Partnerships which connect inspirational businesses across the region with the University of Essex’s outstanding research have been recognised at a special Celebration of Innovation.
Awards were presented to businesses including Mersea Homes and Colchester-based Above to recognise successful Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTPs) with the University.
A new award, the University of Essex’s first Innovation of the Year Award, was presented to London-based Urban Electric for its electric car charging solution, which could help millions of drivers to change to electric vehicles.
Urban Electric developed the UEone retractable kerbside charging hub to solve the problem of overnight charging of electric vehicles for the 25% of drivers without off-street parking at home.
The innovation beat four other shortlisted contenders to the new award. Offering a potential solution for ten million drivers in the UK alone and hundreds of millions more worldwide, the smartphone operated UEone retracts flat and flush with the pavement, leaving pathways free of obstruction. It connects easily to charging pits and can be replaced swiftly if it fails.
Keith Johnson, Co-Founder of Urban Electric said: “Winning the award tonight feels amazing especially as there was such strong competition. We are in the next stage of funding and winning this award from the University of Essex is incredible. The University has such a good reputation for innovation and I’m proud to be amongst such great winners.”
The awards were presented by Pro-Vice-Chancellor, Research, Professor Chris Greer, at an event compered by Mosaic PR & Digital’s CEO Karen Ainley at the University’s Colchester Campus.
The Innovation of the Year award was open to any business in East Anglia or London which had developed an outstanding and inspirational business solution. Other shortlisted companies were n2s of Bury St Edmunds; Industrial Robotics Solutions, based in the University’s Innovation Centre in Colchester; Healum and Motilent, both based in London.
The celebration also featured six annual Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) awards recognising business partnerships with the University which have achieved transformational innovation.
Professor Chris Greer said: “All the winners demonstrate incredible dedication and creativity. Our partnerships with these businesses are absolutely vital to support innovation and economic growth and we are at the forefront of applying world-class research to real-world business challenges. Together we have shown we can develop effective and sustainable solutions to make the world a better place.”
The winners were:
Best KTP Associate: Rodolfo Cuan Urquizo, whose partnership with Industrial Robotic Solutions, based in the University’s Innovation Centre, has helped to develop a 3D printable robotic gripper which can autonomously pick up ingredients on food production lines. The gripper can pick up a range of irregularly-shaped ingredients, potentially delivering a 100-fold reduction in costs, and having the potential to transform food production.
Best Management KTP Associate: Joshua Arrowsmith, who has taken a lead role in changing the culture at his host company in Basildon, The Finishing Line, enabling them to move into new markets and offer new services. By combining strategic awareness with operational know-how, Joshua has helped the company to move into e-commerce.
Best Academic supporting a KTP: Dr Haider Raza is one of the University’s most successful academics when it comes to working with industry on grant-funded projects, securing £3.3 million funding in the four years since he came to Essex. Most projects are focused on Artificial Intelligence in healthcare and data analytics. He has worked on five KTPs, not only ensuring the innovation works commercially, but also identifying highly talented KTP Associates from among his postgraduate students.
Best Partnership (SME): The partnership with Mersea Homes has developed a smart platform for integrating business processes, enhancing office to site communication, centralising data control and delivering efficient quality control. The outcome will include saving the company thousands of pounds a year in administrative and materials costs, as well as cutting its carbon footprint significantly through reducing transport and printing.
Best Partnership (Large company): The partnership with Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC), which has its UK headquarters in Ipswich, has tackled a major challenge: using large data streams to identify and address inefficiencies in the highly complex global shipping industry. As well as uncovering patterns which will inform future decisions, the project has delivered an innovation around customer behaviour prediction which will help the company to better meet customer requirements and increase revenue.
Lasting Impact Award: Above, based on the University’s Knowledge Gateway research park, is an innovative and growing company using the latest technology in the world of drones, robotics and Artificial Intelligence to facilitate remote inspection of solar farms. Essex has already worked on three KTPs with the business, which has also employed several Essex graduates. Above’s ongoing partnership with the University has supported them to secure significant investment and new business as well as helping them to grow into a larger unit on the Knowledge Gateway.
The University of Essex is the leading academic institution in the UK for active Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTPs) with 40 active KTPs worth more than £10 million.
Joshua Arrowsmith Digital Strategy & Transformation Consultant with Basildon based The Finishing Line and winner of the Best Management KTP Associate said: “I’m absolutely delighted and honoured to be recognised for the work I do. The main purpose of my project is to help The Finishing Line improve their presence and market share within the ecommerce fulfilment landscape. It shows there is always room in business for improvement and change.”
Andy Mead, Managing Director at The Finishing Line said: “What Joshua has done is provide something that is crucial for business, which is momentum to shake things up and make positive changes. I would have no hesitation in recommending a KTP project to other businesses. It’s been absolutely fabulous for us.”
The event featured a keynote speech on The Future of AI Innovation by Unilever’s Global Head of Digital and Partnership, Alberto Prado; and a presentation from Dr Nicola Thorn, CEO of AND Technology Research, about the value of research and development-led partnerships.
Find out more about working with academics at the University of Essex at www.essex.ac.uk/business.