Engineering programmes for SMEs win extra support

The Royal Academy of Engineering Enterprise Hub is set to support 10 of the UK’s most promising engineering business founders through its SME Leaders Programme. The entrepreneurs selected come from a range of sectors and are behind technologies set to transform lives, including a robot that insulates homes and a device that updates a hospital on a patient’s condition as they travel in an ambulance.

The SME Leaders programme helps engineering entrepreneurs running UK businesses maximise their high-growth potential. It achieves this by providing a range of money-can’t-buy training and development opportunities, including masterclasses from the biggest names in innovation, bespoke mentorship from industry heavyweights across engineering and technology, and access to the Academy’s Fellowship, a network of over 1500 leaders in engineering and business. Each Leader will also receive up to £15,000 towards the cost of training courses and executive education for their own development.

The successful applicants are disrupting a diverse range of sectors, including energy, medtech, construction, eCommerce and aerospace. Entrepreneur Arthur Kay’s bio-bean, for example, is the first company in the world to industrialise the process of recycling spent coffee grounds into advanced biofuels and biochemicals, while David Tuch at Lightpoint Medical has developed imaging technology that can detect cancer in real-time during surgery.

The 10 entrepreneurial leaders to be supported are: 

  • Alexander Reip, Oxford nanoSystems – Reducing the environmental impact of air conditioning. Oxford nanoSystems has developed a ground-breaking coating technology that could help reduce the size and cost of any product that uses boiling as part of a heat exchange system, such as an air conditioning unit. This enables the creation of products that consume less energy, limit environmental impact and reduce costs for consumers and manufacturers.
  • Andrew Hine, Director GreenSpur Renewables Ltd – Reducing the cost of wind energy. There is strong demand from wind turbine manufacturers for larger generators to deliver cost reductions. GreenSpur Renewables has developed a new low cost direct-drive generator to meet this requirement. Its generator is unique in that it uses cheap and abundant ferrite rather than scarce and expensive rare earth magnets. The design is a game-changer as the worldwide reserves of ferrite exceed 800 billion tonnes, so the potential to deliver cost reductions at multi-MW levels is significant.
  • Arthur Kay, bio-bean – Turning spent coffee grounds into biofuel. Arthur Kay is the founder of bio-bean, the first company in the world to industrialise the process of recycling spent coffee grounds into 100% carbon neutral advanced biofuels and biochemicals. bio-bean works within the existing energy and waste infrastructure to collect spent coffee grounds from places such as instant coffee factories, coffee shops and offices and recycles them into sustainable and high-performance products that can replace conventional fuels and chemicals. It currently works with major waste management companies and thousands of coffee outlets across the UK, including Costa Coffee, and has the capacity to recycle 50,000 tonnes of spent coffee grounds a year. 
  • David Tuch, Lightpoint MedicalIdentifying cancerous cells to improve the success of surgery. A quarter of people who undergo surgery for early-stage breast cancer have cancerous tissue left behind. Lightpoint Medical’s ground-breaking intraoperative molecular imaging technology detects cancer in real-time during surgery, allowing surgeons to accurately remove the cancerous tissue whilst sparing healthy tissue.
  • Gareth Morgan, TerraboticsTurning satellite data into business decisions. Terrabotics uses data analytics to map 3D terrain using satellite imagery, providing new insight for the natural resources sector. The insights delivered can help companies save millions of pounds by increasing efficiency and highlighting potential risks before it’s too late. For example, using terrain mapping it can identify whether a planned pipeline is viable before surveyors have even set foot on the ground, saving both time and money.
  • Jennifer Griffiths, Snap Tech LtdBy harnessing computer vision and machine learning, Snap Tech is turning shopping apps into intelligent fashion search tools. It allows consumers to take a photo of an item, such as a dress, and get suggestions on matching fashion items within a brand’s inventory, all thanks to Snap Tech’s algorithm. It can also be used by retailers and publishers to suggest ‘similar’ clothes items based on a product’s shape and colour, creating a more intelligent online shop. Snap Tech already works with 16,000 brands and 250 retailers, creating a truly smart shopping experience.
  • Julio Enrique Guerrero, Metix Medical – Using IoT to improve emergency medical treatment. Metix Medical has developed a single portable device that a first responder can use to determine criticality of a patient, while sending vital information on their condition to a hospital in real-time. This means that doctors can better prepare for the patient’s arrival. Until now, first responders and paramedics have had to rely on either cumbersome or multiple devices to capture vital information rather than a single compact monitor, while doctors waiting at a hospital have been left in the dark regarding the person’s condition during the journey to the hospital.
  • Mark Andrew Evans, Adaptix LtdImproving patient access to 3D X-ray diagnosis. The majority of X-rays conducted today use 2D imagery because the equipment needed to undertake a 3D X-ray is expensive and difficult to use. Adaptix Ltd has developed a planar (flat) X-ray with 3D capability that is more affordable and truly portable, so 3D radiology can be made widely available. The applications for 3D imaging include industrial, security and veterinary applications.  But most importantly, 3D imaging helps clinicians increase diagnostic accuracy for many high incidence conditions seen in medical and dental practice.
  • Mathew Holloway, Q-BotUsing robotics to insulate the UK’s homes. This patented solution (pictured above) uses a robotic device to access a void through a small opening in the floor or wall and apply insulation, without the disruption and hassle of traditional methods. The UK has some of the coldest and most inefficient homes in Europe, resulting in cold draughts and high energy bills, with more than 10 million needing floor insulation alone. Q-Bot have developed the first truly scalable and cost effective solution to this huge problem.
  • Ryian Thomas Ludwick, Ludwick PrecisionDeveloping high-end, precision lab and office furniture for world-leading companies. A sheet metal fabrication company that specialises in producing products for the office furniture and laboratory sector, such as the first ever height adjustable laboratory bench manufactured in the UK. It champions itself on a 25-year history that has seen it perfect the engineering and equipment required to turn sheet metal into a range of highly precise, intricate products, efficiently and at cost.

The engineering industry contributes £280 billion-per-year to the UK economy, and the government has recognised that the country’s economic future must have innovation at its core. Through the SME Leaders Programme, the Enterprise Hub aims to give UK business leaders the tools and support they need to deliver world-class engineering solutions. Applications for the next round of the programme are now open and can be found here.

Ana Avaliani, Head of Enterprise, Royal Academy of Engineering, comments: “The UK is blessed with some of the brightest minds in engineering and technology, helping the country become world-renowned for its innovation and as a centre of entrepreneurial talent. But scaling-up a business creates new challenges that some in the UK are struggling to overcome. Nearly 80% of the world’s unicorns are from the US or China, according to research from CB Insights; we’d like to see a greater proportion from the UK – currently we have just below 10%.

“The SME Leaders programme will help to achieve this goal by offering UK business leaders from high-growth engineering SMEs the support they need to take their companies to the next stage. Alongside grant funding, the programme gives entrepreneurs direct access to the Royal Academy of Engineering’s Fellowship, which possesses an unparalleled level of expertise and knowledge spanning the entire engineering, technology and business spectrum. The engineering profession is already vital to the UK economy but, by helping these innovators realise their potential, we can consolidate the country’s position as an engineering world leader.”

SME Leaders was launched in September 2016 and the first cohort of entrepreneurs have just completed the programme, having raised £2.8m between them. Entrepreneurs from this group developed a range of pioneering technologies, such as a smart material that manipulates light at the flick of a switch, a ground-breaking early warning cyber security threat system and a new technology that reduces the cost of solar panels by 25%.