The Eli and Brit Harari Graphene Enterprise Award: 2017 Winners Announced

An annual prize worth £50,000 has been awarded to two young Manchester researchers to help set-up a new graphene business venture.

The Eli and Britt Harari Graphene Enterprise Award is awarded each year to help the implementation of a commercially-viable business proposal from students, post-docs and recent graduates of The University of Manchester based on developing the commercial prospects of graphene.

This year’s competition was promoted and supported through the use of on-line resources, information sessions and business planning workshops by the Manchester Enterprise Centre, Alliance Manchester Business School.

Christian Berger and Daniel Melendrez are this year’s joint winners of the grant and ongoing business support following a decision made by a select panel of judges. Their winning entry tackles growing usability problems faced by the increasing number of over 65s who are new to using smartphones and similar touch devices.

Nearly 60% of these users report real problems when using touchscreen devices due to age related issues. Users who experience tremors or reduced perception of pressure application can often find touch screen interfaces difficult to use.

Usability problems such as touch accuracy when making on-screen selections and accidental unintended pressing have been raised as issues of frustration by many users. Christian and Daniel are seeking to address these problems by developing a transparent film overlay made using graphene.

The transparent flexible force-touch interface (MEMS-TI) is capable of measuring the force applied to film and correcting for any perceived errors. The technology could be used for a wide range of applications including; mass market consumer electronics (haptic devices, touch screens, entertainment/gaming), education, digital arts and media, materials handling and control, augmented reality and healthcare.

The newly developed film utilises graphene’s multiple superlative properties. Graphene is a perfect material for this new technology as it is transparent, flexible and extremely conductive, meaning that there is no loss in existing functionality.

In awarding this year’s prize the judges were particularly impressed with the way in which Christian and Daniel were able to combine an assured knowledge of the technology with a credible application that provided real value to a specific set of users.

Professor Luke Georghiou, Deputy President and Deputy Vice-Chancellor of The University of Manchester and one of the judges for this year’s competition said: “Our commitment to student entrepreneurship is a vital part of our approach to commercialisation of graphene.

“The inspiration and expertise provided by Eli Harari combined with the scientific excellence of our graphene research gives today’s winners the opportunity to have a jump-start on the path to creating a significant business. I wish them every success!”

Christian has just successfully completed his 4 year PhD researching into Graphene-based sensors with a particular focus on pressure sensors and fabrication techniques and provides the manufacturing and material expertise. While Daniel, who is in his final year of his PhD also researching graphene-based sensors, is able to bring this and 6 years’ worth of experience in electronic instrumentation to the design of the electronics and processing that will be needed.

The winners are looking to develop an innovative range of new sensors and actuators based a patented technology of single layer graphene films supported by a thin flexible polymeric membrane.

The new technology has a range of applications beyond the one presented to the judges and in order to start explore the full potential of this exciting technology, Christian and his PhD supervisor, Dr Aravind Vijayaraghavan setup Atomic Mechanics Ltd, a spin-out company from The University of Manchester. Daniel has since joined the company as Lead Engineer.

Anyone wishing to find out more about this year’s prize should e-mail for further information.

Further information

The award is co-funded by the North American Foundation for The University of Manchester through the support of one of the University’s former physics students Dr Eli Harari (founder of SanDisk) and his wife Britt. It recognises the role that high-level, flexible early-stage financial support can play in the successful development of a business targeting the full commercialisation of a product or technology related to research in graphene.

Christian and Daniel will receive continued support to help take the first steps towards realising this project and are already enrolled onto UMIP’s Innovation Optimiser programme as well as working closely with Andrew Wilkinson of Graphene Enabled in order to help them to better engage with the market in order to better understand the best opportunities to fulfil.

Anyone interested in finding out more about Christian and Aravind’s research work should refer to the following papers:

C. Berger et al, Touch-mode capacitive pressure sensor with graphene-polymer heterostructure membrane, 2D Materials, Accepted Manuscript (2017)

C. Berger, M. Dirschka, A. Vijayaraghavan, Ultra-thin graphene-polymer heterostructure membranes, Nanoscale, 2016,8, 17928-17939!divAbstract


UMIP welcomes Dr Rick Watson

Dr Rick Watson

UMIP’s New Projects Team welcomes Dr Rick Watson as Team Leader. Rick started his role in July this year and sees him supporting the efforts of the team to engage with academic innovators, identify IP and assess it for protection and onward commercialisation by UMIP.

Prior to working at UMIP Rick spent time working in several organisations at the Academic -Commercial interface including Manchester Business Growth Hub, as a consultant in the specialist Technology Transfer company Novomodo Ltd, and previous roles as Senior Innovation Consultant assisting company clients across the UK.

