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21 January 2011
Imagine that an academic group has devised highly specific, sensitive and easy-to-use chemical tests for the identification of chemical warfare agents and toxic industrial chemicals. What would be the best commercial strategy for exploiting this technology for either the military, civil or industrial sectors?
This was one of the scenarios presented to the teams of postgraduate students taking part in the 2010 i-Solve challenge run at the University.
Modelled on the i-teams programme from MIT Boston and Cambridge University, i-Solve is an innovative programme investigating the commercial potential of University research. It offers participants the opportunity to gain commercial experience and make a valuable impact on a real-life project.
The winning team – Toxic Chemical Identification – had a strong mix of interdisciplinary skills from business and journalism, through bioinformatics to engineering and earth and ocean sciences. The diverse group worked together to get to grips with the technology, create a virtual company, develop a strong business plan, and identify relevant applications and markets.
The judges were impressed with the group’s professionalism and their strong recommendations for taking the project forward.
The team members were Eyitayo Akanmu, Wen Zhang, Paul Sharman, Kamal Samarakoon, Marc Rees and Damien Lee.
The i-Solve awards were presented by Professor Hywel Thomas, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Engagement and International. Professor Thomas said: "i-Solve is not just a business game or competition – it is a challenging opportunity for our postgraduate students to make an impact on some of the breakthrough technologies being developed here at Cardiff. I was impressed by the calibre of all participants and their commitment to the different projects."
Each team was supported by a Principal Investigator and overseen by a mentor from industry. In the case of the winning team, the Principal Investigator was Dr Ian Fallis, School of Chemistry, and the group was mentored by Abi Carter, a Cardiff graduate and Director of Forensic Resources Ltd.
As well as the toxic chemical identification, other projects worked on included tissue engineering in human micro-lungs and developing next generation cardiovascular drug screening technology.
i-Solve is managed by Student Enterprise, part of the Research and Commercial Division and is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.
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