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.
MediSieve has developed
magnetic blood filtration, a unique tool that enables doctors to selectively
remove harmful substances directly from a patient’s bloodstream. Practically
any target can be removed including specific cells, inflammatory cytokines,
pathogens and antibodies, providing a platform to treat a huge range of medical
conditions and accessing billion-dollar global markets.
The MediSieve Filter is a single-use, disposable magnetic filter that can capture and retain magnetic components. It can filtrate large quantities of blood quickly, with only a small volume outside the patient’s body at any one time, enabling most treatments to be performed in two to three hours.
Dr Cristina Blanco-Andujar is the CTO for MediSieve, where she leads its internal research development and contributes to clinical trials’ setup. Cristina became an SME Leader in 2018 and says: “The programme has helped me to know myself better as a leader. I have gained the skills and confidence to become a better manager, indeed, I would not have been able to face all the challenges of growing the company without its constant support.”
In 2020, MediSieve, found itself working on a number of different fronts. Although solutions are being developed for a broad range of medical conditions, including leukaemia and malaria, MediSieve’s current focus is on dysregulated immune responses or hyperinflammation. Dysregulated immune reactions, often called cytokine storms, are significant drivers of severity and mortality across a large number of diseases, including sepsis and viral infections such as COVID-19.
MediSieve is currently using its sepsis research to help tackle the high levels of inflammatory cytokine interleukin (IL-6) in the blood of COVID-19 patients. With several UK grants totalling £3 million, MediSieve has pivoted its focus to accelerate the testing of its anti-IL-6 product. This could eventually be used to treat the symptoms of severe COVID-19 patients.
Belfast-based company Axial3D transforms CT and MRI scans into physical 3D printed models for surgeons to use in planning critical surgery in orthopaedics, cardiology and neurology. These patient-specific medical models take 24 to 48 hours to make, giving surgeons much greater insight into a patient than they would get from 2D scans. Surgeons using these models for complex operations say that they change pre-operative plans for half of patients, enabling time and money savings in most surgeries.
Niall Haslam is the CTO at Axial3D, responsible for the company’s research and development activities. Niall became an SME Leader in 2018 and credits the programme with helping to grow
his team. He says: “Engineers are used to solving problems. The Academy’s courses helped me take a step back from our research work and learn how to contribute to the company strategy in other ways. I have been able to do this both from a technical point of view, and financial too.”
Axial3D is expanding rapidly with a doubling of staff numbers in just two years as it has transitioned from startup to a scale-up company. It has been able to attract funding from Innovate UK to validate the use of its models in pre-operative planning. This has been especially useful in helping address surgical waiting lists caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Surgeons have found that they can save 62 minutes per case on average when using a 3D model to plan a procedure.
Niall says that the US healthcare market has recently become even more important to Axial3D. It has been involved in a number of collaborative projects there and is continuing to grow its presence and sales in the region.
VOID have developed VO+, a patented technology that works at the nano-scale to create lighter, stronger and more sustainable polymers. It does this by producing a cavitated structure that, in effect, replaces plastic with air. This reduces the amount of material needed to make commodity and bio-based plastics by up to 50%.
Dr Graeme Karney is the Chief Operating Officer for VOID, responsible for the company’s operations across North America and Europe. Graeme says that the SME Leaders programme has been useful in several ways: “The leadership training courses developed my thinking on negotiation and the dynamics of industry value chains. And the lessons learned from an experienced mentor helped to shape and clarify my approach to organisation management.”
In 2020, he relocated to Canada to oversee the group’s operations in the North America. In the same year, VOID secured £6 million of investment from two venture capital funds specialising in materials technology and petrochemicals. Now the company is hoping to work with film and packaging manufacturers to commercialise applications for VO+.
VO+ technology will enable manufacturers and retailers to significantly reduce plastic consumption and help them to achieve sustainability targets.
Diffblue Ltd is a University of Oxford spin-out company that combines artificial intelligence (AI) with software analysis to make coding more efficient and cost-effective. Diffblue Cover software uses AI to automatically write unit tests for Java code in minutes, a process that take days or weeks for a developer to write manually.
