Ecomar Propulsion Ltd is based in Fareham on the South Coast of the UK and was first registered in 2019. Ecomar Propulsion Ltd is involved in the research, development and production of high performance electric and hybrid hydrogen marine propulsion systems.
Their team of highly skilled engineers and technical experts are working to reduce global emissions by creating high efficiency, high output marine engines and energy storage solutions. The company only works with fully clean electric systems to allow current vessel owners the opportunity to seamlessly transfer to clean marine or new build yards to offer electric vessel options.
Ecomar Propulsion produces two products for clean marine vessels; outboard systems and inboard systems powered by battery and hydrogen with a company aspiration of removing 10 million tonnes of toxic exhaust fumes from the marine environment within 10 years.
In 2021 the company increased its workforce to 8 staff and then to 12 by Jan 2023, with further expected growth. The company has been recognized with several awards from the Maritime UK (Solent) Clean Marine Innovator and Maritime UK Diversity Champion Finalist 2022 through to SETSquared University Network Award for Environmental Impact 2022.
The business challenge for Ecomar Propulsion arose when their manufacturer of hydraulic rams in the Far East ceased supply of their products. This left a significant challenge for Ecomar Propulsion but also an opportunity for the company to look at developing their supply chain within the UK. Another requirement was to ensure the materials being used are as environmentally sustainable as possible from a circular economy perspective.
Scottish Enterprise introduced Ecomar Propulsion to NMIS, and as a result of their interest in developing a Scottish supply chain and bringing production to Scotland to overcome a global supply chain issue of electric outboard motors, they were eligible to apply for the Inward Investment Catalyst Fund to support activity. The Inward Investment Catalyst Fund supports businesses not yet located in Scotland but seeking to establish stronger ties with academia here. As well as funding the research and development it provides an opportunity for the company to establish relationships and give insight into other aspects of the Scottish landscape, such as further investment opportunities, supply chains and the skills base to strengthen the case for investing in Scotland.
The teams at NMIS and University of Strathclyde developed their understanding of the design and manufacturing parameters to find replacement components that would be robust enough for the extreme demands of the marine environment. Research and outreach were carried out with companies specializing in hydraulic production in Scotland. Further discussions with selected companies are taking place to develop future alternatives to current suppliers in order to close the gap in the market and provide consistency of supply.
The Next Steps
This project has allowed Ecomar Propulsion to better understand the work of NMIS and the University of Strathclyde and how the skills of the teams can allow Ecomar to plan further growth in Scotland and engage with the wider available supply chain.
Whilst an immediate supplier for marine hydraulic rams was not found, the team have introduced Ecomar Propulsion to several companies which they would not have met had they not taken part in this project. Through meeting senior members of the academic community, potential further opportunities have been identified to explore additional supply chain introductions and manufacturing routes in Scotland for Ecomar Propulsion’s full product range.
Continued collaboration will be facilitated with the Head of Electrification Manufacturing Programmes at NMIS, and allow Ecomar Propulsion and NMIS to engage with Scottish Government and Scottish Enterprise in relation to future facility planning and supply chain partnerships. Additionally, opportunities will be aligned with the University of Strathclyde’s strategic direction in electrification manufacturing, notably in PEMD (power electronics, machines and drives) through DER-IC Scotland (Driving the Electric Revolution Industrialisation Centre), ensuring that expansion of capabilities is informed and driven by industry requirements.
This project benefitted from the Scottish Inward Investment Catalyst Fund. The Scottish Inward Investment Catalyst Fund launched by Interface and the Scottish Government promotes Scotland as a leading destination for inward investment and supports businesses not yet located in Scotland but seeking to establish stronger ties with academia here. As well as funding research and development it provides an opportunity for the company to establish relationships and give insight into other aspects of the Scottish landscape, such as further investment opportunities, supply chains and the skills base to strengthen the case for investing in Scotland.
The Crover – the world’s first robotic device that ‘swims’ through grains to monitor their condition.
