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.
Charco NeurotechLtd has developed the CUE1, a small, non-invasive, wearable therapeutic device for people with Parkinson’s disease. Worn on the sternum, the device delivers two validated neuromodulation therapies at the same time: focused vibrotactile stimulation and ‘cueing’. These improve motor performance and alleviate numerous symptoms, for example countering ‘freezing of gait’ (when people feel their feet are stuck to the ground).
The CUE1’s focused stimulation works with the body’s sensory system to help improve the speed and fluidity of an individual’s movement. Cueing uses regular or rhythmic stimuli to assist a person with Parkinson’s to start and continue movements like walking. Patients who have benefitted from the CUE1 say that their motions become smoother and better coordinated when wearing the device.
Everyone’s Parkinson’s is different, so an accompanying Bluetooth-enabled app (the CUE app) allows an individual to fine-tune the device’s vibration settings. It also provides a symptom tracker plus interactive games to record progress and movement.
Soo-Min (Lucy) Jung is the co-founder and CEO at Charco Neurotech. Lucy joined the Shott Scale Up Accelerator in 2022 and says, “As Charco grows, I would like to enhance my leadership skills in several key areas, including strategic negotiations and dealmaking. The mentorship will also be an important element in my professional development – I will benefit both from the mentor’s advice and their expertise.”
At the end of 2021, Charco raised £7.4 million in a seed investment round. The company will use this to expand its team and continue the release of the CUE1. The funding will also ensure that the production of the device is fully scalable and the manufacturing quality is consistent. The backers of Charco believe that the CUE1 has the ability to greatly enhance the quality of life for people diagnosed with Parkinson’s worldwide.
Porotech has created a new class of semiconductor material: porous GaN, a composite of solid GaN and air. The company’s breakthroughs enable nanoscopic holes to be made in the semiconductor, resulting in a wide range of optical, mechanical, thermal, and electrical properties. The company is also delivering monochrome and full-colour micro-LED products to exceptionally high specifications.
Before this innovation, the manufacture of full-colour micro-LED displays was complicated and commercially prohibitive. Several material systems needed to be combined to develop a finished product. Porotech’s innovative process allows monochrome and full-colour displays to be placed on a single indium gallium nitride material system at mass scale, with the luminosity, efficiency and resolution needed for high-quality image projection against bright backgrounds.
Now, all three light-emitting elements can be produced using a single toolchain. Porotech’s technology offers a brand new material platform for semiconductor devices to be built on. This will be relevant for emerging markets such as micro-LED displays, metasurfaces, sensors, lasers, and quantum light sources.
Dr Yingjun Liu is the co-founder and CTO of Porotech Ltd, and joined the Shott Scale Up Accelerator in 2022. He says, “As I am responsible for setting the technology plan and managing growing teams, I want to develop a unique blend of management and technical skills for a high-growth business. Being able to exchange ideas with future industrial leaders and learn from leading entrepreneurs will help me contribute even more to our company’s global business and technology progress.”
Porotech recently secured £14.5 million in Series A funding. This investment will help the company to speed up its production of micro-LED products and rapidly scale up. Micro-LED displays will play an important part in subsequent generations of TVs, wearables, smartphones, and AR glasses.
Surfactants, used to decrease surface or interfacial tensions, have multiple uses in the chemical industry. Their industrial applications include household detergents, cosmetics, and agriculture. Holiferm Ltd, a Manchester-based company, is looking to move away from non-fossil-based chemical surfactants by developing and supplying sustainable, fermentation-derived ingredients for industrial and consumer products.
Holiferm has developed commercially viable, continuous manufacturing processes for biosurfactants and lipids that are able to deliver green products to the mass market at volume, and at competitive prices. The company’s patented integrated gravity separation and fermentation technology increases fermentation process productivity fourfold and reduces biosurfactant production costs by more than 50%.
Vicky De Groof joined Holiferm as a fermentation engineer. Within a year she had become the company’s Chief Technology Officer, responsible for a team of 10 people. Vicky then joined the Shott Scale Up Accelerator programme in 2022, and says, “I hope the networking opportunities and workshops will allow me to meet others, create new ideas, widen my perspectives, build my business confidence and lead to serendipitous findings.”
