Business updates

Business updates


KTP secured with Lumien, product of software firm Evolyst, to enhance the ability to manage workplace mental health

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The Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) will see Aston’s academics incorporate a sophisticated machine learning (ML) capability into the Lumien software platform to deliver predictive data analysis of workplace mental health and wellbeing.

Within the framework of the recently awarded KTP, academics from Aston’s College of Engineering and Physical Sciences will deliver the expertise needed to apply sophisticated ML to enhance functionality and deliver an advanced version of the Lumien platform at scale. This will enable Lumien to increase revenue via an advanced offering, provide predictive data analysis of workplace mental health and deliver innovative software to improve productivity through preventive mental health strategies. The embedded ML skills will allow continual development of the platform post KTP.

The Lumien analytics platform allows clients to manage and support employee mental health and build a positive mental health and wellbeing strategy. Lumien is a SaaS platform (Software as a Service) which allows companies to use Lumien as a starting point to their mental health and wellbeing strategy, utilising it internally, or with an external provider.  The system provides all employees with a tool which anonymously shows them their own mental health and wellbeing data, whilst recommending tips, resources and events/activities loaded on to the platform by the employer. The employer receives aggregated data reports in the background, allowing them to see where their employees need support, and what effect this has on their productivity and bottom line.

Lumien’s clients are now seeking further proactive support rather than reactive support in order to predict a team's mental health and the effect of management decisions on productivity. This has driven the development of an advanced version of the platform to provide predictive analysis, facilitate high level decision making & ultimately prevent mental health issues via early intervention.

The Lumien platform has provided help to multiple companies, supporting thousands of employees already, but now requires specialist expertise to take the platform to the next level, meeting demand and achieving growth. The complex combination of AI/ML techniques with multi-stranded datasets and an understanding of mental health issues/metrics/diagnostics underpinned by the social and psychological considerations is best suited to the academic team and so through a KTP.

Christopher Golby, PhD, director and co-founder of Lumien said: “We at Lumien are extremely excited about this opportunity, and the support we will receive. We’re on a mission to empower people to take control of their own wellbeing, and having supported thousands of employees already in this, the expertise provided by Aston University will allow us to take this a significant step forwards, providing more personalized support for individuals, and allowing more strategic support for companies. We see this collaboration and partnership as a way to accelerate our growth and change how companies handle mental health and wellbeing, moving from a cautionary, reactive approach, to a proactive, strategic manner, which supports all those involved.”

Throughout the partnership there will be various obstacles the academics will have to overcome. The biggest challenge will stem from migrating Lumien’s current system to an automated model with personalization involved. Then, Lumien will have to ensure that its infrastructure can cope with the rapid growth expected from this advancement. For this, the KTP will expedite Lumien's skills in ML which would have taken several years to accumulate without the KTP. Agile working will overcome the challenges of training the Lumien team in new techniques.

The Academic team on this KTP includes, Dr Christopher Buckingham who is Reader in Computer Science. His first degree is in Psychology with a Masters and PhD in Computer Science. His research focuses on socio-technical aspects such as how technology can address sociological and psychological issues.

Dr Christopher Buckingham said: “It is a wonderful opportunity to help Evolyst improve mental health in the workplace and fits very well with our own research. The KTP will link Lumien to our own GRiST decision support system that is in use by the NHS to assess and manage risks associated with mental health problems. The KTP will provide employees and organisations with a complete solution, where people are supported both within the workplace and, if people have more serious problems, with expert clinical advice outside it.”

Dr Felipe Campelo's research focuses on the development of integrated solution frameworks for prescriptive data analytics, effectively connecting data mining, statistical modelling, optimisation and multi-criteria decision making, which will be invaluable in supporting the data analysis and predictive modelling Lumien requires.

Dr Luis Manso, Lecturer in Computer Science has research interests in various aspects of artificial intelligence, and will support this KTP with his expertise on data structures and relationships between data.

The academic team has extensive experience of data analysis and software development creating the perfect opportunity to drive this KTP to its full potential.

Once completed, this project will produce a number of benefits beyond the business case, in supporting organisations to implement supportive strategies to manage employee mental health.

  • The KTP will enable organisations to better plan and manage risk, create a supportive work environment to increase employee wellbeing, prevent issues and ultimately improve productivity.
  • The KTP will provide rich data on the effects of age,gender and industry on occurrences of mental health issues to inform future research.
  • The KTP will enhance Lumien's reputation as a trusted provider, with the potential to apply for awards.
  • The KTP will support additional job creation at Lumien as it realises its growth plans.