Peter Schrammel is the Co-Founder and CTO of Diffblue. Peter joined the SME Leaders programme in 2018 and has noticed the benefits. He says: “It has definitely sharpened my focus. I find I am able to more easily zoom in on the important elements of business. What I’ve learned on the programme has helped improve our organisation’s communications, both within the executive team and the company as a whole.”
Diffblue is disrupting traditional computer programming by helping developers automate their everyday tasks. Its software has been used by clients including Goldman Sachs and AWS, and operates through a paid subscription model. In September 2020, Diffblue launched its free community edition, which offers an IntelliJ plug-in with some of the paid features.
Diffblue aims to further revolutionise the programming process by using AI. In the future, its technology could even help developers to automatically correct and fix bugs in their systems - especially security bugs.
Loowatt designs and manufactures high quality, waterless flush toilets that could significantly improve access to adequate sanitation and hygiene where it is most needed. According to the World Health Organization and the United Nations Children’s Fund, 60% of the global population does not have access to safely managed sanitation, meaning that untreated waste from 4.3 billion people enters our environment every day. Loowatt toilets offer a safe and simple solution with a patented flushing technology that locks in odour and disease without using water or chemicals.
Virginia Gardiner, Founder and CEO, developed the technology and now leads the company in establishing a robust strategy and vision for growth. Loowatt has successfully generated revenue by operating toilets and waste processing in a range of contexts, from outdoor events in the UK to easy-to-install, outdoor toilets for homes in Madagascar. The company now aims to manufacture and sell universally-applicable, waterless flush toilets and sanitation solutions to a range of global markets.
Virginia aims to use training and support from the SME Leaders Programme to advance the company’s fundraising strategy as it develops plans to scale manufacturing processes and sell its products to international utilities.
Graphene has been dubbed the 21st century’s ‘super-material’. It is the most conductive material in existence, super-strong yet flexible and capable of resisting high electrical forces. However, until now, manufacturers had not been able to commercially exploit it successfully. In 2020, Paragraf Ltd took up the challenge and launched the GHS Series Hall-Effect sensor.
Paragraf’s direct-to-wafer manufacturing approach enables high purity graphene, with a high carrier mobility, to be integrated into sensing technologies. The GHS series of analogue sensors is designed to provide high-performance measurement, sensing and control for scientific research, healthcare, aerospace, industrial and automotive applications.
Dr Simon Thomas is the CEO of Paragraf Ltd. He became an SME Leader in 2018 and credits the programme with giving him “some fantastic learning opportunities. Thanks to these, I have grown significantly, both in terms of capability and as a person. The support of the Academy has helped me grow Paragraf into a strong and successful company.”
Paragraf has recently raised £16.2 million in series A funding and obtained several grants to investigate the replacement of rare and expensive metals in electronic devices. Now the company’s 50 staff are scaling up its commercial activities and maximising the reach of its products. It is now aiming to build strong partnerships that will enable it to bring graphene applications to a wider marketplace.
When Dr Daniel Tilley joined the SME leaders programme in 2018, he was leading the analytical science team at CyberOwl Ltd, developing products to support data risk management. CyberOwl works with companies to identify cyber security risks to their data systems by spotting suspicious or unsecure behaviour and unauthorised workarounds to security controls.
In 2020, Daniel set up his own company, Daniel Tilley Analytic Solutions, to work as an independent consultant in defence and cyber security. He credits the SME Leaders programme with helping him develop sufficient confidence to set up an independent consultancy, with the networking and mentoring opportunities being especially useful.
Daniel has experience in establishing statistical analysis systems of historical data, as well as building mathematical tools and prototypes. He has also supported military officers on training exercises helping quantify potential casualties and outcomes in conflict scenarios. This has led to other work in a variety of settings including an advisory role for a social enterprise group that builds up older people’s support groups to counter loneliness. His military expertise includes work representing human and environmental factors in combat models.
When Umar Wani became an SME Leader in 2018, he was the Co-Founder and CTO of Accelerated Dynamics. The company uses artificial intelligence to create software that optimises the behaviour of robot fleets to accomplish shared goals faster and more efficiently than a single robot.
