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.
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.
Product development is a complex phase in the product life cycle, which spans from idea to pre-manufacturing. It is characterised by challenges such as ambiguity, uncertainty and continuous change as the product evolves from a concept to a fully manufacturable product.
A single development project often costs billions of pounds, requires multiple years and involves tens of thousands of employees and hundreds of thousands of activities.
Due to their scale and sophistication, 45% of these projects miss their time target, 63% miss their cost targets, and for every $1 billion spent about $120 million is lost due to inefficiencies.
AEMS has used cutting-edge research in artificial intelligence and project management to create a software solution that enables firms to plan and manage their projects more efficiently. The AI-powered solution enables companies to predict the performance of their projects, identify optimal execution plans and helps them to make more informed and tested decisions.
Over the next 12 to 18 months, AEMS intends to build its product from a basic prototype to a full commercial version, adding extra functionalities in the process. Alongside this, AEMS will execute a series of customer testing activities. The online project management software market is currently valued at £3 billion [PS1] and expected to double over the next five years. These tests will evaluate the value that its product adds to the customer, the user-friendliness of the software, and whether customers are willing to purchase it.
2014 - 2017: Developed the technology at the University of Cambridge.
2018 - 2019: Carried out a proof-of-principle study at Jaguar Land Rover.
2020 - Awarded a Royal Academy of Engineering Enterprise Fellowship.
2020 - Received pre-seed investment from Cambridge Enterprise.
2020 - Implemented additional features.
2020 - Set up second industrial collaboration for further customer testing.
“The Enterprise Fellowship programme has been enormously supportive through providing funding and, more importantly, a comprehensive training programme delivered by world-class experts covering the various aspects of entrepreneurship.”
An increasing number of organisations and businesses have declared ambitious plans to become carbon neutral, but lack the ability to develop a tangible action plan. This is due to lack of information, and not having an easy way to evaluate various emission-reduction measures efficiently and at scale.
Absolar develops computer technologies that use remote sensing and artificial intelligence to capture building characteristics and evaluate their potential to improve energy efficiency and use renewable energy systems.
Its software, Carbon Action Planning Tool (CAPT), is a business-facing application that helps organisations assess individual buildings and identify measures that can be undertaken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The software helps users review the feasibility and cost-effectiveness of each project, supporting their decision-making process, and developing long-term action plans.
Absolar’s web-based application, Intelligent Energy Resource Assessment (INTERA), provides users with accurate and independent assessment results of the feasibility of installing solar energy panels on their buildings. It is integrated with latest market information and financial modelling and helps organisations, businesses and households install renewable energy systems to reduce energy costs, decrease their carbon footprint and gain carbon credits.
As of October 2020, over 300 local authorities in the UK have declared a climate emergency. The UK government’s intention to reach net zero is costed at £1 trillion by 2050 (BEIS, 2019) and requires 54 GW of solar capacity to be installed by 2035, equivalent to around £2.2 billion of investment per year. With this in mind, Absolar aims to achieve nationwide coverage and bring its software to all cities in the UK, and reach the overseas market by 2022. Absolar is also hoping to work with partners from the energy industry and local authorities to extend the application of its technologies.
Absolar’s software has been purchased by Portsmouth and Southampton city councils. It has received a European Regional Development Fund R&D grant, through the EMphasis3 CO2 Reduction Project run by the University of Portsmouth, University of Winchester and Greentech South.
January 2020 – Awarded a Royal Academy of Engineering Enterprise Fellowship.
June 2020 – Received revenue from software application and established a customer-funded business model.
November 2020 – launch of software application for southeast England (planning).
“With the valuable support from the Enterprise Fellowship, Absolar has been able to comprehensively examine a series of potential business models and identify the most suitable business structure and route to market.”