Crover Ltd https://www.crover.tech has developed the world’s first small robotic device, known as a ‘CROVER’, that monitors cereal grains stored in bulk inside grain bins or storage sheds. The CROVER device can “swim” within the grains and uses on-board sensors to measure local parameters, such as temperature and moisture, to build a full map of the conditions within the grains. Unlike current grain monitoring solutions that measure only one variable and have limited reach, the CROVER’s remote monitoring capabilities provide real-time data across a range of measurements allowing grain storekeepers to identify critical conditions, like hotspots early and maintain quality of the grains through proactive management.
Crover Ltd were a start-up when they initially approached Interface in 2019, they have since grown from two co-founders to 20 employees.
Since 2019 they have secured significant investment, raising over £600k in innovation prizes and grants (including Scottish Enterprise and Innovate UK). They then opened a seed funding round for investors and hit their £150k target.
The Challenges / Solutions
“When we initially met Interface, we didn’t have a specific R&D challenge as we were focused on developing our product inhouse. An obvious area for support would have been in the areas of design and engineering, however, through discussions with Louise, she assessed how our business worked and proposed that we undertake a project with the Scottish Financial Risk Academy (SFRA). The project with the SFRA helped us determine precise financial estimates of the value of Crover data to grain storekeepers and its impact on the grain storage economics. Understanding the financial impacts of Crover’s monitoring capabilities, had wider implications such as being able to quantify monetary value to grain insurers, and the potential to reduce insurance premiums for farmers and grain merchants.” Lorenzo Conti, Co-founder Crover Ltd
Following on from this initial project, one of the main technical challenges Crover Ltd faced related to the precise location tracking of the device within the grain bulk. Conventional signals, such as GPS and WiFi, did not work due to their inability to penetrate the solid grain bulk so a novel approach was required. Crover Ltd had undertaken some initial testing of different solutions, however they needed to tap into academic expertise in ultrasonic waves, positioning systems, electromagnetic signals, wireless sensor network (WSN) and Simultaneous Localization and Mapping (SLAM), to help improve the accuracy of the device location. Interface connected them to the University of Glasgow who undertook an initial feasibility into a means of measuring and identifying the location of the robotic device in bulk grain storage. This was initially funded by an Impact Accelerator Account fund of £10k, which then led onto a further project where University of Glasgow and Crover Ltd secured a further £27K to continue the project to a successful conclusion.
Since the initial collaboration Interface has assisted Crover Ltd embark on several other successful collaborations focusing more on the future enhancement and performance improvement of the robotic device, by tapping into design and engineering expertise from several Scottish Academic Institutions. These involved:
- Heriot-Watt University (HWU) design engineering students looking at designs for a remote charging station for the Crover to allow re-charging when out on location.
- HWU design engineering students helping to develop an easily deployable, suspended cable system that provides cable above the Crover to facilitate its movement within grain sheds.
- University of Strathclyde’s design engineering students designing a water-tight sealing system for the Crover.
- University of Strathclyde’s Department of Design, Manufacturing and Engineering Management (DMEM), investigating suitability of design for manufacture.
The benefits resulting from the numerous collaborations which Interface have helped broker have undoubtedly helped Crover Ltd in both product development and business growth terms. Interface has helped open doors for Crover Ltd and helped Lorenzo and his team to establish strong links with academia resulting in some innovative and exciting developments.
Since its inception in 2019 Crover Ltd has grown from 2 employees to over 20 employees, has raised significant investment and secured over £600K in innovation prizes and funding.
Touchless Innovation, trading as Sanodaf, is a company that specialises in advanced disinfection and decontamination technology. Their aim is to create, design and manufacture innovative processes and products to help eradicate micro-organisms and infections that can cause health issues in everyday life for people and animals. They have experience of disinfection and decontamination as a service company and were looking at new devices to enhance current hygiene technology.
With expertise in environmental decontamination, Touchless Innovation developed a novel prototype of an easy-to-understand and cost-effective hand-hygiene device. It was based on the simple principle of using ultraviolet to kill micro-organisms that are commonly found on hands, specifically using UV-C which is proven technology for eradicating pathogens. The prototype was a hand sanitiser unit that prompted the user to place their hands inside an aperture that delivered a short transmission of UV-C directly onto hand surfaces. The unit was automated and, upon entry, a timed exposure to UV-C would be experienced by the skin. It was a touchless process and the unit would indicate when hands could be removed. The entire process was delivered quickly and without any noise or residue.
