RAEng 1851 Enterprise Fellowships uncover disruptive graduate innovations

07 Jul 2016

Award-winning innovations include a revolutionary water filter, a mood-altering wearable, an intelligent camera for better transport planning and a smart 3D sensing material to replace buttons and trackpads. 

The first RAEng 1851 Royal Commission Enterprise Fellowships have been awarded to four graduate entrepreneurs with disruptive early-stage engineering innovations tipped to shake up major industries around the world.

The winners include  Henrik Hagemann, inventor of a bioengineered water filter to catch dangerous pollutants that slip through the net of standard water treatment;  Yang Lu, creator of a smart camera to assess the behaviour of pedestrians, cyclists and traffic to improve transport planning; and  Ming Kong, who developed a 3D sensing material that could replace all electronic controls, from videogame controllers to car dashboards. Jack Hooper, the creator of a a pioneering wristband to help users keep calm or stay alert that is set to undergo a major trial with Disney to improve children's sleep, was also recognised.

The new award is presented by the Royal Academy of Engineering and the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851, which was founded by Prince Albert to organise the Great Exhibition, the world’s first trade fair, and then instructed to use the profits to ‘extend the influence of science and art on productive industry’. The award has been established to help develop the skills and innovations of high-potential engineering entrepreneurs based in the UK who do not have the experience or support from employment with a university or well-established company to get their product to market.

As well as receiving up to £50,000 to aid further development of their technology, the graduates behind the inventions will now become members of the Royal Academy of Engineering Enterprise Hub, a one-stop-shop for exceptional UK-based entrepreneurs looking for support to commercialise technology. As part of their membership, they will receive mentoring and networking opportunities with the Academy’s pool of over 300 leading UK engineers, including Sir Robin Saxby FREng, former chief executive of British technology giant, ARM and Professor Neville Jackson FREng, CTO of global UK engineering firm Ricardo. Each awardee will also receive intensive business training and access to further investment opportunities to help bring their products to market.

All of the technologies have mass-market potential. The bioengineered water treatment membrane is up to 100 times cheaper and takes 1,000 times less energy to produce than existing water treatment technologies and could dramatically reduce the cost of cleaning polluted water across Europe.

The new sensing material is also a potentially transformative technology because it is cheaper and easier to produce than traditional electronic controls. It can be moulded rather than assembled in parts and, because it can sense a greater range of touch motions, it opens up the possibility of all-in-one 3D electronic controls for everything from cars to computers.

Nigel Williams, Secretary of the Royal Commission for the Exhibition of 1851 said: “RAEng 1851 Royal Commission Enterprise Fellowships hope to fulfil Prince Albert’s vision to ‘extend the influence of science and art upon productive industry’ by helping research innovations achieve their commercial potential. We have seen some ground-breaking inventions this year that could change the nature of the human-computer interface, improve transport systems for us all, and improve the safety of our utilities.”

Ana Avaliani, Head of Enterprise at the Royal Academy of Engineering, said: “These graduates were chosen because they have ideas with incredibly disruptive potential but they are very early-stage and need support to get them to market ahead of the global competition. The aim of the RAEng 1851 Royal Commission Enterprise Fellowships is to ensure that UK industry, economy, and public can all reap the benefits of the advances made at our research institutions.”

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