed network of chip-scale devices, which are capable of high fidelity recording of the neural activity, providing both a more accurate monitoring and intervention.
In the short term, this fundamental change will reduce the risk and costs associated with monitoring brain activity. MINT’s long-term vision is to enable brain-computer interface (BCI) applications and new treatments for neurological conditions such as stroke and neurodegenerative diseases.
In the next year, MINT’s aims to validate the technology in pre-clinical trials, while developing a plan for a first in-human clinical trial in patients suffering from neurological conditions. Its partnership with centres of excellence in neuroscience and neurology including Imperial College London, Newcastle University, King’s College London, and UCL will fast track technology development, optimised for specific clinical needs.
In 2019, Vochlea Music set up a Kickstarter campaign to raise £40,000 and launch its first product. Vochlea reached its goal in 45 minutes and within a month had secured over £200,000 worth of funding. This enabled the company to produce and send out the Dubler Studio Kit to initial purchasers worldwide.
The Dubler Studio Kit is an artificial intelligence audio engine that enables users to create, control and manipulate music using their voice. It comes in two parts. The Dubler software is a virtual MIDI instrument for Mac and PC that is compatible with any digital audio workstation. The second element is a low-latency USB microphone, which is tuned with the software. This combination allows musicians to use their voice to set off samples, control synthesisers, operate filters and manipulate effects in real-time.
Kelly Angood is the Chief Marketing Officer at Vochlea Music. Kelly joined the SME Leaders programme in 2020. She says “It will help shape my management style, support the defining of KPIs and sales goals, and enable me to make additional contributions to the growth and development of Vochlea Music.”
The company is now beginning mobile development of its product. This will allow users to share their creations between devices and people. It will also give greater access to those wanting to create on-the-go music and an alternative to traditional desk-bound MIDI controllers.
nuron Limited has developed a dual-purpose fibre-optic monitoring system that enables wastewater network operators to have a minute-by-minute insight into what is happening inside their sewers. It also enables fibre networks to be deployed faster and with less disruption. The company’s patented technology is continuously installed within sewer pipes, creating a nervous system for sewers. In real-time, it measures the flow, depth, temperature and structural integrity of the sewer network, allowing proactive and data-driven decision-making.
Claire Fenwick is the Managing Director of nuron, and is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the business. As part of the SME Leaders Programme, Claire chose a leadership course that benefitted her whole management team.
The company’s growth has been swift, with staff numbers increasing from three to 16 in the two years since Claire joined the scheme. In that time, nuron has started to transition from a purely development company to a revenue-generating business. It has deployed its first installation in a live sewer where the data and insight proved beyond expectation. It has raised £3 million through raising equity and innovation loans and grants and is now focused on ramp-up for its first scale deployment. Claire thinks that the company’s technology will allow water companies to be both proactive and predictive in their wastewater operations.
“Doing the course together helped us bond as a management team. We became more self-aware and jointly developed a clear vision, mission and values before we started to grow. This enabled us to become a cohesive and effective management team with an excellent company culture and high employee retention.”
In the future, every vehicle manufactured will have some degree of autonomy and they will all need to ‘see’ the world around them. The leading solution for machine vision is light detection and ranging (LiDAR), which uses laser pulses to build a 3D model of the environment around the vehicle. However, lasers travel in a straight line and need rotating mirrors to guide them in the right direction. The moving parts for these systems make them bulky and expensive.
Dr Richard Taylor is the founder of the University of Glasgow spin out Vector Photonics. He has invented photonic crystal lasers that push the boundary of what is possible with semiconductor lasers. He has developed a laser that can be electronically steered in two dimensions. Instead of doing the steering with conventional moving parts, it can do it electronically. This removes the need for the LiDAR set up to have mirrors, reducing both system size and cost.
Vector Photonics has had two patents granted and has demonstrated that it can make lasers in a laboratory. The company has also made lasers in a commercial foundry to show that they can also be created in an industrial setting, not just a university laboratory.
Dr Taylor says: “We now have to focus on making them for customer specification. We have another 18 months of development work before we can start selling them at scale. We’re now looking to raise investment for that phase of things.”
He continues: “The Enterprise Fellowship was important for me as it provided useful business training while giving me the time to work on developing the company’s business case.”
