Winning an Academic Enterprise Award (ACES) is not only a moment of recognition for the risk-taking academics in Europe who launch promising spinouts based on their research. It is often a milestone on the way to market, as progress by a growing pool of alumni highlights.
After winning the ACES award in the materials and chemistry category in 2011, the Cambridge University spin-out Enval Ltd went on to build a demonstrator plant to prove its technology for recycling plastic and aluminium laminate packaging. Currently, this laminated material, which is widely used to package milk, fruit juices and a range of other foodstuffs, cannot be recycled. Enval’s process makes it possible to reclaim the aluminium, leaving a hydrocarbon residue that can be used as a feedstock for biofuels.
Find out more about the ACES programme
Following this, Enval struck up partnerships with Kraft Foods and Nestlé, two large-scale users of laminate packaging. More recently, in January 2012, it announced it had secured funding to build a commercial-scale reprocessing plant which is expected to come into service by mid-2012.
Another of the class of 2011, Psynova Neurotech, reached the milestone of launching its first product – the first blood test for diagnosing schizophrenia - on the US market. The company also was acquired by its US partner Rules-Based Medicine, which in April 2011 itself was acquired by the leading gene-testing company Myriad Genetics in an $80 million cash deal.
Robotics specialist Gostai, ACES winner in the ICT category a year earlier in 2009, hit the big time in March 2012, when it made it onto the pages of the leading technology magazine, Wired. As Wired put it, Gostai’s Jazz Connect is “the office robot that lets you be in two places at once.”
Jazz Connect may look more like a vacuum cleaner than a friendly humanoid, but the metre-high robot, equipped with video camera, speakers, microphone and Wi-Fi can be controlled remotely via an internet browser by anyone who cannot make that all-important meeting. With the user’s image streamed live to a screen fitted on the top of the Jazz Connect unit, video conferencing will never be the same again.
Novacem, which is working to commercialise carbon-neutral cement, is another ACES winner that has made impressive progress. Since taking the Science|Business award in December 2009, the Imperial College London spin-out has gone onto win eight other awards
Most recently, in November 2011, the company was listed in the Global Cleantech 100 for the second time.
Novacem's cement, based on magnesium silicate, uses a relatively low temperature production process that absorbs more CO2 than it emits. The company says that for every tonne of standard Portland cement replaced by its product, CO2 emissions will be reduced by up to 900 kilogrammes.
In other highlights from the ACES alumni:
- Dybuster, an ICT category winner in 2011 received the Dyslexia Quality Award for its training software. The company launched a demo version of its software for the Apple iPad in 2011.
- GridON, another 2011 winner was selected in July 2011 to be part of a £4 million UK project that is aiming to reduce the impact of fault currents on the electricity network. The project is using GridON’s Fault Current Limiter to manage fault levels, which is a key enabler for linking multiple renewable electricity sources to the grid. The project is the first commercial deployment of the technology and GridON is currently engaged in discussions for deployment with large utility companies around the world.
- Ephicas, a KU Leuven spin-out which was an ACES winner in 2008, announced in January 2012 that the haulier TNT Express had successfully tested Ephicas’ “Ecotail” on one of its juggernauts. Trucks guzzle fuel because of their non-efficient aerodynamics; the Ephicas Ecotail was shown to reduce fuel consumption by 6 per cent, simply by making the body of the truck more streamlined.