Smartify is a tech company originally based out of London. It has developed an online platform serving the arts, culture and heritage sector, connecting destinations with their visitors. It provides cultural institutions with cutting-edge digital capabilities to manage the visitor experience; and at the same time, it acts as a platform to help them reach a broader audience. Smartify currently has a reach of over 4 million users as of June 2023.
Smartify was looking to develop its XR (Extended Reality) infrastructure to allow the company to develop experiences which could be easily scaled in a cost-effective manner and across multiple platforms (iOS, Android and Web). Smartify were needing to develop a novel XR platform to be integrated within the Smartify app. They were looking for academic expertise in AR/VR/XR but also an understanding of the tourism and heritage sector.
Smartify were already an active member of the Travel Tech for Scotland (TTfS) community with a strong customer base including Scottish National Galleries, Kelvingrove, National Museums of Scotland, Blair Castle, Highlife Highland, and National Trust for Scotland.
Lesley Judge of TTfS referred Smartify to Interface who made them aware of the *Inward Investment Catalyst Fund. Through Interface’s search and matchmaking services, Smartify were introduced to Dr Marco Gilardi from the Division of Computing at the University of the West of Scotland, who has a wealth of experience in AR/VR/XR and has been part of an academic group providing knowledge exchange on this subject for the tourism and heritage sector.
The project aimed to support the company in developing XR applications using web technologies and, in the process, help them develop their market presence in Scotland. The objective of the project was to develop proof of concepts and test them with the market which was achieved successfully with a commercial project delivered as result.
*The Inward Investment Catalyst Fund has been set up by Interface and the Scottish Government to attract and support businesses, not yet located in Scotland to collaborate with academic institutions on their research and development activity to strengthen the case for developing a base in Scotland.
For the Company
- Development of prototype IP leading to continued building of tech infrastructure and creative pipeline
- Helped Smartify create a clear tech capabilities roadmap and strategy through a better understanding of the existing technology landscape, capabilities, limitations and opportunities
- Enabled a pipeline of projects and helped secure a further contract with major Scottish National cultural institutions.
For the University
- Established a sustained and strategic partnership with an innovative tech company
- Supported a PhD student to gain hands-on industry experience
- Has led to further knowledge transfer activity namely an Accelerated Knowledge Transfer to Innovate Project and a further Knowledge Transfer Partnership
- Smartify have set up a Scottish division, creating two new jobs and they have projected that this will double annually over the next three years
The Get Set Yeti app is in development, themed around a clan of yeti characters, that allows younger children to understand their emotions, through discovering ‘emotion beasties’, enabling difficult concepts to be put across in an age accessible and engaging way.
Get Set Yeti is a Digital Education business, that specialises in using storytelling and character-based learning to make Growth Mindset accessible to younger children at school and at home. They aim to level the ‘educational playing field’ by helping children from all walks of life develop the skills to become confident, resilient learners. They also provide materials for parents to build their confidence and capacity to do the things at home that have an impact on creating solid school foundations in Early Literacy and Early Numeracy.
Get Set Yeti supports educators and parents to help children develop learning resilience and confidence through building a growth mindset, and through emotional literacy. They offer a range of programmes and resources themed around a clan of yeti characters.
The company came into existence through recognition of a need in the field and has been developed by its founder Carol Arnott. An experienced practitioner both in Primary and Community Education, Carol employed Growth Mindset techniques initially to develop a rhyming story to help local families struggling with learning confidence. The story of “The Yeti’s Roar” was born, developed into a book which grew into a learning programme that was successfully trialled in several local schools and nurseries in the Dundee area.
Developing the programme became a passion of Carol’s and with the help of Business Gateway and the Elevator Business Accelerator, where Carol was introduced to Interface, her business began and demand quickly developed to the stage of looking to grow the team and expand into other cities – then Covid hit. Unable to get into schools due to closures and distancing regulations and with other contracts put on hold it became apparent that digital learning was the way forward. A new site was built and ‘Get Set Yeti’ evolved and grew.
Get Set Yeti was created to provide Growth Mindset resources for children under 8 due to the lack of material available. In the educational climate, there was a growing need for children to learn to be more resilient in learning and it was widely recognised that learning to develop a ‘Growth Mindset’ could successfully meet this need.