The project outcomes will be integrated into Aston's curriculum via e.g. teaching case studies. This will ensure future graduates are well prepared to strive in real workplace scenarios and appropriately equipped in software development.

Expected project finish date: 2022

This project is co-funded by the UK’s innovation agency, Innovate UK.

Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTP) is a UK-wide programme that has been helping businesses for the past 45 years to improve their competitiveness and productivity through the better use of knowledge, technology and skills that reside within the UK Knowledge Base. Aston University is the leading university within the Midlands for KTP.

To find out more about how your business can benefit from working with Aston University, please email  rke@aston.ac.uk  or call 0121 204 4242.

To view more about the lumen platform, simply visit www.lumien.io and book a demo.

www.ktp-uk.org


Aston secures a KTP with RL Capital to extend their intelligent HGV Auto Align tyre and wheel offering to cars and vans.

Led by a team of academics from Aston’s College of Engineering and Physical Sciences, technical expertise is to be used to extend the functionality of RL Capital’s AutoAlign, opening them up to a market 20x the size they currently operate in.

RL Capital (RLC) is an automotive technology company that develops intelligent tyre and wheel monitoring systems, reducing carbon and micro-particle vehicle emissions. RLC's strategy is to develop and commercialise a portfolio of novel automotive fault detection systems. The company has already developed and commercialised real-time tyre/wheel condition monitoring systems: TACscan (predictive tyre tread wear) and TyreWatch (commercial vehicle tyre pressure monitoring). The company has an ongoing technology partnership with McLaren Applied for TyreWatch.

RLC are now developing AutoAlign, a wheel alignment fault detection system for Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGVs) funded via a Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) project. The next step is to extend functionality of AutoAlign and KTP is the most appropriate approach to build on the outcomes of the SBRI project by allowing RLC to access Aston's expertise in signal processing, dynamics & MEMs and machine learning. Through the use of technical enterprise, academics from the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences at Aston, will extend the functionality of AutoAlign HGV into AutoAlign for Cars & Vans. Joint work of the academics and the company will enable RLC to make a step change in its technology and accelerate RLC's skills in sensor design, signal processing and ML, which without the KTP could take several years to accumulate

Aston’s academic team will develop a novel, real-time wheel alignment fault detection system (AutoAlign for Cars & Vans) to deliver accurate fault detection of wheel misalignment, enabling drivers and fleet operators to reduce power consumption and minimise air pollution caused by excess exhaust emissions and tyre wear.

The KTP will be particularly challenging due to both the size and nature of the data. The scale will be a higher order of magnitude to the HGV solution requiring sophisticated Machine Learning (ML) techniques to handle TB worth of data. The academics will be challenged with de-noising/filtering the data to enable reinforcement learning and methods for assessing data noise for its potential value.

The partnership will strengthen Aston's profile in MEMs, sensor technologies and AI applications for Smart cities.

RL Capital’s CEO, Mark Longden says: “We are delighted to partner with Aston University on this project which builds on our existing and long term relationship. Working on sustainability in the Automotive sector using IoT sensors, Big Data and Machine Learning is stimulating, rewarding and is at the forefront of real world technologies”

KTP brings strong team of academics who will work on addressing the challenge of achieving company’s long term aims. The team includes Dr Yu Jia a Senior Lecturer in Mechanical Engineering at Aston University and leads the Smart Microsystem Research Group whose expertise lies in signal processing & conditioning of data. Dr Jia will work alongside Dr Maria Chli whose core research is modelling and optimization of  complex systems through coupling techniques from the fields of multi-agent systems and ML.

Academic support will be provided by Dr George Vogiatzis who has extensive experience in applying constrained optimisation techniques, including Mixed Integer Programming in a variety of complex geometric problems. He has extensive experience of ML techniques including deep learning neural networks.

Dr Yu Jia stated: “The successful outcome of this project will eventually result in a reduction in micro-particulate air pollution from the wheels of road cars, thus resulting in a cleaner environment, improvement to public health as well as reducing the vehicle on-cost from the reduced wear and tear.”