He joined the Scale Up Accelerator programme in 2021 and says: “the cohort nature of the accelerator will create a great source of combined and additional business knowledge. It will allow me to develop the leadership and management skills required for a rapidly growing company like ours.”
In the coming year, Vector Photonics aims to progress its technology from proof of concept to the commercial market. The company recently benefited from £2 million of Innovate UK grants. It will use this to grow its team and commercialise its PCSELs into high-growth markets like 3D printing, data communications and LiDAR.
2014 Dr Taylor gains the Institution of Engineering and Technology
postgraduate scholarship award for his work with lasers
2018 Kickstart business competition finalist
2018 Secured funding from ICURe
2019 £70,000 of funding from Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and £30,000 from a Glasgow company to support that award
2020 RBS six-month accelerator programme providing training, mentorship and office space
Visit their website: www.vectorphotonics.co.uk
Companies know who their suppliers are, but not their suppliers' suppliers. This makes it difficult for companies to manage many types of risks including supply chain disruptions, brand and reputation risks such as modern-day slavery in the supply chain, or carbon footprint implications and risks relating to regulatory compliance.
Versed AI’s technology uses state-of-the-art natural language processing (NLP) techniques to identify supply chain intelligence, including buyer-supplier relationships, products and services, and manufacturing locations.
Versed AI’s has three priorities for the next year. It plans to build a client interface as a basis for its SaaS platform, improve the size of its knowledge graph of supply chain relationships by adding new data sources, and increase the number of data points, such as manufacturing locations and addresses.
Supply chain disruptions are hugely costly to companies. A report by McKinsey (August 2018) estimates that over the course of a decade companies can expect to lose 42% of a year’s net earnings to supply chain disruptions. In the corporate world, 81% lack good supply chain visibility, and it is an even a larger problem for small- and medium-sized companies. Versed AI seeks to take full advantage of this huge commercial opportunity.
Methane leakage from a gas distribution network (GDN) has serious environmental and financial implications. Methane is 84 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than CO2 and it causes an estimated the global loss in revenue of £16 billion. The most practical way of reducing leakage is through improved management of the pressures in networks. However, existing technology is time-consuming to install and needs constant manual intervention.
Utonomy has developed an innovative control system that includes a motorised actuator, which can be retrofitted to gas governors already installed across a GDN, and a cloud-based data platform. Utonomy’s grid-monitoring software and algorithms allow GDNs to better control and manage pressures on their network.
Claire-Elise Orleach is the Head of Business Development at Utonomy. She is responsible for the company’s stakeholder management across gas utilities and for its sales and marketing initiatives. Claire-Elise joined the SME Leaders programme in 2020 and says: “The training, mentorship and coaching offered by the programme will be a support to me and the company as we the transition to commercialisation. There will be significant opportunities in the UK as the gas grid is digitised and Utonomy aims to lead in this space with smartgrid solutions.”
Utonomy’s new technology has the potential to greatly reduce the global problem of methane leakage from GDNs worldwide. Following a series of trials, Utonomy is about to launch its first product. Its innovation should enable GDNs to achieve their environmental targets and improve their operational efficiency.
Autonomous vehicles promise to revolutionise mobility by reducing road accidents, removing mobility barriers for older and disabled people, and reducing traffic congestion. However, safely navigating autonomous vehicles is challenging. To date, approximately $1 billion has been invested but no imaging system has been able to accurately meet all key performance requirements.
LIDAR is an advanced vision technique used to navigate autonomous vehicles. An infrared detector enables the LIDAR system to see. Phlux has created a breakthrough detector technology that will drastically increase the measurement range of LIDAR systems enabling autonomous cars to see further, lowering rates of misdetection, and improving data quality and confidence. These all translate to safer navigation.
Over the next 12 months, Phlux will develop prototype detectors and demonstrate them in commercial LIDAR systems to validate its value proposition. In the next year, Ben is looking forward to establishing commercial partnerships and refining his business model.
The infrared sensors market is expected to experience rapid growth over the next few years, driven by the demand for LIDAR-based advanced driver assisted systems. The automotive infrared sensor market alone is predicted to reach £150 million by 2026, with 46% compound annual growth rate.
