The Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE), Scotland’s National Academy, has announced its latest cohort of academic entrepreneurs who have been awarded Enterprise Fellowships.
Five innovators from the science, space and technology industries have been inducted into the RSE’s Enterprise Fellowship programme, and will receive an equity-free support package worth up to £100,000 to aid in the commercialisation of their work.
The package also includes access to tailored business training and mentoring, as well as the opportunity to engage with RSE’s extensive business network.
This year’s cohort includes people working on miniature telescopes, holding sexist artificial intelligence (AI) to account and using technology to reduce antibiotic resistance.
This year’s Enterprise Fellows are:
- Marco Gomez-Jenkins – Super-Sharp Space Systems
In the aerospace industry, Marco Gomez-Jenkins is working to develop technology that turns ultra-high-resolution telescopes into small, affordable units. Offering 10 times more resolution than current technology, the telescopes will capture thermal infrared images of the earth and be used to detect wildfires, monitor crops and help maintain global security.
He said: “I am thrilled to be participating in the Enterprise Fellowship programme and look forward to working with the RSE’s coaches and mentors to launch our first telescope in space, and bring our product to market.”
- Dr. Stuart Hannah – Microplate Dx
Stuart Hannah is addressing the issue of antimicrobial resistance (AMR), which a recent report by Lord O’Neil predicts could be the cause of 10 million deaths per year by 2050. Microplate Dx will tackle AMR by rapidly pinpointing the type of antibiotic needed by a patient, ultimately reducing the risk of incorrect prescribing, which drives resistance.
He said: “Being awarded a prestigious RSE Enterprise Fellowship will be invaluable in taking Microplate Dx to the next level, to tackle the major global threat to public health of antimicrobial resistance, and enable judicious antibiotic prescribing.
“The Fellowship will have a profound impact on the direction of travel of our business – it will provide access to world-leading business training, engaged coaches and mentors, and give me dedicated space and time to develop an investor-ready business plan to be able to commercialise the Microplate technology all the quicker.”
- Dr. Raja Akram – Seclea
Seclea aims to improve accountability of ‘sexist’ AI. Lack of transparency and potential biases of algorithms leads to both societal and regulatory concerns, so the company has developed a platform to help organisations de-risk AI adoption. It helps to ensure machine learning and deep learning algorithms are transparent, explainable, accountable and compliant with existing and upcoming regulations.
Raja Akram said: “Usually, we do research and put it on the shelf for others to pick it up and make an impact from it, however the RSE fellowship is given me the opportunity to achieve the impact myself by helping organisations build responsible AI solutions and societies to trust AI applications and their decisions.”
- Samuel Rotenberg – INFINECT
Whilst 3G/4G/5G telecommunication services will provide the majority of internet access in urban areas, these only make up around 3% of global land area, with digital connectivity in remote and rural areas continuing to be a significant challenge, which will require the provision of satellite connectivity.
INFINECT is developing a low-profile self-scanning antenna to enable fast and reliable broadband connectivity for public safety-driven services and fixed-route transport operations, using available satellite infrastructure.
Its patent-pending antenna design provides superior satellite tracking performance and offers improved reliability over traditional approaches at a lower cost.
- Douglas Roberts – Erebagan
The rise in antibiotic-resistant superbugs, drug-resistant cancers and treatment-resistant crop pests is threatening to impact our health and quality of life. Typically, companies need to screen 100,000 compounds to find one structure that hits the desired target. This low hit rate makes compounds discoveries slow and expensive.
Erebagan is aiming to allow the engineering of soil bacteria to produce new bioactive natural product compounds with hit rates 20 times better than synthetic chemicals and create structural variants of bioactive molecules.
Douglas Roberts said: “The RSE Enterprise Fellowship is a fantastic opportunity for me learn about how academic research can become a new biotech – I am particularly excited to work with the mentoring and coaching teams to build a business plan from the work that I have already done.”
Professor Andy Porter, RSE Fellow and vice president for business on the RSE Council, said: “2020 highlighted the critical role that science and technology have to play in modern society.
“Programmes like the Enterprise Fellowship are vital in ensuring continued innovation by commercialising pioneering research and ground-breaking ideas – we look forward to working with our new cohort of fellows, whose work has the potential to bring about positive change for our society and economy.”
Now in its 24th year, the programme has supported more than 270 entrepreneurs and, according to an evaluation and economic impact assessment carried out by Biggar Economics, has added almost £170m to annual global GVA – including £77m in Scotland – since its creation.
The programme has also been linked to the creation of more than 3,000 jobs, nearly half (1,395) of which are in Scotland.
Dr. Rebekah Widdowfield, chief executive of the RSE, said: “Since the inception of the Enterprise Fellows programme in 1997, we have seen outstanding ingenuity from the UK’s entrepreneurs in bolstering the next generation of life-altering science and technology.
“This year, we saw an unusually high imbalance in applications, with only 10% coming from women.
“While we know the pandemic has disproportionately impacted on women, we also know we need to redouble our efforts to encourage and support more applications from women,” Widdowfield noted.
“We are committed to doing this through new methods of outreach, awareness and partnerships, building on initiatives such as our research fund specifically targeted at academics who have been disproportionately affected by Covid.”
The Enterprise Fellowships are supported by RSE partners including the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, the Science and Technology Facilities Council, the Industrial Biotechnology Innovation Centre, and the RSE itself.
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