Department of Engineering / News / Royal Academy backing for Department research

Department of Engineering

Royal Academy backing for Department research

Royal Academy backing for Department research

Airport luggage

Dr Sithamparanathan Sabesan, a Research Fellow in the Department of Engineering, has been awarded a Royal Academy of Engineering (RAE) Enterprise Fellowship. He has been awarded funding of up to £85,000 and will receive money-can’t-buy mentoring as part of the Academy’s Enterprise Fellowships scheme to help turn his technology into a viable business.

By bridging the gap between industry and academia and enabling entrepreneurship to thrive, the Academy's Enterprise Hub aims to ensure that the country's brightest entrepreneurial minds are given the best possible chance to succeed.

Sir John Parker

In collaboration with Dr Michael Crisp, Professor Richard Penty and Professor Ian White at Cambridge University, Sabesan has developed a battery-less radio frequency identification (RFID) system that will allow airlines, retailers and other businesses to inexpensively track the locations of merchandise and passenger luggage over a wider area with greater reliability than conventional systems. A company, PervasID Ltd, has been formed to exploit this technology.

The PervasID system can successfully detect items with near 100% accuracy, and a single reader can cover an area up to 400 square metres. It can also scale up to accommodate much larger deployments and has already been used successfully in several field trials. The system has the potential to save airlines millions of pounds annually through allowing frequent fliers access to fully automated self-check-in, and to enable high-value goods retailers to benefit from secure self-service checkouts. 

Sabesan and his colleague Michael Crisp also won the Royal Academy of Engineering's ERA Foundation Entrepreneurship Award for the system in 2011.

Arnoud Jullens, head of enterprise at the Royal Academy of Engineering, said: “UK universities produce some of the greatest innovations in the world, but getting them out of the lab and into the marketplace remains a huge challenge.

“Business-minded academics need investment and support from experienced industry practitioners to exploit their research, which could become the commercial success stories of tomorrow, and this is exactly what the Academy’s Enterprise Hub provides.”

Volunteer mentors supporting the Enterprise Hub include Sir Robin Saxby FREng, former Chief Executive and Chairman of ARM, and Professor Neville Jackson FREng, Chief Technology and Innovation Officer at Ricardo.

This is the third year of the Enterprise Fellowships scheme and is the largest cohort to date. President of the Royal Academy of Engineering, Sir John Parker GBE FREng, said, "Engineering already contributes at least £480 billion to the UK economy each year, and the ability to create wealth from innovation is essential in building a stronger and more competitive economy. By bridging the gap between industry and academia and enabling entrepreneurship to thrive, the Academy's Enterprise Hub aims to ensure that the country's brightest entrepreneurial minds are given the best possible chance to succeed, whilst helping to bring new technologies and services to market for the benefit of society."