Edinburgh Research and Innovation A UK leader in commercialising research and entrepreneurship
INFINITE LEADERS OF THE SYNTHETIC REVOLUTION
START-UPS SAVED FOR SCOTLAND
GENOME FOUNDRY TO ASSEMBLE DNA
I N T E R N AT I O N A L TA L E N T T H R I V E S
AUTONOMY, NOT AUTOMATION
THE FUTURE OF ROBOTICS ISSUE 15, 2016-17
HIGH-TECH VIEW OF THE WORLD First of a global network of Earth Observation Labs is launched in Edinburgh
INFINITE MAGAZINE - ISSUE 15, 2016-17
THE TOAST OF SUSTAINABILITY Whisky distillation goes green over copper
INTERNATIONAL ENTREPRENEURS Visas open up a world of business for students
8 MAKING TRACKS FOR THE FUTURE
The pioneering work of Construction Edinburgh
ABOUT THIS ISSUE OF INFINITE MAGAZINE
GET WITH THE PROGRAMMES Funding opportunities that can unlock your potential
Published by Edinburgh Research & Innovation Ltd 1-7 Roxburgh Street, Edinburgh EH8 9TA, Scotland, UK +44 131 650 9090 firstname.lastname@example.org www.research-innovation.ed.ac.uk EDITORIAL Alex Proudfoot, Marketing Manager
Edinburgh Research & Innovation is the research, innovation and enterprise arm of the University of Edinburgh. The views expressed in this magazine are those of Edinburgh Research & Innovation Ltd and the contributors and do not necessarily represent those of the University of Edinburgh. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form without the prior written consent of the publishers.
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DESIGN Renny Hutchison
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POWERFUL PARTNERSHIPS The benefits of industry/ academic collaboration
PHOTOGRAPHY All photography copyright Peter Tuffy Photography unless otherwise stated Printed by Stephens & George
YOU HAVE ONE HOUR, FROM NOW AIMdays tackle topical challenges facing industry
EXPERIENCE OF A START-UP STAR Award-winning student on his steep learning curve
16 SUCCESSES OF A SERIAL INNOVATOR Professor Jin Ooi is modest about his achievements
27 A SYNTHETIC REVOLUTION Edinburgh Genome Foundry offers a unique capability
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THE FLAMES OF CREATIVITY How a consultancy project can fuel a lasting relationship
24 HUMANOIDS, FROM DA VINCI TO NASA The evolution of robotics and Edinburghâ€™s role
A NEW PERSPECTIVE Gordon Donald, Edinburgh Research & Innovation’s Chief Operating Officer, explains how industry engagement has become the new priority
FOR more than 45 years Edinburgh Research & Innovation (ERI) has been responsible for the University’s commercialisation activities; creating value and impact through commercialising our world-class research, delivering enterprise support for our outstanding students and creating high-growth spin-out and start-up companies. This year marks an exciting new stage in the evolution of ERI, which has refocused its activities to play a leading role in meeting the University’s global ambition to increase the levels of industry engagement, with significant industrial funding complementing traditional public and third-sector support. While putting the key emphasis on industry engagement to ensure that the University is able to optimise opportunities for translation, new investment and impact generation from industry involvement, ERI is increasing its core services capability and capacity. This allows a more responsive and easy-to-access range of services for both our industry and University clients. The ERI industry focus will include developing a range of new opportunities, promoting expertise, research and capabilities, as well as focused engagement programmes. ERI will place particular emphasis on the development of long-term, mutually beneficial partnerships, to increase the scale of industry participation at the University.
THE REFOCUS OF ERI WILL RESULT IN A SIGNIFICANT NUMBER OF GLOBAL PARTNERSHIPS ERI has introduced to great effect the AIMday (Academic Industry Meeting day) programme, which allows industry to engage with leading academics in a highly efficient way to identify innovative solutions to business challenges. ERI’s activities will also generate industry interest and new collaborations and revenue around our thematic areas of research excellence. For example, ERI has led the development of a business plan for the University’s groundbreaking LiFi R&D Centre and will also lead the business development activities to increase industry investment in this area. The refocus of ERI will result in a significant number of global partnerships being developed between the University and industry. We are already well on this path with ERI attracting a number of multinational companies to the University over the summer. The future is ours to shape and it looks exciting!
Keep up to date on the latest developments at ERI: bit.ly/ERI-news
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Whisky distillation goes green as potentially valuable copper is extracted from production waste using an innovative bacteria-based method of bioremediation
cotch whisky is a drink that has for centuries been toasted the world over, and it is estimated by the Scotch Whisky Association that the value of the golden liquid to UK exports was worth £3.86 billion in 2015. With the global rise in demand of this valuable product, companies are looking to integrate more environmentally sustainable methods into their manufacturing processes. Leading drinks manufacturer Diageo plc has partnered with researchers from the University of Edinburgh to establish the potential for innovative bioremediation techniques in its manufacturing processes, to meet ambitious sustainability targets and open up potential new revenue streams. Diageo, a leading global player in beverage alcohol, has
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in recent years been embarking on an ambitious sustainability programme in order to reduce the impact of its global footprint, while still going through a period of expansion. As part of the company’s drive for sustainability improvements by 2020, they established a collaborative partnership with Dr Louise Horsfall, a senior lecturer in biotechnology from the University’s School of Biological Sciences.
ABOVE: Dr Louise Horsfall, a senior lecturer in biotechnology
3 DID YOU KNOW? Contact with the copper during distillation influences the final distinctive character of the whisky after it has been matured in oak casks for a minimum of three years
This research looks to identify novel approaches to extracting valuable by-products from the whisky distillation process using bioremediation techniques, and has received funding support from a Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) Industrial Partnership Award and the Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Centre (IBioIC). The whisky distillation process has remained largely unchanged for centuries, with the preparation and fermentation of the grain followed by distillation in vast, hand-crafted copper pot stills. By law, single malt Scotch whisky has to be distilled in copper pot stills. These stills have a crucial part to play in the character of the spirit. During distillation the spirit vapour interacts with the copper surface inside the still and then it condenses back into liquid. This contact has an influence on the final character of the spirit. Contact
The project identified a new means of extracting copper from the distillation by-products
with the copper during distillation has a catalytic effect on the spirit, forming esters, which give the spirit its character and has an influence on the final distinctive character of the whisky after it has been matured in oak casks. At the end of the distillation process, there is a liquid residue left at the bottom of the still. Known as pot ale, this waste contains traces of copper which have dissolved during distillation. The company saw an opportunity to extract the potentially valuable copper from the distillation by-products in a greener, cheaper and cleaner way than currently achieved. So, how could the dissolved copper be extracted? Traditionally, techniques, such as reed beds, filtration or electrolysis, were applied to the by-products, which reduced the levels of copper, allowing them to be used as animal feed or fertiliser. However, this was not resource-efficient.
GREEN SOLUTION The single cell bacterium Morganella morganii is able to produce copper nanoparticles when presented with copper ions
The project led by Dr Horsfall identified a new bacteria-based method of processing the co-products with the application of the single cell bacterium Morganella morganii. This simple organism is able to produce copper nanoparticles when presented with copper ions in the by-product, affording the opportunity to re-use the copper. In addition, by using bioremediation techniques, the copper could be excreted by this single-celled bacterium in a stable nano-particle format, hundreds of times more valuable than bulk copper previously extracted. This has opened up opportunities for it to be sold as antimicrobials or as quantum dots, which are essential in electronic products, such as transistors, solar cells and LEDs. Alan Kennedy, Diageo’s Science & Technology Director, commented: “The findings from this collaborative project have contributed significantly towards
Diageo’s sustainability programme, and we anticipate it will be the first step on the path towards further opportunities for bioremediation techniques in our manufacturing processes.” He added: “These findings also have the potential to impact the drinks industry as a whole. With some distilleries producing large quantities of copper nanoparticles every day, techniques such as this not only reinforce our progress towards our sustainability targets but could also open up potentially valuable new revenue streams for companies.”
To find out about how your company can access the University’s academics, research expertise, facilities, intellectual property and consultancy services, contact us at. bit.ly/ContactERI Infinite | 5
The Queensferry Crossing is one of Scotland's largest construction projects
BUILDING SUCCESS W WORDS: STEWART MCROBERT
hen it comes to breaking new ground, Construction Edinburgh is an excellent example of the University of Edinburgh's forward thinking. It is a crossdisciplinary initiative that is developing industry/academic partnerships and goes beyond conventional views of the sector to look at social aspects, supply chain and the future of infrastructure. Two examples of the pioneering work being undertaken in partnership with business,
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policymakers and other centres of excellence are highlighted here.
Road to the future
Professor Gordon Masterton holds the recently created post of Chair of Future Infrastructure at the University. With a distinguished engineering career that includes being the UK Government’s representative on the £15 billion Crossrail development in London and president of the Institution of Civil Engineers, Professor Masterton’s new role is designed to help policymakers address large-scale challenges in transport and utilities. He will oversee a Future Infrastructure Research Centre that will draw on the University's world-leading expertise in fire safety and structural engineering, granular materials, railway engineering, non-destructive testing, environmental and water engineering, resilience planning, and large-scale data acquisition and analysis. Professor Masterton (pictured left) said: “Part of my role is about making links across the University. The vision for our research centre is to assemble cross-disciplinary research teams from areas such as engineering, geo-science, business, informatics and social studies. All have important parts to play in the future of our infrastructure.
© COURTESY OF TRANSPORT SCOTLAND
“As well as policymakers, we aim to form a bridge between industry and the University. We want to show that university research is hugely valuable and should influence longterm strategic thinking about infrastructure needs. “On the policy side, politicians often have to make decisions with insufficient or inferior evidence-based data, and those decisions are poorer as a result. That is something we’d like to help to address.” Professor Masterton has already tapped into Edinburgh’s worldleading expertise in informatics and business studies and has strengthened relationships between informatics, business, engineering and infrastructure. There is activity in data mining for forensic engineering, including a studentship funded partly by Costain, which will focus on analysing construction industry safety data to help identify trends and anticipate emerging safetyrelated problems. Work is beginning to pool the efforts of all Scottish universities interested in infrastructure, sharing ideas and information, encouraging more joint working and building a critical mass of activity in infrastructure research. Another project is studying the most appropriate performance measures for successful infrastructure – how we can be sure we have the infrastructure we aspire to, taking into account affordability and international best practice. Professor Masterton believes politicians and decision-makers must take a longer, more measured
and better-informed view. After all, he argues, we live with our decisions about infrastructure for a long time. “Ultimately, I would like to see a strong community of cross-sectoral, multidisciplined researchers interested in infrastructure in all its dimensions.”
