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.
Michael Korn came up with the idea for portable, retractable screen dividers after observing the problems that medical staff and patients face in hospitals. His research uncovered a need for more side room capacity, providing extra private and segregated spaces. Using a new glass fibre composite, Michael developed portable, retractable partitions that can swiftly turn any open-plan ward into smaller, more discreet and isolated spaces.
KwickScreens can also be printed with views of nature or artistic patterns. It was this difference from traditional hospital curtains that helped provide early success. A new breastfeeding mother appreciated being alone with her baby surrounded by calming colours. A grieving family was able to spend the last few days with their loved one in a secluded environment.
The KwickScreen enabled a patient space to be swiftly created anywhere. It could also act as an isolation room for immunosuppressed or infectious patients who might otherwise be in an open ward at risk of contracting or spreading healthcare acquired infections.
Michael founded KwickScreen in 2008. By 2020, over 100 NHS Trusts were using his partitions in critical care units, theatres, recovery wards and maternity units. The hygienic and easy-to-clean screens really came into their own during the COVID-19 pandemic. Throughout the pandemic, KwickScreens have been supporting the NHS and it was partly for this reason that Michael joined the SME Leaders programme in 2021.
Michael says “I need to make sure that I grow, in order to stay ahead of the company’s rapid expansion! I believe the programme will help establish valuable external connections and potential partnerships. Most importantly it will help me develop as a business leader, enabling us to get new ambitious projects off the ground capitalising on the exciting opportunities ahead of us.”
In two years, the KwickScreen company has increased its revenue from £1 million a year to over £6 million. It is now well placed to replace medical curtains in North America, Japan and Europe. Originally developed for hospital and healthcare environments, it is now also being used in public and work spaces.
In a global analysis of all the plastic ever made, the peer-reviewed journal Science Advances estimated that of the 8.3 billion tonnes that has been produced, 6.3 billion tonnes has become plastic waste. With only 9% recycled, the vast majority is accumulating in landfills or in the natural environment as litter. If present trends continue, by 2050, there will be 12 billion tonnes of plastic in landfills.
Many feel that a circular economy that considers the end destination of what is manufactured would help manage material production responsibly. From buttons to car doors, and spectacles to countertops, the use of sustainable alternatives to petroleum plastics would offer multiple plastic end-of-life scenarios.
Rowan Minkley, is the Co-Founder and CEO of Chip[s] Board. Chip[s] Board is a bioplastic technology company that converts food waste into bioplastics. It currently produces polymers and composites. The composites are natural-fibre reinforced melt blends for applications such as furniture, fashion and consumer electronics.
The company has developed a process to convert waste food by-products into a trademarked bioplastic called Parblex®. The main ingredient for this is upcycled potato scraps, supplied by the global food processing giant McCain Foods. By combining this with natural fibres, biobased composites can be made that are biodegradable and recyclable at the end of their product life. Parblex® is compatible with injection moulding, 3D printing, milling and other industrial processing techniques.
Rowan says: “Many current bioplastics are produced from virgin food crops – such as corn or sugar beet – that are grown specifically to create the materials needed for creating the bioplastic substance. Our philosophy is that a circular economy within waste (by-product) management and material production will create a new sustainable model, utilising the abundant resources we already have rather than continuing to process virgin materials.”
Chip[s] Board’s team is currently looking into the waste stream to find new materials to upcycle and diversify their product lineup.
2017 - Company founded
2018 - Shell LiveWIRE Award, Creative Conscience Award, Santander Entrepreneur of the Year
2018 - Rowan Minkley was awarded an Enterprise Fellowship
2018 - Rowan won the Launchpad Competition
2018 - McCain secured as a material supplier
2018 - Raised pre-seed Angel investment
2018 - Team expands to five full time staff
2019 - Relocation to Leyton warehouse, 100-litre production line established
2019 - Received Business of Fashion, Textiles and Technology SME grant and Knowledge Transfer Network Spark Award
2020 - Team expands to seven full time staff
Visit their website: www.chipsboard.com
Director of Innovation, Footfalls and Heartbeats
Footfalls and Heartbeats is a start-up developing smart textiles for use in a wide range of industries. Its innovative solutions integrate sensing systems into fabrics to create intelligent wearables that are comfortable and durable. One of the start-up’s first products is a pressure-responsive bandage for use in the treatment of venous leg ulcers (VLUs).
