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Partnership stories

By partnering with Queen Mary, you get access to leading academics, graduates, and facilities – helping you to gain a competitive advantage through innovation.

Partnership stories

Working alongside businesses, the public sector and charities is one of the best ways to achieve real world impact from research.

Our academics are involved in exciting partnerships with businesses of all sizes and operating across the globe.

Learn about some of our most recent partnerships below:

Bringing robotics into winemaking with Extend Robotics and Saffron Grange

An Innovate UK collaborative research and development project

Winegrowing is Britain’s fastest growing agricultural sector. The labour-intensive task of pruning and harvesting grapes, and indeed other high value crops like berries and other fruits, demands skill and dexterity.

This new research project, a three-year partnership between Queen Mary University of London, Extend Robotics, and East Anglia-based vineyard Saffron Grange, seeks to develop cloud-connected AI components that will enable the robotic automation of general tasks such as pruning and harvesting the grapes. Our partner, Extend Robotics, is a UK-based start-up specialising in virtual reality-based teleoperation systems for remote manipulation of robots. Their expertise in precision manipulation and perception systems is essential to developing modular robotic hardware systems with human equivalent manipulation robotic arms and cameras.  Meanwhile, our scientists at Queen Mary are bringing their expertise in remote sensing and image spectral analysis which is critical to the project's success.

We are very excited about exploring our AI based optical imaging and analysis technology in agriculture, and we’re delighted to be partnering with Extend Robotics and Saffron Grange to bring high tech robotics into wine growing. Our joint technology will allow growers to remotely monitor crop health, identify potential issues early on, and take appropriate action, resulting in better overall crop quality and higher yields. The precision manipulation and perception system with a virtual reality interface will enable growers to perform tasks such as pruning and harvesting more efficiently and accurately, reducing labour costs, emissions, and reliance on seasonal migration. The cloud-connected AI components will help to automate general tasks to improve efficiency. We expect this not only to transform the future harvesting practice in vineyards, but also to provide the best quality grapes for making high-quality wines.

We believe this innovative technology will bring significant benefits to the British viticulture industry, making it more competitive and sustainable, while also contributing to the growth of the UK economy and providing a competitive edge in the global wine market.

“We’re going to change the face – and future – of viticulture in the UK.”

Dr Chang Liu, Founder and CEO of Extend Robotics

Bringing life-changing support to people with Parkinson's with Charco

A Knowledge Transfer Partnership

Parkinson’s is the fastest growing neurodegenerative condition worldwide, affecting over 10 million people. We’re proud to be working alongside Charo Neurotech to help further develop and test their CUE1 device.

CUE1 is a wearable and discreet device which delivers individualised peripheral nerve stimulation to alleviate motor symptoms such as slowness, stiffness and freezing while walking. 

Our researchers are helping to test the device’s feasibility for treating a much wider range of Parkinson’s patients. We’re assessing its tolerability and clinical outcomes, determining the best settings and positioning, and drafting a design for a formal clinical trial.

“We could not be more happy to be working together with QMUL on this project. Working with such an institution and leaders in the world of Parkinson's will be instrumental and invaluable in translating research and development to support this intervention. This will help us to improve the quality of life for people with Parkinson's.” 

Lucy Jung, CEO and co-founder, Charco

Discovering the impact of microplastics on human health with WRc

A Knowledge Transfer Partnership

Every day we eat food and drink  water contaminated with microplastics – tiny pieces of plastic debris resulting from the disposal and breakdown of consumer products and industrial waste.

What is this doing to our bodies?

At Queen Mary, we’re partnering with the Water Research Centre (WRc Group) to examine the impact of microplastics on human health. Our team, led by Dr Vahitha Abdul Salam, will be analysing samples using state of the art instruments for detecting microplastics and associated chemicals and running tests in both human tissue and computer models.

It is critical that we understand the true risks of microplastics to our health – and this pioneering research is the next step in developing comprehensive risk assessment and effective regulation.

“Innovation is at the heart of everything we do at WRc, and our exciting research into microplastics is no different. This will lift us from a world with no standard protocols for microplastic risk assessment…to a world with set safe concentrations of microplastic in drinking water.”

Andy Blackhall, MD, WRc

Confronting accent bias to crack the class ceiling

A consultancy project

Accent bias is alive and well in Britain today. In fact, attitudes have changed little in the last fifty years, according to research by Queen Mary's Professor Devyani Sharma and Visiting Professor Erez Levon.