RIGHT: Dr Roberto Rossi is helping Costain to reduce carbon emissions on construction sites
Concrete progress on carbon reduction
The need for carbon reduction in every area of human activity is now generally accepted. A team from the University of Edinburgh Business School led by Dr Roberto Rossi, Reader in Management Science, has been working with industry leader Costain to apply that principle to the construction sector. The team includes two other Lecturers in Management Science, Dr Maurizio Tomasella and Dr Belen Martin-Barragan. Dr Rossi explained: “We originally made contact with the company around 18 months ago at an AIM Construction day – that’s the event where companies meet universities and each side sees if they can benefit from working with each other. Subsequently, we received support from Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency. By that point Costain had introduced another partner, Cenex – a nonprofit centre of excellence for low-carbon technology.” Beginning in September 2015, the project was built around three workshops covering, in turn, barriers to carbon reduction, solutions, and validation of those solutions. It focused on a selection of Costain sites, including the Shieldhall Tunnel in Glasgow (a 3.1 mile-long waste water tunnel being
BELOW: Edinburgh's research looked at reducing carbon emissions on Costain's work on London’s Crossrail
created in the south of the city) and a section of London’s Crossrail. The project touched on the availability, sharing and use of data, as well as areas such as asset refuelling and the prediction of future emissions. The research had several outcomes including a model of emissions for vans that use major construction sites and options for replacing all or some of those with electric vehicles. “We presented our final report at the Low Carbon Vehicle event at Millbrook in September 2016,” said Dr Rossi. “This major convention, organised by Cenex, brought together the leading players in low- carbon technologies. “I believe our biggest achievement has been bringing the supply chain together. It was a significant breakthrough to have all the partners sitting around the table.” As a result of their work, the Business School team has attracted new funding from car and truck manufacturer, Volvo. The team, which blends Dr Rossi’s expertise in management science with the carbon accounting skills of Dr Matthew Brander and colleagues from the Centre for Business and Climate Change, plans a followup project focusing on ‘embodied carbon’ – the carbon captured in materials that make up a building. Once again, Costain are involved. Dr Rossi concluded: “Costain are spearheading this push to reduce carbon emissions in construction. What has surprised and pleased me is their openness – the Costain team has a very collaborative attitude and are happy to provide what we need to push forward with important industry research.”
To find out about how the University’s multidisciplinary research expertise can help your construction-related business, contact Edinburgh Research & Innovation: bit.ly/ContactERI Infinite | 7
© COURTESY OF CROSSRAIL LTD
The entrepreneurial skills of many overseas students whose start-up businesses are now thriving might have been lost to Scotland without the support of the University of Edinburgh
T LENT I N T E R N AT I O N A L
WORDS: RICHARD GOSLAN
t’s one challenge for international students to come to the University of Edinburgh to complete their courses successfully. Staying here and setting up their own start-up companies is another matter altogether. Increasingly strict visa restrictions make gaining permission to remain and work in the UK a huge challenge, but the University of Edinburgh is an authorised endorsing body for the Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa endorsement scheme operated by the Home Office’s UK Visas and Immigration department. This allows Edinburgh Research & Innovation (ERI) to endorse up to 20 international graduates each year as having a genuine and credible business idea to apply for the Tier 1 graduate visa. Infinite spoke with some of the international students who have been supported by ERI’s LAUNCH.ed programme, to find out about their start-ups and how
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the Tier 1 visa has allowed their entrepreneurial skills to remain in Scotland.
employing five people, building out our product, and entering the marketplace.”
“I came to Edinburgh from the US to undertake an MBA and developed the idea for SymbaSync, a holistic job-matching company. As well as helping me gain a Tier 1 visa, ERI’s LAUNCH.ed team made the introduction to my now cofounder and CTO from the School of Informatics. “In addition, they provided guidance to seeking a SMART: Scotland grant, startup bootcamp events like Inspire Launch Grow, and one-to-one mentoring that has helped hone our business model and startup strategy. These services are fundamental to my ability to stay in Scotland and develop the business. “We are currently concentrating on raising funds to match our SMART: Scotland grant to help propel our business forward. “Once we are able to raise matching funds, we will be
“I came to the University of Edinburgh from India to do my masters, but before I met my advisers I never thought I’d be able to start up a business in the UK. The LAUNCH.ed team at the University helped me to get a Tier 1 visa, connected me with vital people, provided essential business training and have mentored my business regularly. The contribution has been invaluable. “I am now running Herbologica, a drug discovery company working on using modern scientific methods to extract medicinal compounds from plants and convert them into medicines for dengue fever, hepatitis C and chikungunya. “Herbologica is currently supported by Scottish Enterprise through its Growth Pipeline Scheme, which came about through an introduction the University made for me with Business Gateway.”
GET SET FOR LAUNCH To find out how ERI is supporting talented international student entrepreneurs set up their businesses in Scotland, visit ERI’s LAUNCH. ed website. www.launch. ed.ac.uk
Juli Bolaños-Durman Glass Designer julibd.com
Joseph McElmeel SymbaSync symbasync.com
Jaishiv Natarajan Herbologica email@example.com
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© MALCOLM COCHRANE PHOTOGRAPHY
© MALCOLM COCHRANE PHOTOGRAPHY
PHOTO: SUKI DHANDA
© MALCOLM COCHRANE PHOTOGRAPHY
Anne Rushing Pop Up! Scotland popupscotland.org
JULI BOLAÑOSDURMAN GLASS DESIGNER
“I have a background in graphic design from my home country of Costa Rica, and did an MFA in Glass at the University of Edinburgh College of Art. “The University’s support in gaining a Tier 1 visa was fundamental to my ability to stay in Scotland and set up my own business. Coming from a background in art and design, I haven’t had to focus on the business side of things, but after graduation I worked with LAUNCH.ed to develop my business plan. “The process of completing that and my visa application felt like a huge mountain in front of me, but they offered me all the support I needed and made the task manageable. Having gained a Tier 1 visa initially, I then managed to secure an Exceptional Talent (Promise) visa, endorsed by the Arts Council (UK). “Since then I’ve been able to develop my work, and was recently awarded a commission from the Royal Edinburgh Hospital for a major glass installation for its new psychiatric building.”
POP UP! SCOTLAND
“I gained an MFA in Glass at the University of Edinburgh College of Art before turning to LAUNCH. ed, who gave me the framework and key resources to start my own business helping other creatives use their talents and work further with
companies in the creative industry to create a lasting cultural impact. “LAUNCH.ed helped me to get a handle on what a business plan actually was and offered a great combination of group workshops and interactive opportunities with other students. “From working with LAUNCH. ed, I knew step by step what the UK Visas and Immigration needed to know about the business so that I could have a good chance of being selected for a Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa. “Now we’re re-writing the business plan and trying to focus the business more on our strengths. We officially incorporated two years ago and have learned a lot. We’re a social enterprise so we’re always focused on our social aims of spreading the benefits of the arts and creating more job opportunities for artists while also trying to be sustainable.” There was one consistent piece of advice these talented entrepreneurs gave for any other international students at the University of Edinburgh who have a business idea and want to stay in Scotland to develop it. That was to talk to LAUNCH.ed from day one and you’ll get help to shape your idea, as well as support in getting a Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa to help you set up and run your business in Edinburgh. It’s easy to get overwhelmed, so it’s always good to get guidance from a trusted source. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
FYI OUR 36 TIER ONE GRADUATE
ENTREPRENEURS COME FROM… 2
Top from left: Azerbaijan; Belarus; Canada; Chile; Costa Rica; Egypt; India; Lebanon; Malaysia; Nigeria; PR China; Russia; Singapore; Taiwan; USA; Vietnam 10 | www.research-innovation.ed.ac.uk
TWO BIG EARS An outstanding example of entrepreneurial success driven by the ability to obtain a Tier 1 (Graduate Entrepreneur) visa is in the example of University of Edinburgh start-up company Two Big Ears The company was formed by Abesh Thakur and Varun Nair, two students from India who met while they were on masters courses at the University of Edinburgh College of Art. Abesh was studying Acoustics and Music Tech while Varun was in Sound Design. With their degrees finished, the two decided to take their concept for augmented reality on mobile devices, using sound rather than the traditional visuals, from an idea to a business. In early 2013, they were awarded a £5,000 grant from ERI and officially formed Two Big Ears. Then, with help from LAUNCH.ed, both Abesh and Varun qualified for Tier 1 visas in 2014. The business went from strength to strength, specialising in providing audio solutions for virtual reality productions, notably for a 360-degree video for Icelandic artist Björk. Two Big Ears has since been acquired by social media giant Facebook. As part of the acquisition, the firm’s flagship product Spatial Workstation will be given away for free by Facebook to get the innovative technology in the hands of more people creating content for the developing VR space. Abesh and Varun have recognised all the support they received in Scotland – from partners, investors, the University, Scottish Enterprise and customers – to launch and grow their company on “their amazing journey”.