Phlux has been supported by the North by Northwest ICURe team, Innovate UK, Research England and the University of Sheffield.
“Being from a technical background I recognise that I need to develop new business skills if I am to fulfil my ambitions for Phlux. The Enterprise Fellowship is an incredible opportunity for me to develop the skills, network and confidence I need to become a successful entrepreneur.”
There is a need to manufacture new materials to produce lighter planes, cars and vehicles.
iCOMAT is a University of Bristol spinout that has developed a patented process for making advanced carbon fibre composites. These are lighter, stronger and more cost-effective than the current state-of-the-art processes used in the aerospace, automotive and marine sectors.
The sum of annual fuel bills for airlines globally can exceed $200 billion . iCOMAT’s technology can drastically reduce the weight of aerospace components (a 10% to 38% improvement over existing composite parts) and lead to significant economic and environmental benefits.
The next key milestone is to demonstrate the benefits of this technology through pilot projects the company has already secured. This will help develop and finalise our manufacturing technique, utilising unidirectional tapes laid upon part moulds prior to loading known as tape laying.
So far, iCOMAT has secured two grant-funded projects, which are currently underway with Innovate UK as well as privately funded development contracts with leading Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs).
“I look forward to the Enterprise Fellowship and the support that is provided by the Royal Academy of Engineering. The network of the Academy and the expert mentorship will be invaluable in scaling up iCOMAT and its offering.”
What makes us different is the Academy’s Fellows and our wider Mentor network – an unrivalled community of the UK’s most successful industry leaders, technology experts and entrepreneurs. Find out more about our Mentors and their areas of expertise.
As an entrepreneur and communications professional, Helen's mission is to help businesses do more good in the world. After nearly 15 years working in government relations and leadership communications, Helen set up her own boutique communications agency, HN Communications. A smaller and more person-centred alternative to bigger agencies, HN Communications works with large and small clients to deliver complex communications projects. Clients include Bosch, Heineken, Nissan and The Climate Group.
Helen founded her latest venture, Leaders LIVE in 2020, just as COVID-19 hit. Leaders LIVE fills a much-needed gap in the market for an independent, online platform for thought leadership and debate. Leaders LIVE brings together leaders from business, government and NGOs to debate some of the biggest challenges facing our world today, from tackling climate change to addressing diversity. After only a year Leaders LIVE has built a dedicated community, with live events hosted on LinkedIn and YouTube. Events regularly have hundreds of live attendees, with thousands more catching up on the replay.
With a mechanical engineering degree from Imperial College London and an MBA from Erasmus, Mike is a chartered engineer, a Fellow of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers and a Sainsbury Management Fellow.
He has led turnarounds, helped establish new businesses and delivered complex projects; challenging and coaching teams to innovate and transcend existing performance. Mike’s experience includes senior operations, project and corporate roles with Royal Dutch Shell UK, and large-scale project development and delivery roles at Alstom in locations across Europe, Asia and North America. Most recently he has been a Director at Centrica Energy, where he is responsible for one of the company’s largest operated gas businesses. He is a Non-Executive Director of Acqualithium and Vice-Chair of the Board of Hymers College.
Naomi started her career at the National Criminal Intelligence Service (now the National Crime Agency), where she spent three years looking at fraud and financial crime intelligence. It included a stint working with the FBI in Quantico, Virginia. She then moved to RBS, where she spent 10 years working in various risk roles, across both the first and second line of defence.
Most recently, Naomi has been working at LBG as a Director in the Chief Resilience and Security Office, where she led on operational resilience and cyber and information security policy. She co-founded the Operational Resilience Collaboration Group, made up of more than 40 firms working together to build resilience in the industry, and co-authored the ORCG industry standard on operational resilience. Naomi also developed the ‘Mind the Gap’ initiative across various FTSE100 companies, with senior women giving inspirational talks and providing mentorships to help encourage more women into careers in security.
Richard has significant experience in managing early stage and high-growth investor-backed businesses. He has spent the last 20 years finding, building and exiting these, investing in many.
He has a strong focus on numbers, financial models, strategic and execution planning, and risk management. He has a toolkit of methodologies to call on to help businesses grow.
