Drone and manufacture inspection companies win Strathclyde entrepreneurial awards

An aerial view of the Learning & teaching and Graham Hills campus buildings

A drone development company, and a company producing manufacturing inspection technology, are the winners of entrepreneurship awards presented by the University of Strathclyde.

Airspection and InProcess have been named as winners of the Stephen Young Entrepreneurship Award, presented annually to support Strathclyde’s emerging entrepreneurs.

The awards form part of a programme created as an important element of a £50 million donation to Strathclyde by the charitable foundation of alumnus, entrepreneur and philanthropist Dr Charles Huang PhD. The donation, the largest gift in the University’s history, is supporting the university’s work in transforming lives, supporting the economy and nurturing entrepreneurship.

The award is presented in memory of the late Professor Stephen Young, former Head of Strathclyde’s Department of Marketing and Dr Huang’s supervisor and mentor during his PhD studies.

An award of £7,500 went to Dr Momchil Vasilev, a Research Associate in Strathclyde’s Department of Electronic & Electrical Engineering and founder of InProcess. The company has developed an ultrasonic inspection system which can be used during welding and additive manufacture (AM) deposition. Its use would result in lower production schedule uncertainty, energy usage and carbon footprint.

An award of £2,500 was made to Matthew McLean, Strathclyde Engineering alumnus and founder of AirSpection Ltd. This company is developing a tough, long-range drone for inspecting remote infrastructure in particularly, offshore wind turbines in the rapidly growing offshore wind sector. Airspection aims to empower inspection services to provide inspections that are faster, cheaper and at a dramatically lower environmental impact.

In addition, Matthew won a further £7,500 in an award presented by Santander Universities, a long-standing partner in Strathclyde’s entrepreneurship initiatives.

The winners were announced at an Inspire 100 event held by Strathclyde Inspire, the University’s flagship entrepreneurship programme, which offers entrepreneurial training and opportunities to all students, staff members and alumni. An audience of entrepreneurs, investors and experts from Scotland's entrepreneurial community attended the event.

Dr Olga Kozlova, Director of Innovation and Industry Engagement at Strathclyde, said: “Inspire100 is a chance to see the exciting pipeline of Strathclyde led start-ups and spinouts. The partnerships we have with both the Stephen Young Foundation and Santander Universities support us in developing the next generation of bold innovators who can transform the lives of others and contribute to the Scottish Economy.

“The funding from both the Stephen Young Entrepreneurship Award and Santander Universities Entrepreneurship Award makes a real difference and will aid the commercial viability of both companies as they enter their respective industries.”

To date, Airspection has won £10,000 from Scottish Young Edge, been accepted onto the Strathclyde Inspire Accelerator, which supports investor readiness and received a total of £6,150 funding from Strathclyde Inspire. It was also a finalist in the 2022 Converge Kickstart Challenge and has joined the new cohort of the specialist, IoT-focused Smart Things Accelerator Centre (STAC), which provides business support for global commercialisation, as well as a workshop facility for developing and testing prototypes.

Matthew said: “Inspire100 was a great opportunity for me to meet other entrepreneurs going through similar journeys such as my own, as well as network with supporters and investors. It’s such a great community to be a part of; encouraging, supportive and inspirational.

“I can’t quite believe I won, especially with the high calibre of pitches I was up against. I’m extremely grateful for the recognition and the funding – it’ll make such a positive impact on the growth of the company. Our aim is to use this money for match funding to secure a larger grant to develop our Minimum Viable Product.”

The system under development by InProcess can be retrofitted to current industrial manufacturing operations, shortening the delay between defect formation and detection, and enabling in-process repairs to produce right-first-time components. More importantly, this would result in lower defect rates, production schedule uncertainty, energy usage and carbon footprint.

Dr Vasilev said: “Winning the Stephen Young Enterprise Award has been a great recognition for us of the hard work the team have put in, especially given the tough competition. The award will allow us to refine our business development by investing in our customer acquisition and engagement strategy.

“The Inspire100 event in itself was great - it allowed me to pitch our business to a wide audience outside our industry. The feedback received from a number of people has given us a fresh perspective and the networking aspect of the event proved to be very valuable.”

A panel of expert judges selected the winners, based on the pitches and previously submitted business plans.

In addition to the Entrepreneurship awards, Dr Huang’s donation is supporting the construction of a new building, to be named after him, in Strathclyde’s Technology and Innovation Zone with Glasgow City Innovation District, and the creation of The Stephen Young Institute for International Business and The Stephen Young Global Leaders Scholarship Programme.