FROM LEFT: Abesh Thakur and Varun Nair
PHOTOS: © ATKINS
A NEW gateway development at the heart of the University of Edinburgh’s Easter Bush Campus, scheduled to open during summer 2017, will create a natural business location of choice for companies undertaking strategic, commercial and collaborative research in the animal health, veterinary sciences, agricultural technology and ‘One Health’ sectors. The Roslin Innovation Centre and Campus Hub will offer 41,000 sq. ft. of flexible laboratory and office space for more than 380 scientists and support staff, situated close to the largest concentration of animal science and clinical livestock expertise in Europe. The Easter Bush Campus is home to the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies, The Roslin Institute, Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) and the Animal Hospitals, offering a combination of worldleading education, research and
STATE OF THE ART
‘Knowledge triangle’ at new centre will exploit opportunities in agricultural and animal sciences
clinical practice to deliver solutions to global challenges within livestock industries, as well as veterinary and human medicine. Integrating an entrepreneurshipdriven ‘knowledge triangle’ of higher education, research and business in order to deliver disruptive innovation, the Roslin Innovation Centre will exploit opportunities to develop and adopt new and existing technologies, products and services to increase productivity and thereby contribute to global food security and international development. John Mackenzie, Chief Executive Officer, Roslin Innovation Centre, said: “The Roslin Innovation Centre will provide companies with state-of-the-art facilities, first-class customer service and accelerated access to strategic research opportunities.” The Easter Bush Campus is already hosting a number of companies within a ‘pop-up incubator’, operating out of the Sir Alexander Robertson Building, pending the opening of the new Centre. Advance tenants include: • Greengage Lighting Ltd, a market-leading agricultural technology company that improves livestock welfare and productivity using induction powered LED lighting within poultry and livestock housing.
• Kajeka Ltd, Roslin Institute’s latest spin-out company, which has developed powerful software that analyses ‘big data’ to detect patterns and trends, and provides visual interpretation to speed up the decision making process for a wide range of sectors, including life sciences, telecommunications and financial. Professor Tom Freeman, Founder and CTO of Kajeka Ltd, said: “We are delighted to be one of the first companies to sign up to the Roslin Innovation Centre and to be part of this exciting new development.”
Find out more about the Roslin Innovation Centre: bit.ly/RoslinIC
BELOW and TOP RIGHT: The Roslin Innovation Centre and Campus Hub will provide laboratory and office space for more than 380 scientists and support staff
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O DC van Alstyne, Scottish Bioenergy (far left), with members of the University team, including Rocky Kindt, PhD student (2nd from right), and Dr Andrew Free (right)
A great cost-effective way for companies to explore collaborations with universities, such as Edinburgh, is through funded PhD placement schemes, where postgraduate students work with a company on a research project that leads to their PhD. Often, this can be the beginning of a mutually beneficial partnership
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ne company who recently took advantage of this key mechanism of industry engagement was Scottish Bioenergy, which designs, installs and operates microalgal photobioreactor systems for biochemical production. Scottish Bioenergy recognises the value of academic partnerships, which led to discussions between David (DC) van Alstyne, Scottish Bioenergy’s CEO, and Dr Andrew Free, a Senior Lecturer in the University’s School of Biological Sciences, who specialises in microbial communities and their applications in biotechnology and medicine. They were able to develop an understanding of each other’s interests and aims. Dr Free saw that the company was developing photobioreactor systems that would inevitably contain an uncharacterised community of micro-organisms alongside the primary producer species, and that these could affect reactor productivity. This matched his interests in pure and applied microbial ecology. In 2012, the company started working with Dr Free on microbial community ecology as applied to the development of cyanobacterial cultures in bioreactors producing C-phycocyanin (C-PC), under a Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) funded CASE studentship, with PhD student Rocky Kindt recruited to the project team. C-PC is a natural blue food colourant that is FDA-approved for use in nutritional supplements, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. Exploitation of C-PC by the pharmaceutical, nutrition and cosmetic industries has given this biochemical a high market value. As a result, demand for C-PC has outstripped supply and the £35 million market is expected to grow tenfold by 2018. The collaboration gave Kindt an exciting opportunity to establish a truly multi-disciplinary skillset, getting hands-on with state-of-the-art DNA sequencing technologies, photobioreactor design and manufacturing; scale-up and optimisation of the process; cultivation of industrially relevant species; biochemical production and more. Dr Free said: “As well as providing a host of interesting data on how microbial communities undergo strong environmental selection change and develop over
time, this industry project has also given me an insight into the challenges facing an SME with limited resources trying to develop a niche in globallycompetitive markets.” Such was the success of this partnership, the company has since employed Kindt as Head of Production, where he runs the company’s lab at the Roslin BioCentre, managing production and downstream processing operations. DC van Alstyne, Scottish Bioenergy’s CEO, said: “Sponsoring students is an excellent way of keeping the company’s strategy fresh, current and tested. It also provides the industrial partners a low-risk vetting process for recruitment.”
ABOVE: DC van Alstyne, Scottish Bioenergy’s CEO
A developing partnership
In early 2015, Dr Adam Irvine, Edinburgh Research & Innovation’s business development executive in the School of Biological Sciences, met the project team as part of a project update meeting. Upon learning about the company’s needs to find a new premises, Dr Irvine worked closely with the company to identify and secure new premises for the company at Roslin BioCentre, a life science research park on the outskirts of Edinburgh. Later that year, Dr Irvine also matched the company to other University academics with complementary research expertise, and secured funding for two collaborative research projects
BELOW LEFT Dr Attila Molnar; BELOW RIGHT Dr Alistair McCormick with Dr Baojun Wang
from PHYCONET, a BBSRC Network in Industrial Biotech and Bioenergy (NIBB) that seeks to encourage industry-academic partnerships to unlock the industrial biotechnology potential of microalgae. In August 2015, Dr Irvine introduced Scottish Bioenergy to Dr Alistair McCormick, Chancellor’s Fellow in the University’s Institute of Molecular Plant Sciences, whose laboratory studies the fascinating world of photosynthetic organisms, with particular focus on the biochemistry and physiology of higher plants and microalgae. Working with Dr Baojun Wang, Chancellor’s Fellow in Synthetic Biology within the School of Biological Sciences, they successfully applied for proof-of-concept funding to develop a molecular toolbox to commercialise cyanobacteria using a novel synthetic biology-based approach to develop robust strains
of cyanobacteria that produce significantly increased yields of C-PC. In March 2016, Dr Irvine introduced Scottish Bioenergy to Dr Attila Molnar, Chancellor’s Fellow in the Institute of Molecular Plant Sciences, to partner in another successful application for a proof-of-concept project to develop a transgene-free genome editing toolbox to enhance bioproduction of carotenoid, an organic pigment found in microalgae. With increasing demand for natural, more efficient products, the company saw the opportunity to expand its portfolio to other high-value pigments for food and cosmetic markets, including astaxanthin, a naturally-occurring carotenoid with antioxidant qualities, which makes it valuable as a dietary supplement. In a market currently dominated by synthetic astaxanthin, by 2020 demand is projected to reach 670 metric tons valued at $1.1 billion. DC van Alstyne said: “We did not anticipate a foray into the synthetic biology sphere but now feel that through these collaborations we have ‘future-proofed’ our company while building on our core talents.”
To find out about how your company can access the University’s academics, research expertise, facilities, intellectual property and consultancy services, contact us at: bit.ly/ContactERI
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WORDS: STEWART MCROBERT
Professor Luke Bisby explains how a small consultancy project can ignite a long and productive relationship
here are several ways that companies can access the world-class academic expertise and research facilities at the University of Edinburgh. However, one of the best – and one that often leads to longterm strategic relationships – is through a consultancy project. Professor Luke Bisby, Arup Chair of Fire and Structures, and Royal Academy of Engineering Research Chair, working within the BRE Centre for Fire Safety Engineering at the University, has seen consultancy lead to close relationships on several occasions. He works closely with several leading international industry partners and said: “Strong links between industry and the University can be very productive, with consultancy projects invariably generating further positive research spin-offs. “We take every opportunity to collaborate with business, whether it’s a relatively small and straightforward project that may involve a limited amount of testing, or more in-depth research and development. “Solving companies’ practical problems creates new ideas. In almost every case it leads to follow-on work, industrial collaboration, an MEng or MSc research project or even a funded PhD studentship. If you’re working in a school of engineering there is, in a sense,
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an obligation to make what you’re doing matter explicitly in application.” Luke cited one partnership with a leading global firm. “We had an established relationship, but that intensified when we were carrying out work on another project, looking at fire performance of an innovative strengthening system with a separate, smaller business. “That threw up new ideas and potential links with technologies we were developing with the larger company. Follow-on work has created a new business opportunity for our partners, who are working with us to explore patenting of the system we devised.”
THE TEAM HELPS ALL SIDES WITH CONTRACTUAL, LEGAL, PATENT, INSURANCE ISSUES AND SO ON Overall, this relationship has led to valuable links with the oil and gas sector, research work with a German Federal institute, and partnership with a leading Canadian institution. It has catalysed three new PhD studentships, and helped to secure new equipment and facilities that give Edinburgh’s Fire Safety Engineering team a unique capability to test materials. Simple consulting requests often lead to something more substantial. Luke added: “Industry partners often ask us if we can help them achieve, for example, regulatory compliance for their products. Although as a rule we don’t do
certification testing, we can carry out adhoc research and development tests, and let them know if they are likely to meet compliance metrics – before they pay high fees to an authorised certification lab. Perhaps most importantly, we can give our partners a greater understanding of the underlying physics that can help make their products and systems even more effective.” No matter how straightforward any industry partnership, it has to be administered expertly. That is where the University’s Consultancy team at Edinburgh Research & Innovation comes into play. “The team provides fantastic support,” said Luke. “They deal with the minutiae of a consultancy project – helping all sides with contractual, legal, patent, insurance issues and so on. For example, they have been very helpful in relationships where we provide rapid support in investigating the effects of major fires in significant buildings, industrial sites, or infrastructure; sometimes halfway around the world.” Luke believes a relatively small commitment by academics and colleagues in industry can initiate a process that ends in tackling fundamental topics. “A business might approach the University thinking they have a specific, well defined problem. The academics will do their best to answer that question, but will also invariably say ‘Have you also thought about...?’. “Ultimately, the industry partner often receives a consultancy report that provides all sorts of other unexpected insights.” Therefore, as far as Luke is concerned, his expert advice to both University academics and industry would be “Dive in, give it a shot with an open mind, and you’ll be surprised at the benefits that might appear”.