Holiferm is aiming to persuade the £27 billion surfactant market to move away from petroleum-based chemicals to biobased, sustainable alternatives. In 2021, the company started the year with a team of 10 and a pilot plant. By the end of that year, it had raised over £7 million of investment, increased the team to 20 people, and started to build a commercial plant.
Now, it is developing and refining new processes, doubling the team count again and generating a clear product pipeline. Holiferm’s fermentation technology will enable it to produce other types of biosurfactants and fermentation-derived chemicals that will help transform the chemical industry into a more sustainable one.
There are approximately 50 pantograph (an apparatus mounted on the roof of an electric train to collect power through contact with an overhead line) related incidents in the UK each year. These cause cancellations of passenger services, damage infrastructure, reduce safety and reliability of electrified train operation and have huge financial implications (tens of millions of pounds per incident) for both train operating companies and infrastructure managers such as Network Rail.
A lack of real-time information about pantograph operation and being unable to regularly inspect the infrastructure to inform data-driven decisions currently costs Network Rail around £530 million per annum.
Sentech Analytics Ltd has developed a new ‘smart-pantograph’ system: a multi-parameter, patented and field-evaluated optical fibre-based sensor system integrated with video information, to inform better data-driven maintenance solutions. This system allows users to create comprehensive inspection reports (required by the regulatory bodies) and reduce maintenance costs by providing real-time insight on the status of infrastructure and railway pantographs, preventing costly incidents while reducing maintenance and service outages.
Recent work with Network Rail on the Great Western Electrification programme illustrated this, and the smart pantograph now facilitates faster, more environmentally friendly passenger journeys between Bristol and Cardiff.
The company’s plan moving forward is to get detailed understanding of the challenges faced by the main stakeholders (within the UK and EU), to secure a pilot project and establish appropriate business models for two different market segments: train operating companies and infrastructure managers.
“In this very short period of time, the training provided by the Royal Academy of Engineering has been very important for my personal development as well as a great guidance on how to establish the company. In addition to that, having regular conversations with staff and my coach has been very helpful to get answers to a number of dilemmas.”
When a manufacturer, for example a car maker, wants a new component made, it will go to a supplier with its specifications. To make this new item, the supplier needs material multi-axial property data to predict its materials’ response in the manufacturing process. Existing testing methods cannot supply such data across all possible temperature and stress states.
To solve this issue, Dr Zhutao Shao and his colleagues from Imperial College London have developed and patented the world’s first high-temperature multi-axial material testing system. This patented testing process involves stretching a piece of material from multiple directions and under different service conditions until it fractures. Customers are then given the data and can use it to optimise their material’s structure.
Most existing systems use room temperature for testing and some may go up to 300° to 500°C. Dr Shao’s innovation can go over 1,000°C when needed. This option is important when judging how a material will behave under various stress states during the hot stamping manufacturing process. His multi-axial testing also undertakes fatigue, tension and compression testing of materials within a wide range of temperatures. The suite of checks are labelled ‘hot multi-axial tests’.
Multi-X Solutions already collaborates with car component suppliers for lightweight structural design and production of vehicles and will start trial sales in 2020. The company currently has one service and two products open to the transportation industry. Multi-X Solutions also has a materials database that will be added to as the company conducts tests on more engineering materials and structures.
The market that Multi-X are working in stands at £850 million worldwide and is rapidly expanding. The company is now looking to further develop and standardise the cost-effective testing methods for the data-driven advanced manufacturing industry.
2018 Awarded Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council Impact Acceleration Account funding
2018 Awarded title of the Most Valuable Project in Tencent Auto Open Platform Competition
2019 Dr Zhutao Shao was awarded an Enterprise Fellowship
2020 Accepted onto Imperial Techcelerate Programme
Unmanned Life’s software-as-a-service platform integrates different types of drones and robots to work together as autonomous fleets. The company uses AI to automatically deploy and manage UAVs and ground vehicles, both indoors and outdoors. These collaborative autonomous workforces can be used for a variety of business uses including surveillance and security, public safety, emergency response, warehousing, logistics, shipping and inventory counts.
