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.
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.
Jonathan Quinn became an SME Leader in 2019 as Head of Software and Games at Reach Robotics, a company he helped build from the ground up. He developed its consumer gaming and educational robot, MekaMon. In late 2019, he joined Dovetail Games as Technical Director, taking on responsibility for several teams and all engineering at the studio.
Dovetail Games is aiming to become one of the world’s foremost gaming simulation companies. It has 160 people working on developing and publishing digital hobbies that recreate real-world scenarios for enthusiasts. It sells train, flight and fishing simulators for players on PC and console, built on the Unreal Engine.
Jonathan says that the SME Leaders programme assisted his transition between jobs. “The course has hugely improved my skills as a leader. Mentoring has provided critical advice and support through changing companies and goals. The coaching has helped me identify and overcome weaknesses, both as a leader and as an individual.”
Jonathan is now focused on growing Dovetail Games franchises. The company is working on e-sports, large-scale multiplayer games and cutting-edge realism. His teams are adopting artificial intelligence and procedural generation that he hopes “will level the playing field with larger video games studios.”
Metis Labs helps manufacturers improve the efficiency of their production processes. By monitoring the equipment and product data while learning the complex relationships, the software and artificial intelligence systems integrate with automated, high frequency equipment to reduce scrap and improve equipment efficiency.
Alex Appelbe is a mechanical engineer who spent 10 years in the manufacturing sector before setting up Metis Labs in 2017. Alex is the CEO and has overall responsibility for the business. He is passionate about improving manufacturing efficiency. He became an SME Leader in 2019 and credits the programme with “providing access to training courses that have massively improved my negotiating and product management abilities. Through the programme I also connected with an excellent, valuable mentor who has helped me with product vision and opened up several business development opportunities for us.”
Over the last few years, Metis Labs’ software has been extensively developed with the cooperation of several multinational manufacturers. In some cases, the company’s technology has achieved a 90% reduction in packaging losses. Now, Metis Labs is looking for partners to support the commercialisation and exploitation of its technology.
Fusion, the process that powers the stars, has the potential to meet energy demands and change the way the world generates power. For decades, research has sought to produce fusion energy on Earth by heating hydrogen fuel to temperatures well over 100 million degrees Celsius, where it becomes a plasma. One of the most developed ways of controlling the plasma is the tokamak, which creates a magnetic bottle to confine the hot fuel.
Tokamak Energy Ltd is a UK business aiming to accelerate the development of commercial fusion power by combining two emerging technologies: spherical tokamaks and magnets made from high temperature superconductors. The company has created a compact spherical tokamak called the ST40, which has already achieved plasma temperatures of over 15 million° C – hotter than the core of the Sun. The company is also developing powerful magnets made from high-temperature superconductors.
Steven McNamara is the Physics Programme Manager at Tokamak Energy and is responsible for the company’s scientific development initiatives. He became an SME Leader in 2019 and credits the programme “with improving my strategic business management and leadership skills. The training, mentoring and networking has enabled me to grow my team, build up the technical development programme and establish new collaborations and partnerships.”
In the last couple of years, Tokamak Energy has significantly increased its staff numbers to 150 and raised over £110 million in additional funding. The company is now designing a demonstration plant that will prove the viability of its approach and show the feasibility of fusion power as a plentiful, safe and cost effective energy source.
Companies know who their suppliers are, but not their suppliers' suppliers. This makes it difficult for companies to manage many types of risks including supply chain disruptions, brand and reputation risks such as modern-day slavery in the supply chain, or carbon footprint implications and risks relating to regulatory compliance.
Versed AI’s technology uses state-of-the-art natural language processing (NLP) techniques to identify supply chain intelligence, including buyer-supplier relationships, products and services, and manufacturing locations.
Versed AI’s has three priorities for the next year. It plans to build a client interface as a basis for its SaaS platform, improve the size of its knowledge graph of supply chain relationships by adding new data sources, and increase the number of data points, such as manufacturing locations and addresses.
Supply chain disruptions are hugely costly to companies. A report by McKinsey (August 2018) estimates that over the course of a decade companies can expect to lose 42% of a year’s net earnings to supply chain disruptions. In the corporate world, 81% lack good supply chain visibility, and it is an even a larger problem for small- and medium-sized companies. Versed AI seeks to take full advantage of this huge commercial opportunity.
The next generation of chemotherapies will target cancer cells more effectively than many current chemotherapies, which can cause unwanted side effects by attacking both normal and cancer cells.
Femtogenix is an established drug discovery startup specialising in the development of payloads - one of three key components in a group of targeted chemotherapies known as antibody-drug conjugates (ADCs).
Payloads are molecules that are toxic to living cells and kill cancer cells. When combined with antibodies to target cancer cells, and a linker to bring all these molecules together, it creates a highly effective, targeted cancer treatment that is less likely to cause side effects.
Femtogenix’s discovery platform uses computational chemistry and state-of-the-art synthetic chemistry methodologies to both design and synthesise payload molecules that can bind to DNA and effectively kill cancer cells at low concentrations.
