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.
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.
Research shows that 23% of the
world’s energy is lost through tribological contact, which is the wear and
friction generated by interacting surfaces in motion.
Tribosonics Limited, a Sheffield company, has developed sensing technology to tackle wear, friction and lubrication issues in rotating equipment. The business venture designs, manufactures and installs high-end, often bespoke, ultrasonic sensing and data capture platforms across many industrial sectors.
Tribosonics inserts sensors within bearings, seals and other moving parts to create smart components that can measure and monitor tribological contact as well as other performance and structural metrics. The generated data helps companies to extend plant life, prevent critical failures, shorten maintenance cycles and reduce energy use through improved operational efficiency.
Christina King is the Chief Commercial Officer for Tribosonics, responsible for building innovative commercial partnerships with large corporations. Christina joined the SME Leaders programme in 2021 and says “I want to gain business insights and build networks that will help develop my personal journey, as well as scale-up the company.”
In 2020, Tribosonics secured over £1 million of equity investment from the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund, via Mercia Asset Management. This will enable the company to double in size over the next three years. It is now looking to further expand its patented ultrasonic sensing technologies into global industrial markets.
Lightpoint Medical develops molecular imaging and sensing technologies to help surgeons detect cancer in real time during surgery. In spite of the technological advances in robotic surgery, surgeons still depend on their eyesight to detect cancer intra-operatively. As a result, surgeons sometimes leave cancer behind or remove more healthy tissue than needed.
The company’s award-winning SENSEI® technology, a miniaturised intra-operative cancer detection probe, gives surgeons a chance to fully remove cancer in one procedure, while retaining healthy tissue. It can be used across many major cancer types including stomach, colorectal, breast, prostate, and lung cancer.
Dr Kunal Vyas is the Head of Research at Lightpoint Medical, responsible for evaluating new technologies, overseeing research projects and developing the company’s intellectual property (IP) portfolio. Kunal joined the SME Leaders programme in 2021. He says “I hope that the programme’s strategic innovation management initiative will maximise my performance as we commercialise and scale-up. I will also benefit from access to workshops and speaker events on topics such as IP management and pitching.”
In 2021, SENSEI® received CE mark, enabling it to be sold in the European Economic Area. Lightpoint Medical has begun multi-centre clinical trials with the probe. The company will now transition from being an R&D-focused organisation into a commercial enterprise.
Loudspeakers are used in billions of devices worldwide including smartphones, laptops, tablets and smart speakers. For nearly 100 years, the dominant technology to reproduce sound has been the dynamic loudspeaker. One of the main mechanisms it uses is the voice coil transducer, a very simple device that also has significant drawbacks in terms of electrics, mechanics and acoustics.
Dominika Behounik is Co-Founder and Chief Technical Officer of Arya Audio Labs. The company was formed with Arthur Marker to develop audio products. One of these was the AirBlade transducer. Instead of trying to incrementally improve a 100-year old imperfect design, it approached the problem from a different, disruptive angle.
Rather than using a heavy diaphragm with separate voice coil, the AirBlade transducer incorporates ultralight ring-shaped foil elements arranged in layers with conductive traces of aluminium bonded to it. When an electrical signal is applied, opposite layers of the diaphragm either move towards or away from each other depending on the direction of the current, thereby moving air and creating sound.
By distributing the diaphragm area over several layers and implementing a curved shape, AirBlade avoids the typical beaming problem of traditional drivers while achieving higher power handling, reduced distortion and better air coupling due to its large diaphragm surface area. The transducer’s radiation pattern can also be tailored to specific requirements of the application it is driving.
Arya Audio Labs has manufactured in-house since its inception. It uses advanced prototyping tools including 3D printing, 5 axis CNC machines and state-of-the-art measurement facilities. The company started shipping the AirBlade directly to customers at the beginning of 2020 and it proved a very popular seller. It is now looking for ways to improve and speed up the processes to help deliver highest quality products.
The audio market has been on the rise for the past couple of years, with an abundance of streaming services available as well as vinyl records experiencing a come-back. The company’s technology has been especially well received at the high end of the market and in the automotive audio sectors, two markets that are worth over £1 billion a year alone.
Dominika says of the Enterprise Fellowship: “I come from an academic background, where it’s natural to focus your efforts on developing technology and forget that you are actually trying to run a business! The Fellowship has given me an excellent opportunity to shift that mindset, and strike a good balance between the two.”