There is currently a dire need in the UK construction industry for insulation materials that are affordable, high-performance and fire-safe. This was highlighted by the 2017 Grenfell tower tragedy, which led to the ban of the most common plastic-based insulation materials in buildings above five storeys. All existing fire-safe alternatives are either expensive or low-performing, and with more than 30% of the UK’s carbon emissions resulting from gas-heating homes and offices, there has never been a greater need for novel solutions in this £850 million-a-year market.
Thermulon has developed a novel chemical process to produce silica aerogel powders. Silica aerogels are inherently non-flammable and one of the most insulating materials, but have historically been kept out of the construction industry due to high cost. This cost is largely due to their processing method, and Thermulon’s unique pathway significantly reduces price when produced at scale. Its vision is to use this to make buildings safer and more energy efficient.
Thermulon’s technology presents vast potential benefits commercially, environmentally and socially. Uninsulated UK solid wall homes alone lose 1.6 Terawatt-hours of energy per year (equivalent to the annual usage of 440,000 households). By addressing this market with its retrofit-applicable products, Thermulon can help the UK reach its 2050 carbon neutral goals. Fuel poverty remains an issue in 10% of UK households, and Thermulon’s solution can improve heating efficiency while consuming minimal floorspace, presenting an ideal solution for ECO3 government-funded projects in low-income and vulnerable households.
In the next 18 months, Thermulon aims to scale its material production capacity to be able to produce its first integrated insulation products and carry out demonstration projects in homes and buildings. Having the first demonstration home insulated with Thermulon material will be a major milestone that proves both the viability of the production process and its applicability to commercial use cases. The company will need to scale the process, work with development partners in final products such as plasters and renders, and collaborate with architectural firms to achieve this.
Thermulon has taken equity investment from both Deep Science Ventures and Sustainable Ventures. In addition to the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Enterprise Fellowship, it has been awarded the Royal Society of Chemistry’s Emerging Tech Prize. Thermulon is collaborating with several development and commercial partners including the Centre for Process Innovation, Imperial College London, and lime render and plaster manufacturer Best of Lime.
August 2019 - Pre-seed equity investment from Deep Science Ventures.
October 2019 - First proofs of chemistry with Durham University and the Centre for Process Innovation.
April 2020 - Seed round equity investment from a consortium including Sustainable Ventures and climate-focused angel investors.
August 2020 - Awarded SMART Grant with Best of Lime and Imperial College London .
November 2020 - SMART Grant Kickoff for aerogel and plaster development and scaling.
“The Enterprise Fellowship has been key in helping Thermulon to focus its technical development on commercial goals and understand the landscape of the UK startup funding industry. Personally, the Fellowship has also proved vital to me as an awardee in providing guidance in the transition from employee to entrepreneur, and in connecting me with a group of like-minded individuals embarking on the same journey.”
The fashion industry has a waste problem. Out of all clothing produced, 30% of it is never sold or worn.
Supply chain inefficiencies cost fashion companies an estimated $300 billion a year globally. Julija Bainiaksinaite founded MyFactori in 2014 to tackle this waste problem and is now building a platform for SME fashion brands to run and better optimise their supply chain logistics. Through raw material sourcing to production management and better demand forecasting, MyFactori is building a platform for companies to streamline their operations to reduce waste.
It is currently working towards securing founding partners and clients, and will launch its beta testing platform at the end of this year.
“The Enterprise Fellowship helped me to support my technology development and provided great educational resources on setting up a startup company.”
Text on many digital displays is designed to resemble a page in a book. This does not harness the dynamic, interactive, customisable potential of electronic screens. The current format is not designed with user experience in mind, but to be economical on space. For the visually impaired, the ‘steady-eye strategy’ is recommended, but no tool exists to achieve this. Lawyers and other professions have low productivity in reading-based tasks. The paragraph format does not fit well on small screens.
Predictive text allows machines to take on some of the burden of writing, by using predictable patterns in writing. BrightPage Tech is offering predictive text for reading. Like writing, there are patterns in the process of reading that can be predicted, allowing the machine to lighten the reader’s load.
