" /> Gareth Overton, Author at Edinburgh Innovations
Work begins on £4.1m world-leading composites research centre

Work begins on £4.1m world-leading composites research centre

The first major engineering works on FASTBLADE, a state-of-the-art composite structures research facility, will begin in July, as part of a partnership between the University of Edinburgh and Babcock International Group, developed with support from Edinburgh Innovations.

A team of Babcock engineers will begin construction of FASTBLADE’s 75 tonne structural reaction frame early next month, and will begin fit-out of the new facility, based at Babcock’s Rosyth site.

It will initially be used for lifetime fatigue testing of renewable energy tidal turbine blades, using pioneering technology which will be the first of its kind in the world.

Partnership development

The facility is funded to a value of £4.1 million by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and the University, with Babcock appointed as the principal engineering designer. Edinburgh Innovations has proactively supported the development of the partnership between the University and Babcock for more than two years.

With its novel technology FASTBLADE will be an international centre of innovation in the research and testing of composite materials and structures for a variety of industries such as tidal energy, marine, transport, nuclear and aerospace.

Cutting-edge digital and hydraulic technology systems developed by the University are more energy efficient than existing processes and will simulate real testing environments. Advanced analytics will assess structural performance in real time.

Engineers, working within Covid-19 guidelines, will build and assemble the reaction frame, measuring 16.2m long, 2.5m wide and 7.1m high. It is expected to be complete by December 2020.

Tidal blade testing

The frame will withstand huge forces cycled millions of times over its lifespan as it tests composite structures. It has been designed for future needs as structures such as tidal turbine blades become bigger and materials continue to develop.

It will offer immediate benefits for product developers, with savings on time and costs, reducing risk and improving safety.

FASTBLADE will help meet requirements to develop digital skills in the region as set by the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal and is part of a transformational programme approach to skills – going from school leavers through to further and higher education. The City Region Deal also aims to increase research-based collaboration between universities and industry.

“This collaboration is a real opportunity to develop the next generation of engineers that industry will need and will be a resource for apprentices and engineering students to capture real-time data from industrial-scale equipment in the classroom.

 

“This is a significant milestone towards this unique facility opening for business to the global composites manufacturing market. The reaction frame is the backbone of the FASTBLADE system, holding clients’ structures in place in order to carry out research and testing.”

 

– Professor Conchúr Ó Brádaigh, Head of the University of Edinburgh’s School of Engineering.

Neil Young, a Technology Director at Babcock, said the partnership is about technology, innovation and investing in engineers.

“Babcock likes to work in innovative, collaborative ventures for long-term value and this is a fantastic example of that. We’re bringing together the best engineering minds with technology innovation from the University of Edinburgh.”

 

“We have optimised the facility design in partnership with the University and the next step is the physical build of the facility which, when complete, will be a world-class centre of innovation in composite testing, as well as a fatigue test facility for developers.”

 

– Neil Young, Engineering Director at Babcock Energy and Marine Technology.

FASTBLADE is expected to be fully assembled and operational in 2021.

Related links

Fastblade

Work with the University of Edinburgh

EI services for University staff

World-first open finance collaboration receives £22.5m funding

World-first open finance collaboration receives £22.5m funding

The Global Open Finance Centre of Excellence has been awarded a £22.5m grant from UK Research and Innovation’s Strength in Places Fund.

The Centre is a world-first which – with Edinburgh Innovations’ support – was devised and created by the University of Edinburgh, the Financial Data and Technology Association and FinTech Scotland, with the aim of using financial technology to deliver social and economic benefit to all corners of the globe.

UKRI’s investment will be used initially to create a global economic observatory, using real data to understand for the first time how consumers and businesses earn, spend and save across the world. This will deliver a research and policy offering to governments around the world as they try to emerge from the Coronavirus pandemic.

EI funding support

EI’s Douglas Graham, Director of Business Development at the Edinburgh Futures Institute, played a central role in EFI’s successful application for seed funding of £50,000 in September 2019, which enabled the multi-party team to go on to make the full SiPF application. The GOFCoE will be physically located at EFI once its new premises at the Old Royal Infirmary opens in 2022.

“Using real financial data for social good and allowing governments, companies and people to make better economic and financial decisions is at the heart of the Global Open Finance Centre of Excellence.

 

“Never has there been a time of greater need for data-driven insights into the economy. The award from the Strength in Places Fund will allow us to make a unique contribution to the economic recovery from Covid-19. The Centre will be a world-first, providing leadership, coordination, research and capability to develop the benefits of Open Finance and to safely unlock the potential of customer data as a force to improve lives.

 

– University of Edinburgh Senior Vice-Principal, Professor Jonathan Seckl.

FinTech Scotland, which was established in 2018 with EI’s support and is hosted by EI, said the Global Open Finance Centre of Excellence will support the inclusive approach to delivering better consumer outcomes.

