Spin-out company launches that will revolutionise the power generation sector

One-of-a-kind AI-driven software that can monitor the “health” of critical power plant components is being developed for sector use with the launch of a new spin-out company.

MatAlytics Ltd is a University of Nottingham spin-out that has launched following participation in Innovate UK’s (IUK) ICURe programme to identify a market and build a business plan for CITRUS (Component Integrity and Technology Readiness Utilisation System) software, which has been developed over many years of research activity.

A subsequent six-figure funding boost from IUK will now focus on commercialising the system, in partnership with Uniper UK, EDF France, and the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) in the US.

CITRUS aims to fill the current market gap to accurately monitor the structural integrity or “health” of in-service critical power plant components, in real-time. The system streams plant sensor data, such as temperatures and pressure, and combines advanced material modelling and artificial intelligence (AI) techniques to convert this information into a live representation of accumulated component damage and remaining lifespan of the engineering components.

This information offers plant operators the ability to make informed decisions to optimise the balance between commercial output and the longevity of the components, while simultaneously improving system efficiency, which will help reduce fuel consumption and emissions, and enhance plant safety.

“Launching MatAlytics Ltd is the next exciting step towards commercialising a system that has been ten years in the making, and so I’m incredibly proud to be where we are today and of everyone who has been part of the journey.” Christopher Hyde, CEO of MatAlytics Ltd.

Christopher Hyde, CEO of MatAlytics Ltd and Associate Professor at the University of Nottingham, continued: “Immediate component structural health feedback, based on live power plant operation, is something that operators have not had until now – and that’s the real-world solution we’re looking to provide with CITRUS. Now, this information will be available at the touch of a button.”

While the team will be focusing on the energy sector initially, they will be looking to expand into other industries once CITRUS has been established.

“The possibilities are truly endless for software like ours, but we want to focus on one area at a time and grow from there.” Benedikt Engel, CTO of MatAlytics Ltd.

Benedikt Engel, CTO of MatAlytics Ltd, continued: “We’re already in talks with several potential clients and this will only continue to ramp up in the coming months as MatAlytics Ltd makes itself known in the industry.

“To be able to effectively have component ‘life bars’ that are constantly being updated in real-time, will truly revolutionise the way power plants can operate, and we’re thrilled to have been able to turn our research into reality and give CITRUS the platform it deserves.”

Dan Hatfield, MatAlytics board chairman and investor said: “The UK has been an early leader in the transition to renewable energy, creating challenges with intermittency and new patterns of demand for existing thermal power plant operators. CITRUS can provide operators with ‘decision intelligence’ to plan, operate and maintain critical energy infrastructure in a new era of sustainability.”

For more information visit matalytics.com

Cheesecake Energy secures £3.5m to develop its unique green energy storage technology

Cheesecake Energy Ltd (CEL), University of Nottingham, UK-based energy storage spin-out has raised £3.5 million (US$4.2 million) in pre-series A funding. The round was led by BGF – the UK and Ireland’s most active investor – with support from Perivoli Innovations and private investors including former Jaguar chair, Sir John Egan.

The funds will be used to grow the CEL team, begin pilot deployments of the company’s technology, and build partnerships with potential manufacturing and distribution partners around the world.

The company’s unique eTanker technology stores electricity in the form of heat and compressed air. To store the energy, electric motors are used to drive compressors, which deliver high pressure air & heat into storage units. When the electricity is required, the high-pressure air and heat is passed back through the same compressor, now working as an expander, which turns a generator to produce electricity. With its simple raw materials and longer life, the eTanker will displace lithium-ion batteries in a wide range of static applications, from industry and agriculture to transport and renewable generation.

“Compared with battery alternatives, our eTanker solution is lower cost and much more sustainable, with no rare or toxic materials and with a design that can be fully recycled at the end of its 20-year plus life,” said CEL co-founder and CCO, Mike Simpson. “Our system stores much of the energy as heat in inert rock in a way that is passively safe, avoiding the fire risk faced by some battery technologies.”

Employing circular economy principles, CEL converts truck engines into zero-emission electrical power-conversion machines for putting energy into and out of storage. Its technology brings together the low cost of thermal storage with the long life and robustness of a mechanical system, all in a modular containerised package.

Commenting on the funding, CEL CEO Paul Harris said: “We are pleased to have completed this funding round, which will enable us to accelerate the development of our technology, to deploy pilot projects and bring our novel, sustainable energy storage to market. We are looking forward to working with our visionary investor, BGF, and are grateful for the continued support from our existing investors led by Perivoli Innovations.”