When reading a line of text, our eyes do not move in a smooth, continuous movement; rather they move in a series of short, rapid jumps (saccades) and fixations. BrightPage’s core innovation is to make the text on the screen mimic these movements. Using a bank of eye tracking data, eye movements have been reverse engineered into an algorithm that takes any English text and presents it dynamically to optimise it for reading. The reader can relax and allow the electronic display device to do the hard work.
The first product in development aims to help some of the 285 million blind and partially sighted people worldwide. It enables them to use the ‘steady-eye strategy’, recommended when reading eccentrically. It is the only tool that targets this. Further products will target reading from small displays, speeding up reading-based tasks and immersive eBooks, with the company aiming to take advantage of the LegalTech AI market, which is growing at 36% annually.
BrightPage is currently validating the product market fit and making use of its partnerships with the Royal Academy of Engineering and Innovate UK.
2019: Selected for company formation from ICURe options roundabout
2020: Won £210,000 Innovate UK grant
2020: Won Scottish EDGE Wildcard competition
“[The Enterprise Fellowship] has provided training tailored to academics entering entrepreneurship, networking opportunities to raise investment and the funding to progress.”
Demand for e-Bikes across Europe is growing by 30% per year as people find them a fast and fun way to get around congested cities. However, most e-Bikes are too heavy and bulky to be used flexibly, for example with public transport.
FLIT develops lightweight folding e-bikes for urban commuters.
Folding e-bikes open up the market to new customers as they can be easily stored or used with public transport. By developing a folding e-bike from scratch, and integrating the electrical system into the frame, FLIT’s first product, the FLIT-16, is 30% lighter and smaller than a typical folding e-bike.
The first batch of FLIT-16s will be delivered to customers in late 2020. FLIT then plans to use feedback to continue experimenting in the folding e-bike niche. It will develop both new e-Bike models, for example to target customers in the leisure market, and new sales channels, such as leasing and subscription.
By the end of 2021, FLIT aims to have FLIT-16s available for purchase in shops across the UK, announce a new model of folding e-bike, and begin trialling a leasing scheme. In 2022 it hopes to expand into international markets in Europe and North America.
In 2019, 3.4 million e-bikes, worth £5 billion, were sold across the EU and UK. That volume had grown by an average of 31% a year since 2006. Folding bike sales also grew at about 15% a year over a similar period. The UK market for e-bikes is less mature than regional leaders such as the Netherlands or Germany, but is growing even faster. In the UK in 2018-19, the e-bike market grew by 66%, and folding e-bikes grew by over 200%.
2017 – Awarded Department for Transport Innovation Challenge Fund grant
2018 – Accepted onto the Design Council Spark accelerator, winning additional funding through a commendation award
2018 – Raised pre-seed investment from UK angels
2018 – Established a prototyping and manufacturing relationship in Taiwan
2019 – Filed a patent and registered designs for the FLIT-16
2019 – Eurobike Startup Award finalist and won ACID Design and IP Champion Award 2019 – Sold over 100 e-bikes via a Kickstarter pre-sales campaign, exceeding its target by 440%
2020 – Continued sales of the FLIT-16, and first deliveries to customers
“The business training has been extremely useful for expanding my knowledge of how the world of business really works, in particular my presentation, leadership and financial skills. The network obtained via the Academy is also very useful for raising investment rounds and consulting leading experts for advice.”
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.
James uses storytelling to help innovative businesses reap the rewards of putting purpose at the heart of their business. Ranked in The Drum’s top 10 UK marketing influencers, he is a published author (Humanizing B2B), mentor and speaker. He’s passionate about helping technology and engineering companies achieve their potential to change the world for good.
James started out working in tech before moving into marketing, as he felt there was a real gap in the industry’s understanding of the fundamentals and potential of technology. After a prestigious grad role at Saatchi and Saatchi he joined Tidalwave in its newly formed strategy department, which shortly thereafter was ranked in the Financial Times’ Fasttrack top 50 fastest growing privately owned companies in the UK at the time. In two of his four years there he was recognised as the agency’s MVP.