Specialist UV-C devices are used in laboratory settings but there was not an accessible device for everyday use. The creation of this device would allow people to efficiently sanitise hands without access to washing facilities and within a much-shortened time period.
The company did not have the required expertise to test the device and demonstrate the intended claim that it kills 99.9% of MRSA after a short exposure on the hands and that it was also safe for human exposure. The practical work to test the device required a respected Category 2 laboratory facility and testing by an independent body for credibility.
Interface connected Stuart White, Director of Touchless Innovation, with Edinburgh Napier University as it had the laboratories, expertise and bacterial strains required to carry out the microbiological aspects of the work. This collaborative project was funded by a Scottish Funding Council Innovation Voucher.
The results of the project allowed the company to identify any potential areas for design improvements and confidently market the device as a high volume, commercial product. Given the robustness and limited cost, it was considered that the portable version of this device would have an immediate market, both domestically and internationally.
The success of this product would improve the ability to sanitise hands in everyday situations to fight infections and ill health and would create jobs in Scotland where the device would be manufactured. The product had wide market appeal and the company’s intention was to expand globally into other markets where hygiene is poor and access to clean water restricted.
The company also planned to have a version of the device to be used in disaster situations where there was no power or clean water and a high risk of illness and infection spread.
It has been a privilege to work with the team at Napier; they have shown a high level of interest in the project from day one and demonstrated a very professional level of competency in undertaking the project, and in publishing the final result. This now leaves my company able to grow and expand with this product and I hope to be able to work with the team at Napier again. The result of this collaboration will make a very positive impact as we can now press ahead with the creation of working prototypes and move closer to releasing this product onto the market place. We are aiming to sell it in the UK and overseas and this will be a significant step for us as an SME (small or medium-sized enterprise). Stuart White, Director, Touchless Innovation
It was an excellent experience working with Touchless Innovation. The partner was extremely enthusiastic about their product but also realistic with the aims of this project. I look forward to working with them again. Dr Nick Wheelhouse, School of Applied Sciences, Edinburgh Napier University
Touchless Innovation Ltd was shortlisted for the Innovation of the Year award at The Scottish Knowledge Exchange Awards 2019.
Follow-On Activity – Advanced Innovation Voucher
Following on from their initial project with Edinburgh Napier University, Touchless Innovation were looking to collaborate with a university partner to verify that electrostatic spraying of hydrogen peroxide was a more efficient method of decontaminating hospital rooms than fogging, the current standard method used in the NHS. Interface was able to successfully connect them to the University of the West of Scotland (UWS) where the company had access to the University’s specialist category 11 containment facilities, including the facilities required to undertake testing of the fogging and electrostatic spray disinfection delivery systems. This project was funded by a Scottish Funding Council Advanced Innovation Voucher.
The results of the project confirmed the company’s expectations as well as highlighting some additional considerations for future treatments and applications. A full submission of the results was made to the NHS and Health Improvement Scotland.
Follow-On Activity – KTP
The current approach to disinfection/decontamination utilises two separate units: a fogging system and an electrostatic sprayer; the former being used to transform the disinfectant liquid into a dry fog for areas that can be effectively sealed off, and the latter which adds a negative electrostatic charge to the solution ensuring it surrounds and adheres to all surfaces it touches (for open-area use where traditional fogging would not be appropriate).
As the company had no engineering capability, they formed a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) with UWS to develop a unique combined fogging and electrostatic spray disinfectant device for commercial use – two different technologies to run from one power source. This would underpin rapid business expansion and ensure the UK is at the forefront of market-led technology, addressing both societal and economic impacts of poor hygiene control within public and private buildings.
Business – Prior to the KTP, the business was dependent on external suppliers/market forces, limiting the control of their own direction. The KTP has enabled the business to become a manufacturer of their own device, allowing them to compete in a wider market and decide their own path.
They have benefitted greatly from being involved in the process of designing and creating a new concept for a device and then being able to carry this through to product build and test. The process has helped the business understand manufacturing and the issues around supply chain, in-house and external expertise and how these are linked in the creation of a new product.
Finally, the investment has enabled the business to acquire the global Sanondaf brand, operating across multiple territories and with ready-made customers for their new combined electrostatic/fogging unit.
