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.
Michael Korn came up with the idea for portable, retractable screen dividers after observing the problems that medical staff and patients face in hospitals. His research uncovered a need for more side room capacity, providing extra private and segregated spaces. Using a new glass fibre composite, Michael developed portable, retractable partitions that can swiftly turn any open-plan ward into smaller, more discreet and isolated spaces.
KwickScreens can also be printed with views of nature or artistic patterns. It was this difference from traditional hospital curtains that helped provide early success. A new breastfeeding mother appreciated being alone with her baby surrounded by calming colours. A grieving family was able to spend the last few days with their loved one in a secluded environment.
The KwickScreen enabled a patient space to be swiftly created anywhere. It could also act as an isolation room for immunosuppressed or infectious patients who might otherwise be in an open ward at risk of contracting or spreading healthcare acquired infections.
Michael founded KwickScreen in 2008. By 2020, over 100 NHS Trusts were using his partitions in critical care units, theatres, recovery wards and maternity units. The hygienic and easy-to-clean screens really came into their own during the COVID-19 pandemic. Throughout the pandemic, KwickScreens have been supporting the NHS and it was partly for this reason that Michael joined the SME Leaders programme in 2021.
Michael says “I need to make sure that I grow, in order to stay ahead of the company’s rapid expansion! I believe the programme will help establish valuable external connections and potential partnerships. Most importantly it will help me develop as a business leader, enabling us to get new ambitious projects off the ground capitalising on the exciting opportunities ahead of us.”
In two years, the KwickScreen company has increased its revenue from £1 million a year to over £6 million. It is now well placed to replace medical curtains in North America, Japan and Europe. Originally developed for hospital and healthcare environments, it is now also being used in public and work spaces.
In a global analysis of all the plastic ever made, the peer-reviewed journal Science Advances estimated that of the 8.3 billion tonnes that has been produced, 6.3 billion tonnes has become plastic waste. With only 9% recycled, the vast majority is accumulating in landfills or in the natural environment as litter. If present trends continue, by 2050, there will be 12 billion tonnes of plastic in landfills.
Many feel that a circular economy that considers the end destination of what is manufactured would help manage material production responsibly. From buttons to car doors, and spectacles to countertops, the use of sustainable alternatives to petroleum plastics would offer multiple plastic end-of-life scenarios.
Rowan Minkley, is the Co-Founder and CEO of Chip[s] Board. Chip[s] Board is a bioplastic technology company that converts food waste into bioplastics. It currently produces polymers and composites. The composites are natural-fibre reinforced melt blends for applications such as furniture, fashion and consumer electronics.
The company has developed a process to convert waste food by-products into a trademarked bioplastic called Parblex®. The main ingredient for this is upcycled potato scraps, supplied by the global food processing giant McCain Foods. By combining this with natural fibres, biobased composites can be made that are biodegradable and recyclable at the end of their product life. Parblex® is compatible with injection moulding, 3D printing, milling and other industrial processing techniques.
Rowan says: “Many current bioplastics are produced from virgin food crops – such as corn or sugar beet – that are grown specifically to create the materials needed for creating the bioplastic substance. Our philosophy is that a circular economy within waste (by-product) management and material production will create a new sustainable model, utilising the abundant resources we already have rather than continuing to process virgin materials.”
Chip[s] Board’s team is currently looking into the waste stream to find new materials to upcycle and diversify their product lineup.
2017 - Company founded
2018 - Shell LiveWIRE Award, Creative Conscience Award, Santander Entrepreneur of the Year
2018 - Rowan Minkley was awarded an Enterprise Fellowship
2018 - Rowan won the Launchpad Competition
2018 - McCain secured as a material supplier
2018 - Raised pre-seed Angel investment
2018 - Team expands to five full time staff
2019 - Relocation to Leyton warehouse, 100-litre production line established
2019 - Received Business of Fashion, Textiles and Technology SME grant and Knowledge Transfer Network Spark Award
2020 - Team expands to seven full time staff
Visit their website: www.chipsboard.com
Director of Innovation, Footfalls and Heartbeats
Footfalls and Heartbeats is a start-up developing smart textiles for use in a wide range of industries. Its innovative solutions integrate sensing systems into fabrics to create intelligent wearables that are comfortable and durable. One of the start-up’s first products is a pressure-responsive bandage for use in the treatment of venous leg ulcers (VLUs).