Since 2011, BGF has backed a range of early-stage and growth businesses involved in the field of Climate Tech, everything from fuel cells to sustainable battery solutions and energy-efficient buildings. The CEL funding round takes the total amount invested by BGF in this field to £230 million.

Dennis Atkinson, investor at BGF, said: “We see huge potential for CEL’s technology and expect it to be a global leader in the energy transition from its base in the Midlands. The UK is a hotbed of innovation in this space, and it is vital that the investment ecosystem is supporting entrepreneurs and innovators to drive growth and development across key areas in the fight against climate change. We share the ambition and  mission of the CEL team and look forward to helping them achieve it.”

New University spin out to deliver faster and safer engineering maintenance technologies

A new spin out company from The University of Nottingham is to help keep passenger planes in the air, while reducing the risk of injury to the engineering ground crews who maintain them.

The new company, Scintam Engineering Ltd, has been established to commercialise its new FastEDR (Fastener Electrical Discharge Removal) technology, which enables faster, safer and zero-damage disassembly for maintenance or for systems being decommissioned from service.

The technology can effectively dissolve metallic fasteners such as nuts, bolts, pins and rivets and replaces processes that are hazardous to the operator and often result in component damage. FastEDR can remove fasteners irrespective of their condition, including those that are seized, damaged or in difficult to access locations, increasing process efficiency by eliminating unforeseen delays during disassembly.

However, as well as targeting aerospace industry, Scintam has recognised the potential of the technology for other sectors, including the wind turbine and remanufacturing markets.

Commercialising the research

The technology behind Scintam’s upcoming products was a result of three years of University research in collaboration with Rolls-Royce in the Faculty of Engineering ACEL (Advanced Component Engineering Laboratory) Group led by Professor Adam Clare.

When the project was completed, it was clear that the benefits of the technology reached far beyond its aerospace roots and there was a strong pull to bring the technology to market as a commercial product, with a spin-out company the most effective way to achieve this.

Scintam CEO Sam Catchpole-Smith, a University of Nottingham Mechanical Engineering PhD graduate, was brought on board to commercialise the research via the Midlands Innovation to Commercialisation of University Research (ICURe), a programme designed to move innovation out of universities and into the marketplace by supporting future business leaders in the process of customer discovery and business skills development.

Successful ICURe teams are invited to apply for a grant from the Government’s innovation agency, Innovate UK, which is purpose-built for creating new University spin-out companies.

Following successful completion of the programme, the University of Nottingham has invested £50,000 into Scintam, with a commitment for a further £50,000 assisting the company in successfully leveraging the Innovate UK grant of £289,000 to support the fledgling company through the critical stage of transitioning University research into commercial products.

Demanding applications

Scintam is currently developing commercial products incorporating FastEDR technology for a variety of uses. The core product is a portable fastener removal tool with interchangeable tool heads that can be quickly adapted for numerous applications. The company intends to work with customers to design and manufacture customised tool heads for demanding applications including proprietary fastener types or those that are in difficult to access locations.

In the future it will aim to offer fully automated fastener removal solutions that use computerised numerical control (CNC) or robotic arms for high-throughput operations such as those seen in the remanufacturing sector.

“FastEDR is a step-change in maintenance tooling for a range of sectors. We are excited to bring products to market that benefit the full value chain – streamlining processes, increasing workplace safety, and reducing environmental impact through remanufacturing rather than replacing components” Scintam CEO Sam Catchpole-Smith.

He added: “Fasteners are a critical but often overlooked part of engineering systems; we will ensure our customers have the latest technology to eliminate disassembly headaches, saving time and cost in the process.”

With the creation of Scintam, the University now boasts a total of 28 spin-out companies in its portfolio, which is managed by its wholly-owned subsidiary Nottingham Technology Ventures.

Based in the Ingenuity Centre within the University of Nottingham Innovation Park (UNIP), Nottingham Technology Ventures also manages the University’s Invention Fund and Pathfinder Fund dedicated to investing in University spin-out companies to accelerate their development and growth.

Dr Andrew Naylor, CEO of Nottingham Technology Ventures, said: “Scintam is the fifth spin-out company to be created this year based on outputs from research at the University of Nottingham. It is an excellent example of how companies are taking technology from the lab bench to market in order to deliver benefits to customers and generate real societal impact.”