Get Set Yeti was interested in developing an app or platform that could help young children understand and process emotions using Growth Mindset to help maintain positive mental health.
Through the Accelerator in Dundee, Carol met Lorna Watson of Interface who identified University of Dundee’s Dr Michael Crabb (School of Science and Engineering) and Dr Alexia Barrable (School of Education and Social Work) who had the required academic expertise to develop an app that could help younger children develop emotional literacy and self-regulation. This initial project was taken forward with a £5000 Standard Innovation Voucher.
The team at the University of Dundee helped initialise ‘The Yeti Field Guide to Feelings’ app to help children develop emotional literacy, supported by parents and educators.
Based on the premise that deep in the forest on top of Yeti Mountain the yetis sometimes come across ‘Emotion Beasties’ that have escaped from children in the villages below. Once caught, the yetis learn how to look after them using their special book ‘The Yeti Field Guide to Feelings’. They learn that caring for feelings takes practise and learn techniques to manage them through online interaction and additional printable activities and resources.
The app will incorporate:
- Simple gameplay to capture the engagement of the user.
- Diagnostic tool Information on emotions.
- A range of resources and tools to reinforce and support, designed by appropriate mental health experts.
This innovation sits right at the heart of Get Set Yeti’s core strategy as it uses process design to help children and families understand difficult concepts and gives them the tools to develop skills to learn successfully using Growth Mindset techniques.
- Get Set Yeti created a collaborative co-design programme for children and are in the process of securing funding to create the app with all the necessary building blocks in place.
- Get Set Yeti have developed an ongoing partnership with the University of Dundee and are able to provide opportunities for current students and graduates.
- Further opportunities to connect to the School of Education, CLD and Social Work during the testing phase of the app, along with the Department of Science and Engineering.
The Next Steps
Get Set Yeti have transitioned through the restrictions brought about by Covid19, transforming from a localised, face-to-face delivery company to an online-learning portal with international potential.
Following on from this initial project the relationship between Interface and Get Set Yeti has continued to grow and there have been several more successful student projects/placements for a range of things from marketing to behavioural analysis as follows:
Due the restrictions brought about through Covid19 Get Set Yeti pivoted to produce a digital version of their material and with the help of Abertay University the company developed a digital marketing strategy to promote their digital offering and transform from a localised business to offer their products nationally and develop a marketing campaign to appeal to local authorities, head teachers, infant teachers and parents.
A successful student placement project with the University of West of Scotland helped Get Set Yeti achieve a targeted marketing campaign appealing to potential clients and partners; utilising social media and other appropriate available channels.
The University of Stirling undertook some behavioural analysis to help Get Set Yeti understand and develop customer personas to allow them to enter new markets and target their future campaigns for maximum impact.
University of Highlands and Islands students are currently working directly with the Musical Director and CEO to help devise a digital marketing and social media campaign to promote an album of original ‘Yeti Songs’ to enhance the delivery of Growth Mindset learning to younger children and their families.
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.
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.”
The Scottish Crannog Centre, located on Loch Tay in Perthshire, includes a museum, the reconstructed crannog (typically a partially or entirely artificial island, usually built in lakes and estuarine waters of Scotland) and living history area with interactive demonstrations of ancient crafts and technologies from the Early Iron Age.
As a community, they care for and make accessible the finds of Scottish crannog excavations and interpret the lives of crannog dwellers for the benefit, enjoyment, education and inspiration of all.
All work is funded from visitors supporting their work through paid admissions, grants and donations or undertaken on a voluntary basis.
The Scottish Crannog Centre is shifting from a successful, though tired, visitor centre to a museum-focussed organisation, encompassing all the various roles of modern museums to educate, entertain, stimulate debate and involve diverse people meaningfully in the museum.
The short-term goal for the Crannog Centre was to look at identifying ways to modernise the current exhibitions and telling of more compelling stories. They required specialised assistance from an academic group to review current exhibits and layout of the visitor centre and expertise in heritage interpretation and immersive technologies.
The long-term plan is to move across Loch Tay to a better situated site which can house larger, more extensive visitor facilities including a visitor centre, parking and learning space. A crucial part of this project is building new crannog reconstructions, based on say three different styles of dwelling found in different areas of Scotland. The nature of the build would be to involve communities and volunteers and foster traditional skills and well-being benefits of participants.
