The Hub is delighted to be welcoming 12 ambitious engineering innovators to the SME Leaders programme. The innovations they are hoping to scale up with our support include low-cost, portable hospital screens and AI dialogue technology that powers voice assistants, and all have been chosen for their potential to positively impact society.
Growing a company requires lateral thinking as well as strong leadership skills, and the SME Leaders programme exists to help individuals develop the qualities needed to navigate scaling challenges.
This is the second year that the programme is being run digitally, giving the cohort an opportunity to benefit from a virtual offer of business support, a £10,000 training grant for online leadership courses, and virtual training sessions. The virtual training will continue to include roundtables, workshops, personal development coaching and specialist mentoring from Fellows of the Royal Academy of Engineering, who are some of the UK’s most successful engineering entrepreneurs. Once government restrictions are lifted, the cohort will also enjoy lifetime access to the Enterprise Hub’s Taylor Centre in central London, free for them to use as a meeting facility and informal workspace.
Since the programme started in 2016 the SME Leaders programme has supported 98 individuals. Upon completing the programme, alumni have collectively raised £260 million and have increased their business valuations by £295 million in total.
Among this year’s SME Leaders alumnus is Dr Giorgia Longobardi, founder and CEO of semi-conductor startup Cambridge GaN Devices. Dr Longobardi managed to secure $9.5 million in Series A funding to expand their product portfolio of energy-efficient power devices and to double the size of her team. She was also named as a Royal Academy of Engineering’s Young Engineer of the Year in 2019.
Peter Mountney, CEO of Odin Vision and SME Leaders alumnus says he was able to better support his team following his participation in the programme:
“Many critical decisions in business are made with partial or incomplete information. The support from the Enterprise Hub helped me refine and improve my decision-making processes and in turn, I have been able to support my team to improve their skills.”
Jessi Baker MBE, CEO of Provenance and SME Leaders alumnus, says the programme gave her the opportunity to focus on her own development:
“I’ve really enjoyed working with my coach, she’s been extremely supportive, and I’ve learnt a lot working with her. I hadn’t focused enough on developing my skills and capabilities as a leader so having the space to do this has been amazing. The events organised by the programme are also very pertinent and well organised.”
Find out more about our newest SME Leaders:
Dr Richard Ahlfeld, Founder and CEO of Monolith AI Ltd
Monolith AI Ltd accelerates product development by applying machine learning to data generated during the engineering design process. The company’s online platform then helps to simplify data access, provides context for collected data and predicts future product behaviour. Its technology has applications in a variety of fields including automotive, energy, defence and aeronautics. Dr Richard Alhfeld is Founder and CEO of Monolith AI. Richard joined the SME Leaders programme in 2021 and is looking forward to improving his leadership and negotiation skills. The company is now licensing its software to international businesses in energy, defence and aeronautics.
Hami Bahraynian, Co-Founder and CEO, Wluper Ltd
Wluper has developed dialogue technology to create conversational artificial intelligence (AI) that powers knowledge-based voice assistants. Wluper’s technology provides businesses more advanced voice capabilities that are directly integrated within their services and allows users to interact with them in a more convenient way. Hami Bahraynian is CEO of Wluper, which he co-founded in 2017. Hami is responsible for the company’s product strategy, business development and financial affairs. He joined the SME Leaders programme in 2021 and is looking to strengthen his communication skills to better convey goals, generate results and inspire trust. Wluper is now focused on commercialising its conversational AI technology into scalable products.
Joseph Collier, Co-Founder, Product and Development Director, Sycous Ltd
Sycous Ltd designs and builds integrated systems and software for heat and energy network operators. Local authorities and housing associations use the company’s systems to remotely measure, control, manage and administer their energy networks. Sycous also developed the UK’s first cloud-based, remote-data collection administration software for the district heating and communal energy market. Joseph Collier is Co-Founder and Product and Development Director at Sycous. Joseph joined the SME Leaders programme in 2021. He is hoping the programme will help develop his management and communication skills and is especially looking forward to the mentoring opportunities.
Dr Jörg Feist, Co-Founder and Managing Director, Sensor Coating Systems Ltd
Sensor Coating Systems (SCS) has developed a thermal mapping method using smart temperature-memory materials. Luminescent paints and coatings generate an afterglow when light is shone on them. After calibration, an operator can use the afterglow to tell the material’s temperature-history. When applied on engine components as a thin layer, the material provides engine designers with thousands of digitised temperature measurement points that can assist in the development of new, more efficient, engines. Dr Jörg Feist is co-founder, co-inventor and Managing Director of SCS. Jörg became an SME Leader in 2021 and is looking forward to benefiting from the mentoring scheme and the scholarship programme.
