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.
Co-founder and Chief Science Officer, Adaptix Ltd
ViBo Health is a startup that will offer some of the benefits of traditional laboratory tests without needing to give blood and wait for the meta-analysis. The company is working on instrumentation that will scan a person’s wrist using hardware based on magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS), combined with advanced signal processing and machine learning.
The 10-second scan, using non-invasive molecular spectroscopy, will provide real-time analysis of various metabolic measurements. When used regularly, this data will show an individual’s health trends by outlining changing vitamin levels, cholesterols and diabetes parameters.
ViBo Health intends to place scanners in high-traffic venues such as gyms and pharmacies. As well as giving users an insight into their own health and fitness status, the anonymised data would be of use to clinicians and health workers to analyse more general health trends.
Dr Gil Travish co-founded ViBo Health in 2020. He became an SME Leader in 2017, when he was Chief Science Officer at Adaptix, another company that he co-founded. Gil says that the SME Leaders programme “has been instrumental in my development as a founder and leader of startups. With ViBo Health, it has helped me with networking and defining the company through multiple roundtables.”
The company’s current aim is to focus on formal product definition and gain a fuller understanding of the market. ViBo Health Europe has already received support from the European Space Agency Business Incubation Centre in Portugal and the European Institute of Innovation and Technology. It is now working on several grant applications and hoping to bring in new investors.
“[The SME leaders programme] has been instrumental in my development as a founder and leader of startups. With ViBo Health, it has helped me with networking and defining the company through multiple roundtables.”
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.
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.