School of Science among the Loughborough University winners at this year's LeicestershireLive Innovation Awards

Loughborough University’s research and innovation activities enjoyed outstanding success at the LeicestershireLive Innovation Awards, receiving six awards including five of the 10 categories, as well as the overall Innovator of the Year – a closed category selected from all winners. School of Science staff were among those whose research was recognised.

Innovate UK CEO Indro Mukerjee opened the Awards held at the National Space Centre on the evening of Thursday 16 February. Loughborough University has been well represented in the region’s flagship celebration of innovation since its launch in 2019. This year’s event saw a record number of nominations with a 15% increase, year-on-year.

The University’s winners and commended finalists represent a wealth of impactful research collaborations and a wide spectrum of academic spinouts and graduate start-ups  – all launched from LUinc., the University’s incubator on LUSEP, its Science and Enterprise Park.

Innovator of the year

CarbonVue is an industry-first digital solution to help UK businesses rise to the net zero by 2050 challenge, through the real-time management of carbon alongside cost, quality and service. Leveraging the capabilities of established products SupplyVue and CarbonChain, CarbonVue’s development has been supported by Loughborough University supply chain experts led by Jan Godsell and trialled with Tata Steel UK and Moovero. By March this year, the innovative platform will commercially be available for any customer to use. 

CarbonVue also won the Innovation in Logistics and Exports category.

Innovation in Food and Drink

High-tech food machinery manufacturers Millitec Food Systems has partnered with a team of Loughborough University computer scientists led by Baihua Li and Mohamad Saada to create a unique sandwich-making robot featuring the latest embedded artificial intelligence technology. Since launching in one of the UK’s largest sandwich-making factories – which produces an astounding 750,000 sandwiches a day – Millitec now have a strategic advantage in the marketplace.

Pictured (left to right): Professor Baihua Li, Richard Ledger (Managing Director, Millitec) Dr Mohamad Saada

Innovation in Sport, Well-being and Accessibility

Rewire Fitness is a mental fitness platform that helps athletes reach their full potential and avoid burnout by providing tools that improve mindset, readiness and resilience. The US-based start-up is co-founded by Ed Gibbins (Sports Science). With $1M+ pre-seed investment, its patented technology integrates protocols used by the Navy SEALs, NASA and neuroscience.

Innovation in STEM Industries

Loughborough University’s 20-year partnership with adidas has enabled the design, manufacture and analysis of innovative global sports products as well as driving impacts in other sectors. The partnership is primarily focused on sports technology and environmental ergonomics, led by Andy Harland and George Havenith respectively, with aerodynamics activities led by Martin Passmore.

Innovation in Sustainability

Plastic Energy is transforming the global landscape of plastic waste by converting previously difficult to recycle plastic into a recycled oil – called TACOIL™ – that replaces fossil oils in the production of new plastics. The global company has partnered with Loughborough University’s Chemistry researchers led by Steve Christie for 10 years to accelerate this innovative recycling process. LUSEP is home to Plastic Energy’s R&D hub which is at the heart of realising the goal where plastics are re-used repeatedly, for good.

Pictured (left to right): Andrew Lake (Plastic Energy Principal Scientist) and Professor Steve Christie

The following University research and innovation activities were also highly commended finalists:

Innovation in Education and Community

RealTalk is an innovative educational approach that promotes positive conversations about end-of-life, underpinned by world-leading scientific research in conversation analysis from Loughborough University. Licensed to Treetops Hospice – with research led by Marco Pino – RealTalk has the potential to positively impact everyone’s lives by capturing and sharing how skilled communicators enable sensitive, open conversations with patients and their companions, supporting them to make decisions about their lives and future.

Innovation in Food and Drink

Mechanical, Electrical and Manufacturing Engineering spinout Zayndu founded in 2019 by Felipe Iza, helps global growers increase agricultural yield using unique cold plasma equipment that vitalises seeds, speeding up germination and encouraging growth. Seeds grow stronger and between 15-25% bigger without the need for agrochemicals or pesticides. The subscription-based technology provides a timely and affordable solution for growers as many of the chemicals the industry relies on are becoming banned internationally.

Innovation in Sport, Well-being and Accessibility

Sport, Exercise and Health Sciences spinout Dineticq, founded in 2022 by Mark King, combines artificial intelligence with leading biomechanics research to deliver a virtual coaching environment. The simple to use, gamified app will cross borders and income divides to enable athletes worldwide to unlock their true performance potential.

Innovation in Med-Tech and Life Sciences

3D printed children’s prosthetics manufacturer ExpHand Prosthetics, founded in 2018 by Kate Allan (Product Design Engineering MEng, 2019) has won multiple national awards for the patent pending ExpHand that can be adjusted to fit any child from the age of 3 and is up to 90% cheaper than competitor products.

Innovation in Med-Tech and Life Sciences and Innovation in Creative

Moti Me is a physiotherapy-focused product to help children with disabilities. Since founding the company in 2021, Katie Michaels (Industrial Design and Technology BA, 2020) has been testing Moti Me prototypes with special needs schools and physiotherapy centres across the country, including Ashmount Primary School and STEPS Conductive Education Centre.

Concluding the evening, the Outstanding Achievement Award was presented to business leader and philanthropist Dr Nik Kotecha, Founder and former Chairman of Morningside Pharmaceuticals and Founder and Chair of Trustees of The Randal Charitable Foundation.

Professor Dan Parsons, Pro Vice Chancellor Research and Innovation at Loughborough, commented: “For the University’s extensive innovation and research portfolio to be once again so well recognised in the LeicestershireLive Innovation Awards is testament to the impressive variety of our activities and their level of excellence. Many congratulations to all commended finalists and winners who have shown ingenuity and determination in solving some of today’s most pressing problems.”

The awards were presented by science and technology researcher and co-host of the Radical Science Podcast, Gemma Milne. Headline sponsors were Morningside Pharmaceuticals, De Montfort University and the University of Leicester; with category sponsors Acute Business Advisory, Intelligent Energy, Loughborough University and MIRA Technology Institute.

The Awards are part of the Leicestershire Innovation Festival – a Leicester and Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership initiative.