Jun 2012 15

A Coventry University entrepreneur, who has created technology to detect weapons, drugs or explosives at airports and other high risk environments, has won £15k cash and consultancy in CoventryElevator’s inaugural KickStart competition.
Nicholas Tan’s company TeraWandaims to be the leading manufacturer and supplier of handheld Terahertz screening devices – allowing security personnel to easily and consistently locate weapons, drugs or explosives at airports, seaports and a range of other high-risk environments.

Marketing chief for Coventry University Entrepreneurs (CUE), Tan believes he can steer his technology to commercialisation in a year or so thanks to the development capital and IP expertise earned in the inaugural KickStart competition run by Coventry UK-based startup network, CoventryElevator.com He is working on accelerating a miniaturised version of the device.

Young Coventry University entrepreneurs dominated the latter stages of the competition, which was backed with £10k cash from globally renowned product innovation hothouse Coventry Consultants and PEM Technology, the technology arm of local accountancy practice PEM – plus £5k’ worth of IP input from patent and TM attorney Mathys & Squire.

Since CoventryElevator launched the competition with its own arrival on the scene last November, entries have poured in from as far afield as India and Africa. More than 50 global entrants made the shortlist.

Tan explained: “Terahertz radiation can be used to identify illicit drugs and explosive substances, which give specific colour signatures when irradiated.

“In addition, this radiation can pass through soft materials like clothing and paper and, unlike X-rays, is harmless to humans. As such, handheld terahertz scanners can fill a void in the $130 billion global airport security equipment market by allowing security personnel to easily identify and locate drugs or explosives hidden under clothes or in luggage without invasive methods or sniffer dogs which are potentially unreliable.

“TeraWand’s scanners can also find a secondary market in postal facilities for mail screening.”

Runner up was VocalIQ, headed up by Blaise Thompson, who is supported by Coventry University’s celebrated ‘Dontrepreneur,’ Steve Young.

VocalIQ aims to become the leading provider of of voice interfaces for computer systems. By using novel statistical models of dialogue, VocalIQ can dramatically improve the performance of voice-based systems.

Founded in March 2010, the company has developed its technology along with a prototype system allowing small businesses to provide 24-hour phone bookings. The company’s algorithms explicitly model the uncertainty caused by speech recognition errors. Automated call centres, mobile applications and in-car navigation are three application areas.

Third placed was Sean Cheng’s venture, Heliomobil – a solar energy startup developing low-cost, out of the box heliostats for residential and small scale utility solar power markets.

Heliomobil is providing affordable and easy-to-use supplemental technologies for residential solar energy collection systems that reduce initial investment costs, increase energy savings and promote global solar energy adoption.

CoventryElevator CEO, Richard Kirkby, presided over the presentation ceremony at Coventry Consultants. He was joined by Coventry Consultants CEO, Brian Moon; Chris Walklett from PEM Technology and Alan MacDougall of Mathys & Squire – plus representatives of 20 shortlisted companies.

Kirkby said: “CoventryElevator only launched a little over six months ago but the buy-in from the startup community globally has been very encouraging. The same goes for entry to the inaugural KickStart; having three high profile technology players as sponsors clearly helped but KickStart from day one struck a chord with startups covering a diverse and exciting array of technologies.

“We sincerely hope that the entrepreneurs that were not successful on this occasion go on to prove us wrong because there are no losers when one sees such widespread and passionate commitment to innovation.”

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