Lead Engineer and Managing Director: Incus Performance Ltd.
Chris Ruddock graduated with a degree in Product Design Engineering in 2016. With a First Class degree and a range of awards, Chris has already started working on his own wearable tech company, Incus Performance Ltd. Here Chris outlines his Loughborough experience, work with Dyson and how he has started work on his own company.
Quite simply, it was the best course I found that combined core engineering principles and user-focused design, alongside additional skills such as finance, law and management. I have always believed that truly excellent products should be striking both in form and function and the PDE course at Loughborough represented this approach for me. The course’s impressive triple accreditation (IET, IMechE and IED), links with industry and the clear influence of these throughout the course structure were also key aspects.
I now have the skills to design high quality products and systems using robust engineering principles, as well as understanding the financial, legal and business aspects associated with running a successful company. As primarily an engineer, I’m no expert in these additional fields, but through the course at Loughborough I am now able to talk the same language as specialists in these areas, dramatically improving work quality and time efficiency.
The Loughborough facilities, network and reputation have been invaluable to my development both in industry and with my own company; and the wealth of extra-curricular activities on offer have made my time here extra-ordinary. I think also an element of Loughborough’s sporting determination and competitive edge has rubbed off on me and my work ethic. This mindset has definitely influenced my achievements to date.
Would there be one piece of advice that you would give to current or prospective students looking to study the same course that you did?
If it doesn’t scare you at least a little bit, it’s probably not worth doing. It was pretty daunting as a prospective student to look at people just a year or two older and what they were achieving. I felt the same apprehension during my work designing performance cycling equipment, at Dyson, and when incorporating my company Incus, but I took a deep breath, got on with it and the results were great. The trick is to take it one step at a time, put everything you have into it and ask yourself “Why not?” or “What’s the worst that could happen?”.
Did you take part in any extra-curricular activities during your studies? If so, what impact did these have on your experience?
I was part of the Loughborough Cycling club for a year, Gymnastics club for two years and the Breakdance society for all five years of my degree, as well as occasional society events and inter-hall sports. Alongside various committee roles in the Breakdance society throughout the years, I competed at national b-boying competitions and events, BUCS cycling and regional gymnastics competitions. Gymnastics and breakdancing improved not only my physical capabilities, but also my confidence when performing in front of large numbers of people. This has been particularly useful and easily translated through my academic and professional life when making presentations to senior figures in industry and to panels at various competitions. I also attended evening enterprise sessions in my final year run by the University. These were useful to understand the various aspects involved in starting your own business and provided the basis of my business network here at Loughborough.
Perhaps the most important extra-curricular activity I was involved in was the first Loughborough-MIT Enterprise Exchange Scholarship in Summer 2015. Run through the Sports Technology Institute and Wolfson School, the two-week trip took six entrepreneurial students from Loughborough to MIT in Boston, USA to experience how they approach innovation and enterprise in the technology sector. We all went with individual business ideas, and pitched these to MIT professors at the end of the fortnight. We attended MIT classes, met with serial entrepreneurs and with businesses in the wider Boston area. This trip was one of the most inspirational experiences from my time at Uni and I now have a good network of contacts in the US and at Loughborough. I’d say this trip was one of the most significant turning points in my approach to problem solving, entrepreneurship and my final year at University and the experience will stay with me for the rest of my life, without a doubt.
Incus Performance is a technology company combining Artificial Intelligence (AI), advanced wearable tech and data analytics to improve sporting technique and performance. Our aim is to produce better athletes through optimised training. We’re doing that by providing accurate, accessible and actionable training feedback for competitive athletes, through wearable technology, initially in a swimming context.
Our devices, worn during training, measure the technique of an athlete as they swim and provide high-level training feedback and analysis quickly, accurately and at a fraction of the cost of traditional ‘Gold standard’ methods. By having a greater understanding of individual technique and its effect in a race, an athlete’s training can more easily be personalised and economised to identify areas for improvement and to push the boundaries of their performance.
As managing director I oversee the Incus team and have a hands-on role in almost all current activities of the company from product development, materials sourcing and testing, to finance, legal, planning and media aspects. My engineering background and experience in sports equipment design makes me currently suited to designing the physical product. The focus of my time at present is balanced between design, testing and manufacturing considerations, as well as the managerial responsibilities involved in taking the product and company forward towards commercialisation.
From an early age, I’ve aspired to be an inventor. I’ve always been passionate about where the future will take us and have tried to keep as up-to-date with current and ‘futuristic’ research-based technologies as possible; wearable technologies have always been a part of this. My interest has always been to develop high quality and high impact goods; those that help to solve a significant problem (of any kind) through technology. Since being aware of, and trying to solve the problem of communication and accessible analytics in sport more than five years ago, I have kept a close eye on developments in the wearables space. In the case of Incus and its current focus, wearables are the best fit to solving the problem we are faced with. As such, they have been an area of significant interest for me.
Until that time, I had only worked in a very small company, just myself and the director. Seeing how things worked in a large, global company such as Dyson was a real eye-opener and allowed me to compare the strengths and weaknesses of each system. The teamwork, amazing positivity and professionality of everyone who worked at Dyson was truly inspirational, and working there has shown me what it really takes to produce remarkable products on a global scale.
When I worked at Dyson, Incus was still a research project and it wasn’t certain that I would even take it forward to a functioning company. Experiencing the routine elements of what I’m sure any global company has, such as the HR team, interview process and structure in the project team, was all completely new to me at Dyson. The Dyson experience was extremely positive and it provided some exceptional role models on which to base my aspirations for Incus.
How did it feel to be the winner of three Loughborough Enterprise Awards amongst other awards? How has this recognition aided you in your business and work?
It was quite overwhelming. I had hoped to win the Sport Category, but never expected to pick up the Potter Clarkson Intellectual Property award and be named overall competition winner too. The most powerful thing about the awards we have won from Loughborough Enterprise, and since then, is how they demonstrate the significance and credibility of the technology we’re developing. At our early stage of commercialisation, and with a mostly digital product, it can sometimes be difficult to convey to others the scale of the benefit we are working to provide. The awards have shown external confidence in our approach and have opened doors to us that otherwise would have been difficult to access. In the local area, the Loughborough Enterprise Awards have also made others aware of what we’re doing, which has significantly improved our local network. We’re incredibly thankful for the recognition we have received so far and hope for it to continue as our system moves towards the commercial space.
The best part is seeing an idea that I have had for the last five years finally start coming together. Every day, we push a little further towards making this vision a reality and I can’t wait to see the end result in action. My ambition has always been to solve problems through technology; I’m in the privileged position now of doing just that.
Where do you see yourself and your company going in the future? What are your short and long-term goals?
In the short term, things are focused on scaling the Incus team and our core technology ahead of a product launch. The longer-term aim for Incus is to become a globally recognised leader in sports analytics and wearable technology. We’re on the right track to making this a reality, but are always mindful to take one step at a time. There will be some very exciting developments along this path to reveal in 2017; I look forward to sharing them with everyone in due course. Watch this space.
In this video, you can find out more about Incus Performance.