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.
Professor Daniel McCaughan OBE FREng is a former industrial executive who has held senior management and board-level positions in the electronics, telecommunications and defence industries since the early 1970s. He was a partner in two VC Groups, Chief Scientist of Bell Northern Research/Nortel Technology, Technical Director of GEC’s Electronic Devices group of companies, President of CDT Ltd, a Senior Principal at RSRE, Malvern and a Member of Bell Labs Technical Staff. He is an Emeritus Partner of the leading Irish Venture Capital fund Kernel Capital Partners.
He chaired the former Technology Board for Northern Ireland (a predecessor of InvestNI), was a member of the main board of DHSSPS, the Northern Ireland Health Service, co-chaired the UK Home Office Science Advisory Committee with the Permanent Secretary, and chaired UK Foresight in IT, Comms and Media and was an Honorary Professor of Queen’s University Belfast.
Daniel has a wide range of experience in technology-based businesses thanks to his career at high executive level in Venture Capital, large and small companies, government departments and universities. This background provides him with unique skills as he has dealt with a wide variety of customers and led major technical projects from component to system level, with insight into the evaluation of technical product plans and projects, company business planning and development, preparation of companies for investment, and Venture Capital.
Dr McCaughan has doctorates in both physics and engineering, has been awarded numerous patents and has published over 100 papers and book chapters in both technical and managerial subjects. He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering in 1992 and the Irish Academy of Engineering in 1994.
John Harris Robinson CBE FREng is currently Chairman of MHA (Methodist Homes), Rheon Labs Ltd and Hull Minster Development Trust. He is Director of Entia Ltd, Trustee at Livability and former Chairman/Chief Executive of Smith & Nephew plc. Additional former chair positions include The Abbeyfield Society, Railtrack plc, George Wimpey plc, Low and Bonar plc, UK Coal plc, Voyage Ltd and several companies in the care sector.
John has been elected to positions including President of the Institution of Chemical Engineers and the Chartered Institute of Management, Pro-Chancellor and Chairman of the University of Hull Governing Council and a Past Master of the Worshipful Company of Engineers. He has been a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering since his election in 1998.
Professor John Banyard OBE FREng is currently Chair of the Water Informatics, Science and Engineering CDT advisory board, the Forum for Infrastructure Conditions of Contract and the Civil Engineering Standard Method of Measurement Panel, where he provides guidance on strategic development, direction and future sustainability.
He joined Severn Trent Water on its foundation in 1974 and held several senior roles until his retirement in December 2004. He has served as a director of Severn Trent plc and Severn Trent Water Ltd, and was a non-executive director of the North American subsidiary together with a number of other non-executive positions. He served as: board member of the Water Industry Commission for Scotland; Chairman of the West Midlands Innovation and Technology Council; Chairman of the Development Forum for the Infrastructure Conditions of Contract; Chairman of the Civil Engineering Standard Method of Management Panel; and is a Past Master of the Worshipful Company of Engineers. He also works as an independent consultant.
John is a chartered civil engineer and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering in 1997. He was made a Fellow of the City and Guilds of London Institute in 2000 and awarded an OBE for services to engineering and the water industry in December 2004.
Christopher is Professor of Biotechnology and Director of the Cambridge Academy of Therapeutic Sciences at the University of Cambridge.
His main research interests cover areas of healthcare biotechnology including biopharmaceuticals, diagnostics and sensors, ageing and medical microbiology. The work is highly multi-disciplinary, encompassing biochemistry, microbiology, chemistry, electrochemistry, physics, electronics, medicine and chemical engineering, but also covering the entire range from pure science to strategic applied science, much of which has significant commercial applications.
He has carried out research in the area of biosensors, biopharmaceuticals, and enzyme, protein and microbial technology.
Professor Lowe has been the driving force for the establishment of 11 spin-out companies with a current market capitalisation of well over $1.5 billion, and has been awarded numerous national and international prizes and distinctions. His research has been recognised by over 20 major national and international awards. He is a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering (2005) and is also a Fellow at Trinity College.
"I vowed to take matters into my own hands and exploit technologies developed in my own laboratories myself. I have unique experience of this approach in the UK and hence my title, the Most Entrepreneurial Scientist of the UK.”
Professor Jon Cooper FREng FRSE holds the Wolfson Chair of Bioengineering (Biomedical Engineering) and is an Emeritus Vice Principal. He has been involved as an academic founder of three spin-out companies in the fields of medical diagnostics, drug delivery and new medicines discovery. His research group is currently looking at using phononic structures to shape how sound interacts with fluids.
