University of Leicester to Commercialise Ground Breaking Research with Design Council Programme

Posted by pt91 at Oct 17, 2011 09:00 AM |
University of Leicester is one of only seven universities in Britain to win support to turn smart ideas into viable products through design
University of Leicester to Commercialise Ground Breaking Research with Design Council Programme

Photograph of a latent fingerprint on the handle of a stainless steel knife, following electrochemical enhancement of the initially non-visible fingerprint deposit using polyaniline; one of the projects to be supported by the Design Council.

Issued by University of Leicester Press Office on 17 October 2011

Image of research available from

Seven universities have won Design Council support to turn smart ideas into viable products through design.  The University of Leicester application, led by the Enterprise and Business Development Team, got the go-ahead to spearhead four groundbreaking research advances in the 2011 Innovate for Universities mentoring service.

Working with specialist Design Associates, all experienced design management experts who have worked with organisations in the private and public sector to help them discover, explore and exploit design for growth, the Universities will use design and design-led thinking to fast track the journey from ground breaking research to commercial success.

Tas Gohir, Intellectual Property Manager at the University of Leicester, said:

“We are thrilled to receive this award as it recognises the highly innovative research taking place across the University with the potential for significant societal and commercial benefits.”

“Developing great ideas is only half the battle for universities. The hard part is showing how these ideas can work in practice.  Innovate for Universities has helped universities commercialise their research, and we are excited about gaining a place on the programme. We know it’s important to think of new ways to take the ideas from the drawing board to the world outside, and design will be central to this.”

“Leicester will gain access to expert design input which will drive the development of commercial products based on cutting edge technology emerging from our research. The collaboration with the Design Council will also help optimise a market strategy for the products and make the technology more attractive to potential investors.”

Mr Gohir said that the work being done at the University of Leicester could lead to the development of commercial products and therefore offer an excellent licensing opportunity to existing companies, or may form the basis of a spinout company from the University of Leicester. 

In addition, the technologies being developed at Leicester would offer solutions in areas of real unmet clinical need.

Ellie Runcie, Director of Design Innovation Services at the Design Council, said:

“The UK has a world class science base and is a high performer in R&D so we are well placed to compete globally in the context of scientific innovation. Design is a critical driver for innovation which in turn drives growth, however, when it comes to finding great applications from research, too often design is not integral to the commercialisation process. With increasing funding pressures on universities and their constant need to produce ground-breaking research, design can help them to find the investment to back the next stage of development and take research from a good idea to a practical and commercial application.

“Innovate for Universities helps technology transfer offices find profitable ways to apply research, map possible routes to market and communicate the benefits of new technology to investors. This year’s participants have strong track records for innovative research. They’ve put forward some fascinating research projects and we look forward to working with them.”

For commercial reasons, full details of new ideas to be developed through the programme are tightly under wraps for now.   However the University of Leicester can reveal that the ideas are from the following areas:

  • Potential relief tinnitus.  Project led by Dr Mike Mulheran, Department of Medical and Social Care.

Dr Mike Mulheran, from the University’s Department of Medical and Social Care Education, said:

'Obviously I am thrilled and delighted to be part of the Leicester team that has received this prestigious award in the face of strong national competition.  We are also very much looking forward to working with the excellent design talent we have in Leicester.

'Our project involves using LED technology that precisely generates coloured light that with certain wavelengths in some patients appear to result in changes in sensory perception. The Design Council support will enable us to better develop this technology for customised personal use at home'.

  • Visualisation of latent, or other invisible, fingerprints and therefore has the potential for use on crime scenes.  Project led by Professor Rob Hillman in the Department of Chemistry.

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PhD student Ann Beresford and Prof. Rob Hillman make a visual inspection of a knife with an electrochromically enhanced fingerprint on the handle.
Prof Rob Hillman, from the University’s Department of Chemistry said: “This new fingerprinting technique, using films whose colour can be electrically varied, offers new opportunities to visualize latent fingerprints on metal surfaces. The Design Council award will enable us to convert this new concept into a powerful addition to the forensic scientist’s toolkit. This will add momentum to our collaborations with local police forces and forensic practitioners who will ultimately use the technique.

“In a complementary approach to conventional fingerprinting techniques, we use the fingerprint deposit like a mask or stencil to deposit a coloured film on regions of the bare surface between the fingerprint deposits. On metal objects, which are common sources of fingerprint evidence, we can apply a voltage to alter the colour of the film so as to adjust the visual contrast with the background. This allows the forensic scientist to obtain the clearest image of the fingerprint details used for identification purposes.”

· More accurately diagnosing between different types of eye conditions, which may otherwise lead to blindness.  This is a highly inter-disciplinary project combining the University’s work at the Space Research Centre with research underway at University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust. Project led by Dr Nigel Bannister at the University’s Space Research Centre.

Dr Nigel Bannister, from the University’s Department of Physics and Astronomy said: "The Ophthalmic Spectrometry project arose from a technique, proposed by Jeremy Prydal (Consultant Ophthalmic Surgeon at the Leicester Royal Infirmary), which uses the colour of the eye to diagnose sight-threatening conditions. Working with Senior Lecturer Nigel Bannister and PhD student Sarah Botterill (Space Research Centre, Department of Physics & Astronomy, University of Leicester), a prototype instrument has been designed using techniques borrowed from space science, and is being used in clinical trials at the LRI. The Design Council award represents a major step forward in efforts to develop this potentially sight-saving device, by providing the team with expert advice on improving the design of the instrument to make it easier, quicker and more effective to use in the hospital consulting room. The expertise provided by the Design Council Associate will enable the team to identify commercial opportunities for the system, bringing the idea closer to the marketplace, and to the thousands of people who each year lose their sight to conditions that earlier diagnosis may have prevented."

· More accurately diagnosis of individuals at risk of sudden cardiac death.   Project led by Dr Andre Ng, Department of Cardiovascular Sciences.

Dr André Ng, from the University’s Department Cardiovascular Sciences said: "The LifeMapTM project represents the fruit of over a decade’s research into the electrical properties that determine the susceptibility of the heart to lethal rhythm disturbances. It is the translation of these novel data into a new technology which creates an electrical map of the heart, using the standard ECG and a minimally invasive technique, to assess a patient’s risk of sudden cardiac death. Dr Will Nicolson, clinical research fellow working on the project for the past 2 years, has produced data demonstrating the enormous clinical promise of LifeMapTM  which notably won the prestigious Medical Futures Best Innovation Award in Diagnostics earlier this year. We are very pleased that our project has contributed towards the University’s success in this significant award. The help from the Design Council will greatly enhance the profile of our new technology and the way we develop it to successfully attract funding from investors for its commercialisation for wider patient benefit.”

Leicester was joined by Bristol, Exeter, Ulster, Glasgow, Imperial College and Reading universities who bid successfully to the 2011 Innovate for Universities mentoring service.  Innovate for Universities is delivered through the Design Council’s network of Design Associates, who understand the challenges facing universities.

More information can be found here.


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Notes to Editors

The Design Council CABE is a charity, incorporated by Royal Charter, that places good design at the heart of social and economic renewal.

As one of the world’s leading design organisations it is Government’s advisor on design, and a centre of new thinking and insight into the role of design in innovation. For more than 60 years, it has sought to provide evidence and demonstrate how design can help build a stronger economy and improve everyday life through practical projects with industry, public services and education. 

For more information please visit:

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