FIRE SAFETY KNOW-HOW Professor Luke Bisby is Arup Chair of Fire and Structures and Acting Director of the BRE Centre for Fire Safety Engineering at the University. He is also Royal Academy of Engineering Research Chair, Head of the University’s Research Institute for Infrastructure and Environment, and Co-Editor-in-Chief of Elsevier’s Fire Safety Journal. He has published more than 160 peer-reviewed technical publications related to fire safety, mostly on issues related to structural fire engineering. Luke is also involved in international research collaborations in Europe, Canada, the United States, Africa, and Australia, and serves on several building code committees and structural fire engineering advisory committees globally.
LUKE BELIEVES IT IS VITAL TO TAKE A LONG-TERM VIEW “As well as BRE Global, who support Edinburgh’s Chair in Fire Safety Engineering, we have strategic partnerships with other leading global companies. Our relationships with the key people in these organisations are stable, mutually supportive, and constant. That longterm stability allows us to continually do new things and explore new areas.”
To find out about how your company can access the University’s world-class academic expertise and research facilities, contact Edinburgh Research & Innovation: bit.ly/ContactERI
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M E T R
Enterprising student Adam Bennett, considers his experience in setting up his student start-up company, PostRoast, at The University of Edinburgh as invaluable despite putting the business on hold while he finishes his studies. Here he explains the greater benefits from launching a start-up company at the Universityâ€Ś
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PHOTOS: © MALCOLM COCHRANE PHOTOGRAPHY
the traditional sense, a start-up is judged as successful once launched in the mainstream market and turning a profit; more often than not it will also have secured some form of growth investment. Yet in the university setting can we really use the same parameters to judge success, or are university start-up aims and goals somewhat different? Before joining the University of Edinburgh I knew I wanted to start my own business; it was a conscious decision to begin higher education so I could surround myself with the people who had the skills I lacked. What I didn’t realise at the time was the amount of support that the University provided for entrepreneurial students. In my case, I developed and launched, for a short period of time, an online fresh coffee delivery service across the UK called PostRoast. Throughout this period I was supported by LAUNCH. ed, a University of Edinburgh student enterprise initiative through Edinburgh Research & Innovation (ERI), as well as other national bodies such as the Scottish Institute for Enterprise. After an initial one-on-one meeting in first year, it was LAUNCH.ed who gave me the belief to really dedicate my spare time to launching PostRoast. Having invested over two years in developing and testing the business model, and raising funds from various sources, I have now put PostRoast on hold as I need to focus on my final years. However, does that make it unsuccessful? From the outset, one of my main aims in starting the business was to develop my own broad set of skills and experiences to either increase my employability or business aptitude post-graduation, and I have done exactly that. Over the two years I have brought together and managed a team of six individuals to help code, design and promote the website and brand. Learning to manage a team such as this was a steep learning curve, considering all members were students
STUDENT START-UPS DON’T JUST BENEFIT THE FOUNDER, BUT ALL INVOLVED. MY INFORMATICS DEVELOPERS SAID THAT THE ‘REAL LIFE’ LEARNING EXPERIENCE HAD GIVEN THEM AN UNPARALLELED ADVANTAGE OVER THEIR PEERS
Adam won ERI’s prestigious Inspire Launch Grow ‘Enterprise Award’ in 2015
with numerous academic commitments and small immediate financial incentives. Yet we launched the business and posted amazing coffee to real customers across the UK who loved our service, before academia beckoned. Regardless, I have learned, understood or practised: accounting, business law, finance, intellectual property law (a specific interest of mine), public speaking, marketing, computer science, server hosting, graphics, management, B2B supply chains, pitching… the list goes on. I have been lucky enough to attend national enterprise events, to be awarded business scholarships and become an ‘Entrepreneurial Scotland Future Leader’, all of which mean I have developed a large business network. I even pitched for and won ERI’s prestigious Inspire Launch Grow ‘Enterprise Award’ in 2015, and was funded to visit Rome to undertake research into coffee. These are all experiences that I simply could not have developed as efficiently or gained in any other way than by launching my own business. Furthermore, student start-ups don’t just benefit the founder, but all involved. My informatics developers said that the ‘real life’ learning experience had given them an unparalleled advantage over their peers. I am now about to begin a 12-month internship with Procter & Gamble as a research scientist, before coming back to Edinburgh to complete my final year. I asked my P&G recruiter how important my startup experience had been for my application. They mentioned that PostRoast gave me fantastic interview responses that made an impression, highlighting “innovation, collaboration and leadership”. Ultimately I want to work in a job I love or launch a business which I can give my full attention to, and my experience with PostRoast will be essential for being successful in either. So has the start-up been successful? Absolutely! While I don’t currently run a successful start-up, that’s not to say PostRoast’s story has ended. Regardless of that, for me and the other students involved our experience with PostRoast has been invaluable. Infinite | 17
UNIVERSITY RECOGNISES ENTERPRISING STUDENTS In a very competitive employment market, potential employers want evidence that proves candidates have the enterprising mindset that will make them an invaluable asset. An enterprising mindset is about having a way of thinking that sees opportunities rather than barriers, that sees possibilities rather than failure and wants to do something to make a difference. Enterprising
Find out more about how LAUNCH.ed is inspiring young student entrepreneurs to launch and grow their own businesses: bit.ly/LAUNCHed
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University of Edinburgh Old College
students are creative, selfmotivated and resilient, which makes them highly employable or capable of setting up their own business or social enterprise. With the success of ERI’s student enterprise education initiative, LAUNCH.ed, which has inspired and supported student entrepreneurs in starting their own businesses for 10 years, the University plans
to recognise the achievements of enterprising students by introducing a new ‘Enterprise’ category into the University Careers Service’s Edinburgh Award scheme. The ‘Edinburgh Award’ was originally set up in 2012 to recognise student involvement in a range of activities alongside their studies. This can include anything from volunteering or peer mentoring to being a
university ambassador or a global citizen. Enterprising students will be supported to reflect on their experiences with a view to recognising the benefit they derive from them and being able to articulate this to potential employers or funders. Ruth Donnelly, Assistant Director in the University’s Careers Service, said: “The Edinburgh Award for Enterprise will give official recognition from the University for the amazing achievements of our students in setting up and running societies, charities, businesses and social enterprises. Many have a really positive impact on others and they all have a transformative effect on the students themselves.”
Technology investor showcase highlights the brightest and the best of Scottish business talent
n 2008, a technology investor showcase was first held in the University of Edinburgh, with 14 technology companies exhibiting and pitching their business ideas to 10 potential investors, among an audience of 60 delegates from the local business community. Eight years later, Engage Invest Exploit (EIE) is now the largest technology showcase of its kind outside London, with the 2016 event attracting 900 delegates, including 252 investors, who met 59 technology companies from across Scotland and had the opportunity to invest in the fantastic entrepreneurial talent that Scotland has to offer. EIE is part of the Informatics Ventures programme, established in 2006 as a national entrepreneur support organisation, based in the University of Edinburgh’s School of Informatics, with funding from European Regional Development Fund, Scottish Enterprise and the University of Edinburgh. Technology companies that have pitched at the annual EIE event
927 TOTAL INVESTORS
since 2008 have gone on to raise in excess of £350 million investment. One of the first to pitch at EIE in 2008 was an early stage University of Edinburgh start-up, HubDub. Within a year the company announced an initial $1 million investment. By EIE ’10, HubDub had pivoted to FanDuel, which grew to become one of Scotland’s only two technology companies with a valuation in excess of $1 billion. A number of University spin-out companies that have participated in EIE have been successful in raising subsequent investments. In 2016, Particle Analytics raised £290,000 in a round led by Mercia Fund Management alongside Old College Capital, the University’s in-house venture capital fund. PureLiFi have also announced a $10 million Series B funding investment, led by Singapore’s state-owned investment firm Temasek. Since 2015, EIE has taken place
PHOTOS: © JANE BARLOW PHOTOGRAPHY
INSET AND BELOW: Engage Invest Exploit continues to prosper and is now the biggest event of its kind outside London
at the Assembly Rooms in the city, having outgrown previous venues. Each exhibiting company can make a one-minute elevator pitch, with some selected for an extended sixminute pitch, and a Q&A session from a panel of investors. EIE has also expanded nationally with a separate event held in London annually since 2013. Catherine Simpson, Head of Operations at Scottish Equity Partners, said: “Our engagement with EIE over the years has given us the opportunity to connect, on one day and in one venue, with the brightest and the best of Scotland’s technology companies.”
Find out about EIE London (November 2016) and EIE17 (May 2017) at: www.eie-invest.com
252 SCOTTISH INVESTORS
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AYE ROBOT PIONEERING ROBOTICS FOR HALF A CENTURY
IMAGE: COMPOSITE OF PILLINGER POINT ON MARS AND HUMANOID ROBOT VALKYRIE Â© NASA
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From the assembly robot Freddy to exciting developments such as NASA’s Valkyrie, Edinburgh has been in the vanguard of the robotics evolution WORDS: DR JOHN MCALEESE, SENIOR BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT EXECUTIVE, SCHOOL OF INFORMATICS
f you are, like me, someone engaging in the world of robotics for the very first time, you might ask “when did robotics begin”? Well, it would seem with the ultimate Renaissance man, Leonardo, when he designed (and possibly constructed) a ‘mechanical knight’, a humanoid automaton back in 1495. Fast-forwarding to now, Da Vinci still remains in the picture, his name being used in conjunction with a leading surgical robot that removes cancerous tissue. More about surgical robotics and humanoids later; let me first give you a little on the history of robotics here at the University of Edinburgh’s School of Informatics. The evolution of robotics within the School can be traced back to the development of an automated assembly robot in 1969, when Freddy (pictured right) emerged from what was then the University’s Department of Machine Intelligence and Perception, the manifestation of accumulative know-how on modelling related to performing complex cognitive tasks. As a driver of activity, the design principles of constructing intelligent robots gathered pace resulting, in 1973, with the arrival of Freddy II, a five degrees of freedom robot
manipulator capable of assembling objects automatically via its two-finger pinch gripper and video camera. Robot behaviour programming evolved quickly and remained a core topic through the 1980s and 1990s. During that period, the Intelligent Robotics Group undertook various collaborative projects that utilised novel hybrids to control reactive robotic devices and successfully apply them to industrial assembly tasks. Progress in robotics research remained unhindered and world leading after the reorganisation of computer sciences in 1998 to form the new School of Informatics.
