Earlier in 2017 SEPnet (South East Physics network) invited students all across its network to submit ideas for the 2017 Enterprising Ideas Competition. They were looking for teams who bring fresh ideas, innovative thinking and who have great team working skills.
Royal Holloway students, supported by the Employer Engagement Officer, Claire Hepwood, and led by Physics Ambassador Albert Baker, formed a team and tasked themselves to use their physics knowledge to develop an innovative commercial product and to design a business plan that could bring their product to market.
Their idea was to create a headband with an accelerometer and self-contained power supply that could be worn under a helmet to detect when the wearer receives a concussion. An accelerometer is a sensor that can be used to determine the strength of impacts, such as when your head collides with another object.
“This is an exciting new product with potentially boundless markets – ranging from athletes to construction companies to motorcyclists and beyond!” says Nathan Eng, second year Undergraduate student. Several months were spent conducting market research, navigating patents, estimating manufacturing costs and developing advertising strategies. The group also produced a short video outlining their idea which was reviewed by business experts.
The judges were Bob Pickles of Canon UK, Simon Bland of Reigate and Banstead Borough Council and Phil Edwards of Weald Technology.
Three teams made it through the gruelling process and reached the finals: VR-Teach – a Physics VR Simulator from a team from the University of Kent, MQMobile – monitoring lab equipment, from the University of Southampton and “Conker”- monitoring for concussion in sporting and other accidents, from Royal Holloway.
After months of hard work, the finalists were invited to present their idea at Cumberland Lodge, Great Windsor Park. “It was interesting to listen to the other teams’ proposals and hear what the judges had to say about our idea” says Nathan. “The scores were very close, but in the end, Royal Holloway came out on top! Hearing our names read out at the awards ceremony was surreal. We’d been working on this project for the better part of a year, and I couldn’t imagine a more satisfying way for all our hard work to come to fruition”!
“Congratulations to our UG & PG students Albert Baker, Stephanie Bennett, Nathan Eng, Rupert Mellor, Tom Vaughan and Alex Waterworth who won the SEPnet Enterprising Ideas Competition last Friday. Taking a product from conception to the market is a challenging task but one performed expertly by our team” said Professor Stewart Boogert, Head of the Department of Physics. Claire Hepwood added that this will give the students great employability skills to showcase on their CV but also demonstrate their business understanding.
Albert Baker commented that: "Being the team leader of this project was incredibly rewarding, not only for the skills gained looking into product creation and marketing but also the people we met along the way. This was true all the way from forming a team of my peers and PhDs, which was great fun to get to know better, to meeting market leaders and meeting our competitors with their great ideas."
Rupert Mellor, PhD student at the Nano-electro-mechanical systems (NEMS) at the Quantum Fluids and Solids group mentioned that “As a PhD student, doing this project provided valuable insight into the considerations and requirements for developing a product from inception to market, which are essential in small to medium enterprises, which are some of our biggest employers”.
The judges they were extremely impressed with all three finalists and by the quality, credibility and potential of the ideas being showcased.