Academic – The project, based on an Advanced Innovation Voucher, allowed a strengthening of the relationship with a fast-growing business as well as providing an opportunity for cross-school collaboration between the School of Health and Life Sciences and the School of Computing, Engineering and Physical Sciences. In addition, the project provided an opportunity for:
- Demonstrating research impact for downstream REF reporting and publications
- Impact against UN Sustainable Development Growths in line with corporate strategy
- Further KTP portfolio growth for School and UWS in line with 2025 strategy
- Potential for further collaboration with the business.
Our experience of the KTP scheme, working with UWS, and the support on offer from Innovate UK has been exceptional and we are on the cusp of rapid business expansion as a result. I would thoroughly recommend the programme to any ambitious business that is looking to innovate and embed new knowledge within their organisation. Having seen the capabilities of the model, we are already framing a potential follow on KTP – Stuart White.
Touchless Innovation Ltd was shortlisted for the Innovation of the Year award at The Scottish Knowledge Exchange Awards 2022.
Outer Hebrides Tourism (OHT) is the official DMO (Destination Management Organisation) for the islands from Barra & Vatersay up to the northern tip of Lewis. The islands have seen a growth in the number of food trucks over recent years. Seafood shacks and other more traditional fast-food outlets have always been popular due to the nature of their market and the small local population which makes it hard to start a formal restaurant. Many trucks are in stunning locations, getting a good following from extending their menus and focusing more on local sourcing. Due to COVID, outdoor eating became an even more important component of the islands’ food offering.
OHT was looking to develop a strategy for the food trucks that could help these businesses take advantage of this opportunity and turn this into a type of island “street food” to include:
• Menu/offering to reflect visitor needs and the limited facilities
• Operations to comply with COVID restrictions
• Promotional campaign strategy to help the food sector contribute to the islands’ reputation as a tourism destination
In May of 2020, Interface joined forces with VisitScotland and the Scottish Tourism Alliance to launch the Adopt a Business scheme; a new initiative aimed at boosting the sector’s recovery from COVID by connecting tourism businesses to university academics and students for research and development projects; helping businesses to diversify and adapt to the new environment.
Dr Jaylan Azer, Adam Smith Business School at Glasgow, kindly agreed to help support Rob McKinnon Street Food – Outer Hebrides Tourism through the Adopt a Business initiative. She successfully applied for funding from the University of Glasgow and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) to fund the project; employing professional graphic artists to create images for new branding.
After a site visit, Dr Azer recommended an overarching branding for the 19 independent food trucks located in Stornoway, Isle of Harris and Barra. The branding was called ‘Food with a view’. The rationale behind the name related to the main common factor of the trucks’ locations, overlooking stunning views of the isles. The brand was also used to market the variety of food provided by the trucks.
To counter the distance between the trucks and the limited awareness of the variety of food, Dr Azer suggested a collaborative menu with the brand name and logo of ‘Food with a view’ and showcase the type of food each truck provided, facilities they have (e.g. payment method, seating, dietary offerings, etc.) and a graphical map, showing the route between trucks and location.
Dr Azer also made recommendations as to their social media presence and the incorporation of the overarching brand in both their social media platforms and their signposts.
The Food with a View social media campaign was the first stage of this project and fully embraced by both consumers and businesses.
The project has supported businesses by raising the awareness of local produce through a social media campaign and collateral, enabling excellent visitor engagement.
There are many opportunities that will support businesses going forward in further phases of this project; developing the food and drink offer in the islands and achieving economic growth.
Sustainable Thinking Scotland (STS) Community Interest Company is a social enterprise, based in Bo’ness, created to address a wide range of social and environmental issues. They operate a variety of projects that focus on topics such as food growing, community wellbeing and wood and green waste recycling.
STS currently produce biochar from wood waste. Biochar is a highly porous form of carbon obtained from baking wood within an oxygen-depleted environment and has the potential to draw and lock in nutrients and toxins from its environment. Until recently, the biochar STS produced was used in an agricultural setting, utilising its production as a means of carbon abatement and as a soil amendment within their food growing projects. STS wanted to research and create a biochar optimised for excess nutrient removal from water, helping to tackle harmful algae blooms and the nutrient pollution which causes them.