Further details can be found at: https://www.nottingham.ac.uk/news/new-university-spin-out-to-deliver-faster-and-safer-engineering-maintenance-technologies

Terra Motion raises investment funding to scale environmental land motion surveys globally

Satellite image of Lake Sarez

Terra Motion, the UK’s leading environmental land motion survey provider, announced today a growth equity investment led by venture capital firm Unknown Group, the University of Nottingham, and Mr Alexey Maslov.

The financing will be used to fund Terra Motion’s global expansion, including further investment in its market-leading technology and new land motion and climate products.

This is the first investment received by Terra Motion, who were founded in 2015 by researchers at the University of Nottingham to commercialise a novel space-based solution for the measurement of land motion.

Using innovative technology developed by the business, Terra Motion processes satellite radar imagery land surface movements with millimetric precision, and does so, uniquely, over urban, vegetated and natural land surfaces alike.

This capability not only places Terra Motion at the cutting edge of a range of established market sectors including planning, insurance and engineering surveys but is also opening up significant new markets in support of efforts to stem climate change, to detect signs of modern slavery and in the assessment of dangerous earthworks.

From their offices at the University of Nottingham Innovation Park, Terra Motion have been remotely surveying sites around the world on almost every continent, from the tropics to the far north, working with international clients including commercial engineering consultancies, government departments and the United Nations.

Rafael Aldon, Director at Unknown, will join Terra Motion’s board of directors.

He said today: “Terra Motion are able to monitor some of the most valuable ecosystems on Earth, providing intelligence for decision-makers at a critical time for addressing climate change risks. They can also prevent future loss of life by identifying the early warning signs of impending failure of infrastructure, such as tailings dams, which often have catastrophic consequences. In this way, Terra Motion’s pioneering work provides organisations and governments the critical data they need in order to act to prevent disasters, rather than reactively footing the response and recovery bills.”

Professor Sam Kingman, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for the Faculty of Engineering, University of Nottingham said “A key strategic focus for the Faculty of Engineering is to address global societal challenges and deliver sustained advantage to our stakeholders through research excellence. I am very proud that research from the Faculty has contributed to the success of Terra Motion and we very much look forward to seeing the impact the work of the company will have in the future.”

Alexey Maslov, tech investor and previously executive for asset management, engineering and IT in various companies, will join Terra Motion’s board of directors. He said: “I believe that the Terra Motion’s set of technologies will make a huge difference for asset management in the industrial and utility sectors. They have multiple advantages compared to conventional methods, allowing to extend the reach and coverage of assets geographically, accessing them faster, with less personnel involved, with higher precision and cost effectiveness. It perfectly matches the trend of industries to evolve into “smart and agile” version of themselves: highly monitorable and manageable, transparent for stakeholders, robust to impact of environmental changes, and responsive to new economic requirements”.  

Dr Andy Sowter, CTO and founder of Terra Motion said: “This funding is a huge milestone for us.  Nine years ago, the University of Nottingham produced a remarkable result that challenged what most experts said could be achieved with satellite radar data.  Terra Motion have since taken that result, proven it, developed it and turned it into a business that can help solve major problems around the world, including providing critical data for the global climate emergency.  This investment provides an opportunity for us to expand our sales and business development activities and to expand the market for our solution across the world.”

University of Nottingham invests in startup developing next generation energy storage technology

The University of Nottingham has announced an investment into innovative energy storage company, Cheesecake Energy Ltd (CEL).

The funding from the University comes with assistance from Nottingham Technology Ventures (NTV), which manages the University’s spin-out portfolio and will support the roll-out of UK-wide pilot programmes for the company’s energy storage solution.

Cheesecake Energy is a fast-growing startup developing energy storage at 30-40% lower cost than lithium ion batteries, the current market leader. Its system uses compressed air and thermal energy storage to achieve high efficiency, long lifetime and dramatically lower environmental impact – the team say it has the potential to be ‘the world’s greenest battery’.

The new funding is part of a continuing partnership between the University of Nottingham and Cheesecake Energy and represents a ‘vote of confidence’ in the potential of the company’s breakthrough technology.

The company’s unusual name reflects what they say is a ‘layered approach’ to energy storage. Most energy storage systems today rely on expensive and potentially harmful battery chemistry. In Cheesecake Energy’s system, electricity is safely and inexpensively stored as zero emission thermo-mechanical energy with no harmful chemicals involved.