– Arya Audio Labs debuts at High End Munich as a Newcomer
2018 – First product, RevOpod, starts shipping
2019 – RevOpod receives Best of 2018 award by Mono and Stereo
2019 – AirBlade loudspeaker starts shipping to original equipment manufacturing partners
2020 – AirBlade loudspeaker becomes available for end customers
Visit their website: www.arya-audio.com
Grakn Labs have developed a system called Grakn, an open-source intelligent database. Grakn handles large amounts of complex data through knowledge engineering – commonly known as knowledge graphs. It is the world’s first database with a schema powered by a knowledge representation system and uses a query language called Graql to enable this.
Grakn’s database technology provides the knowledge base foundation for artificial intelligence systems used in various industries, including financial services, defence and security, life sciences, robotics and cyber security.
Tomás Sabat is the Chief Operating Officer at Grakn Labs, responsible for generating sales, marketing and finance. He develops strategic relationships with clients who can benefit from Grakn’s ability to easily model, query and analyse complex information in a simple and logical way.
Tomás joined the SME Leaders programme in 2018. He says: “The scheme has given us an introduction to investors and provided leadership and media training. It has also supplied us with networking opportunities with other engineering businesses in the UK.”
Grakn Labs has doubled its staff in two years and raised £2.4 million of funding. It is now ready to produce at scale, both in terms of commercial adoption as well as scaling its technology.
MySense Ltd has created a wellbeing analytics platform for people with declining health, enabling them to live independently in their own homes. Its system uses a network of wearable and fixed sensors in a property. Using artificial intelligence and the internet of things, the platform learns a person’s pattern of behaviour, while building up an informed picture of a user’s health condition.
Thousands of data points track a user’s nutrition, hydration, independence, activity and overall sense of wellbeing. A smartwatch records heart rate and step count, while an easy-to-use dashboard displays the information, highlighting any unusual patterns and triggering a notification to a nominated responder.
MySense monitoring data doesn’t record video or sound as there are no cameras or microphones. The real-time data allows family members, friends, clinicians and care givers to stay informed about a person’s wellbeing. Detailed evaluations through use have shown significant reductions in GP appointments, 999 calls and unplanned hospital admissions.
Lucie Glenday is Co-Founder and Group CEO of MySense. Lucie joined the SME Leaders programme in 2021 and is looking forward to two specific programme initiatives. She says “Having a mentor will allow me to talk through decisions the company is making and how to position these in order to gain maximum impact. And I’m hoping that learning at one of the world’s top universities will further develop my leadership skills.”
MySense consists of data scientists, engineers, testers, clinical researchers and a commercially-experienced management team. The company is growing quickly and is now working on raising brand awareness, building a research partnership network and preparing its platform for international markets.
When Mohammed Belal became an SME Leader in 2019, he had already co-founded MIRICO, a company developing laser sensing technology for real-time gas sensing. Now, Mohammed is setting up a new venture, Celestial Eye, a spin-out from RAL Space.
Celestial Eye is developing innovative space-borne sensors deployed in a constellation to obtain global high-precision weather data. The project is working on providing high-resolution profiles of moisture and temperature across the atmosphere. This will improve the observation and forecasting of weather patterns as well as monitoring climate change.
Mohammed credits the SME Leader programme with honing his entrepreneurial skills, He says: “I gained valuable insights from other SME Leaders about startups and networking. It also helped me develop my management capabilities and the fundamental skills required to set up and scale businesses.”
Mohammed is responsible for setting up the venture and defining business strategy for the launch and development. He is currently focused on raising capital to build an engineering team and launch its first satellite. The mission will improve observations of weather systems, and more accurately forecast extreme events.
Jelly Drops are 95% water sweets, designed to help people with dementia stay hydrated. Initially developed by Lewis for his Grandma Pat, Jelly Drops turn something that can often be a difficult task into the highlight of the day.
Many people with dementia no longer feel thirst, don’t equate drinking with quenching thirst, or don’t recognise cups or have the dexterity to pick them up. To understand this better, Lewis lived in his grandma’s care home for a month. He realised that while many residents struggled to hydrate themselves independently, they all loved sweets.