Once completed, this project will produce number of significant environmental benefits:

  • A recent survey by Protyre of 376K cars showed that 46% of cars had misaligned wheels. With AutoAlign this could be significantly reduced contributing to the Government’s Clean Air Strategy by decreasing CO2 & non-exhaust particulate emissions.
  • AutoAlign will enable drivers to cut overall annual release of tyre-related particulates by up to 5% and remove up to 25K tons of microplastics from the environment in the EU.
  • AutoAlign will also reduce exhaust emissions from lower fuel consumption and cut 540M tons of annual worldwide CO2 emissions from manufacture & subsequent disposal of up to 30M car tyres (CRR).
  • Additionally AutoAlign will encourage operators to proactively correct alignment and it is estimated that within 5 years an additional 4m alignment resets will be performed p.a in the UK generating up to 600 UK automotive jobs.

The project outcomes will be integrated into Aston's curriculum via e.g. teaching case studies developing well equipped graduates.

Expected project finish date: 2022

This project is co-funded by the UK’s innovation agency, Innovate UK.

Knowledge Transfer Partnerships is a UK-wide programme that has been helping businesses for the past 45 years to improve their competitiveness and productivity through the better use of knowledge, technology and skills that reside within the UK Knowledge Base. 

To find out more about how your business can benefit from working with Aston University, please email  rke@aston.ac.uk  or call 0121 204 4242

www.ktp-uk.org


Aston University and ColdHubs Ltd partner up to minimise food waste in Nigeria

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The two year project will develop a hybrid solar-powered off-grid pre-cooling storage system for smallholder farmers clusters in Nigeria to preserve perishable foods

Aston University has been awarded Global Challenges Research funding to undertake research and development with ColdHubs Ltd and the University of Port Harcourt who are both based in Nigeria.

This unique African Agriculture Knowledge Transfer Partnership aims to tackle food waste by developing a novel hybrid solar-powered off-grid pre-cooling storage system for smallholder farmers clusters in Nigeria. Although the produce sector in Nigeria is worth over £3 billion, new technology is urgently needed as the country currently loses nearly half of its annual vegetable and fruits production due to the absence of adequate cold storage.

The ambitious goal of this project is to enhance existing and develop new cold rooms, minimize food waste, improve cooling efficiency, increasing farmers' income and drive business growth for ColdHubs Ltd.

The need for a solution

ColdHubs Ltd. is a social enterprise based in Nigeria that designs, installs, commissions, builds and operates 100% solar-powered walk-in cold rooms ("ColdHubs"), in markets and farm clusters. The Hubs are used by smallholder farmers, retailers, and wholesalers, who pay a fee to store and preserve perishable foods which typically extends product shelf life from 2 to 21 days. Cold rooms are installed at multiple locations, depending upon need and agri-food density.

A key element of the new ColdHubs will be the development of a hybrid solar-powered pre-cooling technology based on novel vapour compression-absorption technology developed at Aston. The team will also have to apply their extensive expertise to identify common operating conditions for a range of produce, to avoid food damage due to either excessive cooling or undercooling; mitigate the impact of weather conditions on optimisation of the ColdHub minimising energy usage and storage.

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There are also significant technical and socio-economic challenges in the development of the ColdHubs such as, a) mitigation of the impact of weather conditions on optimisation of the ColdHub, b) potential societal barriers towards the roll-out of new cooling and renewable technologies and c) commercial conflicts between technology solutions and the business model. Research and development teams will need to navigate the above mentioned challenges in order to develop and integrate year-round sustainable cooling system that meets very challenging user needs. 

Academics will seek for solutions to optimise use land for the installation of sorption cooling units and integrated solar subsystems and overcome commercial conflicts between technology solutions and the business model.

Benefits

ColdHubs currently operates 24 solar powered cold storage rooms on 18 sites in the Southern and Northern Regions of Nigeria serving more than 3.5 thousand users. In 2019, the 24 ColdHubs saved 20,400 tons of food from spoilage and increased the income of small farmers, retailers and wholesalers by 50%.  

However, ColdHubs current technology is expensive and constrained. The proposed new technology is novel, hybridising vapour compression and vapour absorption refrigeration cycles in a single unit for fast chilling. It will reduce the battery bank size, reduce cost and meet demand at high cooling loads.

Exploitation of the above mentioned technology opens up the a potential market of over 93 million smallholder farmers (70% of them women) along with additional opportunities for pre-cooling in farm clusters, horticultural produce aggregation centres and outdoor markets, across Nigeria.

Harvest-to-sell ratio will be improved therefore, enabling smallholder farmers to increase annual income up to 50%. The project will also enhance economic development, support the generation of renewable energy generation (solar and wind) and ultimately increase the number of people with access to fresh food.