“The funding reinforces the value of collaboration between the diverse range of entrepreneurial enterprises, academics, large institutions, government and citizen groups in embracing the role of data in driving financial innovation.”

 

– Stephen Ingledew, Chief Executive, FinTech Scotland.

National leadership

The funding is one of seven Strength in Places awards announced by UKRI across the UK and across sectors, highlighting Edinburgh’s national leadership in finance innovation.  

FDATA Global’s Chairman, Gavin Littlejohn said: “We envisage GOFCoE as a global utility and are creating the governance and funding frameworks to enable that. It will be supported by companies, governments and regulatory authorities, but maintain an important independence, neutrality and grip on ethics, without which it would not be trusted to function.

“It is becoming increasingly clear that the grand open finance challenges GOFCoE will address simply can’t be solved by working alone, and that this capability is sorely needed by governments, companies and citizens if we want better financial outcomes. This funding is a critical building block in a wider funding strategy to enable our ambitious plans of delivering a world-class facility to be realised.”

Related links

GOFCoE (on DDI website)

Work with the University of Edinburgh

 

Fintech startup Aveni wins £520,000 funding to add AI to advice

Fintech startup Aveni wins £520,000 funding to add AI to advice

Fintech startup Aveni has secured investment of £520,000 for its video-conferencing AI technology, which aims to transform services across the financial and professional advice sectors as part of the ‘new normal’.

The seed investment is led by the Tricapital angel syndicate. Old College Capital, the University of Edinburgh’s venture fund managed by Edinburgh Innovations, is a co-investor, alongside Scottish Investment Bank and Wallace Equity.

The funding will accelerate Aveni’s growth, initially in the financial services and legal sectors, and expand its team of specialist engineers.

Client relationships

Aveni, launched with support from EI, aims to transform businesses’ interaction with clients by automating functions such as customer relations management (CRM), fact finding, risk monitoring and adviser prompts.

Its natural language processing software is tailored to the financial and professional services sectors to enhance what current video-conferencing platforms can offer.

“This backing will allow us to leverage the exceptional talent that we have on our doorstep at the University, which is in the top five globally for computation, information and cognition.”

 

Aveni CEO Joseph Twigg.

EI support

Aveni was co-founded as Hatch AI by Joseph Twigg while he was studying for an Executive MBA at the University of Edinburgh Business School in 2018, together with Dr Lexi Birch, a Senior Research Fellow and natural language specialist in the University’s School of Informatics.

Twigg has extensive experience in financial services, including six years as Global Head of Strategy and Business Management at Standard Life Aberdeen, the UK’s largest asset manager.

EI’s support for the team has included helping them develop the business proposition ahead of formally launching their company.

Twigg says the widespread adoption of video conferencing (VC) during the Covid-19 pandemic has been an enabler for new technologies such as machine learning and natural language processing.

“The impact on the service industry could be dramatic. Widespread automation will drive down cost to serve, open doors to national VC-only channels and transform both the approach to and cost of compliance.”

 

–      Aveni CEO Joseph Twigg.

Aveni, when operating as Hatch AI, was a 2019 winner of the Scottish EDGE business competition.

Related links

Aveni

EI services for students

Old College Capital

 

 

Spinout rebuilds voices of people who lose theirs

Spinout rebuilds voices of people who lose theirs

People who have lost or are at risk of losing their voice due to a medical condition will be helped by a new spinout company that will create a personalised synthetic version of their voice.

The company – SpeakUnique – will digitally rebuild the voices of people with conditions that affect speech such as motor neurone disease (MND), stroke, cancer of the throat or tongue and cerebral palsy.

It is estimated that more than 500,000 people in the English-speaking world could benefit from this technology, with nearly 10,000 people being affected each year in the UK alone.

The spinout company is the result of a collaborative research project between world-leading researchers in computer sciences and healthcare at the University of Edinburgh. The project was inspired by Euan MacDonald (pictured), founder of the University’s Euan MacDonald Centre for MND research.

Enterprise support

SpeakUnique CEO Alice Smith, a Research Assistant at Edinburgh Medical School, has been supported by Edinburgh Innovations throughout the commercialisation process, including forming the spinout company.

EI helped the SpeakUnique team secure ICURe and Innovate UK funding, and supported Smith’s application to the Royal Society of Edinburgh for an Enterprise Fellowship in 2019, which was then hosted by EI.

Smith and the SpeakUnique team won the Emerging Innovation Award for Staff at EI’s 2019 Inspire Launch Grow awards.

“Personalised synthetic voices are valuable not just to the individual, but also to their families as their loved one can maintain a key part of their identity.

 

“We are extremely grateful to the 1,600 people from all over the UK who donated their voices to the research project, which has allowed individuals to communicate with a voice that is identifiably their own.”