VLUs affect approximately 3% of the global adult population causing pain, swelling and reduced mobility. Compression therapy is the recommended treatment but its effectiveness is limited by lack of awareness and patient discomfort both of which lead to poor compliance. Footfalls and Heartbeats’ solution is a customised bandage with embedded sensors that allow responsive, real-time pressure monitoring. This can improve treatment of VLUs by helping to ensure that the correct pressure is applied during compression therapy. A wearable method to do this currently does not exist.
Director of Innovation, Fern Kelly, leads in developing the start-up’s product innovation pipeline which involves end-to-end strategic planning as its technologies are customised for commercialisation. Supported by the SME Leaders Programme, Fern aims to strengthen skills in leadership and negotiation to help with establishing the commercial partnerships needed for Footfalls and Heartbeats to brings its first products to market.
Visit Footfalls & Heartbeat's website here.
Open surgery is the current standard for preparing patients for dialysis and bypassing blocked peripheral arteries. High failure rates (approximately 50%) in both cases present a serious danger to life and require repeat procedures, for US dialysis patients alone this adds up to $4.6 billion per year.
Sorin Popa, founder of Pathfinder Medical, developed an electronic catheter guidance system that enables clinicians to connect blood vessels in a minimally invasive way, eliminating the need for open surgery and improving outcomes for vascular procedures. This technology has the potential to reduce the cost and trauma associated with procedures to treat those with renal failure and peripheral arterial disease.
Worldwide 3.4 million patients have end stage kidney disease and require their blood to be routinely filtered externally through haemodialysis.
This requires surgery to open up the arm and prepare patients’ blood vessels by forming a connection between an artery and a vein (known as a fistula or vascular access site). Pathfinder Medical’s catheter system can be used to connect blood vessels using a small covered tube known as a ‘stent graft’.
This technology enables patients to receive kidney dialysis without surgery. It can also be used to bypass blocked vessels for those with peripheral arterial disease which affects over 200 million patients globally.
The technology improves outcomes for patients by reducing stress, discomfort and the risk of vascular access problems. It brings cost saving to healthcare providers by improving the efficiency of procedures and reducing the likelihood of costly repeat procedures.
The global market for the technology is worth over £3.8 billion annually. In the UK, the solution could save the NHS an estimated £45 million per annum on kidney dialysis alone.
A 2016 Enterprise Fellowship was awarded to Sorin to support the growth of his start-up as it trials its technology in preparation for commercialisation.
Drones can be used to significantly reduce time, cost and risk of structural surveying and inspection, but they generate large quantities of image-related data that can be costly and resource-intensive to process.
TRIK has developed software that makes drone use for surveying and inspection more accessible. It takes photos and videos captured by drones and automatically turns them into an interactive 3D model that acts as a twin of the real structure.
The technology opens up new possibilities for engineers to visualise sites and structures. Its interactive 3D models can be used to generate insights and also double as a database. They can be used for fast and efficient search, measurement, analysis and comment without the need to visit the actual structure.
It can make drone photography more efficient with processes for auto-tagging images and mapping changes across time. This supports surveyors, asset managers and engineers by making it easier to detect structural changes, predict failure, evaluate risk and maintain sites.
Drone-related services are projected to grow dramatically in the next five years. For example, growth for drone software in asset monitoring and inspection is predicted to reach $7.5 billion by 2022.
Led by Dr Pae Natwilai Utoomprurkporn, an innovator selected
for the Forbes 30 Under 30 Europe Industry list in 2018, TRIK is working with
companies to scale its systems and impact the global market for drone software.
It aims to achieve this by making drone survey and inspection more accessible,
without the need for significant technical expertise.
Pae was awarded a 2018 Enterprise Fellowship to support her in bringing TRIK’s solutions to market. TRIK is also funded by Zoopla founder, Alex Chesterman, and LoveFilm founder, Simon Franks.
Over two billion people worldwide lack access to safe drinking water. Membrane processes have been identified as effective techniques to remove contamination and salts from water. However, existing solutions are energy and capital intensive, require frequent maintenance and impose significant barriers to deployment.