Lucie Glenday, Co-Founder, Group Chief Executive Officer, MySense Ltd
MySense Ltd has created a wellbeing analytics platform for people with declining health, enabling them to live independently in their own homes. Its system uses a network of wearable and fixed sensors within a property. Using artificial intelligence and the internet of things, the platform learns a person’s pattern of behaviour and health, highlighting any unusual patterns and triggering a notification to a nominated responder. Lucie Glenday is the co-founder and Group CEO of MySense. Lucie joined the SME Leaders programme in 2021 and is looking forward to the programme’s mentoring initiative. MySense is now working on raising brand awareness, building a research partnership network and preparing its platform for international markets.
Dr Tom Harty, Co-Founder and CEO, Oxford Ionics Ltd
Oxford Ionics is looking to revolutionise industries ranging from drug discovery to material design by building quantum computers. This new type of computer harnesses the power of quantum physics to solve problems that would be too challenging for any conventional supercomputer. Dr Tom Harty co-founded the company in 2019 and joined the SME Leaders programme in 2021. He is looking forward to working with a mentor who has experience in scaling up high-tech engineering companies. Over the coming year, Oxford Ionics will be bringing its first generation of quantum computers online and demonstrating the scalability of its technology.
Ren Kang, Co-Founder, Head of Operations and Research, Mixergy Ltd
Mixergy Ltd has developed an internet-connected, smart hot water tank that gives users greater control and oversight over their water heating systems. The company’s tanks use thermal stratification, and an innovative heating arrangement to heat the water from the top down. In this way, consumers can selectively heat different volumes of water and save 5% to 20% on their hot water bills. Ren Kang co-founded Mixergy in 2014 and is its Head of Research. Ren joined the SME Leaders programme in 2021. He is looking forward to using the programme’s resources to help him to enhance the company’s product development and prepare it for future energy challenges and opportunities.
Christina King, Chief Commercial Officer, Tribosonics Ltd
Research shows that 23% of global energy is lost through tribological contact - the wear, friction and lubrication of rotating and interacting parts. Tribosonics Limited, a Sheffield company, has developed sensing technology to tackle this issue. It designs, manufactures and installs high-end, often bespoke, ultrasonic platforms across many industrial sectors. Christina King is the Chief Commercial Officer for Tribosonics. She joined the SME Leaders programme in 2021 and wants to build networks that will help develop her personal journey, as well as scale the company. Following a £1 million investment, Tribosonics is hoping to further expand its patented ultrasonic sensing technologies into global industrial markets.
Michael Korn, Founder and Chief Innovation Officer, KwickScreen
Using a glass fibre composite, Michael Korn has developed patented portable, retractable hospital screens. They can swiftly turn an open-plan ward into smaller, more discreet isolated patient spaces or create a physical barrier between patients to ensure social distancing. Michael founded KwickScreen in 2008 [KA1] and 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. Michael feels that the SME Leaders programme will provide valuable external connections that will help his company initiate new and ambitious projects.
Dr Julia Fan Li, Co-Founder and CEO, Micrographia Bio Ltd
Micrographia Bio is accelerating biomedical innovation through artificial intelligence-enabled bio-image analysis. By combining machine-learning algorithms with autonomous microscopy and molecular biology, the total effects of small molecule compounds within human cells can be mapped. This technology is generating an atlas for modern drug discovery by matching the right compound to the disease it is best suited to cure. Dr Julia Fan Li is the Co-Founder and CEO of Micrographia Bio Ltd. She joined the SME Leaders programme in 2021 and hopes the programme will provide her with additional operational knowledge that will help grow the company from seed stage to Series-A funding.
Dr Eloise Taysom, Head of Product, Bud Financial Ltd
Bud Financial Ltd is one of the leading exponents of ‘open banking’, which allows consumers to securely share financial information from their bank with other companies. Bud’s technology gives banks the data intelligence and services they need to help customers manage their money more effectively. Eloise Taysom is Head of Product at Bud, responsible for the company’s product development and strategy. Eloise joined the SME Leaders programme in 2021. She hopes that the programme will help her develop her leadership skills and inspire new innovations as Bud scales internationally.
Dr Kunal Vyas, Head of Research, Lightpoint Medical Ltd
In spite of the technological advances in robotic surgery, surgeons still depend on their eyesight to detect cancer intra-operatively. As a result, surgeons sometimes leave cancer behind or remove more healthy tissue than needed. Lightpoint Medical’s award-winning SENSEI® technology, a miniaturised intra-operative cancer detection probe, gives surgeons a chance to fully remove cancer in one procedure, while retaining healthy tissue. Dr Kunal Vyas, who joined the SME Leaders programme in 2021, is the Head of Research at Lightpoint Medical. Kunal feels he will benefit from access to workshops and speaker events on subjects such as intellectual property management and pitching to investors.