Edinburgh Centre for Robotics
Today, the School is still at the vanguard of robotics and is one half of the Edinburgh Centre for Robotics (ECR) in partnership with Heriot-Watt University. ECR comprises both a Centre of Doctoral Training (CDT), which will produce around 60 “innovation ready” PhD graduates by the end of 2023, and the Robotarium, a National Research Facility that is open to industry. The Robotarium features
some serious pieces of hardware robotics – not least, Valkyrie, a NASA humanoid robot (one of only four in existence), giving you some indication of how far my esteemed colleagues have come since those early days in 1969. According to Sethu Vijayakumar, Professor of Robotics and Director of the Edinburgh Centre for Robotics: “It is clear that the next generation of robots are going to work much more closely with humans, other robots and interact significantly with their surrounding environment.” An overarching theme of our work is “interaction”, advancing a range of fascinating topics that include human-robot interaction in industrial assembly tasks, shared autonomy, motion planning with visual perception and analysing dynamic environments. Let me expand on that phrase “shared autonomy”. The key paradigms are shifting from isolated decisionmaking systems to those that involve sharing control, that is to say, significant autonomy being devolved to Robotics and Autonomous Systems (RAS), with end-users making only high-level decisions. My colleagues are pushing the boundaries of this and, as robot function increases and human-robot collaboration becomes progressively more feasible, generating planning techniques for sharing workspaces, working side by side in human and robot collaborations, is what’s known as “shared autonomy”. One aspect that’s being investigated is “intention-aware motion planning” where the challenges include reasoning about a collaborator’s intentions.
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If robots had this capability they would be able to execute actions that optimise team performance, human satisfaction and trust. In effect, human users learning how to interact with the robot while simultaneously the robotic systems adapt to users. This adaptation requires learning and integrating human behaviour models into the decision-making algorithm of the robot. Robots need to be able to anticipate human behaviour, detect emotions and react to them in a range of complex and uncertain situations; in other words, recognising and predicting human intent and goals. Why is this useful? Well, one aspect is that many repetitive industrial tasks require significant cognitive load that can result in dangerous operator fatigue. Semiautonomous robotic systems will improve this type of workflow and in doing so, reduce fatigue, improving safety and efficiency.
ABOVE : Collaborative co-work with the PR2 robot using ‘intention aware’ motion planning
Valkyrie, history in the making
Other work involves generating concise encoding that combines motion planning and co-ordination and using it to control task execution. It’s not trivial, for example, to plan the footsteps and navigation of NASA’s humanoid robot, Valkyrie, while allowing her to maintain balance. Motion-planning approaches do not scale from low to high dimensional. If the aim is for collision-free, whole-body motion planning, as is the case with Valkyrie, with 32 degrees of freedom in her body and six in her hands, then other methods need to be devised. The team is exploring whether hybrid-planning approaches hold the key. Professor Sethu Vijayakumar with the Valkyrie robot
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If you are interested in partnering with the University of Edinburgh on projects like this, contact: John McAleese, Senior Business Development Executive School of Informatics, on e-mail at jmcaleese@ ed.ac.uk or visit www. edinburghrobotics.org
It is envisaged that, with enhanced understanding and response to her surroundings and improved walking capabilities, Valkyrie will one day undertake pre-deployment tasks on Mars prior to the arrival of astronauts. My colleagues are immersed in exciting and potentially transformative scientific endeavour. Their work will be translational with knowledge exchange and technology transfer likely to assist in revolutionising many industrial sectors. There are myriad applications but I will touch on just three: Physical, social and cognitive rehabilitation: This is a rapidly expanding field. For example, by being able to control hybridwalking exoskeletons (imagine a lightweight prosthetic arm or a robot exoskeleton that can grow, bend, and adapt to accommodate its patient or user) then restoration of walking in persons with mobility issues becomes a reality. By leveraging the rise of affordable
3D printing as well, we can realise hybrid “soft-hard” robots. Healthcare: I’m fascinated to see surgical robotics prevailing as it’s clear that recovery time is governed more by minimising the “trauma to tissue” via the “method of access” rather than the treatment; in other words, dramatically reduced recovery time controlled by robotic precision. Industry 4.0: Whether you call it automation, Industry 4.0 or digital manufacturing, it’s clear that the convergence of IT, automation technologies, robotics and new fabrication technologies is starting to transform manufacturing. Agile, smart and distributed manufacturing, where manufacturers now have the capabilities to quickly deliver products and services customised to customer needs, is rising and disrupting the whole sector. We have ambition and a need to demonstrate pathways to impact, not least societal change, but we won’t be able to bring any plans to fruition in isolation; delivering high impact from knowledge and technology transfer requires external collaboration and partnerships. I invite you to explore the possibilities of collaboration with us, to understand how we can translate our research output, state-of-the-art science in robotics, into your “real world” applications, to realise the full potential commercial value of the emerging autonomous and robotic technologies. Together we can explore the route(s) to market and integrate them into the market place. Let us continue our journey from Freddy to Valkyrie by opening up more industrial research partnerships, enhancing reputations and transforming society into a safer, healthier, smarter and more inclusive place to live. Surely Da Vinci would approve!
PhD Student Wolfgang Merkt with a prototype bipedal robot demonstrating variable impedance actuation
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Although he has a string of commercial achievements to his name, Professor Jin Ooi insists he is first and foremost a university professor. But he is still proud that his research and spin-outs continue to deliver solid business solutions WORDS: TIM POWER
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JIN OOI SERIAL INNOVATOR A
s the innovator behind two successful high-tech companies, plus a number of licensed inventions under production, you’d think that Professor Jin Ooi would be happy to be called an entrepreneur. However, it’s not a moniker that sits comfortably with the Chair of Particulate Solid Mechanics in the School of Engineering at the University of Edinburgh. Professor Ooi has a strong track record of commercialising his research over the past 13 years, but he’s not motivated by fame and fortune, just the satisfaction of seeing his vision of translating research into innovative solutions for challenging problems in the real world. With a background in civil engineering, he became interested in understanding the nature of ‘particle solids’ and how they interact with each other in bulk, such as soils, piles of coal or silos of corn. After gaining a degree in New Zealand, Professor Ooi moved to Australia to specialise in the study of particle solids. This led him into the burgeoning science of discrete element method, commonly known as DEM, which models the
interaction of individual particles. Over the past few decades, DEM research has gathered momentum as scientists and engineers have come to look at particulate materials in a new way, as he explained: “A lot of our understanding of engineering is based on continuum mechanics – we treat the whole mass of sands or clays, in a natural slope for example, as one continuum body, but when landslide happens, failure often starts at a localised region that could be traced down to what happens at the particle level.” But that does not mean that Professor Ooi’s research is limited to civil engineering. It’s estimated that about 75 per cent of materials used in industry are in particle form – from sand and cement, grains and mineral ores, to powders used in paints and cosmetics, which makes his research relevant to many industries and household products. He saw the potential in the 1990s when he came to the University of Edinburgh. He said: “I realised there was a big gap in understanding between the continuum concept and particle solids, so I was keen to move into an area where I could research particle scale modelling. “DEM was like an explosion in science. It provides a window into understanding how the
PARTICULARLY SUCCESSFUL Through their research in particle solids, Professor Ooi and his colleagues have also developed a number of instruments to assess particle characteristics in the laboratory.
Two that have been licensed for manufacture include the Edinburgh Cohesion Tester (ECT) and the Edinburgh Powder Tester (EPT). The ECT was originally developed
to assess the coal-handling characteristics for UK Coal, measuring the handling performance of the coal blends in collieries and power stations. The manufacture of
the ECT was licensed to an Australian company, Ultra Dynamics Pty. The concept of the ECT was later further developed to evaluate powder flowability in a project funded by
DuPont that led to the development of EPT. The EPT technology has been licensed to Freeman Technology in the UK, leading to the launch of the Freemen Uniaxial Powder Tester. Infinite | 25
LEFT: Log debarking simulation using particle chain links impacting bark particles (courtesy of Astec, Inc.)
particles would behave in different scenarios and how these affect characteristics such as flow, stress, abrasion, and cohesiveness. We were also able to use the results of our physical experiments with particles to inform our models to improve their accuracy.” While Professor Ooi relished the intellectual challenge of DEM research he also had a dream to commercialise the research he was developing to help to solve technical challenges in the commercial world. In the past, he’s had plenty of experience in providing consultancy and collaborating with organisations such as UK Coal, DuPont and Procter & Gamble on particlerelated problems. The first company he co-founded was DEM Solutions, which was spun out in 2003, and its EDEM™ software is now the market-leader for bulk material simulation. Working with fellow researcher Dr John Favier, they believed they had a viable product for the market and approached Scottish Enterprise for SMART funding. But first they had to demonstrate the commercial potential by working with relevant software providers and potential customers. Professor Ooi explained the approach: “It was more effective to ‘couple’ with an existing software provider, so we approached ANSYS Fluent, one of the world leaders in computational fluid dynamics software. We felt our particle modelling software would complement what they were offering in the fluid modelling sector. “We convinced them that we had an innovative DEM software and the right approach and it was in their interest to ‘couple’ our academic software with their commercial product to provide a groundbreaking particle-fluid modelling platform in the industry. They were willing to invest in the project if we could find a major customer to use it.” As it happened, Norsk-Hydro had 26 | www.research-innovation.ed.ac.uk
a technical issue with an industrial plant in Norway and the coupled software could provide the solution to their problem. “We were in the right place at the right time with the right product. I think our collaborative approach is unusual as it is rather counter intuitive. It makes sense to ‘couple’ with another technology that has already been adopted rather than trying to market your own.” His second spin-out company, Particle Analytics, was launched in March 2015. This builds on the success of DEM Solutions and is focused on helping organisations understand and translate the vast amount of data produced by DEM modelling. The full commercial release of the software is scheduled for October this year. Professor Ooi said the spin-out of Particle Analytics was a much easier experience than his first company. He explained: “I learnt from my first company spin-out the importance of getting the balance of ownership right between the founders and other stakeholders, so that the structure of the company is attractive to venture capitalists. Getting this right underpins future funding and expansion. “The University has been very helpful, providing advice and support. They provided a business
BELOW: EDEM simulation of asphalt mixing in Roadtec Shuttle Buggy (courtesy of Astec, Inc.)
