What made you decide to apply for elevate?
MM: We were keen to explore the commercial possibilities for our sensor but were finding it difficult to find the time to get the team together due to academic commitments. We thought SICSA would provide a focussed environment to investigate commercialisation options, plus training and funding to achieve this.
PA: We had a good business proposition which we wanted to develop a bit further – the programme gave us the space and resources to do that.
What would you say to other students who have an idea/might be thinking of applying?
MM: I would say that SICSA Elevate gives you the opportunity to take a step out of your academic comfort zone and critically evaluate your concept from a market perspective. It is a very useful tool for anyone with an entrepreneurial itch that they have to scratch.
“Elevate gives you the opportunity to take a step out of your academic comfort zone and critically evaluate your concept from a market perspective”
How has participating in Elevate helped develop your business idea?
MM: Crucial to our project was speaking directly to potential customers. The SICSA funding was essential in allowing us to stay in California for an extra period (we presented our sensor at a leading robot conference there) in which time we met with key players in both the robot car and commercial drone markets where we see immediate application of our sensor.
PA: We had previously not thought in detail about the actual setting up of the company but by the end had a much better idea of what was involved and what we needed to be discussing between ourselves. We identified the problem statement for our product and were left with a much clearer idea of our short term direction.
How has participating in Elevate helped you as a person/entrepreneur?
PA: I am more confident about my ability to become an entrepreneur. Previously I thought it was something which I couldn’t do but through the case study discussions I understood how I could go about starting my own business.
Do you think participating in Elevate was more beneficial than ‘going it alone’?
MM: Yes. I think without the Elevate programme we would not have the crucial market feedback or a draft business plan which we do now.
“Without the Elevate programme we would not have the crucial market feedback or a draft business plan which we do now.”
What are your plans for the business now the course has come to an end?
MM: We are assessing our options for funding such as SE High Growth Spinout Programme, SMART. In the mean-time we are also testing our 2nd generation prototype in the conditions specified by markets.
The EU Digital Agenda program recently estimated the worldwide robot industry at €15.5bn per year, rising to €100bn by 2020. This growth is driven by the emerging mobile robotics markets such as aerial drones, and robot cars/trucks. Crucial to the deployment of such systems in our cities is the ability to accurately position themself at all times. Yet, incumbent technologies do not solve this problem in many key scenarios: GPS is inaccurate close to buildings and laser scanners fail in common weather conditions (e.g. when raining). To this end, we have developed a novel vision sensor that affords localisation in cities (patent pending). We are currently developing our 2nd generation prototype and plan to run market defined field tests in the near future.