The Museum Director, Mike Benson, was referred to Interface through Perth & Kinross Council and picked up by our local Business Engagement Executive Lorna Watson. Lorna worked closely with Mike to understand the Centre’s requirements and identified expertise within the University of the West of Scotland (UWS).
Dr Marco Gilardi, Lecturer, School of Computing, Engineering and Physical Sciences, undertook a feasibility study and design of a new form of interactive, mixed reality, immersive experience to virtually link past dwellers and present visitors.
The project delivered:
- A feasibility study on how to innovate the service that the Scottish Crannog Centre delivers to its visitors
- Design of an innovated augmented space and the visitor interaction with it
- A virtual reality demonstrator prototype for the augmented space.
The project was funded by a Scottish Funding Council Innovation Voucher, administered by Interface.
The project delivered a new gallery, and the designs for the interactive immersive experiences were integrated within the gallery design and some of them prototyped using different media including virtual reality and mobile apps.
Outside of the formal outputs, the evidence from this project will support a step change that will look to secure the museums future, location and expansion. Being at the forefront of innovation in immersive heritage experiences will attract larger visitor numbers and thereby support the economy of the local area and in Scotland.
The Centre has now received permission and bought the land to move across the loch as part of a £6 million project.
The project developed for the Scottish Crannog Centre was challenging, as it needed to contribute to the stakeholders’ vision of the Scottish Crannog Centre of the future by integrating new technologies without detracting from the excellent visitor experience that the Centre already provides and will provide in the future.
The major benefit UWS got from the project is the relationship established with the Scottish Crannog Centre. Through this relationship, the Centre has enriched their student experience by contributing business-based scenarios for the assessment of some of their modules as well as providing honours degree project opportunities, and opportunities for summer projects with the Digital Arts programme’s students.
Finally, the Centre invited Dr Gilardi to join the Advisory Panel for the new Scottish Crannog Centre development, increasing UWS prestige as an applied University that supports Scottish communities.
The initial project with UWS led to a further project to bring to life an artefact which had never been displayed before. The bridge of a musical instrument, possibly a lyre (a stringed instrument like a small u-shaped harp), was created from the original artefact using 3D printing and is used as a physical exhibit for visitors to be able to hold and feel.
A third project to design a small comic book aimed at children as a paper-based product was undertaken by a student from the University of the Highlands & Islands. This comic, which will be sold in the gift shop, is designed to educate children and young people on life in Iron Age Scotland, as well as the artefacts found on the excavation site and how they relate to life in 500BC.
Mike and the team at the Centre are still actively working with UWS and trying to raise the funding to take projects further. Interface are also continuing to provide support with future projects in the pipeline.
NjordFrey, established and registered in Rwanda in 2018 as a social enterprise, offers advanced farming solutions to developing farmers in Rwanda, so that they may decrease levels of malnutrition within their immediate community while experiencing stable economic growth.
This is done by offering these farmers access to sustainably designed aquaponic starter kits, seasonal input product lines, e.g. seeds & fingerlings, and operational training to allow them to become independent, all as part of an outgrower credit model.
NjordFrey are in the process of implementing their flagship farm in 2020 to showcase its solution and secure further collaborators and investment for large scale-up.
NjordFrey were looking for an academic partner to apply for the Innovate Catalyst Round 8 Agri-tech competition. This Department for International Development (DFID) funded competition was for projects on agri-tech and food chain innovations with partners in eligible African countries. The aim of this competition was to increase the pace of development and scale of uptake of agricultural and food systems innovation by farmers and food systems actors (such as manufacturers, processors, retailers, distributors, or wholesalers) in Africa.
NjordFrey was specifically looking for support from an academic partner in any of the following areas:
- Feedback sensor systems – As part of the aquaponic starter kit, the business was looking to develop a low-cost system that would provide meaningful data for general business analysis purposes while also providing real-time feedback to farmers to carry out operational actions to increase yield and reduce failures. This could include phenotyping and data collection through optical sensory.