The water remediation techniques STS proposed involving biochar had not been adequately researched, regulated or utilised within the EU, UK and Scottish markets. STS wanted to engage with academic expertise to advance their production of biochar whilst also ensuring effective regulatory standards were put in place governing its manufacturing and subsequent use.
The company was referred to Interface through their engagement in Firstport’s LaunchMe accelerator, which is aimed at supporting Scotland’s highest potential social enterprises. After Interface put out a call to the relevant universities in Scotland, STS decided to work collaboratively with both the University of the Highlands & Islands (UHI) and the University of Strathclyde to test biochar production from wood waste and investigate its potential use in nutrient removal.
A Scottish Funding Council Innovation Voucher was used to fund the project with UHI, whilst an initial consultancy project with the University of Strathclyde looked at in depth testing of Biochar including thermochemical changes.
The results from this research should help inform SEPA’s (Scottish Environment Protection Agency) decision making on how to license and regulate biochar’s use in water.
The new/enhanced product to be developed is a biochar which has qualities which allow it to draw in and bind to excess nutrients within water; adsorbing and removing them, resulting in improved water quality. This will provide a new solution to the growing problem of blue-green algae blooms in freshwater and also act to recover phosphorus and nitrogen from water. The biochar will act to stop nutrient pollution at source, preventing algal blooms and eutrophication, whilst creating a recoverable nutrient loaded carbon biochar that can be re-used on land. This would not only act to maintain/provide carbon within soil but would also provide a slow release (nitrogen/phosphorous rich) fertiliser. UHI’s ERI (Environmental Research Institute) already has significant current interests in this area, not least as partners in a €10M+ EU NW Europe Project (Phos4You) which demonstrates phosphate recovery and re-use innovations within Europe.
Benefits to company:
- The Innovation Voucher leveraged additional funding, including Scottish Enterprise’s Unlocking Ambition programme, and Firstport’s Catalyst Fund that will be used to support follow-on R&D work with the two universities.
- New research data will be collected in collaboration with ERI-NHC (Environmental Research Institute – North Highland College UHI) which will be of long-term benefit to STS.
- The results of the research will/can feed into several STS projects.
- The project assists expansion into new water remediation markets, which offers new income streams which can be used to fund STS social support programmes.
- This initial project will open the door to further collaboration and research.
- A studentship through IBioIC has enabled STS to work with a PhD student over 4 years from the Chemical and Process Engineering Department at Strathclyde University to investigate each step of biochar production to make it more efficient for larger scale use.
- Project results will provide evidence to the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency regarding the efficacy of the product and techniques, which will assist with regulation and encourage further research funding.
- STS successfully secured £190K investment from Firstport and Social Enterprise Scotland’s Catalyst Fund to enable them to bring their technology to market.
Benefits to academic partners
- As much of ERI’s work in the Water Quality Innovation space focusses on low cost/sustainable solutions to water quality management and treatment, their aims with STS are very much aligned and they see significant scope to collaborate further.
- Biochar related research is of great interest to ERI and they are keen to work with STS to provide quantitative data to support the efficacy/advancement of their product. They are equally keen to see any work generated published in peer reviewed international research journals and will help STS achieve this.
- Results generated can feed into other existing projects, many of which also focus on nutrient removal/recycling and biochar production/functionalisation.
Benefits to Scottish Government
Despite the rise in recurring algal blooms in water bodies across the UK, biochar field-based water remediation remains absent from the £1.3 billion UK water treatment market. Biochar technology development will help create a range of safe, low cost, low impact environmental remediation services which are more financially accessible, encouraging landowners and custodians to invest in their greenspaces, offering a comprehensive/easily accessible solution to long term problems; leading to climate action and contributing to Scotland’s net zero targets.
STS have continued to make strides in developing their “Biochar” product and to understand the markets in which they can operate to position themselves as a sustainable social enterprise.
This initial project has opened the door to further collaboration and research and Interface have assisted STS to embark on other successful collaborations most notably with Adam Smith Business School at University of Glasgow where they have engaged with a range of student programmes from undergraduate to MBA. Projects include:
- a study into how STS could access the customers for the biochar/water quality services they are developing, typically Local Authorities and Large Estates owned by private individuals and companies and how best to engage with these diverse end customers and get past the trust barrier.
