Stranger than we can imagine
John Higgs (2015)
Higgs acknowledges the challenge that he set himself to tell the story of the 20th century from something other than a geo-political perspective. He ambitiously sets out with an agenda for a century that includes “relativity, cubism, the Somme, quantum mechanics, the id, existentialism, Stalin, psychedelics, chaos mathematics and climate change”, while acknowledging this is only a Western perspective on the century. Higgs sets out to look for “what was genuinely new, unexpected and radical” without using the term ‘innovation’. In the century when WB Yeats’ poem ‘The Second Coming’ observed "Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold; Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world”, this book goes some way to discuss how the new ideas of the 20th century brought us to the world of today.
Technology transfer: non destructive testing system
Well-respected in the field of engineering research, Loughborough University had developed an innovative, non-destructive inspection technique, using a combination of lasers and video. With Government-funded support, a demonstrator system was built in collaboration with a University technology exploitation company. However, developing and packaging the technology into a fully market-ready product was outside the capability of both organisations.
The next stage was to move the demonstrator system to a suitable engineering company for further development. Antony Hurden became involved in this task of taking this new, high-technology system to market. He managed the use of resources within a medium-sized engineering company that had signed a licence deal to exploit the technology. The system was redesigned for manufacture and several systems were built for customer demonstration, exhibition and sale.
This project covered all aspects of the technology transfer process from the University group to the engineering company, ensuring all documentation was current and in place at each stage. After the small batch was built, we tested the market with visits to companies and at trade shows to get feedback for developing the system.
The product offered a unique value proposition of interest to many industrial sectors including tyre manufacturers, composite panel producers, and industrial and academic researchers.
Based on a field trial, we developed a customised, semi-automated system for a global automotive manufacturer to check the welding on a rear axle assembly. Previously, their testing process involved cutting sample assemblies into sections for inspection. With the new system, their inspection became faster, more reliable, and non-destructive. This allowed more samples to be tested in the same time frame and resulted in an improvement in quality and confidence in the product.
NOTE: This case study is drawn from personal experience; it is not a formally approved case study from Loughborough University.