Paul Jackson co-founded the company and helps lead its scientific and commercial strategy as it refines its core technology. With support from the SME Leaders Programme, Paul aims to learn from a network of entrepreneurs and strengthen his leadership skills as the company expands and establishes its technology to support the development of ADCs in this rapidly growing field.
Cambridge Mechatronics Limited (CML) licenses its proprietary form of smart metal technology, called shape memory alloy (SMA), to electronics manufacturers. CML uses this material to design and develop miniature motors, also known as actuators, across a range of products.
The company’s actuators, moved by wires thinner than human hair, are particularly suited to applications that require high levels of precision and force. Some of its most significant sales are for use in smartphones where they are incorporated into cameras enabling autofocus and image-stabilisation functions.
James Howarth, as Engineering Director at CML, is in charge of a team of 40. He is responsible for delivering the company’s two leading products: integrated image stabilisation and autofocus, as well as independent image stabilisation. James became an SME Leader in 2019 and credits the programme with refining his communications skills. He says it has given him confidence to take a key role in commercial discussions as well as helping in his strategic thinking.
CML has established relationships with major corporations across international supply chains. The company's licensees have shipped millions of SMA-based camera actuators into smartphones, wearables and drones. CML is now developing technology for further applications in haptics, facial recognition and augmented reality.
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.
Autonomous vehicles promise to revolutionise mobility by reducing road accidents, removing mobility barriers for older and disabled people, and reducing traffic congestion. However, safely navigating autonomous vehicles is challenging. To date, approximately $1 billion has been invested but no imaging system has been able to accurately meet all key performance requirements.
LIDAR is an advanced vision technique used to navigate autonomous vehicles. An infrared detector enables the LIDAR system to see. Phlux has created a breakthrough detector technology that will drastically increase the measurement range of LIDAR systems enabling autonomous cars to see further, lowering rates of misdetection, and improving data quality and confidence. These all translate to safer navigation.
Over the next 12 months, Phlux will develop prototype detectors and demonstrate them in commercial LIDAR systems to validate its value proposition. In the next year, Ben is looking forward to establishing commercial partnerships and refining his business model.
The infrared sensors market is expected to experience rapid growth over the next few years, driven by the demand for LIDAR-based advanced driver assisted systems. The automotive infrared sensor market alone is predicted to reach £150 million by 2026, with 46% compound annual growth rate.
Phlux has been supported by the North by Northwest ICURe team, Innovate UK, Research England and the University of Sheffield.
“Being from a technical background I recognise that I need to develop new business skills if I am to fulfil my ambitions for Phlux. The Enterprise Fellowship is an incredible opportunity for me to develop the skills, network and confidence I need to become a successful entrepreneur.”
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.
Dr Robert Sansom FREng is an experienced angel investor and mentor to technology-based startup businesses in the UK and US.
He is the founder of the Cambridge Angels, a group of expert technology and biotechnology entrepreneurs who invest in and mentor technology startups across the UK.
Robert serves on the board of several startups including Arachnys Information Services, Cambridge Communication Systems, CRFS, Featurespace, IQGeo plc, Myrtle Software, and Netronome Systems. Prior to becoming an angel investor, he co-founded FORE Systems, a leader in high-speed data communications, where he was Chief Technical Officer. Fore Systems went public on NASDAQ in 1994 and was sold to Marconi plc in 1999.
Robert was elected a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering in 2010.
“Through my career I’ve built up considerable experience taking knowledge-based technology business from initial idea through to becoming successful businesses. I’d like to help a new generation of technology entrepreneurs do the same, and the Enterprise Hub is an excellent platform for me to do this.”
Steve is a leading expert with over 35 years of experience.in the fields of semiconductor device research, nanotechnology and millimetre-wave integrated circuit design.
After founding and leading the Nanoelectronics Research Centre at the University of Glasgow, he co-founded and became Technical Director of Intellemetrics Ltd. His enterprising spirit continued with the foundation of Kelvin Nanotechnology Ltd in 2001.
Steve became Vice-Principal for Research and Enterprise at the University of Glasgow in 2005 where e is responsible for the University’s research strategy and policies. These includes key relations with research sponsors and strategic partners. He also heads up the University’s enterprise activities which has a strong focus on research links with industry and the promotion of spinout companies.
Steve was awarded an OBE for services to the field of nanotechnology in the 2002 Jubilee Honours List and was elected a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering in 2007.
“Encouraging innovation and entrepreneurship in technology and engineering requires a genuine link up and sharing of knowledge between research partners and industry. The Enterprise Hub is a key part of this, sharing enterprising expertise with individuals who have an incredible amount of technical talent, and providing the links to springboard their success in the industry.”
Paul Excell is an award-winning entrepreneur, investor and global executive leader with an impressive track record of delivering growth and transformation in startups, scale-ups, global corporates and is passionate about social mobility. He is Chief Operating Officer and Non-Executive Director at ScaleUp Group™️, providing tech scaleups with unique insights from successful entrepreneurs with over $4 billion in exits plus patient equity/debt growth funding (£2 million to £20 million). He has six tech clients in the growth portfolio, and his clients have raised £30 million to date.
