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.
Andy’s career in industry has involved co-founding over a dozen spin-outs and start-ups, three of which floated on stock markets. Virata floated on NASDAQ and at its peak had a market capitalisation of $5 billion.
His most prominent successes have come through RealVNC, which won the prestigious MacRobert Award in 2013, and Ubisense plc. Collectively, these two organisations have received five Queen’s Awards for Enterprise.
In academia, Andy heads the University of Cambridge’s Computer Laboratory and is an Honorary Fellow of Trinity Hall and Corpus Christi College. Elsewhere, he served as President of the IET between 2012 and 2013, and in 2007 received a CBE for services to the computer industry.
Andy is co-founder and Chairman of pioneering remote access software developers RealVNC and is also Professor of Computer Technology at the University of Cambridge. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering in 1996.
“My own career experiences have demonstrated just how important it is that the bridges between academia and industry are present and robust, and also what can be achieved when the relationship works to its potential. The Enterprise Hub offers an invaluable opportunity for exceptional academics to work with experienced industry figures and bring truly exciting new technology businesses to fruition.”
Sir Alan is one of the Academy’s longest-serving Fellows, with an illustrious career across the research and technology industry.
He has a PhD in Electrical engineering and has served on more than twenty company and institution boards as either an executive or non-executive director. These have ranged from start-ups to FTSE 100 companies and include Director of Research and Technology and Deputy Chief Executive of British Telecom, Chairman of WS Atkins and deputy Chairman of Experian Plc. He is currently President of the ERA Foundation.
Sir Alan has served on the British Government’s Committee for Science and Technology and the Strategic Defence Review panel, and as Chairman of both the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and the Engineering Council.
He is a past President of the IEE (now IET) and a Life Fellow of the IEEE (USA). He has been awarded nine honorary doctorates as well as an OBE (1987) and CBE (1995) before he was knighted in 2000.
Sir Alan was elected a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering in 1984.
“Over the past decade my work with the ERA Foundation has included supporting and encouraging young companies at early stages of commercialisation, championing the restoration of UK manufacturing and raising the profile of engineering as an exceptional career – all of which I feel passionately about. We have a strong knowledge base in science and engineering in the UK, and I believe the Enterprise Hub, which brings together this knowledge with entrepreneurial experience, can make an important contribution to the regeneration of our productive industries.”
Professor Richard Brook OBE FREng is an experienced angel investor with technology expertise in the field of measurement, instrumentation and control systems. He has over forty years of experience in developing new instrumentation and applications for use in various sectors including manufacturing, space and defence.
He was co-founder and a director of the investment company
E-synergy, which invested in over a hundred startup and early stage growth
companies. He is a past chairman of a number of advisory boards and committees
for policy development and funding oversight in the UK’s innovation, space and
academic research sectors and was until 2015 a non-executive director of NPL
Management Ltd (running the UK’s National Physical Laboratory).
He is currently a board member and executive president of The Association of Innovation, Research and Technology Organisations (AIRTO) and a board director of the Satellite Finance Network.
Richard is a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering (2007) and was appointed OBE in 2004 for services to higher education and the UK space industry.
“During my time at E-Synergy, I have invested a significant amount of time in mentoring entrepreneurs and preparing companies for investment. The mentoring support I’m providing at the Academy is a natural extension of this, and I’m looking forward to helping some fascinating projects to reach their full market potential.”
Professor Alison Noble is the Technikos Professor of Biomedical Engineering, in the Department of Engineering Science at the University of Oxford, and Associate Head of MPLS Division. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society (2017), the Royal Academy of Engineering (2008) and the President of the Medical Image Computing and Computer Assisted Interventions (MICCAI) Society, the international society in biomedical image analysis.
Alison’s research interests are in computer analysis of clinical and biological images and the development and translation into clinical practice of novel methodologies that provide new diagnostic and therapeutic image based biomarkers and software tools for image-based quantification and decision-making. Her research group works in close collaboration with clinicians and industry players. She is also a Founder and the Chief Technology Officer of a university spin-out company that is commercialising research from her laboratory (Intelligent Ultrasound Ltd).
She returned to Oxford as a University Lecturer in 1995 to set up a biomedical image analysis group. Biomedical image analysis has since grown to be the largest biomedical engineering activity in Oxford.
Alison has played a leading role in setting up the biomedical engineering undergraduate and postgraduate biomedical engineering teaching and training (MSc and CDT) programmes at Oxford over the last decade. She is a member of both the Oxford University’s Research and Education Committees (from Oct 2013), and has served or currently serves on a number of committees of the Royal Academy of Engineering and other national organisations as well as numerous research funding agency panels.
David Gammon founded Rockspring in 2002 after 17 years of investment banking experience.