- The agriculture supply chain and economic/market potential – As this is unclear in the East African region due to limited infrastructure and lack of transparency at a national level, NjordFrey were looking for support in conducting studies that help research, analyse and summarise the aquaponic market potential across East Africa to direct their growth strategy.
NjordFrey was referred to Interface by the Knowledge Transfer Network to find an academic collaborative partner.
After scoping up the project and sending it on to various universities within Scotland, Ruth Oliver from Interface matched NjordFrey with four academic institutes for further discussions. After which, NjordFrey partnered with the University of the West of Scotland (UWS) for funding applications. The partners were successful in receiving an Innovate UK grant of almost £300k to collaborate on an 18-month project. This project is now underway and both organisations are working together to develop a Digital Health Monitoring System (using non-invasive sensors to provide a real time status of the farm health to improve yield and reduce errors) to improve food security in the developing world.
Within Rwanda, 1.8 million smallholder farmers, looking to provide a nutritious protein and plant-based diet while increasing yields to support economic growth, are limited by; high capital costs for high yield solutions, promotion of basic farming techniques by competitors, lack of routes to market, and falling into a dependency trap with other solutions.
NjordFrey (NF), Rwanda, offers these farmers access to sustainably designed aquaponic starter farms via an outgrower credit model, seasonal input product lines e.g. seeds and fingerlings, operational training to allow them to become independent, and facilitates routes to markets.
In collaboration with the University of West of Scotland (UWS), this project is looking at developing a Digital Health Monitoring System that has a high-tech back end (sensors and machine learning) with a low-tech font-end approach (SMS/voice call) to feedback actions to farmers in an inclusive manner, providing NjordFrey with a data-driven product to capture market share in Rwanda.
Overall, our solution will remove high upfront costs and technical barriers, provide increased yields of organic produce, increase calorie intake by 28% and income 10-fold for up to 100,000 farmers and their 240,000 family members, via 2,000+ farms within 10 years. Tackling malnutrition (affecting 34% of children under 5) while improving livelihoods via this model is an innovate first within Rwanda and targets many of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
NjordFrey has since gone on to have the following work-based learning projects with students at both the University of Strathclyde and the University of Glasgow, facilitated through Interface:
MSc Management Science (Strathclyde) – Supply chain and Market development – The business required additional data on agriculture markets / supply chains within Rwanda and the opportunities and challenges as a result.
MSc Management Science (Strathclyde) – Business Modelling – NjordFrey required a financial/business model to be developed that would allow them to forecast their 5-year financials and, importantly, run multiple scenarios/simulations within the context of a developing country in East Africa. Ultimately, the outputs of this project would be used to direct their financial strategy.
MBA Consultancy Week (Glasgow) – Export Strategy development – The MBA group were assigned to look at the projected amounts of fish and veg produce over five years, from 32 farms, and develop and market the business’s export strategy to Europe and the rest of the world from Rwanda.
Re-Tek, who provide refurbishment and resale of used IT equipment, was established in 1996 and is based in East Kilbride, South Lanarkshire. The business has 45 employees in Scotland as well as partners in Europe, America and Asia. Operating on an ‘incentivised return’ business model, they are leaders in the IT disposal industry offering re-use as a secure, environmentally sustainable method of asset retirement. In 2018, Re-Tek extended the life of 200,000 used technology items for business and the consumer, therefore preventing the need for these items to be inefficiently or needlessly recycled or landfilled.
The company sources most of its equipment from medium to large-sized businesses and public sector organisations, and they aim to re-market as much of the material received as possible. Approximately 80% of all equipment received is refurbished and re-marketed. Only equipment which is non-functional or has no market value goes to conventional IT recycling partners. Re-Tek’s facility has LED lighting throughout, a Biomass Boiler and a 62 Solar Panel Array, providing approximately 80% of their energy needs from renewable sources. They take sustainability and corporate responsibility seriously and work closely with WRAP (Waste and Resources Action Programme) and Zero Waste Scotland.
The project partners, Re-Tek and Enscape, were keen to find a partner in academia, specifically individuals or teams with expertise in recycling/reclamation of rare earth minerals and in precious metals recovery from electronic waste. This was to partner in a bid for a €166k tender across four countries in the EU, released by EU Life/WRAP UK, which was designed to identify collection models in phase one, and recovery processes in phase two for Critical Raw Materials (CRMs).