Upon successful completion this partnership will increase revenue of ColdHubs by 30% in the next 3 years; improve the existing business model by opening new markets; help to invest 5% of revenue in cutting edge innovation; develop the technical and business skills of employees and generate many other substantial business benefits and outcomes.

About the academic team

The Academic team working on this KTP includes Dr Muhammad Imran from Aston University, an established researcher in the area of thermal energy systems and hybrid energy from Mechanical, Biomedical and Design Engineering, alongside Dr Ahmed Rezk who is a Lecturer of Thermal-Fluid Sciences in the School of Mechanical Engineering. Dr Rezk has extensive first-hand research experience in adsorption cooling both in the modelling and experimentation. 

They will collaborate with Dr Ogheneruona Diemuodeke and Dr Mohammed Ojapah from the University of Port Harcourt who have significant expertise in renewable energy, thermofluids and power engineering.

Dr Ogheneruona Diemuodeke said: "The beauty of this project is that it comes with three significant impacts after completion – climate action, food security and improved income. Imagine smallholder farmers losing a huge amount of revenue from rot/spoilage of farm produce due to lack of storage facility. This AAKTP funded project shall provide a cost-effective cooling system to eliminate spoilage in the farm produces supply chain."

Dr Muhammad Imran stated: This project is so important as throwing away food is like stealing from the tables of those who need it the most.

 Expected project finish date: September 2022

This project is co-funded by the UK’s innovation agency, Innovate UK.

GCRF is a £1.5 billion fund to support cutting-edge research which addresses the problems faced by developing countries.

Knowledge Transfer Partnerships is a UK-wide programme that has been helping businesses for the past 45 years to improve their competitiveness and productivity through the better use of knowledge, technology and skills that reside within the UK Knowledge Base. 

To find out more about how your business can benefit from working with Aston University, please email  rke@aston.ac.uk  or call 0121 204 4242


Knowledge Transfer Partnership to drive Metal Assemblies' success

Date: September 2020

  • Metal Assemblies to embed Aston Business School academic to improve the gathering and use of data
  • KTP will result in machines ‘talking’ to each other to instantly create smart production schedules
  • Project will speed up what was a manual process leading to greater efficiencies and higher profit margins

The KTP scheme helps businesses in the UK to innovate and grow, by bringing in new skills and the latest academic thinking to deliver a specific, strategic innovation project.

Iain Collis, managing director at Metal Assemblies, talked about the KTP in the latest episode of a podcast series called ‘Aston means business: SMEs adapting to COVID-19 challenges’, presented by journalist Steve Dyson.

Mr Collis said: “We came across KTP a little bit by accident, but within half an hour of that first meeting with Aston we were sold, simply because they have such a breadth of experience in terms of dealing with business and manufacturing.

“The ideas they had were in tandem with exactly what we were thinking. What impressed us was that basically they were going to embed themselves into the business and make sure that the knowledge gained was transferred to us.”

Mr Collis said Metal Assemblies, founded nearly 70 years ago, was a traditional manufacturing business that was now equipped with modern robots and data systems.

But he explained: “What none of those things do very well is talk to each other, so we still rely an awful lot on manual data mining. Somebody literally has to go through things and work out patterns and trends, and that is very labour intensive.

“And it means the business is slow to react sometimes or it goes off in the wrong direction because we don’t interpret the data properly.”

Mr Collis spoke about how the Metal Assemblies initially cut its 150-strong workforce to around 90 due to COVID-19, but since emerging from the lockdown it had already restored capacity to about 80 per cent.

He said the company had won a lot of new business over the last 12 months with new production starting next year. The KTP, set to start on the 1 January 2021, will cost an initial £200,000 over two years, with two-thirds covered by Innovate UK and the rest funded by Metal Assemblies.

Mr Collis said they wanted Aston’s assistance on introducing “fourth generation industry” to the business “to create an environment where the machines talk to each other and let us know what is going on without an awful lot of human intervention.

“It will be hardware solutions and software solutions, but also the systems that we use and the training of the staff until they understand how the systems work, so it really is a business-wide change, a step change.”

He added: “If we don’t go down this route, the alternative would be for us to have to put more machines in place, (which) is very capital intensive. We need to improve the effectiveness of our equipment (with) technology to make us more efficient and make better decisions.” 

Prof Ben Clegg, head of Aston Business School’s Operations and Information Management Department, was also interviewed for the podcast. He explained that Aston would bring new ideas, new tools and data management methods to the KTP project.