Accelerated Dynamics was acquired in 2019 and Umar played a leading role in the acquisition process. Umar has now left the company and is validating a new business idea. He is building and testing prototypes for a new initiative, currently under wraps.
Umar says that the SME Leaders programme “placed me on a path of self-discovery, both as an entrepreneur and product leader. It provided the basis for developing my leadership style. It has enabled me to acquire an executive education by targeting high impact courses such as ‘Leading Teams for Emerging Leaders’ taught at London Business School, which outlines the arts of influencing and negotiating. This gave me a solid insight and practical tips showing how to get buy-in from employees, fellow inventors and clients.”
Umar hopes to develop his business ventures and become a serial entrepreneur. He believes the SME Leaders programme has provided him with the foundation to launch and lead successful organisations.
and Chief Technology Officer, Oxford HighQ
Oxford HighQ is a spin-out company from the University of Oxford’s Departments of Materials and Chemistry. It is developing nanoparticle sensing instruments that are up to 10,000 times more sensitive than available optical sensing technologies. The company has engineered a way of producing large-scale, repeatable, high precision optical microcavities for the first time.
These sensors will enable new tools to be created in pharmaceutical and medical research, as well as food and water monitoring. This technology could prove a step-change in performance for chemical and nanoparticle sensing.
Aurélien Trichet is Co-Founder and CTO at Oxford HighQ, managing the R&D team and directing technology development. He became an SME Leader in 2020 and is looking forward to using the programme. He says: “This opportunity is ideal for me. It will allow me to move from a heavy academic skillset to a more business and technology management one. The workshop, coaching and mentoring will all help me make this transition.”
Oxford HighQ is aiming to transition from R&D to mass production in 2021. Its first product provides a way to measure drug loading and delivery profiles as well as particle size for nanomedicine applications. As a consequence, researchers within academic institutions, SMEs and pharmaceutical companies will have better quality assurance procedures, a crucial requirement in this valuable industry.
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.
Iain is currently a non-executive director and Chairman of the Audit Committee of Premier Oil plc, a FTSE 250 global oil and gas company. He also serves as a Trustee Director and Chair of the Finance Committee for The Workforce Development trust Ltd. Until April 2020 he was also a non-executive director and Chairman of the Audit Committee at SUEK Ltd, Russia’s largest coal producer. Prior to his portfolio activities, Iain was Chief Financial Officer (CFO) of Fairfield Energy Ltd, a North Sea oil and gas company, where he oversaw all finance-related activities of the private equity backed organisation, including a potential IPO and a merger.
Iain also spent 30 years at BP, firstly as an engineer and project manager, where he was instrumental in developing technology licensing sales and projects in Asia. He then spent 10 years running various technology-led chemicals businesses, and the Prudhoe Bay oil field operations in Alaska, before being appointed a Group Vice President and holding roles as Head of Group Planning, Group Controller, and lastly Deputy Group CFO. He led the centralisation of the finance function of BP during this time, and its standardisation of processes and practices following the company’s significant merger and acquisition activity in the late 1990s.
Iain is a Fellow of the Institution of Chemical Engineers, a chartered engineer, and has an engineering degree from University College London. He also attended the Executive Education programme at Harvard Business School, and lives close to London, UK.
Professor Roger Whatmore FREng’s main research interests and expertise are in the field of functional materials, particularly ferroelectrics, multiferroics and their applications.
After receiving a first class honours from the University of Cambridge, he carried out his PhD research at the Cavendish Laboratory, subsequently joining Plessey Research at Caswell in 1976. In 1993 he led the team that won the Prince of Wales Award for Innovation for the development of a wearable thermal imager for firefighters. GEC recognised his contributions through the award of their Nelson Gold Medal in the same year. The technology underpinning this formed the basis of a very successful company, Infrared Integrated Systems Ltd.
In 1994, he moved to Cranfield University, as the Royal Academy of Engineering Professor of Engineering Nanotechnology, where he established a team applying ferroelectric materials to the areas of microsystems and nanotechnology, and becoming Head of Advanced Materials.