Whilst Re-Tek were confident they could deliver Phase 1 (identifying collection models), they needed to identify a project partner to help them deliver Phase 2 (Recovery Phase), as the extraction process would be quite specialised given the recovery materials.
The Scottish Institute for Remanufacture referred Re-Tek on to Interface who, after putting out an expertise search to various universities within Scotland, was able to connect them with Professor Andrew S Hursthouse from the School of Computing, Engineering & Physical Sciences at the University of the West of Scotland (UWS).
Re-Tek and UWS were successful in their tender for WRAP and three years on presented the results of their collaboration at The Royal Society in London. The partners are still working together to develop their ideas and are currently involved in a Horizon 2020 two-stage bid. This has also involved Re-Tek and partners networking across the EU through a recent COST Action project co-chaired by Prof Hursthouse.
The company received grant funding for approximately two years to support collection models underpinned by Circular Economy initiatives. This will increase the diversion of redundant IT products from traditional recycling and landfill and enhance opportunities for further employment and profitability, whilst income sharing with Social Enterprise partners.
Re-Tek recently won the Sustainability award, sponsored by The Scottish Institute for Remanufacture, at the CeeD Awards 2019.
Whilst Re-Tek reuses approximately 80% of ICT equipment received, the remaining goods are sent to their Recycling Department for preparation before being sent to a downstream recycling partner for further treatment.
Currently, they only remove certain commodities from ICT equipment, e.g. memory, PCBs, hard drives, however they believed that there was a great opportunity to increase their revenues by fully disassembling equipment and segregating by commodity, e.g., aluminum, cables, plastics, etc., which would be advantageous to the recycling partner and should increase the rebate received.
A cost-benefit analysis was required, calculating the cost of disassembling various products and the calculation of the funds received from the recycling partner as a result of the separation. The company was also looking for suggestions for a re-design of the production space to ensure sufficient space was allocated to the disassembly functions.
Interface put out another expertise search to the universities looking for a collaborative partner for this project with the result that the company was allocated a student from the University of Strathclyde’s MSc Business Analysis and Consulting programme. The student provided business insights about the project.
TransK9 situated in St John’s Town of Dalry, Dumfries and Galloway, is a family run company set up in 2003 by Sharon and Robert Marshall who supply dog cages and transit boxes to be fitted in the rear of vehicles.
The TransK9 boxes are constructed from high grade aluminium, with heavy duty galvanised steel doors. Their customers range from domestic users to the UK’s top gundog trainers and handlers, police constabularies, security companies through to numerous veterinary practices. In addition, they export to the USA and Europe.
Manufactured locally in Scotland in aluminium, with a durable powder coated finish, TransK9 transit boxes have been designed to give many years of satisfactory service and are available in a range of sizes to suit most estate cars, 4x4s, double cabs, suburban utility vehicles (SUVs) and vans.
It is very important to the company to provide quality, tested and proven materials and components in their cages and boxes to ensure the safety of their clients’ dogs. Therefore, they were keen to collaborate with a university partner to:
- crash test the safety of the boxes by setting up mock car crash conditions
- identify any damage to the boxes that would be harmful to the safety of the dog(s)
- evaluate the durability and condition of the dog box at various driving speeds
- ensure that after a crash, the doors of the boxes could still be opened, and the dog(s) can be released safely
- measure impact on human passengers sitting in rear seats
After establishing relevant academic expertise, Interface was able to set up a collaboration with the University of the West Scotland’s (UWS) Engineering Department in Paisley to crash test TransK9’s latest dog cage.
As a result, TransK9 was successfully matched with Dr Bob Bailey, Senior Lecturer at the School of Engineering and Computing at UWS who led this project.
The School of Engineering and Computing at UWS is home to a vibrant research community carrying out high quality applied research relevant to the research community and industry which underpins and extends the quality of the student experience. UWS is one of the leading players in computing and IT, offering professionally recognised engineering degrees and cutting-edge physics programmes with practical applications.
TransK9 Director, Robert Marshall said:
“The benefits were noticed immediately, in our first full year since undertaking the crash testing our UK sales rose by a staggering 39%; we are now into our second year and we are anticipating another increase in sales of at least 20% for this period.