He said: “We thrive on the challenge of bringing wider academic knowledge and practice into companies and organisations to create impact. More broadly, we will act as a change catalyst and bring objectivity into the company … to make them work more efficiently, more productively.”

Prof Clegg added that the benefits were two-way, with academics involved in the project learning about practical experiences, in this case from the automotive industry, which they use to teach students.

 ▪ Episode 10 of ‘Aston means business: SMEs adapting to COVID-19 challenges’ can be found at https://www2.aston.ac.uk/aston-business-school/podcast.

Expected project finish date: September 2022

This project is co-funded by the UK’s innovation agency, Innovate UK.

Knowledge Transfer Partnerships is a UK-wide programme that has been helping businesses for the past 45 years to improve their competitiveness and productivity through the better use of knowledge, technology and skills that reside within the UK Knowledge Base. 

To find out more about how your business can benefit from working with Aston University, please email  rke@aston.ac.uk  or call 0121 204 4242


Cognition to work with Aston to become the first UK marketing agency to use EEG technology of this type

Date: May 2020

Marketing agency Cognition  has  announced a new partnership with Aston’s Health and Life Sciences and Engineering and Physical Sciences. This partnership will trial electroencephalography (EEG) technology to measure the effectiveness of future marketing campaigns. Behavioral  science  experts  at Aston University will work alongside Cognition to produce a Neuro Marketing Toolkit (NMT).

Volunteers will  be  asked  to  review  marketing  campaigns  while  scientists  use  EEG  to  measure  how  their  brains respond,  allowing  Cognition to  rapidly  produce  effective  marketing  campaigns  that  help  grow businesses. This innovation will be supported by Aston University’s expertise in technology, psychology and decision science.  

Leading  this  project at Aston University is Dr Carl Senior, a behavioural scientist with 20 years’ experience  working  at  the  interface  between  social  psychology  and  organisational  behaviour.  The project will further benefit from two academic supervisors. Professor Adrian Burgess, is a world leader in electroencephalography, a specialised technique which records brain activity by measuring the very small electric signals that are produced by the brain. Dr Sylvia Wongis the second academic supervisor of  the  project,  and  is  an  expert  in  complex  database  design,  software  modelling,  structuring  and development which are all vital in transforming data into actionable information.

“Aston's expertise is core to the creation of Cognition’s Neuro Marketing Toolkit and we can test and use EEG data with Aston’s dedicated lab facilities.” says John Berry, chairman at Cognition.

“The experience of Aston University’s academics is one that cannot be reproduced by another organisation and they have the exact knowledge we need to develop our services.” says Dr Peter Hughes, Psychologist and Cognition co-founder.

“The use of EEG in neuromarketing endeavours is a fairly new application and its unique ability to detect very small signals in the brain should enable us to identify the point at which clients start to initiate a purchase decision. We are delighted to be working with Cognition on this ambitious project.” says Dr Carl Senior.

Additional benefits of the KTP include:

  • Cognition will be the first UK marketing agency to use EEG technology of this type to measure the effectiveness of various marketing campaigns.
  • Commercialising the NMT into a  Software as a Service panel and offering to other agencies.    
  • Enable Cognition to establish and achieve a substantial market share by year five post-KTP.

Expected project finish date: May 2022

This project is co-funded by the UK’s innovation agency, Innovate UK.

Knowledge Transfer Partnerships is a UK-wide programme that has been helping businesses for the past 45 years to improve their competitiveness and productivity through the better use of knowledge, technology and skills that reside within the UK Knowledge Base. 

To find out more about how your business can benefit from working with Aston University, please email  rke@aston.ac.uk  or call 0121 204 4242


Aurrigo, a division of the RDM Group, partners with Aston to ensure their autonomous vehicles can avoid obstacles, improving operational safety and performance

Aurrigo Shuttle (Action)

Date: August 2019

Project Announcement

Aurrigo, a division of the Richmond Design and Marketing Group Ltd. (RDM), announced a new Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) with Aston University's College of Engineering and Physical Sciences. Lead by academics from Aston University’s Computer Science department, the partnership will develop and implement a sophisticated machine vision solution for autonomous vehicles in the Low-Speed Autonomous Transport Systems (L-SATS) sector, which will ensure that driverless cars can avoid unexpected obstacles, making their use safer. 