- identifying a route to market for the Biochar product; this included branding, operations, logistics and pricing.An MBA student team provided all of this and more. The final presentation and report provided STS with a clear route to market strategy, distinctive branding, pricing and costs as well as a functioning Shopify online store.
Other projects relating to environmental and sustainability issues are under discussion and Sean Kerr STS Director generously gives time to undergraduate and MSc programmes, student placements, and makes himself available for speaking and networking opportunities. The relationship continues to deepen and in 2022 Dr Nick Quinn, Lecturer in Entrepreneurship in the Business School, joined STS as a Non Executive Director.
Sustainable Thinking Scotland’s determination and hard work is paying off as they won Innovation of the Year Award at the Scottish Knowledge Exchange Awards 2023.
Wanlockhead Museum represents the local social and industrial history of this once important site of lead mining. The museum consists of an underground mine (open to the public); Straitsteps Cottages, representing miners’ lives in 1750, 1850 and 1910; the Miners’ Library and the Visitor Centre; and the Museum. The library holds 2800 books and is the second oldest subscription library in Europe.
Restrictions due to Covid-19 have had a negative effect on how the Museum can deliver the visitor experience. In May of 2020, Interface joined forces with VisitScotland and the Scottish Tourism Alliance to launch the Adopt a Business scheme; a new initiative aimed at boosting the sector’s recovery from Covid-19 by connecting tourism businesses to university academics and students for research and development projects, helping businesses to diversify and adapt to the new environment.
Wanlockhead Museum were looking to develop an informed digitisation strategy. They have valuable resources in the library which could be more widely shared on a digital platform. Social distancing would be very difficult to undertake on the mine tour, but a virtual tour could widen their audience and increase access for those not physically able to enter the mine; and, with the inclusion of text, could also be accessible to the hearing impaired.
The Trust applied to the Adopt a Business initiative looking for academic support. Mari Findlay, Business Engagement Executive at Interface, put Kathryn Linsell, Trustee, Wanlockhead Museum, in touch with Dr Kirsten Cowan from the University of Edinburgh and Dr Alena Kostyk from the University of Glasgow, who had expressed interest in participating in the Adopt a Business initiative. Intrigued by the Museum’s rich history and everything it had to offer, the academics volunteered to work jointly on the project as there was a good fit between their expertise and the needs of the Museum.
The academics were able to secure funding for the project that included ESRC (Economic and Social Research Council) Impact Acceleration Account funding from the University of Glasgow; allowing them to create and test digital marketing solutions for the Museum as well as being able to purchase the necessary equipment to do this.
In collaboration with filmmakers “Silly Wee Films” from Glasgow, a static scenes VR tour for the Wanlockhead’s Lead mine, Miners’ library, and Miners’ cottages was created.
Audio narrations for these VR scenes were created in collaboration with “The Big Light” podcast company from Glasgow.
A small pre-Christmas Facebook campaign was tested to facilitate donations to the Wanlockhead’s fundraiser, and to build social media following. It generated 18,000+ post engagements, and 1,575 link clicks. Facebook page following went from 2,300 to 2,700 potential visitors during that brief campaign.
The academics are now preparing (January 2021) to launch a Facebook campaign to build a larger social media following for the Museum as well as generating more traction for the fundraiser. They will be testing out several digital campaign designs to find optimal solutions.
A further student marketing project is currently underway with the University of Glasgow.
Drs Cowan and Kostyk have supported the Museum throughout the course of the project and continue to do so.
The Adopt a Business scheme was shortlisted by PraxisAuril for the 2021 Pandemic Pivot of the Year Award.
The Whithorn Trust was founded in 1988 to inspire the public with the story of Whithorn, which is one of the earliest sites in Scotland where archaeological evidence of Christian practice is found. The site was an early medieval monastery and later a pilgrimage shrine. The Trust operates a visitor centre; museum; guided tours, including its full-scale replica Iron Age Roundhouse; and a café and shop to support its activities. It also promotes wide ranging economic development and educational initiatives, working with bioarchaeologists on dating and population information for the early burials.