Waterwhelm are commercialising a patent-pending process for wastewater treatment, water treatment, desalination and dewatering that will overcome these challenges by engineering the natural process of osmosis. The innovation has the potential to cut electricity consumption by a staggering 90% compared to current practice and reduce capital costs by more than 35%.
Over the next 12 months it will be developing, commissioning and testing a sizeable pilot plant that will validate the technology in an industrial environment. Waterwhelm aim to learn from the unit and receive feedback from early adopters based on its trial performance.
Supported by the University of Edinburgh, the Royal Academy of Engineering Enterprise Hub , Scottish Enterprise, Innovate UK and EIT Climate KIC, Waterwhelm has gained significant technical and commercial traction by developing one of the most promising technologies addressing problems faced by the rapidly growing global water market.
2018: Waterwhelm founded
2019: Winner of the Converge KickStart Challenge
2019: Awarded as the top enterprise emerging from the University of Edinburgh
2019: Pre-seed funding round completed
2020: Innovate UK Global Challenges Research Fund project starts
2020: First plant developed for technology validation in collaboration with a major industrial partner
“The Academy Enterprise Fellowship has provided the Waterwhelm founder with hands-on support in commercialising the technology.”
Mixergy Ltd, a University of Oxford spin-out, has developed an internet-connected, smart hot water tank that gives users greater control and oversight over their water heating systems. Traditional water cylinders heat up all the water within, or none, like a giant kettle. Mixergy’s tanks use thermal stratification and an innovative heating arrangement to heat the water from top down. That way, consumers can selectively heat different volumes of water and save 5% to 20% on their hot water bills.
Mixergy’s top-up technology enables hot water to be delivered up to five times faster than conventional cylinders. In addition, by having internet connectivity and an artificial intelligence algorithm running on the Mixergy cloud platform, customers can better utilise time-of-use tariffs and use the unit’s app as a smart remote control.
Ren Kang co-founded Mixergy in 2014 and is its Head of Research. He joined the SME Leaders programme in 2021 and is looking forward to it helping him “transition from being the company’s technical director to being its industrial leader. By better-planning Mixergy’s product development, I will be able to prepare it for future energy challenges and opportunities.”
Since its inception, the Mixergy team has grown to 21 staff and built strong relationships with British Gas, a major installer of tanks. In 2020, Mixergy raised £3.6 million in a Series A funding round. This has allowed Mixergy to gain further commercial traction in UK and European markets.
Sensor Coating Systems(SCS) has developed a thermal mapping method using temperature memory materials. Its luminescent paints and coatings generate an afterglow on materials when light is shone on them. After calibration, an operator can work out a material’s temperature-history (how hot it became in the past) from the afterglow. When applied on engine components as a paint or a coating, it provides engine designers with thousands of digitised temperature points that can assist in the development of more efficient and cleaner engines, with less CO2 emissions.
SCS has patented the technology and created an intellectual property portfolio covering specialised instrumentation, automation and digitisation know-how. The high-resolution temperature data generated from SCS systems can shorten months of engine development time into just a few weeks.
Dr Jörg Feist is co-founder, co-inventor and Managing Director of SCS. Jörg joined the SME Leaders Programme in 2021. He says “the programme will help to address the company’s growth risks as SCS plans to double in size in the next two years, both in terms of revenue and headcount. The mentoring scheme will provide an external view on the business and the scholarship programme will enable me to attend courses at leading business schools to customise our growth journey.”
The ability of SCS’s award-winning technology to provide thousands of measurement points on a single component is ground-breaking. Its potential market is wide-ranging, as the technology can be used for gas turbines, aviation, automotive, fuel cells or high-value manufacturing.
TG0 has developed a new technology for interactive 3D controls, which enables them to be both intuitive and ergonomic. Most electronic products and dashboards have individual on/off buttons as well as multiple sensors and parts. TG0 has replaced these multi-part electronic interfaces with one flexible touch-sensitive material that works with AI-based algorithms.