The RDM Group, are leaders in the UK L-SATS sector and introduced the first-ever driverless vehicle in 2017. Self-driving cars is a topic increasingly gathering attention from both the research community and industry, due to its potential to radically change transport and mobility. This KTP Project Visual Perception and Decision Making for Low Speed Autonomous Transport Systems puts forward the development of intelligent systems with perception and autonomous decision capabilities in order to navigate in the presence of static and dynamic obstacles (e.g. road signs, pedestrians, cyclists, etc.) with a comprehensive understanding of the immediate environment, while following higher-level directions. The objective is to use deep-learning techniques to enable safe interaction in mixed environments to achieve full autonomous (Level 5) vehicle capability. This will require the development of an "Avoidance Dynamic Path Planning" capability, a critical innovation to achieve growth for RDM.

Controlling an agent from high-dimensional sensory inputs is a major challenge in any adaptive application. This project will exploit, for the academics, previous successes in deep reinforcement learning for traffic settings and apply it in an iterative manner between: exploration of the action space; optimisation for model update, and evaluation to verify the model’s performance.

This KTP project will adopt a staged approach with the first stage utilising a simulated environment for training and testing. This will enhance the team's understanding, enable the design of suitable model architectures and hyperparameter selection. Once the navigation task using topological maps to represent the 3D world in the simulated environment is achieved, the project will proceed to the second stage, involving on-the-fly visual detection and tracking of obstacles using deep learning and transferring learning from the simulated task to the real-world application.

The Academic team for this KTP includes Dr George Vogiatzis and Dr Diego Faria. Dr George Vogiatzis has extensive research in the subjects of Machine Vision, Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence; while working at Toshiba, he evaluated obstacle avoidance strategies and developed algorithms to improve upon them. Dr Diego Faria has collaborated on multiple EU and international projects within the fields of Artificial Perception, Cognitive Robotics including Human-Robot Interaction and Autonomous Systems. Both academics have extensive experience of working collaboratively with business to transfer knowledge and create practical solutions.

Nick Ridler, engineering manager at RDM Group, says:

“The expertise of Aston’s academics and their specialist labs at Aston University are key, allowing us to run detection and recognition of obstacle scenarios. This data will be used in our decision-making algorithms which will choose the optimal solution based on the environment. This project will allow us to run accurate detection and obstacle recognition scenarios without having to 'field test' our driverless vehicles.”

Further benefits of the KTP include:

  • Higher levels of safety in operating autonomous vehicles

  • Replacement of high-cost detection Systems, e.g. LIDAR, by low-cost alternatives, improving RDM Group’s competitiveness

  • Delivery of new Low-Speed Autonomous Transport Systems (L-SATS) into mixed environments.

Expected project finish date: September 2022

This project is co-funded by the UK’s innovation agency, Innovate UK.

Knowledge Transfer Partnerships is a UK-wide programme that has been helping businesses for the past 45 years to improve their competitiveness and productivity through the better use of knowledge, technology and skills that reside within the UK Knowledge Base. 

To find out more about how your business can benefit from working with Aston University, please email rke@aston.ac.uk or call 0121 204 4242

 ___________________________________

Date: November 2020

James Heaton takes on the role as KTP associate

After a thorough recruitment process to ensure the right person was hired to drive this Knowledge Transfer Partnership to its full potential, in September James Heaton was recruited as the KTP associate. The objective of this collaboration is to enable Aurrigo vehicles to run at Level 5 autonomy, which means they will run outside confined vehicle free spaces, e.g. airports and closed campuses. This will require the development of an "Avoidance Dynamic Path Planning" capability, a critical innovation to achieve growth for RDM.

We caught up with James to discuss this exciting, innovative project.

1. What attracted you to the role and how did you feel about being recruited onto the project?

I went for this role as I felt that it was a great position to apply my skill set and education; I did my Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering with a final year specialisation in robotics, and I recently completed my master’s in Artificial Intelligence. Naturally, working with autonomous vehicles was a perfect fit. I am very pleased about being recruited onto the project. I got on with everyone on the team instantly and settled into my role very quickly.

2. What have you been working on in your first two months?

In my first couple of months I have been working with a Far East Airport and Regulators to create a simulation environment for their airport. 3D laser scans were taken of the runway and surrounding buildings which I have turned into a rendered world using our processing pipeline linked to a game development platform. Using CAD models of the vehicles, we can place them in the world and have them drive around using a sophisticated physics engine. This allows us to test the running of these autonomous vehicles in the simulation without the need to be physically present at the airside. This same process can be used for any location where we can either record or be provided with a laser scan. We are also working on a projects at other European airports.

