ERA Foundation winners 2014

18 Mar 2014

The joint winners of this year’s ERA Foundation Entrepreneurs Award are Dr James MacFarlane from the University of Bristol, and Dr David Heath from the University of Strathclyde, who will each receive a £15,000 development fund for their innovations, along with a £5,000 personal award and mentoring from renowned engineers. Dr Mark Symes of the University of Glasgow receives this year’s runner up prize of  £2,000  for his integrated platform to monetise intermittent renewable energy.

The ERA Foundation Entrepreneurs Award was established to identify electro-technology researchers in UK universities with great ideas, and support them to commercialise their research. The Royal Academy of Engineering delivers the award as part of its ongoing commitment to supporting innovation and entrepreneurship in the UK. The Academy is currently leading a national campaign, <a class="blue-text" href="http://engineeringforgrowth.org.uk" target="_blank">Engineering for Growth</a>, in partnership with leading technology businesses, engineering bodies and the government, to support growth in the UK engineering sector.

The winners will be the latest to be inducted into the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Enterprise Hub, a new national resource for the UK’s most promising technology-intensive SMEs and entrepreneurs that provides prestigious support and networking opportunities from the Academy’s Fellowship and entrepreneurial network. Dr MacFarlane, inventor of the remote nuclear accident inspection system, will be mentored by Professor Richard Brook FREng and Professor Eric Yeatman FREng, and Dr Heath, inventor of the skin cream applicator, will be mentored by Dr Jeremy Burroughes FREng FRS.

Professor Sir Richard Brook OBE FREng, Chairman of the ERA Foundation, said: “This year’s winners have pushed the bar even higher in terms of the sheer quality and ingenuity of their projects. Both winners have already invested so much time and energy in their projects, and they now have a superb opportunity to take them to the next level.”

Arnoud Jullens, Head of Enterprise at the Royal Academy of Engineering, said, “We’ve already seen outstanding progress from previous winners of this prestigious prize, and we have high hopes for this year’s researchers and their innovative projects. With funding and support from the Enterprise Hub’s network of experienced entrepreneurs, I’m confident we will see the commercial potential of these projects realised.”

Dr James Macfarlane – remote nuclear accident inspection system

Hazardous nuclear events have the potential to cause huge levels of widespread damage to individuals and the environment. Getting close enough to these incidents to accurately assess the problem can be extremely dangerous. Dr James MacFarlane, Dr Oliver Payton and their team at the University of Bristol have developed an innovative system to safely and remotely assess radiological hazards across the nuclear industry, providing real-time information on the source, intensity and location of radiation.

The Advanced Airborne Radiation Monitoring (AARM) system integrates an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) with a lightweight gamma spectrometer (donated by Kromek, GR1) and other positional sensors. It is light weight and low cost, and able to capture high resolution images. It could significantly improve the safety and effectiveness of hazard response operations, including rapid response monitoring of nuclear events. The system also supports routine monitoring at nuclear sites and naturally occurring radioactive materials at mining operations and oil and gas facilities.

Field demonstrations of the prototype AARM system have already been performed at a Uranium mining site in Banat, southwest Romania, and validated against traditional surveying methods, attracting strong support from all areas of the UK Nuclear industry.

James Macfarlane said, “The AARM system has had a great reception within the nuclear industry, which reiterates to us that there is a real need to for the capability it provides in the nuclear energy sector. Our technology is not only timely and novel, but will also be a massive benefit in the day-to-day processes of the nuclear industry. With the support of the Enterprise Hub and my two mentors, I look forward to the deployment of the AARM system in the UK in the very near future.”

Dr David Heath – Anti-ageing cream applicator

Despite advances in anti-aging skin cream formulations, a persistent problem is that products are unable to penetrate effectively beyond the uppermost layer of the skin, the stratum corneum, which limits the speed and effectiveness of their results. The new, painless home applicator device, designed by the University of Strathclyde’s Dr David Heath, uses electrical energy, like that used in pain relieving TENS machines, to stimulate deeper layers of the skin to increase absorption of key ingredients at these levels. This will help to deliver faster and more dramatic results.

The global anti-aging market is estimated to be worth over $260 billion currently, with growth predicted up to nearly $346 billion by 2018¹. The new applicator technology will be licensed to retailers, and has the potential to be used in other applications in the future, such as the treatment of stretch marks and acne scars.

David Heath said, “Breaking into such a huge and established market is both an exciting and challenging prospect. The experience of my mentor, Dr Jeremy Burroughes, will be invaluable in this respect, and gaining this recognition for my technology from the Royal Academy of Engineering stands me in excellent stead to take it to market.”

You can read a Marketwatch story about this product here

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