In May of 2020, Interface joined forces with VisitScotland and the Scottish Tourism Alliance to launch the Adopt a Business scheme; a new initiative aimed at boosting the sector’s recovery from COVID-19 by connecting tourism businesses to university academics and students for research and development projects; helping businesses to diversify and adapt to the new environment.
Julia Muir Watt, Development Manager at The Whithorn Trust, responded to the Adopt a Business initiative saying: “We would be interested in hearing from anyone who can work with a heritage organisation on virtual reality. We already work with archaeologists who are looking to produce an interactive archaeopuzzle with 3D models, but we have lots of resources where virtual reality experiences may be applicable.”
Mari Findlay, Business Engagement Executive at Interface, put Julia in touch with Dr Kirsten Cowan from University of Edinburgh and Dr Alena Kostyk from University of Glasgow, who had both expressed interest in participating in the Adopt a Business initiative and volunteered to work jointly on the project during their summer holidays.
Drs Cowan and Kostyk were able to secure funding for the project that included ESRC (Economic and Social Research Council) Impact Acceleration Account funding from both the Universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow that was used to fund filmmakers, post-production costs, podcasts and 3D headsets; enable the continuance of the collaboration; and support the creation and testing of digital marketing solutions.
In collaboration with filmmakers, Silly Wee Films based in Glasgow, a static scenes VR tour for the Whithorn Trust’s Iron Age Roundhouse and Priory was created and the academics are in the process (January 2021) of creating a 360-degree video VR tour, which is in line with the Trust’s new digital ambitions. Audio narrations were developed in collaboration with The Big Light podcast company from Glasgow.
A Facebook campaign was designed and tested to facilitate the sales of the Whithorn Trust’s “digital ticket” initiative and to build a larger social media following.
An additional student marketing project was also secured by the academics to look at improving the Trust’s general marketing activities for 2021.
The academics continue to support the Trust.
Andrew Slorance is a pioneer in the development of wheelchairs. He founded Carbon Black Systems Limited, the company behind the revolutionary light-weight carbon fibre wheelchair that he himself designed. Having set up a new company in 2015, Phoenix Instinct Ltd, his ultimate goal was to design an “Intelligent System” wheelchair that would have a responsive centre of gravity and other Intelligent System (IS) features – a total revolution of the wheelchair as we know it.
The idea was an intelligent manual wheelchair featuring a smart Centre of Gravity (CoG). The system would self-adjust the wheelchair’s CoG so it was always the same as the user’s CoG. The result would be a wheelchair with very little weight on the front wheels giving easier pushing and turning while also being very rearward stable. For the first time ever, a wheelchair would be entirely in sync with the user’s body movements.
Andrew wanted to work in collaboration with academics who had expertise in intelligent system engineering and carbon fibre engineering to undertake a feasibility study to determine if his idea of incorporating cutting edge smart systems into an old concept – the manual wheelchair – was practical and achievable.
The analysis would shape Phoenix Instinct’s application to the Toyota Mobility Challenge* prize fund as well as demonstrating to Toyota that the company had academic support for the project.
Phoenix Instinct was referred to Interface from Highlands & Islands Enterprise and, by exhibiting great tenacity in finding the most appropriate academic partner for the company’s requirements, Kirsty Buchanan, Business Engagement Executive at Interface, was able to connect Andrew to the University of the West of Scotland (UWS).
UWS have a long history of collaboration with external organisations to help drive innovation and deliver real economic, environmental and societal impact. Improving the health, well-being and mobility of wheelchair users through development of the next generation of SMART wheelchair technology represented both an academically challenging and worthy endeavour which UWS were happy to support. The project was supported by the School of Computing, Engineering and Physical Sciences, whose expertise in advanced composites, rapid prototyping (including 3d printing) and product design was utilised throughout the project.
The company achieved their goal in working with an academic partner to develop the Toyota Mobility Challenge application and, as a result, were one of five finalists successful in receiving a grant of $500k to develop their concept; as well as the opportunity to attend workshops, receive mentoring opportunities with engineering experts, and collaborate with end-users. The finalists ultimately pitched their concept to Toyota to win a prize fund of a further $1 million. Phoenix Instinct were crowned the ultimate winners at a virtual, live-streamed event in December 2020, winning the $1 million prize fund to help bring its Phoenix i wheelchair to market.