Dementia is the leading cause of death in the UK, currently effecting more than 850,000 people. This is expected to reach over 1.5 million by 2040. Jelly Drops are bright, easy to pick up, vegan, sugar-free (with no laxative effect) sweets, that contain natural colours and flavours, and are shelf-stable. They enable people with dementia to hydrate themselves independently and with dignity.
The company has just launched and its main focus is to reach people with dementia that are suffering from dehydration. Jelly Drops will do this through care homes, but also via an online shop to serve people out in the community. Once established in the UK, Jelly Drops plans to ship the products abroad, and already has a waiting list of 35,000 in the US.
Jelly Drops hopes to diversify its product range to help a wider audience with hydration and other critical dietary requirements.
Jelly Drops was the first company accepted onto the Alzheimer’s Society Innovation Accelerator Programme and the project recently won the Outstanding Dementia Care Innovation Award at the Dementia Care Awards. Other awards include Pitch@Palace Global - Winner, European Investment Bank - Social Innovation Prize, EIT Food – UK Winner, EIT Health - Future of Health Award, Innovation Forum - IMAGINE IF! Global winner, Pitch@Palace 11.0 - Audience Vote and People’s Choice Award, Huawei - New Working Order Bursary and the Meaning-Centred Design - Student Healthcare Winner .
The Enterprise fellowship has provided us with invaluable support in helping us scale the business and create robust and sustainable systems for growth.
The value of lost productivity due to knee osteoarthritis is estimated to be $100 billion annually in the US alone. Efforts need to be made to improve recovery from osteoarthritis and musculoskeletal injury.
Zappt coordinates targeted neuromuscular activation with the patient’s movements to enable joint offloading in osteoarthritis and dynamic bracing in musculoskeletal injury. Joint offloading involves shifting pressure within the joint away from a region of damage towards a healthier portion whereas dynamic bracing involves selectively applied support in situationally specific load cases.
It plans to carry out user trials with the Royal Dutch Football Association, the KNVB, in the Netherlands. This will be the first major field trial of its novel prototype. Zappt hopes to use the insights gained to hone the product and make sure it performs as partners require.
“[The Enterprise Hub has helped us] by providing access to a network of invaluable support, and by forcing us to refine our ideas about the product and our business model.”
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.
Brian Palmer FREng is an entrepreneurial business leader in product design and manufacturing, who established Tharsus. The company focused on collaborative, complex, early-stage prototype development to help customers improve their products, before it evolved into an innovative business specialising in original equipment design and manufacture.
Today, he manages over 190 staff and has an impressive list of clients including BT, Ericsson, Fujitsu, Safety-Kleen, ITM Power, QinetiQ and Ocado. Brian Palmer has won two Cranfield Best Factory Awards and was named the Institute of Director’s North East Investor Director of the Year in 2013.
Philip Broad is an experienced finance director and business mentor working with companies across a range of sectors and growth stages. He holds an MEng (Hons) in electrical and mechanical engineering from the University of Edinburgh, and was a Royal Academy of Engineering Engineering Leadership Scholar Award holder while there.
He joined PricewaterhouseCoopers in London (audit) and subsequently spent two years based in the Transaction Services division in Frankfurt working with corporate and private equity investors in Germany. His experience since has included: commercial finance and corporate development roles in energy infrastructure; finance director of an energy infrastructure company in Denmark; interim finance director for divisions of a London-based FTSE 100 company; and startup experience.
Philip is a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales and an ICAEW Corporate Finance Faculty member.
Dr Andrew Muir has 30 years’ experience in growing and financing technology and high growth companies. He is a director of the Midven, a specialist fund manager where he manages the UK Innovation and Science Seed Fund (partnered with many of the leading UK publicly funded laboratories and their campuses) and the Stephenson fund (backed by the Institution of Mechanical Engineers).
After an initial scientific career at Zeneca, Andrew went on to roles in research and business development at the medical device company Biocompatibles and was then Vice-President of Technology for a US startup in disinfection of medical equipment.
He started his career in venture capital with the £4 million per annum Invention and Innovation seed capital fund at NESTA (the National Endowment for Science Technology and the Arts). He has a degree and a PhD in chemistry from the University of Oxford. Andrew is also currently on the investment committee for several funds managed by FSE, the iCure roundabout panel and the selection panel for the Royal Society of Edinburgh’s Enterprise Fellowship scheme.
Andrew combines a strong scientific and technical grounding with a real commercial pragmatism developed from his operational roles.
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.
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.