3 pioneering university-business projects

3 pioneering university-business projects
3 university-business projects to watch. Img Source: RaEng/Unsplash

Knowledge Exchange brings together a huge depth of expertise across universities, research centres, businesses, the public sector and civil society to create new knowledge and tackle local, national and global challenges.

In this latest piece, we spotlight three 2023 examples of collaborative university-business partnerships that are driving innovation...

#1: A partnership to advance innovation in hand tracking and haptics

A collaboration between UCL and SME leader in hand tracking and mid-air haptics solutions Ultraleap is helping to create the future of interaction technologies.

Both parties began working together in 2013 at the University of Bristol on an Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) responsive mode project. They investigated how you could create tactile feedback in the air.

From this, UltraLeap was founded.

Now 10 years on, Ultraleap’s customers use hand tracking and haptics in many ingenious ways - including the need for touch from point-of-sale terminals in supermarkets and thus, making them more hygienic.

Tom Carter, Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of Ultraleap explained in this UKRI article:

Ultraleap is a company with big ambitions, and the partnership helps us to meet those. It’s powerful to have the academic and commercial leaders in the field working together to move the technology forward. It’s a British collaboration with global impact. Ultimately, the innovations generated by the partnership should create more jobs, generate more intellectual property, and bring more success to all involved.”

#2: Women trail-blazing innovation in agri-tech

Innovation in agri-tech is absolutely essential in increasing the resilience of the food sector and addressing the global challenges of feeding a growing population in a changing climate.

Launched in 2019, Innovate UK’s ‘Transforming food production’ challenge provides funding of up to £90 million to help businesses, researchers and industry to transform food production, meet the growing demand and move towards net zero emissions by 2040.

The sector is male-dominated, but as we know, Innovation in a sector requires diversity of people as well as the diversity of thought to realise ambitions and have a true positive impact.

UKRI has recently highlighted several women working on tackling sustainability, productivity, and resilience of the UK food sector through their innovations and businesses.

Watch the video below to meet some of the women who are trail-blazing innovators in agri-tech currently.

#3: Collaborative research centre boosts road freight’s delivery of carbon cuts

Established in 2012, a collaboration between the University of Cambridge, Heriot-Watt University and the University of Westminster is working closely with leading road hauliers and other companies with big road freight operations to help put the sector on a zero-carbon trajectory.

Learn how a KE partnership is helping road hauliers meet their zero-carbon goal. Img Source: grayom / Unsplash

With the support of £10.6 million in funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and supplemented by funding from Innovate UK and industry partners, the centre has already successfully achieved innovations, including:

  • The development of a smartphone app for freight drivers that helps them to drive more fuel-efficiently.
  • The improvement of trailer aerodynamics, making lorries less fuel-hungry. (This led to the collaboration with John Lewis on a project to modify the rear end of trailers, with the design being incorporated into its fleet.)
  • A free web-based decision support tool to help hauliers optimise their carbon-cutting decisions.

Justin Laney, Fleet Manager at John Lewis Partnership and Chairman of the centre’s industrial consortium, explained in this UKRI blog:

“Working with the Centre is hugely helpful. Not only is it great to share knowledge, on a practical level it helps us understand which carbon-cutting measures might work, and what the challenges of introducing them would be.”

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