VLUs affect approximately 3% of the global adult population causing pain, swelling and reduced mobility. Compression therapy is the recommended treatment but its effectiveness is limited by lack of awareness and patient discomfort both of which lead to poor compliance. Footfalls and Heartbeats’ solution is a customised bandage with embedded sensors that allow responsive, real-time pressure monitoring. This can improve treatment of VLUs by helping to ensure that the correct pressure is applied during compression therapy. A wearable method to do this currently does not exist.
Director of Innovation, Fern Kelly, leads in developing the start-up’s product innovation pipeline which involves end-to-end strategic planning as its technologies are customised for commercialisation. Supported by the SME Leaders Programme, Fern aims to strengthen skills in leadership and negotiation to help with establishing the commercial partnerships needed for Footfalls and Heartbeats to brings its first products to market.
Visit Footfalls & Heartbeat's website here.
Open surgery is the current standard for preparing patients for dialysis and bypassing blocked peripheral arteries. High failure rates (approximately 50%) in both cases present a serious danger to life and require repeat procedures, for US dialysis patients alone this adds up to $4.6 billion per year.
Sorin Popa, founder of Pathfinder Medical, developed an electronic catheter guidance system that enables clinicians to connect blood vessels in a minimally invasive way, eliminating the need for open surgery and improving outcomes for vascular procedures. This technology has the potential to reduce the cost and trauma associated with procedures to treat those with renal failure and peripheral arterial disease.
Worldwide 3.4 million patients have end stage kidney disease and require their blood to be routinely filtered externally through haemodialysis.
This requires surgery to open up the arm and prepare patients’ blood vessels by forming a connection between an artery and a vein (known as a fistula or vascular access site). Pathfinder Medical’s catheter system can be used to connect blood vessels using a small covered tube known as a ‘stent graft’.
This technology enables patients to receive kidney dialysis without surgery. It can also be used to bypass blocked vessels for those with peripheral arterial disease which affects over 200 million patients globally.
The technology improves outcomes for patients by reducing stress, discomfort and the risk of vascular access problems. It brings cost saving to healthcare providers by improving the efficiency of procedures and reducing the likelihood of costly repeat procedures.
The global market for the technology is worth over £3.8 billion annually. In the UK, the solution could save the NHS an estimated £45 million per annum on kidney dialysis alone.
A 2016 Enterprise Fellowship was awarded to Sorin to support the growth of his start-up as it trials its technology in preparation for commercialisation.
Drones can be used to significantly reduce time, cost and risk of structural surveying and inspection, but they generate large quantities of image-related data that can be costly and resource-intensive to process.
TRIK has developed software that makes drone use for surveying and inspection more accessible. It takes photos and videos captured by drones and automatically turns them into an interactive 3D model that acts as a twin of the real structure.
The technology opens up new possibilities for engineers to visualise sites and structures. Its interactive 3D models can be used to generate insights and also double as a database. They can be used for fast and efficient search, measurement, analysis and comment without the need to visit the actual structure.
It can make drone photography more efficient with processes for auto-tagging images and mapping changes across time. This supports surveyors, asset managers and engineers by making it easier to detect structural changes, predict failure, evaluate risk and maintain sites.
Drone-related services are projected to grow dramatically in the next five years. For example, growth for drone software in asset monitoring and inspection is predicted to reach $7.5 billion by 2022.
Led by Dr Pae Natwilai Utoomprurkporn, an innovator selected
for the Forbes 30 Under 30 Europe Industry list in 2018, TRIK is working with
companies to scale its systems and impact the global market for drone software.
It aims to achieve this by making drone survey and inspection more accessible,
without the need for significant technical expertise.
Pae was awarded a 2018 Enterprise Fellowship to support her in bringing TRIK’s solutions to market. TRIK is also funded by Zoopla founder, Alex Chesterman, and LoveFilm founder, Simon Franks.
Over two billion people worldwide lack access to safe drinking water. Membrane processes have been identified as effective techniques to remove contamination and salts from water. However, existing solutions are energy and capital intensive, require frequent maintenance and impose significant barriers to deployment.
Waterwhelm are commercialising a patent-pending process for wastewater treatment, water treatment, desalination and dewatering that will overcome these challenges by engineering the natural process of osmosis. The innovation has the potential to cut electricity consumption by a staggering 90% compared to current practice and reduce capital costs by more than 35%.