Founded in 2016, the company has already established itself within the Nottingham, and wider East Midlands energy ecosystem — having secured initial interest from local councils and bus services for pilot programmes. The company is currently designing a 150 kW / 750 kWh prototype system for completion in Q4 2020 which will be deployed with a local bus depot for charging of electric buses using renewable energy.

“We’re delighted that the University of Nottingham shares our belief in the potential of the CEL technology and is continuing to show climate leadership by investing to help us deliver affordable and sustainable energy storage.” Mike Simpson, CEO, Cheesecake Energy

University of Nottingham investments spur growth in spin-out companies

THE UNIVERSITY of Nottingham has helped its spin-out companies to secure millions of pounds in funding to develop technologies in fields which range from manufacturing to mental health.

It has invested nearly £900,000 during the past year in nine businesses which began life as university research projects.

The investments have helped the University’s spin-out portfolio secure further funding packages totalling around £14 million – money which will help them to either commercialise their ideas and bring them to market as viable products, or build on an existing market presence.

The financial backing also forms a key part of the University’s wider long-term strategy of supporting the development of technologies that have the capacity to improve the world around us.

They include support for businesses active in fields such as the use of artificial intelligence (AI) to diagnose mental health conditions, and the manufacture of nanoparticles – which change the way surfaces behave.

The investments have been led by Nottingham Technology Ventures, which manages the University’s portfolio of 20 spin-out companies, working in partnership with specialist investment funds such as Mercia Technologies and Foresight Group. They include:

  • Promethean Particles, which has received £250,000 from the University as part of a £1.24m funding round led by Foresight Group, which manages the government-backed Midlands Engine Investment Fund. Promethean has set up the world’s largest nanoparticle manufacturing plant in Nottingham, able to produce materials at a microscopic scale which can then be used to improve the performance of products which range from printed electronic circuits to medical implants. Its success stems from specialist expertise in nanoparticle manufacturing, where it has developed a patented reactor which enables continuous production of particles.
  • Blueskeye AI, which is developing technology that uses cameras with embedded AI software to spot the changes in physical behaviour caused by conditions ranging from stress to depression. It receives £100,000 from the University as it continues work on a process which could speed up the diagnosis, treatment and management of a range of mental health conditions affecting a quarter of the UK population.
  • TextureJet, which receives £60,00 from the University alongside £250,000 from Innovate UK, to develop a new manufacturing technology which leads to more efficient and environmentally-friendly surface treatments.

Early-stage technology companies can find it difficult to secure funding, but the University uses its long-established expertise in research commercialisation to identify strong teams whose inventions have clear market potential based on broad societal benefit.

Dr Andy Naylor, CEO of NTV, says that the University’s support for spin-out businesses also helps give other funders the confidence to come on board.

He explained: “Technology companies can find it extremely difficult to access the funding needed to develop their products when they are at an early stage in their life. Their technology can be seen as unproven and it may take time for them to develop it to the point where it’s commercially viable.

“The University’s investment not only comes with the support of an experienced team to help companies achieve their goals, it can also reassure other potential investors that the ideas are have serious commercial potential.

“Supporting technologies that can have an impact at scale is central to the University’s core mission and doing so in partnership with other funding organisations demonstrates real strength in the numbers of opportunities for investment in innovation across the Midlands.”

NTV has channelled the University’s financial support through two specific funds – the Pathfinder Fund, which helps spin-outs with their initial set-up costs, and the Invention Fund, which provides more substantial backing as these spin-outs seek to develop and grow.

Between them, the two funds invested a total of £881,000 during the year. Besides these current investments, the University has a pipeline of new spin-out businesses which it is also likely to support.

Dr Naylor added: “The last year has been extremely successful, with a series of new investments in spin-outs which are developing some incredibly exciting new technologies.

“This builds on the University of Nottingham’s long track record of research commercialisation and it’s one of the key reasons why we have such a strong pipeline of new opportunities for investment.”

University of Nottingham spin-out established to commercialise Surface Texture Adjustment Technology (STAT).

Texture Jet Ltd is delivering a tooling platform with world leading capability to selectively change the surface texture of components resulting in streamlined production lines. 

Offering an attractive alternative to existing technologies for roughening or etching of surfaces leading to reductions in factory and toxic footprint and operational costs. 

Their end to end solution for surface texturing will deliver both off-the-shelf as well as bespoke machine tools which can be developed on-site in collaboration with OEMs.