The research, which was explored in the BBC docuseries 'How to crack the class ceiling', drew upon theories and methods from sociolinguistics, social psychology, and labour market economics. The results showed how an established and enduring ‘hierarchy of accents’ persists in the UK. However, the data also showed that this bias is sensitive to context – people’s responses are more nuanced when listening to actual speech. And that, with increased awareness, people can almost fully suppress this bias under certain conditions – for example, in a professional recruiting context.

Based on these findings, Professor Devyani Sharma is helping employers to recognise and tackle accent bias in their hiring process. Along with others involved in this work, she's already supported the Social Mobility Commission, Sutton Trust, government departments, corporate law firms, recruiting and HR agencies, banks, marketing firms, schools, and universities - as well as contributing to a review of the Equality Act.

With accent perhaps the most recognisable sign of social and ethnic background in Britain today, this research-based consultancy could significantly widen opportunities to high-status professions.

Advancing the 3D printing of metals with Rolls-Royce and others

Directed energy deposition (DED) is a digital manufacturing process in which materials are melted and fused onto surfaces and into desired shapes, layer-by-layer.

It can be used to repair complex metal components, such as jet turbine blades, which would otherwise be discarded.

The catch though is that the process can produce tiny air bubbles, known as pores – the last thing you want in a precision part which must withstand extreme forces!

Until now, engineers did not know for sure what caused these air bubbles to occur. That’s why we partnered with Rolls-Royce, UCL, ESRF, RMIT, Diamond Light Source, and Shimane University to uncover what’s happening.

Queen Mary’s Dr Chinnapat Panwisawas used multi-physics modelling to validate in-situ X-ray synchrotron imaging and gain an in-depth understanding of five mechanisms which contribute to the pore formation, entrainment, and growth.

  • Bubbles from gas atomised powder enter the melt pool, and then migrate circularly or laterally.
  • Small bubbles can escape from the pool surface, coalesce into larger bubbles, or be entrapped by solidification fronts.
  • Larger coalesced bubbles can remain in the pool for long periods, pushed by the solid/liquid interface.
  • Marangoni surface shear flow (the movement of fluid as material melts and pools) overcomes buoyancy, keeping larger bubbles from popping out.
  • Once large bubbles reach critical sizes, they escape from the pool surface or are trapped in DED tracks.

Now that we understand how pores form, we can develop news ways to prevent it. Thereby making directed energy deposition a viable option for repairing metal components which are stronger, safer, and more reliable than traditionally manufactured parts.

Creating an AI inventory for the power grid with KeenAI

A Knowledge Transfer Partnership

There are few goals more fundamental than keeping the lights on. But maintaining a 13,000km network of over 35,000 electricity structures is easier said than done. Errors creep into a company’s records of what's installed and where.  Sometimes, what is now considered crucial information hasn't in the past been recorded.

Operators often routinely gather images of structures during inspection. You could look through all these images to double check what's there – but it’s not feasible to review millions of historic images.
Could AI provide the answer? Accuracy is everything. The wrong component could spell disaster.

We’re partnering with KeenAI to develop an automated AI inventory platform for energy infrastructure assets. This technology will help energy companies make better use of their visual data to fix problems before they arise and keep the network running.

"Our goal in this project is to examine how leveraging uncertainties in deep learning network predictions can minimise false positives."

Amjad Karim, CEO, Keen-AI

Turning waste grain into alternative leather with Arda Biomaterials and Kings

An Innovate UK collaborative research and development project

The environmental footprint of leather is enormous. Yet with most vegan leathers being essentially plastic – they are not great for the planet either. Another alternative is the waste grain from beer brewing; the grain’s unique protein and fibre content can be utilised to produce a leather-like material. However, the material lacks the corium, leather's fibrous underlayer, which is crucial for its structural integrity and distinctive texture.

Plastic leathers tend to use petroleum-derived fibres that when spun together create the key layer that makes leather so useful. We are working with Arda Biomaterials and Kings College to do the same with brewers’ spent grain.

We intend to create high-performance electrospun fibres out of the unique protein content of brewers' spent grain, and to use these to produce a fibre layer that we will integrate with the current leather-like material produced by Arda Biomaterials.

Unlike other spinning techniques, electrospinning does not require high temperatures, making the technique particularly well suited for proteins. Furthermore, electrospinning has proven scalability.

The unique composite product will be wholly biodegradable and traceable – unlike plastic-based alternative leathers.

Fittingly, the main use for spent grain today is to feed livestock – so you could say we are cutting out the middle cow.