development adviser who opened new doors for us. I think it has been money well spent, as the value of both companies and their value to the University has grown considerably. DEM Solutions is now supporting research and providing internships at the University, so that is great for our students too.” One of the reasons Professor Ooi does not claim to be an entrepreneur is that he has a handsoff relationship with the companies he helped to start up. He is available to provide technical advice, but prefers to get on with his university teaching and research endeavours. He said: “First and foremost, I’m a university professor. My main interest is the research into the behaviour of particulate solids. However, I am also very interested in transforming new scientific ideas into disruptive technologies that can provide innovative solutions to industrial challenges. “DEM is still a relatively young technology. There is still much to do in further R&D and considerable additional value to be released by enhancing the analysis of the data produced by DEM computation.” However, that’s not to say he’s not proud of his spin-out achievements. He said: “When you look at DEM Solutions, it is a remarkable success story. Although it’s a small company with around 25 people headquartered here in Edinburgh, it has a client list made up of the world’s major multinational companies such as Tata Steel, LG, Samsung, Joy Global, Nippon Steel, Pfizer, Johnson Matthey and CNH Industrial – that’s amazing.”
Contact us to find out how your company can work with Edinburgh’s world-leading academic experts like Professor Ooi: bit.ly/ContactERI
Â© LAURENCE WINRAM
I N D U ST R I A L R E VO LU T I O N Pioneering Edinburgh Genome Foundry reinforces the University as a leader in synthetic biology
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Cells as ‘mini-factories’
Research in this area of science is developing at an astonishing rate globally and this is a trend mirrored at Edinburgh, leaving many companies
© THE UNIVERSITY OF EDINBURGH
The Edinburgh Genome Foundry is the UK's only fully automated facility for synthetic DNA assembly
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© PAUL DODDS
illed as the next industrial revolution, synthetic biology has stepped into the global limelight in recent years and looks to be here to stay. The University of Edinburgh is firmly positioned as a leader in this field with many successful industrial collaborations, further cemented by the opening of the pioneering Edinburgh Genome Foundry, unique in the UK. By combining the study of the cell, its DNA, its outputs and interactions with engineering principles, synthetic biology offers vast opportunities for companies driven to meet sustainability targets without compromising on productivity. Through harnessing the output of cells existing in nature today, or by synthetically creating new ones, valuable chemicals can be synthesised to offer a cleaner, greener, more efficient manufacturing platform for use in sectors such as healthcare, agriculture, bio-fuels and manufacturing.
Researchers analysing biological data at a computer
unaware that the new techniques being developed in the lab are available for deployment. From the manufacture of products, such as enzymes and chemicals, flavourings and detergents, the cellbased ‘mini-factories’ have the potential to be manufacturing platforms of the future, offering companies the potential to streamline and maximise their outputs from existing manufacturing processes.
Dr Teuta Pilizota, Chancellor’s Fellow from the University’s School of Biological Sciences, has been partnering with Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies on a project focused on optimising protein outputs from living E. coli cells. The project, funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) via the Crossing Biological Membranes Network (CBMNet), explored how the production of a protein, used in treatments for
diseases, such as cancer and arthritis, could be maximised. “Many new treatments for diseases such as cancer rely on drugs that are protein based,” explained Dr Pilizota. “These proteins are manufactured from living cells that are modified to synthesise large quantities of desirable proteins for use in drug manufacture. The challenge exists not in producing the protein in the cell, but maximising the amount extracted from the cell during downstream processes. “The research project in partnership with Fujifilm looked to optimise cell conditions in order to maximise protein excretion and to prevent any unwanted leakage that could adversely affect yields.” Dr Ian Hodgson, Head of Molecular Biology, Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies, said:“Working with Dr Pilizota has allowed us to gain some insight into the use of novel analytical methods and to gain a better understanding of part of our production process. As a direct result of this successful first project, we have continued and widened our partnership with Edinburgh on a range of projects, which we anticipate will lead to further improvements in our production processes.”
The building blocks of the future
The launch of the Edinburgh Genome Foundry in July 2016 reinforced the University’s position as one of the top-ranking universities globally in this flourishing area of science. The Foundry is yet another string to the bow of synthetic biology expertise in Edinburgh and adds to the already established community of more than 200 researchers sitting within SynthSys, the Centre for Synthetic and Systems Biology, and the UK Centre for Mammalian Synthetic Biology. The Edinburgh Genome Foundry is the UK’s only fully automated facility for synthetic DNA assembly and has the capability to design, build and test large sequences of DNA – the building blocks of life – using significant scale robotic processes. The facility works with a number of companies, most notably Thermo Fisher Scientific and Autodesk Inc., in order to translate this research knowledge into tangible outputs. Autodesk, a world-leading design company, is partnering with the Edinburgh Genome Foundry to develop innovative software for large-scale DNA design and assembly. The knowledge resulting from this partnership will help Autodesk explore this fast-growing
market, validate their new design software in a new (synthetic biology) domain and speed up the product development life cycle. Lorraine Kerr, Commercial Engagement Manager for Edinburgh Research & Innovation, said: “Synthetic biology enables us to build new and useful functions into cells – the workhorses of industrial biotechnology. The Edinburgh Genome Foundry has added further to the extensive research capabilities at the University, which means that partnering with Edinburgh is an attractive proposition for companies looking to innovate.” With the expertise and facilities to design, build, test and modify the building blocks of life, it is clear that the University of Edinburgh and its commercial partners will be constructing a bright future within this rapidly developing area of science.
If you are interested in partnering with the University of Edinburgh on projects like this, contact Lorraine Kerr, Commercial Engagement Manager, Edinburgh Research & Innovation: Lorraine.Kerr@ed.ac.uk
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© THE UNIVERSITY OF EDINBURGH
Business School student project gives companies low cost access to fresh business thinking
A STUDENT’S STORY Based in Edinburgh, Acting Up provides a unique range of services for global companies to implement behavioural change in the workplace. The company aims to empower individual’s responsibility in health and safety, mainly among hard-hat-wearing employees, through film and theatre, which involves surprising them with guerrilla theatre and then gathering stories from the workforce with which to make films. Acting Up worked with Emmanuelle Sangster (below), a student from the Business School’s Masters in Human School’s Masters in Human Resource Management programme, on a short project. It was so beneficial to the company they went on to offer Emmanuelle a job at the end of the project. Emma Currie, CEO of Acting Up, said: “It has been really positive to have a young mind in the Acting Up office. Emmanuelle’s brief was pretty much to do what she could do to tell the Acting Up story and communicate it via various social media platforms. “It has been wonderful having someone who, fresh out of academia, was a self-starter and was interested in ideas. I have had new industries approach me recently and I know I can track this directly back to the body of quality ‘conversation’ Emmanuelle is having with potential clients. It has opened up a new client base and rejuvenated my thinking too.”
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RIGHT: The University of Edinburgh Business School has more than 1,500 students enrolled in its 36 programmes
s the job market intensifies, real-life business experience during a student’s university education helps them to stand out from the crowd after graduation. The University of Edinburgh Business School understands the importance of students applying their knowledge and skills in a real environment beyond the lecture hall. This has led to a growth in programmes at the school that have company-based projects embedded in the course and work towards the student’s marks. The School currently has more than 1,500 students from over 60 nationalities enrolled in their 36 programmes. Organisations can work with third and fourth year undergrad students, Master students and also the MBA students at the School on a wider variety of projects. A diverse variety of courses are engaged in the projects, from carbon finance, human resources all the way to enterprise. When an organisation undertakes a student project they are able to access the talent within the School to undertake group consultancies and companysponsored dissertations. Both projects provide substantial outcomes for the company through regular meetings, a final report with research and findings, and a presentation to the company. Throughout the project, students are supported by a development team and mentored by the academics supervising their course. The Business School works with all types of organisations, including large corporations and Scottish SMEs (small to medium enterprises), as well as third sector organisations, such as Maggie’s
Centre. The School understands that not all students aim for a career with a large corporate, and therefore seeks to provide for all students’ ambitions from their strong partnerships across many diverse business environments. Edinburgh Research & Innovation (ERI) has been working with Interface, a central hub for connecting organisations across all industry sectors to Scotland’s
THROUGH THIS JOINT ERI/INTERFACE INITIATIVE THERE HAS BEEN A RISE IN THE NUMBER OF SMES UNDERTAKING PROJECTS 23 higher education and research institutes, to identify opportunities to engage SMEs at the University. The student projects were identified as a strong entry point for organisations to start a relationship at the University as they bring a fresh source of new ideas, approaches and skills at a low-cost investment for the organisation taking part. Through this joint ERI/Interface initiative there has been a rise in the number of SMEs undertaking projects through this programme. One of the most successful is the enterprise management project, which last year had 30 students all matched to companies identified through Interface. From the success this year, there are now 70 students able to take part in the unique experience.
If your company has a project that would benefit from fresh insight through the University of Edinburgh Business School student consultancy project, you can find out more and submit your proposal at: bit.ly/ERIbizstudent
SUPERNATURE OILS MARKETING MAKEOVER Supernature Oils started as an on-farm diversification project, creating multi-award-winning, cold-pressed rapeseed oil on a small, traditionally run farm outside Edinburgh. The company took part in a student consultancy project through the MA Business Management programme, which delivered tailored consultancy for the company. They focused on the online presence, mainly their marketing. Supernature Oils were aware that they had to make changes and the students were able to conduct research leading to a digital marketing strategy and information on competitors in the market. Lynn Mann (right), Director of Supernature Oils, said: â€œEngaging with the Enterprise students at the University of Edinburgh was a fantastic experience. Their project for us was looking at our online marketing strategy. It gave us the input of young minds, fresh to enterprise, and with a lot of knowledge around business marketing. â€œThe resulting report provided us with a lot of useful information and ideas for moving forwards and growing our business. The students were given fairly broad access to the range of activities and issues of our small but fast-growing business, and I think they learned a lot too from that first-hand experience. I think it was very worthwhile for us all.â€?