Over the next 12 months it will be developing, commissioning and testing a sizeable pilot plant that will validate the technology in an industrial environment. Waterwhelm aim to learn from the unit and receive feedback from early adopters based on its trial performance.
Supported by the University of Edinburgh, the Royal Academy of Engineering Enterprise Hub , Scottish Enterprise, Innovate UK and EIT Climate KIC, Waterwhelm has gained significant technical and commercial traction by developing one of the most promising technologies addressing problems faced by the rapidly growing global water market.
2018: Waterwhelm founded
2019: Winner of the Converge KickStart Challenge
2019: Awarded as the top enterprise emerging from the University of Edinburgh
2019: Pre-seed funding round completed
2020: Innovate UK Global Challenges Research Fund project starts
2020: First plant developed for technology validation in collaboration with a major industrial partner
“The Academy Enterprise Fellowship has provided the Waterwhelm founder with hands-on support in commercialising the technology.”
Mixergy Ltd, a University of Oxford spin-out, has developed an internet-connected, smart hot water tank that gives users greater control and oversight over their water heating systems. Traditional water cylinders heat up all the water within, or none, like a giant kettle. Mixergy’s tanks use thermal stratification and an innovative heating arrangement to heat the water from top down. That way, consumers can selectively heat different volumes of water and save 5% to 20% on their hot water bills.
Mixergy’s top-up technology enables hot water to be delivered up to five times faster than conventional cylinders. In addition, by having internet connectivity and an artificial intelligence algorithm running on the Mixergy cloud platform, customers can better utilise time-of-use tariffs and use the unit’s app as a smart remote control.
Ren Kang co-founded Mixergy in 2014 and is its Head of Research. He joined the SME Leaders programme in 2021 and is looking forward to it helping him “transition from being the company’s technical director to being its industrial leader. By better-planning Mixergy’s product development, I will be able to prepare it for future energy challenges and opportunities.”
Since its inception, the Mixergy team has grown to 21 staff and built strong relationships with British Gas, a major installer of tanks. In 2020, Mixergy raised £3.6 million in a Series A funding round. This has allowed Mixergy to gain further commercial traction in UK and European markets.
Sensor Coating Systems(SCS) has developed a thermal mapping method using temperature memory materials. Its luminescent paints and coatings generate an afterglow on materials when light is shone on them. After calibration, an operator can work out a material’s temperature-history (how hot it became in the past) from the afterglow. When applied on engine components as a paint or a coating, it provides engine designers with thousands of digitised temperature points that can assist in the development of more efficient and cleaner engines, with less CO2 emissions.
SCS has patented the technology and created an intellectual property portfolio covering specialised instrumentation, automation and digitisation know-how. The high-resolution temperature data generated from SCS systems can shorten months of engine development time into just a few weeks.
Dr Jörg Feist is co-founder, co-inventor and Managing Director of SCS. Jörg joined the SME Leaders Programme in 2021. He says “the programme will help to address the company’s growth risks as SCS plans to double in size in the next two years, both in terms of revenue and headcount. The mentoring scheme will provide an external view on the business and the scholarship programme will enable me to attend courses at leading business schools to customise our growth journey.”
The ability of SCS’s award-winning technology to provide thousands of measurement points on a single component is ground-breaking. Its potential market is wide-ranging, as the technology can be used for gas turbines, aviation, automotive, fuel cells or high-value manufacturing.
TG0 has developed a new technology for interactive 3D controls, which enables them to be both intuitive and ergonomic. Most electronic products and dashboards have individual on/off buttons as well as multiple sensors and parts. TG0 has replaced these multi-part electronic interfaces with one flexible touch-sensitive material that works with AI-based algorithms.
Using machine learning and advanced signal processing technology, the company has created a sensing method that can detect touch interactions such as pressure, location, direction, speed and movement on uniform large surfaces. The resulting material technology can be used in tactile gaming controls, car dashboard controls and ergonomic computer accessories such as keyboards.
Dr Liucheng Guo is the Co-Founder and CTO of TG0. He became an SME Leader in 2019 and says that the programme has benefited the company in a number of ways. “Thanks to the leadership training and mentoring, I have rethought and realigned our technical strategies with business requirements. The networking has been especially productive, as it found us a collaborator who has helped secure an InnovateUK funding.”
