University of Leicester to Commercialise Ground Breaking Research with Design Council Programme

University of Leicester is one of only seven universities in Britain to
win support
to turn smart ideas into viable products through
design

Seven universities have won Design Council support to turn smart ideas into
viable products through design.  The University of Leicester application, led by
the Enterprise and Business Development Team, got the go-ahead to spearhead
four groundbreaking research advances in the 2011 Innovate for
Universities mentoring service.

Working with specialist Design Associates, all experienced design management
experts who have worked with organisations in the private and public sector to
help them discover, explore and exploit design for growth, the Universities will
use design and design-led thinking to fast track the journey from ground
breaking research to commercial success.

Tas Gohir, Intellectual Property Manager at the University of Leicester,
said:

“We are thrilled to receive this award as it recognises the highly innovative
research taking place across the University with the potential for significant
societal and commercial benefits.”

“Developing great ideas is only half the battle for universities. The hard
part is showing how these ideas can work in practice.  Innovate for Universities
has helped universities commercialise their research, and we are excited about
gaining a place on the programme. We know it’s important to think of new ways to
take the ideas from the drawing board to the world outside, and design will be
central to this.”

“Leicester will gain access to expert design input which will drive the
development of commercial products based on cutting edge technology emerging
from our research. The collaboration with the Design Council will also help
optimise a market strategy for the products and make the technology more
attractive to potential investors.”

Mr Gohir said that the work being done at the University of Leicester could
lead to the development of commercial products and therefore offer an excellent
licensing opportunity to existing companies, or may form the basis of a spinout
company from the University of Leicester.

In addition, the technologies being developed at Leicester would offer
solutions in areas of real unmet clinical need.

Ellie Runcie, Director of Design Innovation Services at the Design Council,
said:

“The UK has a world class science base and is a high performer in R&D so
we are well placed to compete globally in the context of scientific innovation.
Design is a critical driver for innovation which in turn drives growth, however,
when it comes to finding great applications from research, too often design is
not integral to the commercialisation process. With increasing funding pressures
on universities and their constant need to produce ground-breaking research,
design can help them to find the investment to back the next stage of
development and take research from a good idea to a practical and commercial
application.

“Innovate for Universities helps technology transfer offices find profitable
ways to apply research, map possible routes to market and communicate the
benefits of new technology to investors. This year’s participants have strong
track records for innovative research. They’ve put forward some fascinating
research projects and we look forward to working with them.”

For commercial reasons, full details of new ideas to be developed through the
programme are tightly under wraps for now.   However the University of Leicester
can reveal that the ideas are from the following areas:

  • Potential relief tinnitus.  Project led by Dr Mike Mulheran, Department of
    Medical and Social Care.

Dr Mike Mulheran, from the University’s Department of Medical and Social
Care Education, said:

‘Obviously I am thrilled and delighted to be part of the Leicester team
that has received this
prestigious award in the face of strong national
competition.  We are also very much looking
forward to working with the
excellent design talent we have in Leicester.

‘Our project involves using LED technology that precisely generates
coloured light that with certain
wavelengths in some patients appear to
result in changes in sensory perception. The Design Council support will enable
us to better develop this technology for customised personal use at home’.

  • Visualisation of latent, or other invisible, fingerprints and therefore has
    the potential for use on crime scenes.  Project led by Professor Rob Hillman in
    the Department of Chemistry.

Prof Rob Hillman, from the University’s Department of Chemistry said:
“This new fingerprinting technique, using films whose colour can be electrically
varied, offers new opportunities to visualize latent fingerprints on metal
surfaces. The Design Council award will enable us to convert this new concept
into a powerful addition to the forensic scientist’s toolkit. This will add
momentum to our collaborations with local police forces and forensic
practitioners who will ultimately use the technique.

“In a complementary approach to conventional fingerprinting techniques,
we use the fingerprint deposit like a mask or stencil to deposit a coloured film
on regions of the bare surface between the fingerprint deposits. On metal
objects, which are common sources of fingerprint evidence, we can apply a
voltage to alter the colour of the film so as to adjust the visual contrast with
the background. This allows the forensic scientist to obtain the clearest image
of the fingerprint details used for identification purposes.”

  • More accurately diagnosing between different types of eye conditions, which
    may otherwise lead to blindness.  This is a highly inter-disciplinary project
    combining the University’s work at the Space Research Centre with research
    underway at University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust. Project led by Dr Nigel
    Bannister at the University’s Space Research Centre.

Dr Nigel Bannister, from the University’s Department of Physics and
Astronomy said: “The Ophthalmic Spectrometry project arose from a technique,
proposed by Jeremy Prydal (Consultant Ophthalmic Surgeon at the Leicester Royal
Infirmary), which uses the colour of the eye to diagnose sight-threatening
conditions. Working with Senior Lecturer Nigel Bannister and PhD student Sarah
Botterill (Space Research Centre, Department of Physics & Astronomy,
University of Leicester), a prototype instrument has been designed using
techniques borrowed from space science, and is being used in clinical trials at
the LRI. The Design Council award represents a major step forward in efforts to
develop this potentially sight-saving device, by providing the team with expert
advice on improving the design of the instrument to make it easier, quicker and
more effective to use in the hospital consulting room. The expertise provided by
the Design Council Associate will enable the team to identify commercial
opportunities for the system, bringing the idea closer to the marketplace, and
to the thousands of people who each year lose their sight to conditions that
earlier diagnosis may have prevented.”

  • More accurately diagnosis of individuals at risk of sudden cardiac death.
    Project led by Dr Andre Ng, Department of Cardiovascular Sciences.

Dr André Ng, from the University’s Department Cardiovascular Sciences
said: “The LifeMapTM project represents the fruit of over a decade’s
research into the electrical properties that determine the susceptibility of the
heart to lethal rhythm disturbances. It is the translation of these novel data
into a new technology which creates an electrical map of the heart, using the
standard ECG and a minimally invasive technique, to assess a patient’s risk of
sudden cardiac death. Dr Will Nicolson, clinical research fellow working on the
project for the past 2 years, has produced data demonstrating the enormous
clinical promise of LifeMapTM  which notably won the prestigious
Medical Futures Best Innovation Award in Diagnostics earlier this year. We are
very pleased that our project has contributed towards the University’s success
in this significant award. The help from the Design Council will greatly enhance
the profile of our new technology and the way we develop it to successfully
attract funding from investors for its commercialisation for wider patient
benefit.”

Leicester was joined by Bristol, Exeter, Ulster, Glasgow, Imperial College
and Reading universities who bid successfully to the 2011 Innovate for
Universities mentoring service.  Innovate for Universities is delivered through
the Design Council’s network of Design Associates, who understand the challenges
facing universities.

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