Eight technologies move from lab to reality

27 Jan 2014

‘Smart’ clothes to protect the elderly from hip fractures, a half-size catalytic convertor that reduces vehicle emissions and saves fuel, and software to crowd-share smartphone data bandwidth in congested places are just three of the most promising new technologies developed in UK universities that the Royal Academy of Engineering has identified as having outstanding real-world potential.

Each has been awarded funding and will receive money-can’t-buy mentoring as part of the Academy’s Enterprise Fellowships scheme to help turn them into viable businesses.

Eight researchers from UK universities will receive up to £85,000 of funding each to spend the next 12 months exclusively developing a spin-out business based on their technological innovations. As part of the Academy’s new Enterprise Hub, they will also receive one-to-one mentoring from some of the UK’s top technology entrepreneurs. Volunteer mentors include Sir Robin Saxby FREng, former Chief Executive and Chairman of ARM, and Professor Neville Jackson FREng, Chief Technology and Innovation Officer at Ricardo.

Technologies in the scheme include low cost cutting-edge research tools for scientists in cancer research and quantum computers, and Armourgel®, an energy absorbing ‘smart’ material that stiffens on impact and could be used to protect the elderly from hip fractures, which cost the NHS over £1.73 billion annually.

Another innovation to receive funding and support from the Academy is software that enables smartphone apps to crowd-share data bandwidth in congested areas such as stadiums by building a network directly between smartphones and using them as the basis for distributing information.

The world’s fastest atomic force microscope also got the judges’ vote, as did a new goods and luggage tagging and tracking system that can pinpoint items with near 100% accuracy and over a much greater distance than existing technology. The PervasID system has the potential to save airlines millions of pounds annually through allowing frequent fliers access to fully automated self-check-in, and to enable high-value goods retailers to benefit from secure self-service checkouts.

This is the third year of the Academy scheme, and is the largest cohort to date. President of the Royal Academy of Engineering, Sir John Parker GBE FREng, said, “Engineering already contributes at least £480 billion to the UK economy each year, and the ability to create wealth from innovation is essential in building a stronger and more competitive economy. By bridging the gap between industry and academia and enabling entrepreneurship to thrive, the Academy’s Enterprise Hub aims to ensure that the country’s brightest entrepreneurial minds are given the best possible chance to succeed, whilst helping to bring new technologies and services to market for the benefit of society.”

Arnoud Jullens, Head of Enterprise at the Royal Academy of Engineering, added, “UK universities produce some of the greatest innovations in the world, but getting them out of the lab and into the marketplace remains a huge challenge. Business-minded academics need investment and support from experienced industry practitioners to exploit their research, which could become the commercial success stories of tomorrow, and this is exactly what the Academy’s Enterprise Hub provides."

Our new 2014 Enterprise Fellows are: 


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