Now, TG0 is selling directly to consumers. The company has developed a new VR controller called etee, which it launched on Kickstarter. The lightweight device fits onto a person’s fingers and manoeuvres around the VR environment through touch, proximity, pressure and gestures. It can be used for both gaming and medical applications.
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.
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.
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."
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.
Mark has extensive experience in growing and supporting businesses across a wide range of sectors covering oil and gas, energy, defence, instrumentation and communications. Currently he heads Mercia Fund Management’s Electronics, Hardware and Telecoms division.
He holds various positions on several boards, including Chairman of Oxifree Global Ltd; Non-Executive Director of Rawwater Engineering Company Ltd and Non-Executive Director of Smart Reamer Drilling Systems Ltd. He is also on the Advisory Board for Synaptec Ltd and Spectrum Corporate Finance LLP.
Mark holds an engineering degree from Cambridge University, a PhD from Southampton University and an MBA from Edinburgh University. He is a fellow of the Institute of Engineering and Technology.
John is the Director of the Cambridge Engineering Design Centre following a seven-year spell with PA Consulting Group's Technology Division where he was Manager of the Advanced Process Group. He was appointed director of the Engineering Design Centre in 1997 and a University Professor in 2004.
At PA John gained wide experience of product development with a particular focus on the design of medical equipment and high-integrity systems, where clients required a risk-based systems approach to design to ensure timely delivery of safe systems. John is directly involved in the teaching of design at all levels of the undergraduate course.
His research interests are in the general area of engineering design, particularly the development of design methodologies to address specific design issues, for example, process management, change management, healthcare design and inclusive design. As well as publishing over 800 papers, he has written and edited a number of books on medical equipment design, inclusive design and process management.
John is currently leading a team with the Royal Academy of Engineering, the Royal College of Physicians and the Academy of Medical Sciences to develop a systems approach to healthcare redesign and continuous improvement. He was made Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering in 2012.
Professor Joe McGeehan completed his PhD in 1971 and since then has been instrumental in many aspects of research and teaching in the field of Communications. He is even referred to as the 'godfather of mobile communications'.
Joe has been conducting research and development into mobile communications technologies and systems since 1973. Working with colleagues, he has pioneered many of the major developments in the field including: deterministric ray-tracing for propagation prediction and network coverage; linear modulation techniques and systems; linearised RF power amplifiers; SMART antennas; wideband CDMA for 3G; WLAN technologies and 60GHz propagation and communication systems.
Professor McGeehan's achievements in research have been acknowledged by membership of a number of national and international committees in the field of Communications, external examiner positions and mentoring of start-up companies.
His involvement in Communications over several decades led to being awarded in the Queens Birthday Honours 2004 a CBE for ‘services to the Communications Industry’. Joe was elected a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering in 1994 and was listed in 2004 as No.6 in the world’s ‘Technology AgendaSetters’ by silicon.com (USA) (N.B., Bill Gates was placed No.2).
Billy's vision is to change the way we currently diagnose and monitor serious disease. He is the co-founder of Owlstone, which aims to become the global leader in the non-invasive detection of cancer, infectious disease and inflammatory disease.
It is best to detect disease as early as possible: treatments are more effective, less involved and more lives can be saved. There is no better example of this than with cancer. If detected early, the chances of cancer survival can be as good at 95%. But this drops massively to about 5% at later stages. Unfortunately there are still far too many people detected at later stage.
To address this, Owlstone Medical has developed a breathalyzer for disease. Every time you breathe out there are hundreds of chemicals on your breath. Some are telltale markers of disease, which Owlstone microchip chemical sensor technology is able to detect. Through early detection Owlstone have set a goal to have saved 100,000 lives and $1.5 billion in health care costs by 2020.
Since co-founding Owlstone, Billy has been overseeing the development and implementation of the detection technology with nanotechnology foundry partners and is heavily involved in the creation and realisation of new technologies and IP. He is also active in business development, demonstrating how the Owlstone technology can be a paradigm shift in detection applications and deployment scenarios.
Prior to his time at Owlstone Billy was a Research Associate in the Microsystems and Nanotech group at Cambridge University. In an academic / industry consortium he designed and developed silicon-opto hybrid devices for next generation telecoms systems.