Using machine learning and advanced signal processing technology, the company has created a sensing method that can detect touch interactions such as pressure, location, direction, speed and movement on uniform large surfaces. The resulting material technology can be used in tactile gaming controls, car dashboard controls and ergonomic computer accessories such as keyboards.
Dr Liucheng Guo is the Co-Founder and CTO of TG0. He became an SME Leader in 2019 and says that the programme has benefited the company in a number of ways. “Thanks to the leadership training and mentoring, I have rethought and realigned our technical strategies with business requirements. The networking has been especially productive, as it found us a collaborator who has helped secure an InnovateUK funding.”
Now, TG0 is selling directly to consumers. The company has developed a new VR controller called etee, which it launched on Kickstarter. The lightweight device fits onto a person’s fingers and manoeuvres around the VR environment through touch, proximity, pressure and gestures. It can be used for both gaming and medical applications.
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.
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 .
Shamus Rae is the Co-Founder and CEO at Engine B. A dedicated change-maker and with 21 years in business transformation, Shamus is now focused exclusively on leveraging AI and data to transform organisations.
In 2019 Shamus formed Engine B with Donne Burrows. Supported by the ICAEW and the main audit firms, Engine B aims to expedite digitisation of the professional services industry (accounting and legal) and crucially, level the playing field for all organisations, large and small. Engine B is a collaborative consortium bringing together technology houses, key industry players, end clients, new startups, regulators, and investors.
Prior to Engine B, Shamus spent 13 years at KPMG as a Partner, leading in business transformation. Most recently as Head of Innovation and Digital Disruption, his work concentrated on new and disruptive technologies and their impact on the professional services industry.
Shamus is intent on revolutionising the way companies work with his people-focused values paving the way for a new generation of responsible leadership. Both a highly respected voice and dedicated advocate of how we must use the digital revolution for good, Shamus is a key speaker at many industry events. For two consecutive years he has been a significant contributor to CogX and is regularly called on to share his insights with leading industry publications.
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.
Since 2009 John has been a hands-on angel investor, specialising in early stage businesses, often in data and communications. He is a director of: Hybrid Access Technologies, which offers multipath access network solutions at gigabit speeds; Rovco, a subsea company that offers underwater surveys with advanced vision systems, autonomous vehicles and AI; Wazoku. which provides software for ideas management and innovation; and Rabble, which makes fitness fun.
From 2013 to 2016 he was Chairman of Cambridge Angels, an established angel group investing over £10 million a year. He has a dozen other active technology investments, and is chair of the advisory board at First Capital, an investment bank specialising in growth technology businesses. He regularly mentors entrepreneurs.
His career was in telecommunications, where he started out in technology roles in a university spinout and as part of the founding team in a startup. He went on to embrace product management, sales and marketing roles in digital switching at Mitel; and business planning, strategy and due diligence at KPMG. He moved to corporate finance at HSBC, leading its global TMT corporate finance team in the dot.com boom. He finds his mentees particularly value the combination of his tech background with commercialisation and financing skills as these are core skills that growth businesses need.
He is trustee of: education charity Onebillion Learners (winner of the XPrize Global Learning Challenge $5 million prize); the Guildford Educational Partnership, an academy school trust; and Christ’s Hospital. His degree is in mathematics and electrical sciences from Trinity College, Cambridge.
Dan Cohen joined Boston Consulting Group in July 2019. He is a partner and VP in the London office of BCG Digital Ventures (DV), BCG’s venture capital and incubator entity. Currently Dan oversees product development on all ventures in London, and acts as the general manager of ventures during incubation.
Dan has founded, built, and exited several digital businesses to private and trade purchasers over his career. Before joining BCG DV, he helped launch Amazon's Prime Video service in the UK, and was employee number 12 at Secret Escapes, a UK-based global travel business funded by Google Ventures.
Chris is a partner and head of the emerging companies team at Taylor Vinters. He has over a decade of experience advising early-stage and fast-growth businesses, particularly in the technology sector. He practises both as a corporate lawyer and commercial intellectual property specialist, and splits his time between offices in the golden triangle of UK innovation; Cambridge (where he lives), London and Oxford. Taylor Vinters’ market-leading technology practice advises on well over 150 fundraising transactions every year acting for both growth companies and angel, venture capital and corporate investors.