3. What are you looking forward to the most, as you progress through this project?

Aurrigo has a number of interesting applications for their autonomous vehicles ranging from small pods to high-capacity shuttles used for public transport. However, what I am most excited to work on is the autonomous baggage handling in airports. Whilst autonomous vehicles are constantly reported on in today’s media, these are almost always self-driving cars on public roads, and not much is known to the public about how we can use artificial intelligence and autonomous vehicles to improve the efficiency of baggage handling (even I had not considered this as a potential application until my interview!). I am relishing the technical challenges of this application; most research into autonomous vehicles has been constrained to public roads, but the nature of the environment changes drastically in an airport where there are unique vehicles you would not see on the road (such as aircraft steps, baggage trailers etc.), as well as the aircraft themselves.        

We look forward to following James' work as the project progresses over the next couple of years.

www.ktp-uk.org


Rimilia Holdings Ltd partnered with Aston University to develop an intelligent financial management software tool

Project Finish Date: April 2020

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Rimilia Holdings Ltd now operates under the name Blackline


Aston University supports Sarissa to develop develop a robotic production line, increasing their smart chip production by 900%

Project Finish Date: July 2019

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Optimec Limited launches second Knowledge Transfer Partnership with Aston University academics 

Date: September 2018

Optimec Ltd, a company that provides measurement and inspection technology for the world's best contact and intraocular lens manufacturers, have been awarded a new Knowledge Transfer Partnership with Aston University.

This exciting partnership follows the successful completion of its first collaboration with Aston University which resulted in Optimec launching its unique-to-market ‘is830’ instrument for measuring contact lenses and curved objects, which put them as industry leaders, and generated over £1,000,000 of sales turnover worldwide.

Further collaborative work with Aston University will ensure that Optimec Ltd will improve its already revolutionary technology, by exploiting image process techniques to deliver an innovative range of devices for use in both ophthalmic and non-ophthalmic manufacturing sectors.

“In the last Optimec/Aston collaboration we revolutionised the machinery used to perform quality checks on contact lenses. This project will allow the technology to be built into the production line process allowing us to measure as we go, thereby enhancing our reputation in ophthalmic metrology and placing us as a ‘centre for excellence’ in Optical Coherence Tomography technology.” says Dr Benjamin Coldrick, Head of Technical Development at Optimec Ltd.

“This collaboration will allow us to begin to understand the effects of optical design and light source on distortions and noise”, commented Dr Antonio Fratini, Senior Lead Academic and Academic Supervisor at Aston University. The academic team composed also of Dr Patrick Geoghegan as Academic support further commented “This project will also provide resources for both post-doc and students projects, while developing our students’ skill for transferring academic research into product-based research.”

The benefits of this new partnership include:

  • Continuous real-world learning for Aston’s academics using cutting-edge science and technology research.
  • Development of a new Calibration standard for use by Optimec and for distribution to its customers.
  • New product developments to enable diversification into non-ophthalmic markets where contact free, precision measurement is critical.

All of these will aid Optimec’s current business. Improving the knowledge around de-warping and calibration will also allow establishment of Optimec as market leaders and open potential expansion into other industries where Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) could be used for Non-destructive testing (NDT).

Expected project finish date: September 2021

This project is co-funded by the UK’s innovation agency, Innovate UK.

Knowledge Transfer Partnerships is a UK-wide programme that has been helping businesses for the past 45 years to improve their competitiveness and productivity through the better use of knowledge, technology and skills that reside within the UK Knowledge Base. 

To find out more about how your business can benefit from working with Aston University, please email  rke@aston.ac.uk  or call 0121 204 4242


Aston academics employ design automation techniques to reduce Mechatherm International Limited design engineering time by 70% 

Date: August 2018

Aston University is pleased to announce a new Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) with Mechatherm International Ltd (MIL). Together the team will develop and implement a Knowledge-Based Engineering approach to the design and specification of furnaces and ancillary equipment for Aluminium processing. 

MIL is a leading industrial engineering provider specialising in the design and supply of furnaces and other equipment for the global Aluminium industry.  The partnership will see Aston university academics using complex design automation techniques and algorithms to create a more intelligent design process, allowing MIL to reduce their manual activities and lower production costs.

Leading the project on from the academic side is Dr Gareth Thomson, reader of the mechanical engineering undergraduate programmes at Aston and a co-director for the Aston STEM education centre. Dr Thomson’s main academic interests are in design and smart systems technology with a research interest related to both pedagogy of engineering education and biomedical engineering. 