In January 2006, he took up the post of CEO at the Tyndall National Institute, part of University College Cork, Ireland, which is internationally respected for the high quality research in the areas of photonics, micro-nanoelectronics, electronic systems, functional materials and nanotechnology, underpinned by excellence in theoretical modelling and design. Under his direction the influence, financial status and academic status of Tyndall increased dramatically and a Science Foundation Ireland instigated international review body concluded that “Tyndall is an indispensable national resource”. He retired as Tyndall’s CEO in 2012 and was made an Emeritus Professor of University College Cork. In 2014, he became a Principal Research Fellow in the Department of Materials, Imperial College London.
Professor Whatmore is a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, a Member of the Royal Irish Academy, a Fellow of the Irish Academy of Engineering, a Fellow of the Institute of Physics and a Fellow of the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining, who awarded him the Griffith Medal and Prize for excellence in materials science in 2003 and their premier award, the Platinum Medal, in 2019. He is a Member of the IEEE, serving on FerroCom and was awarded the IEEE Ferroelectrics Recognition Award in 2019.
Dr Robert Sansom FREng is an experienced angel investor and mentor to technology-based startup businesses in the UK and US.
He is the founder of the Cambridge Angels, a group of expert technology and biotechnology entrepreneurs who invest in and mentor technology startups across the UK.
Robert serves on the board of several startups including Arachnys Information Services, Cambridge Communication Systems, CRFS, Featurespace, IQGeo plc, Myrtle Software, and Netronome Systems. Prior to becoming an angel investor, he co-founded FORE Systems, a leader in high-speed data communications, where he was Chief Technical Officer. Fore Systems went public on NASDAQ in 1994 and was sold to Marconi plc in 1999.
Robert was elected a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering in 2010.
“Through my career I’ve built up considerable experience taking knowledge-based technology business from initial idea through to becoming successful businesses. I’d like to help a new generation of technology entrepreneurs do the same, and the Enterprise Hub is an excellent platform for me to do this.”
Professor David Lane CBE FREng FRSE is a passionate scientist, innovator, educator and personal investor in the twin disciplines of robotics and AI. A founding startup-to-scaleup award-winning CEO (http://www.seebyte.com Edinburgh, San Diego), he is chairman or non-executive director of five businesses and one fund in UK, Norway, Hong Kong with experience in EdTech, healthcare, manufacturing, offshore energy, defence and food.
As Founding Director he co-created the Edinburgh Centre for Robotics and National Robotarium, a £120 million research and translation hub at Heriot-Watt and Edinburgh universities with more than 150 staff and PhD students. He is Principle Investigator in the EPSRC ISCF/Industry ORCA Hub developing advanced robotics for offshore energy asset integrity management from the science base in Edinburgh, Oxford, Imperial College and Liverpool. He has published more than 300 peer reviewed papers in engineering advanced cognition, sensing and bio-inspiration into unmanned systems, featuring digital twin simulation and emulation technology as core for innovation and translation.
His entrepreneurship has been recognized through the 2011 Praxis Unico Business Impact Achieved Award, the 2013 Scottish Digital Technology Award for International Growth, the 2018 Guardian University Business Collaboration Award and the 2019 Scottish Knowledge Exchange Champion Award.
He is co-chair of the UK Government Robotics Growth Partnership appointed by the Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation and a member of the UK AI Council. He led the 2014 UK RAS2020 Robotics and Autonomous Systems Strategy generating over £500 million of UK government and industry support, which led to 10 £250 million VC investments into UK robotics businesses in 2017/18. Previously he was Board member of EURobotics (2014-16) and General Chair of the 2017 EU Robotics Forum bringing 800 European Roboticists to Edinburgh.
Dr Martin Grant FREng was the Chief Executive Officer of Atkins’ Energy business for 10 years until 2018.
With a career spanning over thirty years in the energy sector, Martin is a Fellow and Trustee of the Royal Academy of Engineering and has been recognised with a Royal Academy of Engineering Silver Medal for his work on safety in the oil and gas industry.
His career now involves non-executive director and advisory work.
For Martin, engineers are the key to a better future. "If we can attract and retain skilled engineers as well as encourage a more diverse workforce, we can accomplish great things, not only for the energy sector but for engineering and therefore the world at large.
"It doesn’t get much more important than the quest for secure, affordable energy that is safer, cleaner and smarter, for both the immediate and the longer term."
