INNOVATIVE businesses emerging from the North East's five universities are going head-to-head tonight in the regional final of The Journal-backed Blueprint Awards.
The awards, now in their seventh year, are designed to help embryonic businesses from the universities of Durham, Newcastle, Northumbria, Sunderland and Teesside make the transition from concept to trading realities.
Entrants will be pitching their business plans to the judges throughout the day before the final decisions are announced tonight at the ceremony at the Newcastle Gateshead Hilton.
This year’s award includes a new category for entrants working in the field of science and technology. Two start-ups from Teesside, two from Durham and one from Newcastle University will be battling it out for the Knowledge Transfer Award, aimed at members of staff, postgraduate students and researchers.
The new category replaces the previous Science and Technology section and focuses on intellectual property-based businesses, giving academics the opportunity to put their knowledge to commercial use.
Sean Nicholson, partner and head of technology at Dickinson Dees, sponsors of the Knowledge Transfer Awards, said: “The competition has been a vital part of the drive to encourage and support the spinning out of high growth technology businesses from the North East’s universities over the last seven years.
“The region’s universities are at the forefront of advances in a wide range of technologies and the Blueprint competition provides a focal point to help develop world-leading research into world-renowned companies.”
Dr Karl Coleman, a reader in chemistry at Durham University, made it through the finals with his research and development company Durham Graphene Science Ltd.
The business aims to produce large scale quantities of graphene – a carbon nano-material that could potentially replace carbon fibre in the manufacture of dozens of products.
Dr Coleman said: “Graphene is a very light, extremely strong material but to date has not been produced in scalable quantities to allow manufacturers to use it instead of carbon fibre.
“What we have achieved is the ability to create it in scalable quantities. With the help of the Blueprint panel, I now feel confident to talk about the business potential behind the science.”
iEEG, which was set up by Dr Vincent Reid and Anna Groendahl, is the other Knowledge Transfer finalist from Durham University. Its concept is a low-cost, portable system for examining brain function in infants.
Newcastle University is represented by Royenface, which was put together by Prof Sudipta Roy and David Huntley to create Enface, a patent protected technology that provides a cheaper and greener way to manufacture micro-devices.
Prof Roy said: “The Blueprint Award will give an exceptional boost by providing publicity, encouragement and financial support, which is crucial for Royenface.”
Teesside University’s PSAEON creates online training tools that use animation to train nursing and health care students outside the classroom. The idea came from team members Wade Tovey, Sam Harrison and Dominic Lusardy.
And the final entry – also from Teesside – is Anthronomics, the brainchild of Dr Tim Thompson. It aims to create a portfolio of software solutions that can be used in teaching, forensics, archaeology and biological sciences.