He ran award-winning agency Mason Zimbler - recognised as ‘UK Agency of the Year’ by B2B Marketing, and then successfully sold it to a US marketing giant.
As Co-Founder of Rooster Punk, he helps ambitious companies achieve sustainable growth and profitability through a more human and meaningful approach to the way they build their brand. Rooster Punk works with startups like Currencycloud (now a unicorn), scale-ups, VCs and platforms like Crowdcube as well as corporates such as Tata and Samsung.
James is also an advisor, mentor and investor in several other businesses and charities.
Lisa has been building productive teams, driving change and helping people get organised for twenty-five years, working in multi-national corporates and investment banks before starting her own coaching business in 2017. She has extensive experience of hiring, managing and retaining great people and now works with founders and business owners across multiple sectors and industries to help them create inclusive cultures and strong, diverse teams.
Lisa is the bestselling author of The REAL Entrepreneur: How to simplify, grow and enjoy your business, and believes passionately that people management is a core skill for today’s entrepreneur. From her experience working with fast-growing businesses, she’s learned that while you can build a product without a team, it’s impossible to build a business without understanding how to build an inclusive culture and get the best from a diverse group of people. As an operational business coach, Lisa’s focus is always on the fundamental building blocks of business: people and processes.
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.”
Benedikt started his entrepreneurial journey during his undergraduate and has since built multiple companies across renewable energy, enterprise software, deep tech, drug discovery, and healthcare. As an experienced entrepreneur, he has raised millions in venture funding, scaled winning teams across multiple geographies, and closed over 100 deals, including with some of the largest global organisations.
Benedikt also supports several early stage companies, where he helps with fundraising, company strategy and founder journeys. He has mentored more than 50 early stage companies, many during a trip across the African continent.
In his latest venture, Sanome, aims to build a human digital twin to help people understand and maintain their health.
Lavaniya currently works as a Marketing Partner at bp Launchpad, where she serves as a strategic and tactical marketing advisor for portfolio companies.
Though her expertise and experience cover brand marketing, sales enablement and to marketing automation, she is most passionate about content, creative campaigns, and implementing blue ocean strategy. Whether the budget is small, big or non-existent, Lavaniya is able to adapt and utilise available resources to their highest potential and counts herself lucky to have learnt her craft through small failures rather than big successes.
After emigrating to Sweden, Lavaniya started her own media production company at the age of 21. She worked on feature films that never saw the light of day, TV programmes that did, and has produced around 2000 educational YouTube videos for a charity that teaches mathematics after school.
Lavaniya has worked with a diverse range of clients and businesses, spanning private and public sectors, and has lived in six countries across four continents.
After completing her MBA at HEC Paris, she worked in eSports (Fnatic), SaaS, and Telecommunications (at Croatia’s first unicorn company, Infobip) before jumping into the new world of Energy and tackling the energy transition. Outside of work, she’s writing her novel, participating in charity runs, and volunteering as a Trustee at the RSPCA in North London.
Former Inaugural Chair of the Enterprise Committee and a long-standing Academy Fellow, Ian Shott CBE FREng has played a prominent role in establishing the Enterprise Hub. His track record of helping businesses in the engineering and life science sectors transform their approach and improve their vision, ambition, business models and enterprise value is an invaluable resource.
Ian is the Founder and former Executive Chair of contract pharmaceutical development and manufacturing company ARCINOVA, which he sold to Quotient Sciences in February 2021 and continues as Senior Advisor to the board. Ian is also the Managing Director at investment and advisory firm Shott Trinova. Prior to his specialist investment work at Shott Trinova, Ian was the founder and CEO of Excelsyn, which was sold to an American multinational in 2010. Earlier in his career he held numerous senior executive positions at multinational life science companies across the globe.