Unmanned Life’s Autonomy-as-a-Service platform works over the cloud, with or without GPS, and communicates via radio, Wi-Fi, 4G or 5G. It can integrate swarms of different types of robotic devices to work together and its services have potential for the Industry 4.0 and Smart City applications.
Wasif Mehdi, is the Chief Operating Officer at Unmanned Life responsible for company operations and portfolio delivery. He also fills the role of Product Lead, jointly with the CTO and CEO. Wasif joined the Shott Scale Up Accelerator programme in 2022. He says, “Networking with my peers will enable a cross-pollination of ideas, strategies and approaches for us. I see the accelerator as a critical source of knowledge, experience and skills that will feed into our business’s day-to-day operations. This will be especially relevant across our teams, processes and tools, and help smooth our scale up journey.”
Unmanned Life has already succeeded in getting significant investment and establishing working partnerships. The company is now looking to secure recurring commercial revenue contracts — a key milestone to achieve in preparation for a Series A funding round. It will then be able to fully exploit its position as the world’s leading provider of a cloud-based, software-controlled, fully autonomous drone and robot service platform.
Recycleye Ltd has created the world’s largest visual AI dataset of waste materials, working in collaboration with academics from leading European universities. Using this knowledge, the company has developed Recycleye Vision, a database with over 3 million labelled images classifying waste. This system combines AI, smart analytics and low-cost cameras to identify refuse in real time. It can further refine identification by weight and brand detection and is already being used in large materials recovery facilities (MRFs) in England, Northern Ireland, France and Italy.
Recycleye Robotics encompasses a robotic picking system in tandem with the Recycleye Vision database to physically pick up the recyclable waste at an MRF and place it into containers. The robot can pick 55 items a minute and is both more consistently efficient and accurate than human pickers. By applying machine learning, the system is able to detect differences between items such as food and non-food-grade plastics. As a result, the increased accuracy of the process boosts the resale value of the output bales of an MRF’s recyclables by as much as fivefold.
Peter Hedley is the co-founder and CTO at Recycleye, and joined the Shott Scale Up Accelerator programme in 2022. He says, “Our company has expanded so quickly that I am now the manager of other managers! I feel the accelerator scheme will give me the support to improve our planning, culture and technical strategy. The programme will also give me access to a network of other senior SME people who will share valuable knowledge at a critical stage of our growing business.”
Recycleye’s potential has already been recognised and it has raised around £5 million to date. The company will use this funding to scale up and increase the accuracy and capabilities of its machine learning and robotics technology. It will also look to expand its product line and find more European partners.
Material Evolution Ltd is using machine learning algorithms and patented geopolymer technology to turn waste into new materials. The company’s first success has been to use its pioneering chemical and manufacturing processes to produce a cement replacement made from 96% industrial waste.
The main carbon emitter in concrete is cement. By developing previously unused waste streams, such as slag from the steel industry, Material Evolution has been able to reduce CO2 emissions in its cement by 85%. The company’s machine learning algorithms ensure material consistency and repeatability in every batch.
Dr Elizabeth (Liz) Gilligan is a co-founder and the CEO of Material Evolution. Liz provides the technical direction for the company, as well as fundraising and selling. In 2022, she joined the Shott Scale Up Accelerator programme and says, “This will hone my leadership skills for running our technical and non-technical teams. I plan to use the accelerator to develop more contacts and establish the best ways to inform people about the company and its products.”
Material Evolution’s potential has already been recognised. Towards the close of 2021, it raised £2.5 million in seed investment and grants. The company intends to use this to hire more team members, develop more products and set up batch production facilities. It ambitions are to work on new waste streams, achieve a production capacity of 100,000 tonnes, and further evolve its production algorithms. This will help the company achieve its aim: to help rapidly and radically decarbonise the UK’s foundation industries by improving their energy and resource efficiencies.
Cell and gene therapies have proven to be effective methods of treatment for diseases such as Parkinson’s disease and a range of cancers. However, there are two main challenges hindering the use and accessibility of these therapies. The first is that development timelines can be slow, due to time spent on resource-intensive process redesigns. The second is that manufacturing costs are currently high, due to expensive reagents, the necessity of clean room facilities and high batch failure rates.