We would without any hesitation collaborate again with the University of the West of Scotland, their expertise has greatly benefited our business, not only here in the UK but worldwide.”
TransK9 Director, Robert Marshall added:
“We are fortunate to have Allan McNaught at the end of the Business Gateway phone line; Allan helped us recently with the part-funded acquisition of a new forklift, for what is becoming an ever increasingly busy loading bay in our warehouse.
We are most grateful to Business Gateway for all their assistance over the last few years, be it financial or just sound advice, particularly on exporting which has been another growth area for us.”
Follow on activity
The company are looking to expand their premises over the coming months to support their logistics, expand the product range and provide smoother operations.
Following the success of the Safetray, which allows waiting staff to safely carry trays of food and drink, entrepreneur and inventor Alison Grieve was on a mission to change the way the world holds things and developed a new and unique product called ‘G-hold’.
The G-Hold is a multi-purpose handhold invention that can be placed on the back of any type of tablet or reader, big or small, for a comfortable hold.
It allows users to easily and safely handle hand-held devices such as iPads and tablets without causing strain, with one hand leaving the other free to operate the device and perform related tasks (e.g. drawing, writing) simultaneously. The G-hold handhold attaches to devices using either Micro Suction or permanent adhesive, with a retractable finger support which enables users to hold their device comfortably and without the risk of dropping it.
G-Hold’s are sold globally and manufactured locally in Scotland by McLaren Plastics in Loanhead.
Alison wanted to obtain scientific data proving G-Hold’s ergonomic attributes in preventing injury and to evaluate its overall performance.
The entrepreneur was keen to understand more about the muscles around the carpal tunnel in the wrist used when tablet users grip their devices as opposed to using the G-Hold.
The academic expertise needed for this project lay in the area of Biomechanics. It involved the understanding of how human biology and mechanical devices can be developed to work in harmony so that the experience is comfortable, flexible and efficient without producing any adverse strain type side effects.
Interface put Alison in touch with a range of relevant academics from Scotland’s universities who were keen to investigate the ergonomic benefits of G-hold in reducing the risk of repetitive strain injuries for heavy users of electronic devices.
Through support from Interface, Alison was successfully matched and chose to collaborate with Dr Ukadike Chris Ugbolue from the University of the West of Scotland, within the Institute for Clinical Exercise & Health Science to carry out a technical feasibility study on G-Hold, evaluating its performance and examining the effect on the arm, wrist and hand of users.
University of the West of Scotland has expertise available from the Institute of Clinical Exercise and Health Science (ICEHS). The Institute comprises the Centre for Clinical Exercise & Rehabilitative Science and the Sports Academy and is involved in research areas related to exercise science.
Dr Ugbolue is a Biomechanical Engineer with expertise in biomechanics and musculoskeletal disorders affecting the hand such as carpal tunnel syndrome. With strong interests in ergonomics and bioinstrumentation Dr Ugbolue is a perfect match for this project.
This project was funded through a Scottish Funding Council Innovation Voucher administered by Interface. The resulting data was so powerful that it was translated into an image for prospective customers to understand more easily. The graphic was used in the marketing materials and during the ErgoExpo in Las Vegas and it caught the eye of both Apple and Microsoft.
In April 2017, G-hold secured new deals with Apple and Microsoft and they are now designing a new version specifically for Microsoft’s tablet/PC hybrid, Surface Pro, which will launch in the summer.
CEO and Inventor, Alison Grieve stated:
G-Hold and the University of the West of Scotland’s Institute for Clinical Exercise & Health Science won the Innovation of the Year Award at the Scottish Knowledge Exchange Awards 2019 for product testing and proving ergonomic benefits for a patented handheld which reduces wrist strain when holding tablets and other handheld devices.
March 2020 update: G-Hold is designed, manufactured and assembled in Scotland and is approved by Apple Ergonomics, Microsoft Surface, Amazon Devices and Panasonic, G-Hold’s patented holders have partnered with some of the world’s largest technology companies and are top sellers on HSN and QVC.
Please note that Interface administers the Innovation Voucher Scheme on behalf of the Scottish Funding Council. All funding applications are reviewed on a case by case basis by the Scottish Funding Council, guidelines can be found here.