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THE BEST MEETING IN THE WORLD (PROBABLY) 32 | www.research-innovation.ed.ac.uk
n the face of it, the shelf life of beer, concrete spray lining in underground tunnels and breathable polymers in sports clothing have nothing in common. However, these challenges were all posed at a single AIMday event held in Edinburgh around the topic of Materials. An AIMday (or ‘Academic Industry Meeting’ day) is an opportunity for companies and academics to come together to identify possible ways to solve the questions facing companies today. It is organised around a series of one-hour company workshops, with a multidisciplinary panel of academics tackling a question posed by the company before the event, with the aim of identifying possible pathways to a solution. Edinburgh Research & Innovation (ERI), the University of Edinburgh’s commercialisation arm, hosted the first event at the University in June 2014, with another five events since then. Since that first ERI AIMday, University of Edinburgh academics have tackled varied topics, such as how robotics can support the construction industry; how sensors
BELOW: Each one hour workshop at an AIMday is facilitated to ensure discussions between the company and academics stay on schedule
BELOW: an AIMday is an opportunity for companies and academics to get together to ponder challenges and solutions
can be incorporated into clothing; viable alternatives to gluten; and how to reduce the spread of tree pests from wooden packaging. The AIMdays have proven an effective way of transferring knowledge from the University laboratory, in a relevant and meaningful way, to businesses and organisations looking to innovate and they have marked the start of numerous joint research projects. Unsurprisingly, one AIMday workshop that was particularly well attended looked at challenges around beer spoilage. Although posed by the independent Glasgowbased company WEST Beer, the question has pertinence to the wider brewing industry due to its potential to affect customer satisfaction levels and the costs associated with product recalls. The conversations attended by academics from across the traditional disciplines of biology, engineering, maths and physics sparked ideas around how to approach the challenge and then widened to include discussions on how to systematically optimise the fermentation process. The first collaborative research project to be initiated from the workshop, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) Impact Acceleration Account (IAA), was led by Dr Teuta Pilizota, Chancellor’s Fellow from the School of Biological Sciences. Dr Pilizota explained: “The project assessed the development of individual bacterial cells in beer in order to observe and characterise their growth under a microscope. Beer is generally recognised as inhospitable for most microorganisms. However, some species can survive and this is key to maximising the shelf life of products. Following this successful project our collaboration has widened and we are working jointly with WEST Beer and other key players in the industry.” The second project arising from the AIMday workshop tackled the issue of how to optimise the fermentation process – without any compromise to beer quality, flavour and taste. The project, led by Dr Dimitrios Gerogiorgis, a Lecturer in Chemical Engineering from the School of Engineering, and also funded by the EPSRC IAA
© MALCOLM COCHRANE PHOTOGRAPHY
What can you achieve in one hour? Quite a lot, if you are attending an AIMday® at the University of Edinburgh, it seems. During the course of an AIMday, Edinburgh’s researchers have tackled a multitude of industry questions, sparking the beginning of deepening relationships between academia and industry
budget, focused on mathematical modelling, process simulation and systematic multi-objective optimisation of the fermentation process. As a result, the project team were able to identify, suggest and evaluate feasible operational improvements to the beer fermentation process. Dr Gerogiorgis said: “Our detailed discussions, site visits and strong partnership with WEST on this project were vital, and allowed the project to deliver meaningful results. The findings are valuable not only at company level, but to the entire brewing industry, and are detailed in peer-reviewed publications (Food and Bioproducts Processing, Vol.100: 255-274 2016) co-authored with my PhD student Alistair Rodman.” Hilary Jones, WEST Beer, added: “From the initial workshop at AIMday the conversations between academics, ERI and WEST have widened and have given us some powerful results, outcomes that would have been difficult to achieve without access to the ‘blue sky’ thinking and knowledge base.” With another four AIMdays taking place in 2016 and more in planning for 2017, one can only wonder what else will be achieved in an hour.
To find out more about AIMdays and the events planned for 2017, contact the AIMday team. Email email@example.com or visit: www.aimday.se
© MALCOLM COCHRANE PHOTOGRAPHY Infinite | 33
Sustainability collaboration leads to launch of first Earth Observation Lab
he relationship between the University of Edinburgh and Scottish environmental and sustainability software company Ecometrica dates back to 2008 when the University hosted Gary Davis, the company’s co-founder and Chief Executive Officer, in setting up the company on campus under an Edinburgh Research & Innovation company start-up initiative Gary was hosted in the School of GeoSciences during a two-year period to develop his business idea. From a single employee in 2008, Ecometrica has grown into a global organisation of more than 25 employees across Europe and North America, providing real data solutions to worldwide problems and allowing businesses to improve their sustainability. Over the past eight years, Ecometrica has worked closely with the School of GeoSciences on a number of land-use mapping and earth observation projects. The University has also been an early champion of the company’s technology. Dr Ed Mitchard’s Comparing Global Carbon Maps application was an early demonstrator of how it can be used to disseminate research outputs, and is used by Ecometrica for live demos. Now, the company has established the first Earth Observation Lab (EO Lab) at the University to support the development and use of models and tools for earth observation.
Professor Mathew Williams
The EO Lab partnership emerged out of the UK Space Agency-funded ‘International Partnerships Space Programme’ (IPSP), aiming to develop international partnerships that matched UK expertise in space technology with emerging economies. Ecometrica worked with the University, along with other UK partners, to collaborate with leading organisations in Mexico and Brazil on the Earth Observation of Forests and related aspects of forest monitoring, resource management, planning and policy making. The EO Lab at the University was one of the direct outcomes of the project. Dr Richard Tipper, Ecometrica’s Executive Chairman, said: “We aim to develop a global network of EO Labs, all based in world-class institutions in the fields of remote sensing and earth sciences. The University is a recognised leader in this area and will be an excellent demonstrator to roll out this model to other organisations and research institutes.”
As more EO Labs join the global network, researchers around the world will be able to share data and create customised applications to monitor environmental changes in forests, agriculture and coastal ecosystem. Professor Mathew Williams, Head of Global Change Research Institute in the School of GeoSciences, said: “The Edinburgh EO Lab will utilise Ecometrica’s cloud-based spatial management software to build and develop a range of applications for sharing and distributing valuable spatial content, from Earth Observation derived data mainly for land cover, forestry and agriculture.” Ecometrica uses open-source data and imaging from the European Space Agency’s Sentinel satellites to bring clarity to environmental and natural resource challenges, by combining data from satellites with local information and business intelligence. Given international agreements on climate change, forests, food security, biodiversity and bioenergy, the market for downstream services for satellite data relating to forests and ecosystems is expected to exceed £4 billion per year by 2025. Products will include, for example, Earth Observation for targeted precision agriculture, which uses Edinburgh crop process modelling under a changing climate to forecast and map the impact of water and nutrient stress on yield. Ecometrica sees this as a long-term partnership and hope to see the use of the EO Lab moving beyond research in the School of GeoSciences to be used across the University of Edinburgh for research and teaching.
© ESA/ATG MEDIALAB
Ecometrica uses imaging from the European Space Agency’s Sentinel satellites
If you are interested in partnering with the University of Edinburgh on projects like this, contact Stuart Simmons, Business Development Executive, School of GeoSciences: Stuart.Simmons@ed.ac.uk
GEOSCIENCES STUDENT WINS ‘ECOMETRICA AWARD’ A recent University graduate is currently undertaking an internship with Ecometrica after winning the inaugural ‘Ecometrica Award’, a prize offered by the company that recognises the outstanding work of one member, either undergraduate or postgraduate, in the University of Edinburgh Geographical Society. This first award was won by Zoe Whitley (BSc Geography Div 2.1 2016) who proposed and presented the most compelling GIS-related project to the judging panel.
ECOMETRICA SEES THIS AS A LONGTERM PARTNERSHIP AND HOPES TO SEE THE USE OF THE EO LAB MOVING BEYOND RESEARCH IN THE SCHOOL OF GEOSCIENCES TO BE USED ACROSS THE UNIVERSITY FOR TEACHING Infinite | 35
© ECOMETRICA LTD
Observed from space, the meandering Mississippi. As more EO Labs join the global network, researchers will be able to share data to monitor environmental change
© MALCOLM COCHRANE PHOTOGRAPHY
TO THE POWER OF WORDS: RICHARD GOSLAN
Enterprise programmes are essential in supporting entrepreneurs to develop early stage technology companies, and entrepreneurs at the University of Edinburgh have a range of programmes open to them that enable growth for spin-out or start-up companies.
