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Innovators become entrepreneurs in incubator

A key strength of Brunel’s product and industrial design and design engineering degrees is the emphasis on students working on projects which result in real useable products – culminating in the annual Made in Brunel showcase.

Now graduates are among the first to benefit from the university’s relationship with Hays-based incubator the Central Research Laboratory (CRL) as they turn final-year projects into mainstream products.

Among them are 2014 Dyson Award winner Solveiga Pakstaite whose patent pending Bump Mark is a small gelatine filled fresh food label which feels bumpy to the touch when the food inside has spoiled. It’s much more accurate than use-by dates and could cut the millions of tonnes of perfectly safe food thrown away each because it’s “past its date”.

Originally conceived as an aid for the visually impaired, the Bump Mark has turned from a degree project to a fully-fledged company. With field trials with a major retailer expected soon.

Slightly earlier in their journey are designers Cara O’Sullivan and James Atkins and Robert Cross. Cara is working on two aspects of her modular, evolvable walking aid.

The walking aid kit has the potential to generate significant savings for the NHS whilst empowering those with deteriorating mobility due to its innovative, low cost, modular system. Wallk evolves and adapts as the users’ condition changes, reducing the need to purchase multiple new aids.

She is also working with a current Brunel design student and the Kenyan Government in producing a version for the developing world. Initially aimed at children and using discarded wooden pallets she plans for them to be built “in country” for a total cost of $1.

James and Robert are working together on a digital graphics “pen” called Chalk. Its novel technology does away with the need for a table top tablet, feels more intuitive to use and comes in at a dramatically lower price point than similar products.

CRL is housed in the former home of EMI Records on the Old Vinyl Factory development site and contains workshop facilities as well as office space.

Said Solveiga: “We’re shaping up to become West London’s answer to the early days of Tech City or the Silicon Roundabout in the East End but making real things rather than digital.”