Professor Bill O’Riordan FREng was previously Chief Scientist and Head of Research of ICL/FUJITSU and Chairman of the ECRC (European Computer Research Centre) in Munich.
Bill was an advisor to two international governments on science and technology strategies. He has also had many advisory roles to the European Commission on Science and Technology initiatives especially around biocomputing.
He is currently interested in drone swarms, the security of embedded controllers in scientific and engineering systems, and he is an advisor to several tech startups. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering in 1998.
Dr John Lazar CBE FREng is a software engineer and business leader with a strong focus on combining technology and entrepreneurship to try to generate lasting positive impact. He is a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering (2011), and serves on the Academy’s International Committee. For the last four years, he has been a judge and mentor on the Academy’s flagship Africa programme, the Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation, which supports 15 early-stage African engineering companies annually.
John has also spent many years working on tech-related non-profit initiatives in Africa, which included an eight-year stint as a trustee of the charity TechforTrade, developing a number of ‘digital blacksmiths’ in Sub-Saharan Africa. In 2019, he co-launched Enza Capital, which invests in early stage African technology companies that solve pressing problems.
He has also been an active angel investor and technology startup mentor in the UK, with more than 40 individual pre-seed/seed investments. He is Chairman of What3Words and KindLink.
In 2016, he stepped down as Chairman and CEO of Metaswitch Networks, a leading provider of communications software. He joined Metaswitch in 1987 as a software engineer, and worked across software design and engineering, customer support, product strategy and revenue generation - culminating in promotion to CEO.
John graduated from the University of Oxford
with an MSc in computation and a DPhil in politics, having completed his
undergraduate degree in computer science at the University of the Witwatersrand
in Johannesburg. He is also a Fellow of
the BCS, the UK’s chartered institute for IT.
He was awarded a CBE for services to engineering in the Queen’s Birthday
Honours in 2016.
Suranga has long experience as an engineer and entrepreneur. He founded Blinkx - an intelligent search engine for video and audio content - in 2004. He led Blinkx as CEO for eight years as well as taking it public in 2007. He is widely regarded as an expert on the convergence of the web, television and online advertising.
Before his work with Blinkx, Suranga was US Chief Technology Officer of Autonomy where he was mentored by Mike Lynch and led the effort to enable Autonomy’s software to work in highly distributed environments. Suranga joined Balderton as a General Partner in 2014.
An accomplished speaker and commentator on the overlap between technology and media, Suranga has been elected by the World Economic Forum as one of its Young Global Leaders. He was also included in the Top 10 leaders in Science and Innovation by The Observer’s Future 500 list, and was a recipient of the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Silver Medal in 2012. Suranga was elected a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering (FREng) in 2012.
“The real high-growth value companies are currently all in the tech space. In order for these businesses to reach their potential, it’s vital that they can benefit from the guidance of those with experience.”
Former Inaugural Chair of the Enterprise Committee and a long-standing Academy Fellow, Ian Shott CBE FREng has played a prominent role in establishing the Enterprise Hub. His track record of helping businesses in the engineering and life science sectors transform their approach and improve their vision, ambition, business models and enterprise value is an invaluable resource.
Ian is currently the Founder and Executive Chair of contract pharmaceutical development and manufacturing company ARCINOVA and is also the Managing Partner at investment and advisory firm Shott Trinova LLP. Prior to his specialist investment work at Shott Trinova, Ian was the founder and CEO of Excelsyn, which was sold to an American multinational in 2010. Earlier in his career he held numerous senior executive positions at multinational life science companies across the globe.
Ian has a wealth of experience with major industry bodies. He is formerly the Chair of the UK government’s Leadership Forum for Industrial Biotechnology and a Governing Board Member of Innovate UK. Ian is also Visiting Professor at Oxford, Nottingham and Newcastle universities.
“Apart from a deep-seated passion to change the entrepreneurial landscape in the UK and rediscover our legacy from the industrial revolution, I am highly excited by the prospect of engaging with new young talent and using my experience to accelerate and amplify their success. I’ve been involved in mentoring for over a decade but believe the Hub offers a very special opportunity to work with the brightest and best”.