Dr Michal Konecny will supervise the project progress and facilitate the discovery of innovation. Dr Konecny specialises in programming theory, CAD systems and will integrate his knowledge into MIL’s internal system to formulate an optimal software design.  

Andrew Riley, Chairman of Mechatherm International Ltd. said "The breadth of specialist knowledge that is required would make it impossible for a solution to be developed through consultancy.

"Aston's academics can also embed the capabilities that Mechatherm International need to roll out other design disciplines post-project which ties into our strategic ambition to move MIL forward in the market."      

Suyesh Bhattarai, KTP associate and project manager for the partnerships, said “Expert knowledge is intricate and dispersed in a veteran firm like MIL who have built their prestige by providing bespoke solutions to the global customer base. Every product is essentially different, and hence optimisation and automation of designs require a robust approach. By the close of this KTP, we hope that we will have reduced the overall design engineering time by 70%.”

Further benefits of the KTP include:  

  • Introducing new design concepts such as Matrix Design to build MIL’s Mechanical Engineering Design capabilities

  • Increasing internal resource capability to allow MIL to focus on to future developments into electrical and pneumatic systems

  • Support from Aston Business School to create a service offer to the market

  • Introducing AI automatic design optimisation.  

Expected project finish date: May 2022

This project is co-funded by the UK’s innovation agency, Innovate UK. 

Knowledge Transfer Partnerships is a UK-wide programme that has been helping businesses for the past 45 years to improve their competitiveness and productivity through the better use of knowledge, technology and skills that reside within the UK Knowledge Base. 

To find out more about how your business can benefit from working with Aston University, please email  rke@aston.ac.uk  or call 0121 204 4242


Aston University teams up with Invibio Limited for exciting research project on innovative material for medical devices 

Date: March 2018

The Future of Fracture Fixation

Aston University is pleased to announce a new Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) with polymer implant specialists Invibio Ltd. This exciting partnership will enable Invibio to develop robust and effective evaluation procedures to identify and characterise particulate debris that may be generated from fracture fixation devices.

Invibio is a world leader in the provision of biomaterial solutions and a proven partner to medical device manufacturers with its implantable poly(etheretherketone) (PEEK)-based materials and composites, which are used in diverse medical procedures including keyhole surgery, spine, trauma and joint reconstruction.

Since the early 20th century, metals such as stainless steel and titanium, have mainly been used for fracture fixation. Though strong, the combination of metal plates and screws can, through the lifecycle of a device, result in metal debris, which may increase the chances of osteolysis, causing the implant to loosen. Invibio’s metal-free carbon fibre reinforced PEEK composite has the potential to provide artefact free imaging, reduce revision rates, and enable faster healing in patients. This KTP project will add to the compelling case for the use of Invibio’s composite technology in orthopaedic trauma procedures.

“The development of the test methods under this KTP project is integral to our fundamental understanding and capabilities in identifying and evaluating debris generation created during an implant’s lifetime in the body,” says Andy Anderson, Head of Medical R&D at Invibio. “Implant-derived debris is a concern for patients, surgeons and device manufactures alike, so demonstrating how our composite technologies can address this issue is an important step in regulatory clearance and adoption of the technology by medical device manufacturers.”

This partnership creates the opportunity to translate the learning to other orthopaedic device applications and PEEK-based polymers and composites where similar questions arise.

The Academic lead of the KTP is Dr Laura Leslie, Senior Lecturer in Mechanical Engineering & Design and Deputy Director of the Aston Institute of Materials from Aston’s School of Engineering and Applied Science. Her research focuses on Biomedical Engineering with an emphasis on fracture fixation in Orthopaedics. Dr Leslie is joined by Dr Greg Swadener and Dr Sarah Junaid, both of whom are Lecturers in Mechanical Engineering & Design. Dr Greg Swadener specialises in adhesion, composites, biomaterials and biomedical engineering applications.

Dr Sarah Junaid has expertise in fracture fixation, especially musculoskeletal lower limb damage on joint mechanics. The academic team from Aston University forms a solid ground for academic discovery and application of the expertise in development and validation of novel test methods.

Expected project finish date: November 2021

This project is co-funded by the UK’s innovation agency, Innovate UK.

Knowledge Transfer Partnerships is a UK-wide programme that has been helping businesses for the past 45 years to improve their competitiveness and productivity through the better use of knowledge, technology and skills that reside within the UK Knowledge Base. 

To find out more about how your business can benefit from working with Aston University, please email  rke@aston.ac.uk  or call 0121 204 4242