In addition to this, Paul is Co-Founder and Chair of Global iLabs, Founder and CEO of Excelerate™️ and Non-Executive Director with Knowledge Gateway (University of Essex). He acts as a judge and mentor for the UK Enterprise Awards and the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Launchpad Innovation Award and SME Leaders.
Paul was previously Chief Customer Innovation Officer, Chief Operating Officer/Group Technology Officer, SVP[PS1] Global at BT, Chair/member of several business Boards (UK and Spain, Nordics, AsiaPac) and sat on BT Group Board committees on Technology, Risk and Diversity. He was an Engineering Council Board member and acted as advisor to UN Secretary General on sustainability, technology and innovation.
He started his career as an apprentice and is now a chartered engineer (CEng), Fellow of the Institution of Engineering and Technology (FIET), the Chartered Institute for IT (FBCS) and Court Liveryman, Worshipful Company of Information Technologists.
Suranga has long experience as an engineer and entrepreneur. He founded Blinkx - an intelligent search engine for video and audio content - in 2004. He led Blinkx as CEO for eight years as well as taking it public in 2007. He is widely regarded as an expert on the convergence of the web, television and online advertising.
Before his work with Blinkx, Suranga was US Chief Technology Officer of Autonomy where he was mentored by Mike Lynch and led the effort to enable Autonomy’s software to work in highly distributed environments. Suranga joined Balderton as a General Partner in 2014.
An accomplished speaker and commentator on the overlap between technology and media, Suranga has been elected by the World Economic Forum as one of its Young Global Leaders. He was also included in the Top 10 leaders in Science and Innovation by The Observer’s Future 500 list, and was a recipient of the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Silver Medal in 2012. Suranga was elected a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering (FREng) in 2012.
“The real high-growth value companies are currently all in the tech space. In order for these businesses to reach their potential, it’s vital that they can benefit from the guidance of those with experience.”
Anne is a prominent venture capitalist and European technology investor who has been Chief Executive of Amadeus Capital Partners from 1997. As a co-founder in the organisation, Anne’s role combines her experience as a scientist, operating manager and venture capitalist.
Anne began her career in manufacturing with Cummins Engine Company before moving into investment as a business angel. She was also Chief Operating Officer of Virtuality Group, which had been one of her investee companies.
Anne has held a number of high profile advisory positions, having served as Chairman of the British Venture Capital Association in 2004, and as a non-executive director of the UK Technology Strategy Board from 2005-2012. In 2008 Anne led the establishment of the Glover advisory committee for the Chancellor of the Exchequer, reporting on government procurement from SMEs. She is also a member of the European Research and Innovation Advisory Board. Anne was awarded a CBE for services to business in 2006 and was elected an Honourary Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering in 2008.
“There is a long-standing need for science to engage more proactively with policy-makers and business. The Enterprise Hub is playing a big part in addressing this, by bridging the gap between outstanding academic talent and influential figures in the industry to ensure the UK’s ongoing international success in science and technology.”
John is a highly experienced executive and senior consultant across the oil and gas, renewable energy and digital technology sectors, as well as a member of many international boards. He has significant interest in the commercial and technology challenges that energy transition presents, especially as these intersect with corporations’ digital transformation.
John is currently Chair of the Gresham House Energy Storage Fund Board, which specialises in the commercialisation of grid-level storage investments. The company is now the largest energy storage fund in the UK and is the market leader. In November 2018, the company listed on LSE at £100 million and at the end of 2020 had a market cap of around £250 million; it is on a strong growth trajectory and should double in size over the next 24 months.
Until April 2019, John was an advisor to the Board of ACWA Power International (Riyadh), the largest independent power producer in Saudi Arabia. Until December 2017, he was on the Board of the ASX-listed Carnegie Clean Energy, based in Perth, WA. He is also an investor and Board member of Global Integrity, a cybersecurity software and cyber consultancy firm based in Washington DC.
John spent more than 25 years working at BP, the last 10 of which were spent at the corporate executive level in various roles including:
In his early career, John worked on the design and construction of nuclear power generation plants in UK.
Since leaving BP, John has been active as a senior advisor to blue chip global consultants specialising in the energy sector, energy transition and corporate digital transformation.
John serves on the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Enterprise Committee.
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.”
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.
Saeed is Technical Director at the prosthetic manufacturer Blatchford, winners of the 2016 RAEng MacRobert Award.
He has built a highly successful career based on outstanding innovation, product development and scientific research in the field of prosthetics. His work saw the company shortlisted for the Royal Academy of Engineering MacRobert Award in 2010.
Saeed has provided invaluable advice to emerging innovators in his field, such as negotiating with investors, creating new business cases and establishing alternative investment return strategies, IP issues, and how to identify new needs and opportunities in the market to develop a road map of future products.
He was elected a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering (FREng) in 2012.