Strathclyde InspireCase study - Professor Weijia Yuan & Professor Min Zhang
Professor Weijia Yuan directs the Applied Superconductivity Laboratory at the University of Strathclyde and is the Chief Operating Officer of Fluxart, a University of Strathclyde prospective spin-out company. He is also a fellow of the Institution of Engineering and Technology and the Institute of Physics, with more than fifteen years of research experience in large projects involving cryogenic systems; infrastructure that are able to maintain very cold temperatures in order to preserve liquefied gases and other substances. Professor Yuan works alongside co-founder Professor Min Zhang, Chief Technology Officer of Fluxart. She joined the University of Strathclyde as a Reader in 2018 and was promoted to Professor in 2021. Professor Zhang's research focuses on the application of high-temperature superconductors in power system transmission, renewable generation and electric transportation.
Fluxart is an experienced team of aerospace technology and manufacturing engineers and business leaders, working with aerospace propulsion, and systems with over 50 years of experience. They are committed to solving the Zero Emissions challenge to bring sustainable aviation to future generations. The company is backed by Government Grant Funding, and have support of the key Aircraft OEM and Airlines that will develop the zero-emissions aircraft with regulatory approvals.
Professor Yuan explains that Fluxart originated from research in his laboratory, as he investigated ways to reduce emissions. He focused his research on transportation, particularly aviation, and explored in more depth the transition from fossil fuel to hydrogen fuel, a transition Professor Yuan found that was surprisingly hastened by the Covid-19 pandemic. Professor Yuan notes that his ultimate goal is to develop a safe and zero-emission aircraft flight, with Fluxart’s cryogenic propulsion system installed.
Developing his own business has been a dream of Professor Yuan since his university years. He considers Fluxart a new adventure in his life journey and has welcomed the support and guidance offered by the IP & Commercialisation team at Strathclyde Inspire. Admitting that he had very little exposure to industry having worked in academia for most of his life, the IP & Commercialisation team helped Fluxart successfully navigate the complexities and intricacies of what can be an intimidating business world. Funding provided allowed the team to undertake market research with an external company, helping them to understand the potential scale of Fluxart.
Professor Yuan states that his team has been supported through every stage of the gated process, helping to build their know-how on such matters as the legalities of running your own business, intellectual property, accounting, business development, company structure and, importantly, how to go about raising company funding. He also credits the accessibility to laboratory facilities, such as the University of Strathclyde Cyrogenic Labs, which he says have been incredibly important in the development of Fluxart. The team took part in the Strathclyde Inspire Accelerator programme, which gave them the opportunity to pitch at events such as Strathclyde 100, introducing them to potential partners and investors. They are now working on expanding their business plan as well as getting ready to officially complete the spin-out formation and pitch to investors. They claim that working with Strathclyde Inspire has allowed them to understand the value of the business not just within academia, but within the world.
Given Professor Yuan’s positive experience of working with Strathclyde Inspire, he encourages more people to consider commercialising their research, noting it’s “an exciting time to get into commercialisation”. He offers some advice for people considering commercialising their research and going down the route of creating a spin out:
If you think you have an idea which can change things, get in touch with Strathclyde Inspire before making any publications. Commercialisation is not an easy journey, but it is rewarding, not just from a royalty income or academic standpoint, but also from a personal achievement point. Do it when you are young and do it wholeheartedly.