* The Challenge invited engineers, innovators and designers to submit ideas for game-changing technologies to improve the mobility and independence of people with lower-limb paralysis. Central to the Toyota-supported challenge was the need to work with end-users to develop devices that would integrate seamlessly into their lives and environments, while being comfortable and easy to use.
With continued support from Interface, Phoenix Instinct further developed their award-winning technology in partnership with UWS through a knowledge transfer partnership (KTP). The company’s workforce and sales of its products doubled, and additional profits of more than £1 million, directly attributable to the KTP, were forecast over the next five years (from late 2021).
A second KTP aims to bring the manufacture of electronics used in the production of the wheelchair inhouse by 2024. Both KTPs were jointly funded by Innovate UK and the Scottish Funding Council.
Andrew Slorance at Phoenix Instinct said: “Working with UWS KTP partnership brought the company specialist skills, knowledge, and University support that have been fundamental to the success of the project. The KTP funding through Innovate UK is a fantastic programme that we recommend highly.”
Dr Tony Leslie, Senior Lecturer in the School of Computing, Engineering and Physical Sciences at UWS, said: “It has been a pleasure to work with Andrew Slorance and Dr Jakub Rycerz on this KTP project. Andrew’s design is a step change in wheelchair development. Andrew has driven the project to ensure the project team never lost sight of how the ongoing design decisions could impact on wheelchair users in their daily lives, and that has been key to the project’s success.
“Recognition must also be given to KTP associate Jakub, whose contribution and commitment has been exceptional throughout the project, developing a number of innovations to ensure Andrew’s vision was realised.”
Every year our planet uses more than 27 million tonnes of natural and synthetic rubber, making more than a billion tyres and more than 50,000 other rubber products that we use every day. Much rubber is simply burned after use and the rest scattered far and wide as a filler in other products. The scale of the waste is vast. However, as demand for rubber grows each year, we continue to plant more rubber trees and use more oil to make more rubber, wasting our planet’s valuable resources, causing deforestation and unnecessary damage around the world.
Edinburgh based Recircle, has created a breakthrough technology that allows rubber to be effectively recycled into high-quality applications. It’s a world first, which combines patented innovation, protection of our environment and economic viability. The Recircle technology relies on effective surface devulcanisation of rubber powders (the breaking of cross-linking sulphur bonds) derived from waste rubber.
Recircle were looking to develop rapid testing techniques suitable for high throughput screening in industrial application for the vulcanised and devulcanised rubber powders in order to assess the effectiveness of the devulcanisation process. The company was seeking universities with appropriate facilities to do this, with the aim of conducting long-term research on the optimisation of a biotechnological devulcanization process.
This would be essential for improving the company’s quality control procedures, as well as for application testing with new waste feedstocks provided by customers. The new standards would help the company provide higher levels of quality assurance to all customers, regardless of the materials being processed for them, and further cement its reputation as the provider of the highest quality materials in the market.
Louise Arnold from Interface successfully partnered Professor Nick Christofi, Chief Scientific Officer at Recircle, with Professor David Bucknall, Chair in Materials Chemistry at Heriot-Watt University. Together, they successfully applied to Innovate UK for KTP (Knowledge Transfer Partnership) funding and were subsequently awarded £125k to fund a two-year project utilising the services of a post-graduate associate to develop rapid testing methods for the assessment of surface chemistry on polymer surfaces.
By providing the company with an innovative quality control process, the KTP will underpin the professionalisation and worldwide expansion of its current process capabilities; opening up a large opportunity for growth for the business in terms of materials they can process and global expansion of the customer base.
This collaboration has directly resulted in an increase in turnover as well as additional employment within the company.
An additional project to come out of the partnership was a consultancy with Zero Waste Scotland under a Circular Economy programme that aims to stimulate innovation amongst Scottish businesses to help them adopt more circular business practices, which treat all resources as assets – keeping them in use for as long as possible to extract the maximum value from them. Making available European Regional Development Funds, Zero Waste Scotland (ZWS) is aiming to stimulate new business activity to identify, develop and bring to market new circular economy products and services. Through Professor Bucknall, Recircle received consultancy funding to examine the recycling of waste water from the Recircle devulcanization process and to generate new products from its waste streams.
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