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Engineering Excellence from collaborations between companies and academic teams rewarded at KTP Best of the Best Awards

Posted on 01/05/2019

Three finalists show how they overcame engineering challenges to deliver innovative solutions with academic teams and companies working together.

The three finalists in the Engineering Excellence category of the KTP Best of the Best Awards have delivered exceptional outcomes from the engineering challenges they set themselves via their Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTPs). These partnerships enable forward-thinking organisations to collaborate with teams within the UK’s world-class knowledge base to deliver strategic innovation.

One such collaboration, between Spirent Communications and the University of Bath, aimed to improve Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) simulator capabilities to underpin future capability in robust position, navigation and timing. According to the partnership, “satellite navigation systems such as GPS are arguably the most challenging engineering systems in existence. In order for them to work at all the level of understanding required spans from Einstein’s general and special theories of relativity, right through atmospheric physics and radio theory to antenna hardware, signal processing and micro-chips.

The engineering endeavour here was characterised by:

  • Clear vision; collaboration; engineering implementation
  • Technical implementation of space weather scintillation effects into the GNSS simulator
  • Rigorous statistical analysis of real-world scintillation scenarios applied to the simulation
  • Translation of that technical implementation into real world scenarios demonstrations.

Working with KTP Associate, Dr Talini Pinto Jayawardena, the outcome from this KTP is to provide a product that will make GPS more robust, thereby protecting the UK and overseas countries from serious damage to commercial interests, security and safety. This involves the seamless running of the transport, telecommunications and emergency services that depend on GPS, making it possible for us all to live in a safer world where satellite navigation is robust and reliable”.

Another Engineering Excellence finalist – the partnership between Geckotech Solutions, Glasgow Caledonian University and KTP Associate, Dr Mark Jenkins (also a finalist in the Best KTP Partnership category) – sought to develop a data acquisition system and software package to assist examiners with the visual inspection and condition monitoring of railway tunnels using Computer Vision and Machine Learning.

This involved highly complex and competitive engineering solutions, chief amongst which was work on the application of Artificial Intelligence and Computer Vision techniques to the automation of the assessment of structure conditions; and the use of Image Processing and Deep Learning algorithms to automatically analyse images of surfaces utilising defect Detection and Segmentation techniques.

A key part of the work was the visualisation of the output of these algorithms in a manner which is understandable and, most importantly, of benefit to the expert examiners and customers to enable them to make maintenance decisions based on the information presented.

This prompted work in the 3D Visualisation and Virtual Reality space which focuses on extracting the information generated from the company’s Deep Learning algorithms and projecting it onto detailed 3D models of the structures, according to the partnership.

The result of the KTP is that Geckotech Solutions is currently the only structural monitoring company in Scotland using Artificial Intelligence, Deep Learning and Virtual Reality to improve their services.

And the third finalist, LMK Thermosafe in partnership with Queen Mary, University of London and KTP Associate, Harshit Porwal, sought to develop new conductive polymer composites, characterised by tuneable pyro-resistive properties for self-regulating heating devices.

Having identified a need for a new material which worked as a heater with self-limiting temperature characteristics in harsh environments, the partnership set about trying to overcome “significant material science challenges including selecting polymers, optimizing graphene concentration, size, processing methods, and developing blends to increase physical flexibility”.

Those led to a further challenge in transferring lab scale Material Science research to commercial reality, “stretching innovative process development skills, as the equipment needed for industrial production is very different to lab scale output.

Then methods to manufacture full sized prototypes and devices were developed necessitating multiple engineering solutions including electrical connections, electrode designs, distance between electrodes, power of the devices, and insulation types.

The success of the partnership resulted in designing innovative commercial industrial products involving challenges in Mechanical, Electrical and Production Engineering” according to the partnership.

The Engineering Excellence category is one of five categories being contested at this year’s KTP Best of the Best Awards, celebrating outstanding achievements from individuals, teams, innovations and impacts in KTP projects.

KTP aims to help businesses improve their competitiveness and productivity through the better use of knowledge, technology and skills held within the UK knowledge base.  The Knowledge Transfer Network delivers the KTP programme for Innovate UK, funded by UK Research and Innovation as part of the government’s Industrial Strategy.

Further information about KTPs is here and applications for funding are open all year round.

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