 

– Alice Smith, CEO, SpeakUnique.

Full speech from short recording

When speech is impaired, people often use a communication aid, such as an iPad or eye gaze machine, to speak for them. Such devices use generic synthetic voices that many users have reported they find unnatural and can leave them feeling that they have lost a part of their identity.

SpeakUnique allows people to create their own synthetic voice using less than an hour of their speech recorded via the internet. The new voice can then be downloaded for use or banked for the future.

For individuals who have already experienced a deterioration in their speech, such as slowness or slurring, SpeakUnique can repair the damage so their synthetic voice sounds like their previously healthy voice.

The service can also create bespoke voices for people who have lost or never had a voice, with a choice of regional accent, age and gender.

In addition to more than 1,600 people who donated their voices during development, SpeakUnique’s service is also based on feedback from more than 180 people with a range of medical conditions and healthcare professionals including doctors, nurses and speech and language therapists.

From idea to reality

Euan MacDonald lost his own voice due to the effects of MND. He came up with the idea for SpeakUnique because he didn’t want his children to remember him by a voice that wasn’t his own.

“We have been delighted to support this venture and see it grow from an idea to a research project.

 

“To be able to formally launch is very exciting, as people with MND, amongst others, will be able to bank their voices and receive the best quality synthesised voice in return. I know the benefits first hand as someone who uses my personalised voice through my eye gaze device every day.

 

“This is a great example of collaboration between the University and private individuals.”

 

– Euan MacDonald, founder of the Euan MacDonald Centre for MND research.

SpeakUnique’s business model is based on marketing its services to end users and charities.

The company can provide a voice to anyone who speaks English anywhere in the world, in any accent.

Related links

SpeakUnique

The Euan MacDonald Centre

EI services for staff

 

 

 

Route-finding AI specialist Continuum Industries raises £1.5m

Route-finding AI specialist Continuum Industries raises £1.5m

Continuum Industries, which provides AI tools to rapidly design linear infrastructure projects such as routes for roads, railways and powerlines, has raised £1.5 million in seed funding.

The company, co-founded by Edinburgh Innovations clients, says the funding will enable it to make its technology widely available to planning and design teams around the world.

The funding round was co-led by Playfair Capital and Credo Ventures, with participation from Techstart Ventures, Simon Blakey, Michael Blakey and others.

Automated design

Founded in Edinburgh in 2018 with initial backing from Skyscanner co-founder Gareth Williams, Continuum Industries has created the CI Engine, which allows its users to automate their existing engineering design process and use AI, like a co-pilot, to explore millions of design options in rich detail. 

The CI Engine enables infrastructure planning and design teams to cut the time spent on early-stage design work via automation of design processes and decisions that traditionally happen in spreadsheets and emails. The initial stages of the design process can be cut from months to a matter of days. 

The company says the CI Engine can reduce construction and operational costs of large infrastructure projects by as much as 15%, and can help planners and designers contribute to worldwide economic recovery post-Covid-19.

Bespoke EI support

Continuum Industries emerged from the founders’ involvement in HYPED, a 150-strong student-led society at the University of Edinburgh that built the UK’s first hyperloop prototype vehicle and successfully competed in contests run by SpaceX and Virgin Hyperloop One.

The Continuum founders received support from EI during the HYPED project, including a bespoke bootcamp to help explore the possibilities for a spinoff company. The team were hosted at the time by EI at the Appleton Tower Enterprise Hub in Edinburgh.

It was the hyperloop moonshot that made us realise the socio-economic value of infrastructure and forced us to think about better ways of taking infrastructure projects from ideas to reality.”

 

– Grzegorz Marecki, co-founder and CEO, Continuum Industries

 

Continuum Industries CEO Grzegorz Marecki says productivity of the construction industry has not increased in the past 30 years. 

“As we fight to reduce our environmental impact and meet the needs of a growing population, we can’t keep relying on decades-old methods that are no longer fit for purpose,” says Marecki.

“Continuum Industries brings an AI-powered alternative to help the construction industry increase its productivity and meet the demand.”

‘Genuine game-changer’

Chris Smith, Managing Partner at Playfair Capital, who joined the company’s board of directors, said: “From the first message the team sent me on LinkedIn, we have been impressed with the depth and breadth of expertise they have in the infrastructure and construction space, matched with a burning passion to change the way we plan and build critical infrastructure projects.”

“Even at this relatively early stage, the technology Continuum Industries has built is a genuine game-changer, enabling significant time and cost savings for all parties involved in designing and constructing linear infrastructure projects. 

“With signed customers across Europe and a growing global pipeline of interest we are excited to be onboard to support the team through the next phase of growth.”

Related links

Continuum Industries

EI services for students