Rockspring provides advice and capital to disruptive technology companies from seed through scale up. His family are the benefactors of the JC Gammon Launchpad Award run by the Enterprise Hub.
David is a non-executive director at Raspberry Pi
Trading Limited, Accesso Technology Group plc and Frontier Developments plc. He is on the Advisory Boards to IQ Capital Partners LLP and
Thought Machine Limited. He is a member of the Scale Up Institute.
Eric is Professor of Micro-Engineering at Imperial College London. He is the Co-founder and Non-executive Director of Microsaic Systems plc, which develops and markets miniature mass spectrometers. During Eric’s period as Chairman of Microsaic Systems, the company was listed on the London Stock Exchange.
He has overseen more than 20 research projects which have raised a combined £14million in research funds. Eric has also been a technical advisory board member to two venture capital funds.
Eric was awarded the Royal Academy of Engineering Silver Medal in 2011 for his research into micro-engineered devices and their commercial exploitation. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering (FREng) in 2012.
“(My mentee) James’ work has excellent potential, both technically and commercially. There is a clear market need for such a system to improve safety in the nuclear industry, and I look forward to helping him to succeed in getting it to market through the Enterprise Hub programme.”
Chris has a first class degree in Computer Science from Cambridge University where he is now an honorary fellow at Churchill college. He co-founded leading network technology provider Metaswitch Networks and spent many years as the company's Chief Technology Officer.
He is now an active early stage investor, sits on the board of several UK technology start ups and is a Venture Partner at Entrepreneur First. Being blind himself, he is a patron or trustee of three different charities in the sight loss sector. He is also a trustee of The Raspberry Pi Foundation.
Chris was made a CBE (Commander of the Order of the British Empire) in 2014 by the Prince of Wales at Buckingham Palace for his services to engineering. He was elected to the Royal Academy of Engineering in 2006.
Professor Norman Apsley OBE FREng recently retired from 18 years as founding Chief Executive of Catalyst Inc (formerly Northern Ireland Science Park), steering the organisation from idea to reality. The NI Science Park was a key first step to transform the near derelict H&W shipyard into the innovation district for Belfast. He had spent the previous two decades at the Royal Signals and Radar Establishment (now QinetiQ Malvern), where he had researched a wide variety of microwave and optical devices, publishing some 70 scientific papers and patents during his scientific career. He joined management in 1990, rising to Director Electronics and Site Director for the Malvern cluster in the then Defence Research and Evaluation Agency by 1995.
In 2011, he was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, just as he finished his term as Vice-President (Business and Innovation) of the Institute of Physics. He has been an active Enterprise Committee member from the beginning and continues to contribute to its various programmes as reviewer, mentor and on steering groups, most lately the SME Leaders’ Award.
Norman also supports the international work of the Academy. In 2018, he became Chair of the Academy’s Newton-funded project, Leaders in Innovation Fellowships (LIF), which works in all 16 Newton Fund countries. Alongside in-country partners, LIF helps innovators with technology to tackle their country’s sustainable development goals launch startups. Over the past few years, LIf fellows have been built into a thousand strong, peer-to-peer support group across the world.
At home, Norman chairs the Local Economic Development Company serving South and East Antrim and consults occasionally for both public and private sector. In 2012, Norman was awarded an OBE for his contributions to science and economic development. In 2019, the honorary degree of Doctor of Science (Econ Sci) was conferred by Queens University Belfast. In the same year, he was awarded the Max Rainey Medal for service to the Polymer Industry of Northern Ireland. He is looking forward to Belfast becoming the first (of many) spokes to the Enterprise Hub.
"(Engineering) entrepreneurs are typically rich with ideas, energy and enthusiasm but cash poor. They cannot afford the quality help they need to find the right business model for their idea, discovery or invention. Pro Bono support from Fellows from their experience and from their “black books” helps speed the process and leads to increased innovation.”
David Hawkes is currently the Director of the Centre for Medical Image Computing at UCL. He was previously Director of the EPSRC and MRC-funded Interdisciplinary Research Collaboration on Medical Images and Signals (MIAS-IRC) that was an £8million six year programme. David also served as Chairman of the Division of Imaging Sciences at KCL (2002-2004).
He spent 10 years working as a clinical scientist within the NHS before returning to academia. He is co-Founder of IXICO Ltd. (www.ixico.com), a university spin-out that provides imaging solutions to the pharmaceutical industry.
David's current research interests encompass image matching, data fusion, visualisation, shape representation, surface geometry and modelling tissue deformation. He continues to work promoting medical imaging as an accurate measurement tool and the use of image-guided interventions.
Professor Hawkes was elected a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering (FREng) in 2003.