Nottingham's 'Factory in a box' gets a big YES

(12 May 2014) - A team of entrepreneurial postgraduate research students from the Manufacturing Technology Engineering Doctoral Training Centre (MTEDC), including researchers from The University of Nottingham and the University of Birmingham, has won the first Heat of the 2014 Engineering Young Entrepreneurs Scheme (YES), seeing off competition from the universities of Glasgow, Warwick, Manchester and UCL.

The award was announced after an intensive three-day event held at the Holiday Inn Hotel in Sandiacre from 28 - 30 April when all the researchers had to make presentations before a panel of business experts.

The team, named 'MTEDC', was awarded £500 after presenting the winning idea for a new process of exfoliating vermiculite.

Engineering YES Heat 1 winners (James Little, Dan Vaughan, Aaran Sumner, Laurence Herbert, Alicia Stevenson, Lucas Irving)The members of MTEDC are Aaran Sumner, Lucas Irving, DanVaughan, Alicia Stevenson (University of Nottingham), Laurence Herbert and James Little (University of Birmingham). They presented a business plan for VermicuWave, a new process for exfoliating ('puffing up') vermiculite – the very lightweight bulk constituent in fire retardant materials used in large commercial buildings. VermicuWave is a compact and mobile machine which can become a factory in a box (VermicuBox) and be transported to large building sites to process the vermiculite as and when it is required. The technology also uses 90% less energy and does not emit any harmful gases – a major issue with the current vermiculite processing furnaces.

The team will compete at the final on 18 June at the Birmingham Science park.

Engineering YES raises awareness of the commercialisation of engineering ideas among postgraduate students and postdoctoral research staff, as teams develop and present a business plan for an imaginary start-up company.

Parmjit Dhugga, Head of Researcher Development, said:

"The Faculty of Engineering prides itself on its focus on the needs of UK industry. We attach enormous importance to the support that our doctoral students receive to develop their professional and enterprise skills to get them ready for whichever career path they may choose. Engineering YES is a perfect opportunity for postgraduates to apply their knowledge and experience to find solutions to contemporary societal challenges."

Dave Shipley, Manufacturing Technology Engineering Doctorate Centre Manager, said

"All of us in the Centre are very proud that our team managed to win the heat against very strong competition. We wish them the very best for the final!"