A former technology transfer manager at the University of Salford, Rick’s background is a mixture of different technologies including roles in Biotechnology community in Manchester and Scotland, time at The University of Strathclyde’s Forensic Science Unit, PhD research in Pharmaceutical Sciences at The University of Nottingham, and reading his first degree at Hull University in Chemistry with Analytical Chemistry and Toxicology.

Rick comments: “I am thrilled to join the UMIP team and to be working with such dedicated and talented professionals. I look forward to building on UMIP’s success and working with University colleagues to support their activities in IP commercialisation to generate revenue and research impact.”

Rick takes over from Dr Arnaud Garçon who has moved into UMIP’s IP Development and Partnering Team.


University of Cambridge Open Innovation Forum Food & FMCG Pitching Event

University of Cambridge IfM: Open Innovation Forum Food & FMCG Pitching Event – Amsterdam, November 2017

Senior leaders from major food and FMCG firms such as Mars, Heineken, PepsiCo, Suntory and General Mills are holding a pitching event for innovative companies, entrepreneurs, start-ups and university spin-offs.  These companies, who are members of the Institute for Manufacturing’s Open Innovation (OI) Forum, are seeking new solutions to their business challenges, so you have the chance to pitch to them at an event hosted by Heineken and held on 16 November at the Heineken Experience, Amsterdam.

The 6th Food & FMCG Innovation Pitching Event is open to all individuals, research centres and companies of all sizes and levels of maturity. Up to 15 researchers, innovators and technology developers will be picked to pitch their ideas to a panel of key decision-makers and ‘innovation scouts’ from important food and FMCG firms (see full list here). However, all proposed pitches will be circulated to OI Forum members, whether they are shortlisted or not.

Ideas presented should specifically address one or more of the Forum’s business needs identified in the ‘Innovation Needs’ list and may fall within one of the following categories:

  • Marketing and business models – including consumer insights, social media, digital marketing and new business models.
  • Packaging – including interactive packaging, customised and novel packaging and materials.
  • Ingredients – health, food safety, preservatives and synthetic biology.
  • Manufacturing – including customisation, batch-of-one and novel food processing.

The event is free to enter and winners will receive a certificate and trophy, as well as the chance to present their ideas and products in front of senior leaders and decision-makers whose main job role is to scout for and acquire innovation and technology from outside their organisations.

Entry information

The deadline for requesting a pitch is 20 October 2017. The most promising entry submitted by 30 September from an individual, start-up or SME will receive funding* towards transport costs to Heineken Experience in Amsterdam.

For more information and to enter the competition visit:

* Up to a maximum of £250.  Further information on terms and conditions will be available from the event organisers.


University of Manchester technology that boosts the understanding of senescent cells role in age-related disorders licensed to Arriani Pharmaceuticals

An exclusive licence deal has been transacted by The University of Manchester’s technology transfer company (UMI3 Ltd) with Arriani Pharmaceuticals for a research tool which boosts the understanding of senescent cells role in diverse age-related diseases including cancer.

Professors Vassilis Gorgoulis and Paul Townsend are behind the universally applicable method, called SenTraGorΤΜ, which enables better detection of senescence (the aging of cells).

Professor Townsend described the licence as “ground-breaking” and said: “Cellular senescence is causally linked to ageing and has been implicated in a variety of age-related diseases such as cancer.

“But up to now, detecting senescence was problematic and infeasible in most widespread biological material.

The agreement will see Arriani provide SenTraGorΤΜ to research institutions, diagnostic labs, clinics and companies looking for new therapies and offering wider well-being services to the public. Harry Lambridis, President and Founder of Arriani comments: “We are proud to offer to the international scientific community the valuable outcome of the research conducted by Professors Vassilis Gorgoulis and Paul Townsend that will revolutionalise the detection of senescent cells. We strongly believe that SenTraGorΤΜ will greatly contribute in the understanding of age-related biological processes and to this end we will work closely with the Professors to enlarge the applications of SenTraGorΤΜ, even beyond this field.”

The University of Manchester’s Professor Paul Townsend and Honorary Professor Vassilis Gorgoulis are world experts in cancer biology.

Professor Townsend said the agreement will bring considerable benefits to research and clinical practice and even beyond that around the world.


“Our method provides unheard-of advantages over any other available senescence detection products,” he said.

“It’s widely applicable, straight forward and specific. It will also help researchers make new breakthroughs into the causes of diseases, including cancer, as there will be a more effective understanding of phenomenon of cellular senescence. Moreover, its application can be expanded even to the cosmetics and food industries.”