Ian has a wealth of experience with major industry bodies. He is formerly the Chair of the UK government’s Leadership Forum for Industrial Biotechnology and a Governing Board Member of Innovate UK. Ian is also Visiting Professor at Oxford, Nottingham and Newcastle universities.
“Apart from a deep-seated passion to change the entrepreneurial landscape in the UK and rediscover our legacy from the industrial revolution, I am highly excited by the prospect of engaging with new young talent and using my experience to accelerate and amplify their success. I’ve been involved in mentoring for over a decade but believe the Hub offers a very special opportunity to work with the brightest and best”.
Roy Williamson has been helping companies see how their new innovations can disrupt markets for over 20 years.
For the past six years has been successfully helping early stage companies identify and define their strengths, enhance their uniqueness and develop their storylines to engage investors. Roy’s background is in engineering and cleantech and since 2013, he’s been supporting SMEs and entrepreneurs across a broad area of technologies and innovative business models.
Roy is an aeronautical engineer and started his career at Alstom, developing algorithms and models to estimate hardware costs of power generation gas turbines based purely on, often novel, thermodynamic cycles. He has assessed innovation ecosystems of the UK, published by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. He has also co-authored guides to support technology developers in the UK automotive sector assess technology readiness levels and help those in the biofuels sector to review pathways for second generation biofuels. He’s appraised novel technology solutions for blue-chip clients, developed proof of concepts and carried out due diligence activities to support investor decision making. He is passionate about the UK and knowledge-intensive companies, from software to deeptech.
Roy is Head of Origination at the Department for International Trade with relationships across the department’s teams, government and the UK’s innovation and investment ecosystem.
Formerly the UK Innovation Director for Atkins, Elspeth is the CEO and Founder of IAND, a digital platform that helps major enterprises manage multiple suppliers.
Initially graduating as a chemist, Elspeth later turned her hand to transport and urban design, demonstrating business and technical leadership on over 100 transport planning projects both nationally and around the world.
Elspeth chairs the Enterprise Hub’s Innovators Network and is a judge for the Hub’s Launchpad Competition. She is also a member of the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Diversity and Inclusion Committee.
In 2017, Elspeth was awarded a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for her services to Engineering and Enterprise.
“I believe that collaboration within our industry is the key to driving innovation faster. I am so proud to be involved with the Enterprise Hub, as a Mentor, and as Chair of the Innovators Network and to support young entrepreneurs as a Judge on Launchpad competition.
It is rare to find a place which brings together startups and established companies to exchange ideas and learn from each other. We have a shared goal which is to fast track the growth of engineering enterprises in the UK. The Enterprise Hub has helped me grow my business and it is helping young engineers build the businesses of the future.”
James Ashe first graduated in electronics and electrical engineering from the University of Glasgow. His postgraduate education was sponsored by The General Electric Company and he spent five years as Principal Research Engineer at the GEC-Marconi Research Centre. His research interests included: high-power, high-performance VLSI structures and devices, monolithic microwave integrated circuits and electronic interconnection and packaging.
He then joined Cambridge-based Anamartic (A Tandem Computer and Fujitsu Company) working on fault tolerant WSI (Wafer Scale Integration) devices. Jim was one of the first employees of Xaar PLC and was heavily involved in IP Licensing and fundamental in developing Xaar’s microfabrication facility on the Cambridge Science Park. He helped found Intense Photonics (a spin out based on IP in the field of quantum well intermixing - owned by the University of Glasgow) where he led the commercial activities. Intense Photonics raised over £56 million in private venture funding. Prior to joining the University of Edinburgh School of Informatics as Director of Commercialisation and Industry Engagement, he led the commercial activities in IP Licensing at the commercial arm of DSTL (Defence Scientific and Technical Laboratories). Jim is also the Director of Innovation at the Bayes Centre – the University of Edinburgh's innovation hub for data science and artificial intelligence.