MicrofluidX Ltd is tackling the problems of process control, scalability, and high costs associated with cell bioprocessing, particularly for autologous cell and gene therapy. Its automated closed technology enables scientists to speedily carry out process development by running dozens of cell culture conditions in parallel, with extreme process control. MicrofluidX’s strategy then facilitates scale up of the optimal condition to several billion cells for manufacturing at a fraction of current costs, while maintaining the same process development cell environment, thus avoiding expensive process redesigns.
Dr James Kusena is Vice President of Bioprocessing and Applications at MicrofluidX. James joined the Shott Scale Up Accelerator programme in 2022. He says, “There are several areas of expertise that I would like to develop including: creative and strategic thinking, project management and effective decision-making. These would allow me to enhance my leadership skills for both projects and partnerships.”
MicrofluidX is now looking to further develop its microfluidics-based cell and gene therapy process development and manufacturing platforms. The company will do this by disseminating a range of prototypes to partners in order to gain further external validation. It will also finalise the research and development of its chip and cassette designs, ready for manufacturing. This will permit MicrofluidX to grow its network and close its Series A funding.
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.
Andrew is currently head of technology for Shore Capital and has over 20 years of experience in public and private markets in the technology sector. He has led top-rated teams at several investment banks and has previously been ranked No 1 in the Institutional Investor and Extel surveys. He has a strong track record of financing early-stage high growth companies, raising £1.5bn in the last ten years through IPOs and secondary transactions. Andrew has a reputation for providing balanced corporate advice and a deep understanding of effective investor communications.
Andrew is also a serial entrepreneur having established and sold businesses in both the UK and US. Previous ventures have included hospitality, payment technology and internet security. The experience of investing risk capital to build solutions with an uncertain outcome has shaped his approach to advising owners of IP and early stage companies. Successful outcomes are often the result of many small decisions and stress testing assumptions beyond comfort levels.
Additionally, he is also an experienced non-executive director and has served on operational committees for strategy, nominations, and remuneration. He has experience representing an activist investor and understands the importance of finding capital that shares the same goals as management. Investors can be a source of more than merely funding, a fact often overlooked in the desire to find financing.
He is committed to stronger environmental policy resulting in decarbonisation and has successfully raised capital for wind, solar, compound semiconductors and fuel cells for over a decade. He is also the chairman of Torvius, a company dedicated to helping commercialise environment projects stemming from university research.
Having spent more than 20 years investing in companies across the world from early-stage private businesses to the largest global companies Graeme has strong views on what makes a good investment as well as how companies can communicate most effectively with investors.
Prior to joining Torvius he spent 12 years managing the global equity funds for AIG Investments (latterly known as Pinebridge) before which he spent 8 years at F&C Investments (now part of BMO) managing their European smaller company funds. A more recent role at LivingBridge (then Gresham House) gave him a deeper insight into private company and VC investing.
Graeme believes companies often fail to reach their true potential if management are too focused on only one element of the business, be it engineering, marketing or simply growth at all costs. Presenting a skewed impression of the company often attracts the wrong type of investors which leads to disappointment and conflict on both sides.
Graeme’s aim is to assist companies in understanding the complexities of the investment world and to help them to structure and present their business effectively to the financial community.
As an entrepreneur and seasoned ‘C’ level business manager, Richard has accumulated over 25 years of knowledge, skills and practical experience in business operations. During this time, he has worked in both the blue-chip multinational environment, and with a wide range of hi-tech start-ups, including his own. As a result, Richard understands the process of literally creating something from nothing, and over time, building it into a dynamic, profitable enterprise that can compete in global markets.
He is driven by the adventure of new businesses and having the opportunity to pass on his skills to other entrepreneurs. However good the innovation is, the truth is that when it comes to raising capital and working with VCs, or to building powerful teams and creating dynamic business operations, every new start-up needs support.
Richard’s first-hand experience of providing this support and building leadership has given him a deep understanding of the key drivers behind winning companies, but most importantly, of what success looks like.