O 36 | www.research-innovation.ed.ac.uk
ver the past three years, 14 University of Edinburgh entrepreneurs have been awarded a combined total of over £1.3 million from three separate schemes: the Scottish Enterprise High Growth Spinout Programme, the Royal Academy of Engineering Enterprise Fellowship and the Royal Society of Edinburgh Enterprise Fellowship. Each programme functions slightly differently, and Infinite heard from entrepreneurs who have benefited from each one…
SCOTTISH ENTERPRISE HIGH GROWTH SPINOUT PROGRAMME
ABOVE: Dr Andy Herbert says his H-Guard technology would never have got to the stage it’s at without the support and funding received
RIGHT: Sandy Enoch spotted a gap in the robotics market and came up with Marty the Robot, who is fun, easy to use and affordable
The Scottish Enterprise High Growth Spinout Programme (HGSP) supports the precommercialisation of leadingedge technologies emerging from Scotland’s universities to help researchers to export their ideas and inventions from the lab to the global marketplace. Project delivery is split into three phases with total funding of up to £1 million available to demonstrate proof of commercial opportunity, viability of spin-out company operation and ability to secure significant private investment to support the company’s high growth ambitions. Dr Andy Herbert’s H-Guard is a technology for recruiting the body’s own inflammatory regulators onto a polymeric surface coating to provide unprecedented natural protection. “H-Guard came out of a question that I asked myself around 10 years ago,” said Andy. “How do pathogenic bacteria evade the immune system in general and the complement system in particular? This led me to start looking at the interactions between the Pneumococcal surface protein C (a virulence factor for S. Pneumoniae) and the complement regulator Factor H. This fundamental academic work led to the filing of a patent for H-Guard. I could always see its theoretical benefits, but without further funding we’d never have been able to turn it into reality. “Phase 1 of HGSP allowed me to recruit a commercial champion for the project, and that was instrumental in getting some world leading companies interested. This in turn helped me to tune the development to the specific types of device that had the greatest commercial interest. The phase 1 funding also allowed for significant technical development and to derisk the technology. “That work helped us to secure phase 2 HGSP funding, which allows me to recruit a development scientist, get expertise in the necessary regulatory processes and
further technical and commercial development. That will get us a long way to converting one or more of our current industrial partners into our first customers. “Without HGSP funding, the project would probably have ended and the expertise dissipated. “Through a number of mentors, meeting up with the people behind other potential spin-outs, and assistance in applying for HGSP funding, I have been helped by the various teams and programmes at Edinburgh Research & Innovation (ERI) at the University. Without that support, H-Guard would not be at the stage it’s at now, where we have the opportunity to make the most of its potential.”
ROYAL ACADEMY OF ENGINEERING ENTERPRISE FELLOWSHIP The Royal Academy of Engineering (RAEng) Enterprise Fellowship scheme aims to stimulate creativity and innovation in engineering in the UK. The award supports outstanding entrepreneurial engineers working at a UK university to commercialise their technology-based business ideas into spin-out companies. The host university of the RAEng Enterprise Fellow receives up to £35,000 in funding for a year of salary support of the Fellow, and an additional £25,000 for continued
development of the innovation and associated spin-out company. While working on his PhD in robotics, Sandy Enoch became aware of a gap in the market between robot ‘smart toys’ with limited features, and expensive robots designed for hobbyists or researchers. He made a prototype robot and attended a 3 Day Startup weekend organised through ERI’s LAUNCH.ed programme. “My prototype wasn’t very good, but it got me engaged with the market and helped me to figure out what was needed – something fun, easy to use, affordable and customisable,” said Sandy. “I came up with the mechanism for Marty the Robot, which lets us make a walking robot that’s cheaper to make and easier to use. Since finishing the PhD, the RAEng Enterprise Fellowship has allowed me to start Robotical and work on Marty full-time. The Fellowship gives you a year to commercialise your idea, including funds for business development. In our case this is useful for prototyping, IP protection, and even marketing. It also provides a useful way to expand my network outside of Scotland. “The training provided is excellent, including a week at the Cambridge Judge Business School, and workshops on business development, pitching, negotiations, recruitment, and getting ready for investment. “The teams at LAUNCH.ed and ERI have supported me all the way. Initiatives such as the Inspire Launch Grow competitions and the annual 3 Day Startup weekends provide good engagement for earlier stages of business development, and I’m grateful I had them there to help me through the formative months of the company and provide encouragement with an appropriate amount of critical feedback.”
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© MALCOLM COCHRANE PHOTOGRAPHY
IT GIVES ME THE TIME TO FOCUS SOLELY ON REFINING THE BUSINESS IDEA, WHILE GAINING ACCESS TO SOME OF THE BEST COMMERCIAL TRAINING AVAILABLE
ROYAL SOCIETY OF EDINBURGH ENTERPRISE FELLOWSHIP The Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE) Enterprise Fellowship scheme provides support to researchers and innovators who have promising science or technology-based business ideas. Successful Fellows are hosted by a university or research institute for 12 months, and receive one year’s salary and business development funding to cover costs associated with attending conferences and trade shows. That leaves them free to concentrate on developing the commercial potential of their proposal. Salman Malik founded MicroSpray Technologies after being awarded his PhD from University College London (UCL), where he focused on engineering microspheres using the electrospray – an aerosol generation technique. Salman developed the idea in his bedroom and has had great success during the early stages of the business. His mission is to revolutionise particle production for a range of clinical applications. At MicroSpray Technologies, Salman is developing and commercialising innovative multiplexed electrospray emitters for high-throughput 38 | www.research-innovation.ed.ac.uk
processing of polymers and the effective microencapsulation of pharmacologic agents. “The RSE Enterprise Fellowship has been the driving vehicle that has enabled MicroSpray Technologies to reach the next stage in its commercial journey,” said Salman. “It has given me the time, funding, support, training and expertise to mould the company and to work alongside other enterprise fellows also developing their commercial ventures. I recently won the Innovation Cup at the Inspire Launch Grow 2016 competition and am now into the KickStart finals of one of Scotland’s premier business competitions, Converge Challenge 2016. “This award has been extremely valuable to the development of the company – it gives me the time to focus solely on refining the business idea, while gaining access to some of the best commercial training and mentorship available.
ABOVE: Salman Malik has had great success with his aerosol generation technique, an idea he developed in his bedroom
“The support available for spin-outs and start-ups has been incredible. The level of expertise available at the University of Edinburgh in general, and ERI in particular, is great, with business advice and access to a wide range of enterprise support. “The enterprise unit runs regular guest entrepreneur events, workshops, competitions and many other activities to help students and early career academics to commercialise their ideas. The University has a global reputation for being at the forefront of technology commercialisation and, through the credible enterprise unit, opportunities are never missed.
To find out how ERI is supporting talented University of Edinburgh entrepreneurs gain valuable business skills through setting up their own business, visit: www.launch.ed.ac.uk
FOOD FOR THOUGHT WORDS: STUART McKNIGHT
Scotland’s performance in venture finance is impressive but the growing dominance of investment in London-based technology companies is a worrying trend. It’s a big deal!
ntil August this year, Edinburgh-based FanDuel held the record of raising more venture capital in a single investment round than any other technology business in the UK. However, it was then trumped by online food delivery company Deliveroo, which raised £213 million. The huge FanDuel transaction was in contrast to a key trend in venture finance in recent years – the growing dominance of investment in London-based technology companies. In the late 1990s, a third of all venture deals in the UK involved London-based technology businesses. It can be seen from the illustration of 2015 deals (see left), that this is no longer the case. London-based companies clearly dominated investors’ interest. However, contrary to popular belief, Oxford and Cambridge are not next in line as leading areas for technology development and venture investment. Scotland and Ireland are the next most active regions and have been for years. However, average deal sizes are a concern outside of London. In 2015, for example, ignoring the highly unusual FanDuel deal, the average deal size in Scotland was £2.4 million, which was half the average deal size for London.
NORTH OF ENGLAND
14 17 16 15 315 MIDLANDS
NUMBER OF INVESTMENTS BY REGION
The picture for life science companies is quite different. In 2015, London-based businesses completed only 26 per cent of UK/ Irish deals. Scotland and Ireland were close behind with 19 per cent and 18 per cent respectively. All other regions had single digit percentages. Scotland’s performance is impressive, but its average deal size is among the lowest for life science businesses. The reasons are varied but include bias to low-capital intensity businesses (medtech
ABOVE: 2015 investment deals in technology companies
devices rather than drug discovery), prevalence of angel rather than institutional capital, and often poor access to venture funds. The picture for cities is also revealing. Companies in Edinburgh (36 tech deals in 2015) and Glasgow (eight) have been successful at raising finance, but the scale of difference with London (309) is daunting. Edinburgh is one of the most successful cities in the UK when it comes to technology company formation and development. However, most investors are based in London and all UK companies who need significant investment will need to spend some time in the UK capital. The venture market is booming so maybe it is time to buy a plane or train ticket.
Stuart McKnight is Managing Director of Ascendant Corporate Finance, which has offices in London and Edinburgh. Ascendant specialises in working with technology and life science businesses, advising those companies on raising venture and private equity finance and achieving an exit for their shareholders. See more at: www.ascendant.co.uk
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OUR IMPACT IN NUMBERS The University of Edinburgh is an important partner in innovation, supporting growth and competitiveness for industry around the world
IN THE PAST FIVE YEARS
COMMERCIAL LICENCES 9% RESEARCH COLLABORATIONS 25% CONSULTANCY & BUSINESS SERVICES 66%
IN INDUSTRY ENGAGEMENT ACTIVITIES
top 15 sectors
top 15 countries UK 67% USA 13% SWITZERLAND 3% GERMANY 3% FRANCE 2% NETHERLANDS 2% SWEDEN 1% BELGIUM 1% DENMARK 1% CANADA 1% AUSTRALIA 1% REP. OF IRELAND 1% SOUTH KOREA 1% ITALY 1% JAPAN 1%
WE ENGAGE WITH
WE WORK ACROSS
LIFE SCIENCES 18% PHARMACEUTICALS 16% MEDICAL & HEALTHCARE 10% INFORMATION & COMMUNICATIONS TECHNOLOGY 8% EDUCATION 7% ENERGY, OIL & GAS 7% ENVIRONMENT & SUSTAINABILITY 5% RENEWABLE & LOW CARBON ENERGY 4% ANIMAL HEALTH 4% CHEMICAL 2% BUILDING & CONSTRUCTION 2% BUSINESS & FINANCE 2% FOOD & DRINK 2% SENSORS & ELECTRONICS 2% ENGINEERING 1%
JOBS SUPPORTED AROUND THE WORLD EACH YEAR
GLOBAL ECONOMIC IMPACT EACH YEAR
Edinburgh Research & Innovation Limited is a wholly owned subsidiary company of the University of Edinburgh. Registered in Scotland No. SC148048. Registered Office at Old College, South Bridge, Edinburgh EH8 9YL. The University of Edinburgh is a charitable body, registered in Scotland, with registration number SC005336
Edinburgh Research & Innovation’s Infinite Magazine highlights some of the exciting industry engagement, innovation and enterprise activitie...
Published on Oct 13, 2016
Edinburgh Research & Innovation’s Infinite Magazine highlights some of the exciting industry engagement, innovation and enterprise activitie...