Finding alternative components for energy efficient products with Paragraf

A Knowledge Transfer Partnership

Many of the technologies we’re relying on to get to net zero use critical minerals with  politically complex supply chains  outside of our control. Energy-efficient products like OLEDs, LCD TVs and green energy sources like solar panels often rely on Indium, which is becoming a scarce metal. It’s one of the most expensive materials on the market and has significant price volatility.

Innovation is vital to finding alternatives and reaching net zero. The challenge is to identify a sustainable material with the same, or better, properties as Indium Tin Oxide – high electrical conductivity, high transparency, and ease of disposition.

Could Graphene be the answer? Graphene is an excellent alternative in principle. But in practice it’s been hard to scale up production in the sizes and quantities needed.

Through our partnership with Paragraf, we’ve contributed our expertise to study and develop a wide range of graphene devices without compromising the essential characteristics needed for electronics manufacturing.

Finding good alternatives to critical minerals, such as replacing Indium Tin Oxide with graphene, is the best way to solve scarcity issues and lower purchase costs. With use as a highly-efficient transparent conductor in OLED TVs already on the horizon, graphene could also be a sustainable material in a whole range of electronics – so the results of this study could be very wide-reaching indeed.

“Graphene is an extraordinary material that offers incredible potential in the world of electronics, not least in the replacement of expensive, extremely environmentally unfriendly device contact layers. This exciting project between Queen Mary and Paragraf has the opportunity to revolutionise the industry and provide a safer, more cost-effective, renewable solution for electronics.”

Dr Simon Thomas, Founder, Paragraf

Building under-floor robots with Q-Bot

An Innovate UK collaborative research and development project

In a typical home, 20% of all heat escapes through a suspended timber floor. This leaves your home draughty and uncomfortable, while you waste energy and money heating cold rooms. It's hard to reach these spaces without ripping up the floor - so most people leave the problem unfixed.

With support from Innovate UK, we helped Q-Bot, a London-based robotic company, to design, manufacture and validate technology which will eventually allow robust, soft robots to remotely apply insulation under your floor.  

Our research team helped develop a soft robot that can navigate the territory beneath your floors using a hybrid actuation method (combining pneumatic and tendon-based actuation) for large scale soft robots, as well as novel motion control algorithms.

This project built on ground-breaking robotics innovation in soft and flexible robotic manipulators developed by our Centre for Advance Robotics at Queen Mary University of London, which were initially developed for medical applications.

Our researchers continue develop the technology further, with a view to using it to navigate extreme and challenging environments such as inaccessible areas of buildings, infrastructure networks (including sewers) and nuclear sites. The ultimate goal of using robots to spray insulation under the floor will remove nearly all the disruption usually associated with retrofitting underfloor insulation.

Transforming energy access with Eco Wave

An Innovate UK collaborative research and development project

Innovate UK funded our researchers to create the first microgrids powered by onshore wave energy converters - through a partnership with Eco Wave Power, Toshiba, Aquatera, Hitachi Energy in Thailand, and Universities of Manchester, and Exeter.

We think the technology we develop through this project will completely change energy access for remote communities worldwide, making a significant contribution to reducing carbon emissions and mitigating climate change.

Queen Mary's Dr Kamyar Mehran is developing advanced microgrid and power electronic solutions, including fully AI-based load and generation prediction and wireless, distributed energy management systems, to provide electricity without the need for expensive lithium-ion batteries. This will significantly reduce the maintenance costs for low-income residents, making wave energy a more affordable and sustainable option for remote communities.

Dr Mehran’s work can make a real difference in the fight against climate change. By combining his expertise with Eco Wave's experience in building wave energy converters, we hope to demonstrate the feasibility of using onshore wave energy converters to provide reliable and cost-effective electricity for remote islands in Thailand - and indeed for coastal communities anywhere.

Developing bespoke polymers for medicine with Exactmer

A Knowledge Transfer Partnership

Our partnership with Exactmer, a fast growing and ambitious SME, combines our expertise in small-molecule synthesis with Exactmer’s cutting-edge polymer manufacturing. 

Together, we’re developing the methodologies to manufacture a bespoke new suite of exact molecular weight polymers known as polyethylene glycols, using their break-through polymer manufacturing platform, Nanostar Sieving.

These will be used as linkers for Antibody-Drug-Conjugates amongst other medicinal applications.

“Exactmer is thrilled to be working with Queen Mary to develop and strengthen new research activities in East London. We are looking forward to integrating the knowledge developed from the partnership into Exactmer’s processes and are excited to see the commercial and business potential this will bring.”

Dr Dara O’Brien, Exactmer

Contact our team

Get in touch with our team to explore what form your partnership with Queen Mary could take. We’ll connect you with the right researchers who can take your ideas forward.

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