He is an experienced non-executive director of both SME and PLC (AIM) companies, has a good knowledge of the funding landscape and is well networked (UK and global) with connections to most Venture Capital, PE, lawyer, accountant and High Net Worth Investor communities. He has led and advised on many fundraises, including: grant; EIS and SEIS High Net Worth Investors; Venture Capital Trust; crowdfunding; ‘follow-ons’; Series A; ‘new’ such as, revenue-based funding; and all forms of debt.
Richard is a trained mentor and coach and able to challenge and win trust at the same time. He has designed and delivered incubator and accelerator structures and programmes.
He founded and runs Realise Capital, a strategic financial and growth practice, is a chartered accountant (FCA) and previously has had roles as co-founder, CEO and corporate finance director. He has seen and had to deal with most situations that arise on a growth journey and can be hands on if the need arises. He has supported more than 75 ambitious founders to achieve exits in excess of £150 million and raise investment in excess of £25 million.
Amelia is a Senior Growth Architect at BCG Digital Ventures. She has more than five years’ experience building and scaling numerous B2B and B2C tech startups in the UK, US, Dubai and France. She has also worked with some of the world’s largest corporates to accelerate their marketing, sales and e-commerce efforts.
Her capabilities include competitive market intelligence, data-driven marketing experiments, analytics, go-to-market strategies, proposition development, digital marketing, and creating martech stacks across traditional and digital channels. Prior to BCG Digital Ventures, Amelia was a Growth Strategy Consultant at Manifesto Growth and Head of Brand and Partnerships at TRIBE.
Gareth is a strategic growth marketing specialist with over eighteen years’ experience of analysis, marketing and sales. He specialise in identifying and implementing growth potential for businesses across a multitude of industries, technologies and geographies. Gareth is a cohort head with a special focus on growth acceleration sprints, working with corporate partners to accelerate e-commerce in Telco and Aviation.
He has worked as VP Marketing, at Property Partner, a UK Fintech property investment platform and marketplace allowing investors to buy and trade shares in residential, commercial and student property. He was Chief Marketing Officer at ASAP54, a new fashion e-commerce technology search tool using a combination of image recognition, text search and community engagement on iOS, Android and desktop.
He is interested in proving market viability, defining and executing go-to-market strategies and commercialisation methods for cross-industry ventures. Gareth has experience of setting up growth for more than 30 businesses in the last four years and 65 venture propositions. His capabilities include competitive market intelligence, data-driven marketing experiments, personalisation, analytics, and creating martech stacks across traditional and digital channels.
Adam has held several senior positions with large- and medium-sized businesses, focusing on sales, marketing and commercial responsibilities.
These included being Business Development Director at a manufacturer of electricity meters, Sales Director and then Managing Director at a manufacturer of electric motors and generators, and Sales Director then Technical Director at a manufacturer of ultra-high precision instruments. All these roles have included a high level of international responsibilities, including running sales subsidiaries in China, Japan, the US and Europe.
More recently, Adam has focused on corporate-level commercial activities including acquisitions, disposals and fundraising. He has acted as an advisor to an investment bank, is a non-executive director at two technical business and trustee at two charities. He is a business angel investor in a private capacity.
Adam has a degree in electrical engineering from the University of Cambridge, an MBA from INSEAD where he was a Sainsbury Management Fellow, and is a Fellow of the Institution of Engineering and Technology .
Don Smith consults on innovation, invention, disruption and startup business strategy and has his own invention and disruption practice called One Hundred Flowers.
Until 2016, Don was an award-winning executive creative director in the advertising, marketing and digital business transformation fields, which he then left to begin a new career as a consultant, strategist and inventor.
Don has advised on business strategy for large corporates as well as SMEs, startups, spin-outs and new ventures of all types. His real passion lies in supporting young innovators, inventors and entrepreneurs to find the optimum path to value in their ventures. Having developed and run two invention startups of his own, Don is no stranger to the complexities of life as an entrepreneur.
Don’s strategic approach to innovation, invention and disruption, known as ‘Concept theory’, helps businesses of all sizes to embrace the value of innovation.
His model has been developed using some of the most advanced theories and methodologies from the universities of Harvard, Stanford and NYU, as well as strategies and systems from many of the world’s most forward-thinking minds. His model is currently being used to test and develop several spin-out ventures from University of Edinburgh.