Applications are in varying stages of development and include ‘silent’ underwater motors; new diagnostics for infectious diseases; sample processing for next generation gene sequencing tools; and targeted drug delivery. Jon was elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh in 2001 and a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering in 2004.
"Focus above all else on excellence – whether this be in publications, knowledge exchange & innovation, teaching or supervision. Try to do one thing really well."
Professor Nicholas Medcalf FREng has worked for Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation, since 2017. He is the Deputy Challenge Director for the Medicines Manufacturing Challenge in the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund team. The work involves building business cases for government investment in capital and R&D projects to boost UK health and wealth and delivery of funded programmes.
Nick retains a Visiting Professor role at Loughborough University where he was Professor of Regenerative Medicine Manufacture and Director of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Regenerative Medicine under an EPSRC Fellowship.
Nick has experience in regenerative medicine development building on a career in industry as a chemist and chemical engineer. Nick is a chartered chemist and a chartered chemical engineer, and he has spent a significant amount of his career working within Smith & Nephew. Nick also has experience in quality assurance, process design, regulatory affairs and economic analysis.
His specialties include: project cost projections and cost control; advice to grant funding bodies; set up and management of cleanroom facilities and pilot plants; application of healthcare regulations to new medical product development; project planning and control; and the construction of efficient quality management systems for medical research programmes.
He was made Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering in 2011.
Ian is known worldwide as an authority on microdisplay technology, systems and applications. He describes himself as an "academic, innovator and entrepreneur."
Today he is employed by the University of Edinburgh as its Head of the Institute for Integrated Micro and Nano Systems (IMNS) and also acts as an independent consultant with pre-spin-out technology projects and early stage technology companies. He was a force in the pre-spin-out stage of Sofant; is Chairman of PureVLC; advisor to Holoxica and has mentored the management at Optoscribe.
Ian is an Associate Editor of the Journal of the Society for Information Display and sits on the technical program committee of the International Solid State Circuits Conference, the International Displays Research Conference and the Society for Information Display's Annual International Symposium.
His specialities include: electronic information displays, photonic and optoelectronic devices, components and systems.
Recent personal recognition includes Ernst & Young Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year, Scotland (2003); Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (2004); Gannochy Medal for Innovation winner (2004); Fellow of the Institute of Physics (2008); Appointed to the Scottish Science Advisory Council (2008) and elected a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering (FREng) in 2008.
Professor Neville Jackson FREng has spent nearly 40 years in industrial R&D, primarily in transport and energy systems. He has experience in managing complex R&D portfolios and spinning out new technologies into commercially funded startups.
He currently chairs both the RAC Foundation and the Institute of Digital Engineering Advisory Board and is also a non-executive director of the UK Advanced Propulsion Centre. He also chairs the Royal Academy of Engineering’s steering group for the Increasing engineering business R&D investment project. He has been a member of the UK Automotive Council since it was formed and is a member of the Strategy Team, chairing the R&D/Horizon Scanning working group.
From 2009 until 2019 he was Chief Technology and Innovation Officer for Ricardo plc. He has co-ordinated and authored a wide range of technology roadmaps at national and European level, defining the potential, and technology pathways for transport energy, propulsion systems, future vehicle electrical/electronic architectures and digitalisation/virtual product development.
A graduate of Imperial College London, he is also a visiting professor at the University of Brighton. His past roles have included Chairman of the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership, a six-year term as a member of the EPSRC Strategic Advisory Network, Vice Chair of the European Road Transport Research Advisory Council (ERTRAC) and a member of the Industry Delegation for the European Green Vehicles Initiative (EGVI). He is also a Fellow of the US SAE and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering in 2011.
Dr David Parker FREng has a significant track record of helping to create and run successful technology companies.
He has extensive experience in building companies from early stage through to private and public exits, along with a long career in senior management in technology corporates.
Notable companies include HP, Agilent Technologies, Marconi, SPI and TRUMPF. He is currently a board member at several technology companies including Perpetuum where he serves as the Chairman, and he is the Managing Director of OPS Innovations. David is also Chairman of Lumenisity Ltd, has served as a Venture Partner at Touchstone Innovations (IP Group) and as the Chair of Concirus and Inflowmatics. His technical expertise is in optics, semiconductors and IIoT.
He has practical experience of standards organisations and their interactions with product roadmaps, corporate governance, risk management, environmental compliance and intellectual property.