Professor Gorgoulis added: “SenTraGorΤΜ revolutionizes the field of cellular aging and opens the door to a better understanding and treatment of various disorders. Many cancer types, degenerative diseases, even infertility, are thought to be senescence-related and our method introduces a powerful weapon in the medical armory against these conditions.”

Dr Rich Ferrie, Director of Operations at UMIP, commented: “We are delighted to have secured this licence deal with our new partners, Arriani. The strong commercial team at Arriani will ensure that this exciting product is quickly rolled out internationally and we are confident that the relationship we have established together will be both successful and enduring.”

Inaugural UMIP Innovation Optimiser Showcase celebrates innovation and enterprise at The University of Manchester

Networking in the Street

An event to showcase some of the start-ups being supported through UMIP’s (The University of Manchester’s technology transfer office) Innovation Optimiser has been held for the first time in UMIC’s Conference and Events space in the Core Technology facility on Grafton Street.

UMIP’s Enterprise team held the inaugural Showcase to highlight some of the fantastic businesses and innovations being developed by staff, academics and research students at The University of Manchester.

More than 75 entrepreneurs, colleagues from The University of Manchester and wider support partners gathered to learn how enterprises have benefitted from the support provided by the Innovation Optimiser and network over a celebratory Afternoon Tea.

Ten start-ups have successfully graduated through the programme this year – including ViewItUK Ltd, Urban Chain Ltd, Galivantes Ltd, Manchester Star Tuition Ltd, Fold-Out Publishing Ltd, EnviroSAR Ltd, Citizens Juries CIC, Cable Coatings Ltd, Affigo CIC and Artemis Analytical Ltd.

Director of Innovation Optimiser Tony Walker said: “Ten start-up businesses have passed through the Innovation Optimiser programme in 2017, which shows what a success it has already become.

“What’s fantastic is that so many people from many different backgrounds joined together at our inaugural Showcase event.”

Tom McNamara of FreeUp Ltd

He added: “We heard from a great range of entrepreneurs with different business concepts, all of whom are at different stages of their start-up journey, including; Tom McNamara of FreeUp Ltd, Dr Duncan Thomas, who runs Green Island Friends, Meera Dulabh from Neurolytics Ltd, James Adams of Cancer Awareness in Teenagers and Young People Society (CATS), Dr Gail Millin-Chalabi of EnviroSAR Ltd, and Professor Michael Donmall of ViewItUK Ltd. Some are still in the Ignition phase of exploring their ideas, whereas others have progressed through to our Momentum programme and have set up their business.”



“Our entrepreneurs gave both an insight into their companies and how our wide range of support has helped them progress, including some of the challenges they’ve faced. We’re always looking for new ways to support our businesses and introduce them to potential partners.”

The Innovation Optimiser, which provides support for aspiring entrepreneurs wishing to develop start-up businesses, social ventures and research student enterprises, through educational resources and agile mentoring, was developed by UMIP in 2014 to complement its renowned Intellectual Property (IP) commercialisation activity. It provides a vibrant and supportive environment for individuals or teams with an idea, innovation or venture in which they are empowered to develop and build their business.

Professor Luke Georghiou and UMIP’s Dr Laura Etchells

Along with Tony Walker, Professor Luke Georghiou, Vice President of Research & Innovation at The University of Manchester, also spoke at the Showcase, emphasising the importance of supporting staff, academics and research students who may have an idea for a commercial start-up or social enterprise.

Professor Georghiou commented: “There was a buzz inside and outside the room and I greatly enjoyed hearing about the entrepreneurial experiences. It seems they are being well-prepared but as ever there is a need for many of them to connect with the right kind of finance if their businesses are to grow.”




Professor Vikas Shah, TiE UK North

Professor Vikas Shah, a well-known Manchester entrepreneur, President of TiE UK North, Honorary Professor at the Alliance Manchester Business School and partner to UMIP’s Innovation Optimiser, also spoke at the event, highlighting the support that TiE brings to UMIP’s budding entrepreneurs.

Ellie Buckley, UMIP Enterprise Development Executive and event organiser commented: “We’ve received phenomenal feedback from everyone who attended the Showcase. It really gave our entrepreneurs a prime opportunity to celebrate what they’ve achieved and make some great connections. We’re very excited about making the event bigger and better next year.”



To find out more, contact one of the Innovation Optimiser team:

Ellie Buckley, Enterprise Development Executive or 0161 606 7265

Laura Etchells, Enterprise Development Manager or 0161 606 7264

Tony Walker, Director of Innovation Optimiser, or 0161 603 7780


  • Home