Published: 13 January 2009 at 10:21
Research student develops new technology that could save the NHS millions
Steven Abbott, a Post Doctoral Researcher in the Faculty of Health and Social Care at Anglia Ruskin University, has been awarded a place on the NCGE’s prestigious Flying Start Global Entrepreneurs programme to turn his innovative research into a high impact, high technology business.
Specialist training in the UK, led by the National Council for Graduate Entrepreneurship (NCGE) and NESTA (the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts) over the past six months, has been helping Steven develop his business idea.
This weekend Steven departs for the United States to start his six-month placement with the world-famous Kauffman Foundation, fully funded by the NCGE. Meanwhile, Anglia Ruskin has put in place valuable support to enable his innovative research to continue and for the technology to be commercialised.
Alongside ten other 2009 Flying Start Global Entrepreneurs selected as our most promising graduate entrepreneurs in science, technology, engineering and maths from universities in England and Northern Ireland, Steven will, meet some of America's most innovative entrepreneurial thinkers; this includes visits to three of the most celebrated universities in America: Stanford, Harvard, and the renowned Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Finally, Steven will work at a leading American company gaining experience to enhance his entrepreneurial knowledge and skills.
This flagship international scheme is fully funded by the National Council for Graduate Entrepreneurship (NCGE) and provided in association with the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation in Kansas City, Missouri, USA.
Becoming a Flying Start Global Entrepreneur is a huge privilege. The scheme is open to all English universities, but it is very competitive – each candidate must be recommended by staff at their university as one of this country's most promising graduate entrepreneurs. A total of 75 individuals were nominated by their respective universities for the scheme. Just nine were selected for funding. Two successful candidates from Northern Ireland and two from Denmark were also selected to join the programme.
Steven’s cutting-edge research was based entirely on his own initiative and ingenuity in overcoming significant problems faced by previous researchers in the field of phono arthrometry. His discoveries, and the technology he is developing, focus on the study of sounds generated naturally by human or animal joints in motion. The value of Steven’s research is in its considerable potential as a new, fast, non-invasive and relatively cheap means of obtaining detailed information about the internal state of a joint, which could then be used for diagnostic purposes.
In clinical tests Steven’s system was able to successfully establish whether an individual’s knee joint was normal or showing signs of abnormality using experimental sound technology. His approach was able to detect a clearly abnormal response from the underside of a patient’s kneecap where the MRI scan of the patient had revealed nothing abnormal. The patient was confirmed as having localised damage in this location through keyhole investigation.
The potential for the technology to positively impact on NHS resources is very clear. The estimated final cost for Steven’s equipment would be just a few thousand pounds. An MRI scanner in comparison costs an average of one million pounds.
Steven partly attributes his success in this little-known field of research to the very different perspective he has in the interpretation of sound as a disabled person. He was registered blind in 2003.
Since his selection as a Global Entrepreneur, Steven (who gained his PhD from Anglia Ruskin in December) and the NCGE’s Director of Flying Start Programmes, Dr Lorna Collins, met with Professor Alan Sibbald, Deputy Vice Chancellor (Research, Scholarship & Development). He gave his support to helping Steven take his research further as a Research Fellow of the University. A new PhD studentship is now being advertised to conduct additional research and evaluation of Steven’s experimental instrumentation.
Dr Tina Moules, Director of Research in the Faculty of Health and Social Care is Steven’s principle mentor for his research, with Dr Rob Willis, Director of Research at the Ashcroft International Business School, acting as a co-mentor and providing business support. In addition, both Marcia Baldry and Chris Davies of the Research, Development and Commercial Services Unit are providing additional support on the commercial development side.
Dr Lorna Collins, from the National Council for Graduate Entrepreneurship, said:
Steven is the first to overcome some serious technical challenges in his specialised field of research. His PhD work has taken place within our Bioengineering Research Group under the mentorship of Professor Paul Ingle, co-supervised by Alan Hopkins, a lecturer in Computing, and Dr Pearl Wou, a Consulting Radiologist working with Broomfield and Springfield Hospitals. Professor Kevin Cheah, an Orthopaedic Surgeon at Springfield Hospital acted as an adviser to the PhD project.
Speaking about his work and his selection as a Flying Start Global Entrepreneur, Steven said: