LabLogic Systems Ltd
LabLogic Systems Ltd is a manufacturer of instrumentation and software to the life science, PET/nuclear medicine and radiation safety sectors, specialising in the detection and measurement of radioactivity. Located in Broomhill, Sheffield, Lablogic has been partnered with the university since 2003.
The benefits of working with the University of Sheffield
Dr Tom Deakin, Research Director of LabLogic, is a great advocate for SMEs developing a strong working relationship with their local university:
"You never know where ideas may come from and where they might lead. The University of Sheffield is diverse in its departments and expertise, with a world-leading record.
"They take Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTPs) seriously and the geography is also very important. Being able to set up meetings quickly and access facilities on the campus is definitely a driver for us.
"The relationship undoubtedly gives us credibility when we now go for funding independently or submit journal articles.
"We have learnt as each KTP developed. We now understand deadlines for accessing funding and how to write applications, so each time the process is smoother.
"The personality of our partners at the University is also very important – academics who are interested in engaging in commercially led research. And working with students can be time consuming, but we have found the positives definitely outweigh the negatives. If you've got someone enthusiastic contacting you, then you want to help them.
"To my mind, collaboration is the only way to go forward, unless you have infinite funding! Chance conversations with academic colleagues can blossom into commercial applications and other opportunities.
"We have been successful in gaining funding from the University's Impact Acceleration Account in a joint submission with Professor Lee Thompson, which has resulted in a paper appearing in the Royal Society of Chemistry's Lab on a Chip journal.
Companies need to identify gaps in their own capabilities and knowledge. There is a bit of investment needed, a bit of risk taking. From LabLogic's point of view, the benefits to our R&D activities have been outstanding.
Research Director, Lablogic
"We now have the confidence to make our own funding applications – an example is an Innovate UK grant, which in 2015 supported the development of a product for groundwater monitoring at Sellafield. LabLogic has gone from being almost exclusively life science-centric to working with the nuclear industry and other sectors, by applying our physics and engineering skills to different application areas.
"Collaborative research has been the catalyst for this development, allowing us to embrace these new markets. This has contributed to the group's ethos pointing towards being specialists in radiation and detection."
"As our multi-layered, reciprocal relationship develops, our academic collaborators are learning to take risks and think beyond pure research.
When I attend Managing Directors' Club meetings organised by the University, I am asked by other SMEs about this relationship. I advise colleagues to think about mutual interests, and identify where these interests can be applied within the University."
The story so far
A chance meeting
The first collaboration between LabLogic and the University of Sheffield started in 2003, when the company sponsored a PhD student in the Department of Animal and Plant Sciences. The relationship further developed with the identification of a skills gap in 2008.
A chance meeting between the chair of the company and a business adviser at the University led to the establishment of a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) to work on the next generation of online radio-chromatography (RC) detectors.
Dr Tom Deakin was appointed as the KTP Associate and worked closely with Professor Lee Thompson, of the Department of Physics and Astronomy, to improve the sensitivity and resolution of RC equipment.
With knowledge of the benefits of academic and industrial collaborations, it wasn't long before a second KTP Associate was in post. This time, LabLogic identified the need to bring in expertise from the University's Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering.
Dr Dan Schofield – who joined Tom in LabLogic's department for three years – worked on the high-reliability gamma radiation interlock monitor protection of personnel in nuclear processing facilities.
A third KTP was established with the Department of Mechanical Engineering in 2014. Jesús Galindo Álvarez advanced the design of an ergonomic work environment for sonographers in ultrasound imaging departments.
This project undoubtedly accelerated the development of two products for LabLogic's healthcare range – and produced a massive step change in the company's approach to research and development.
The partnership between LabLogic and the University has generated a positive and effective working relationship between local industry and academia. Now, almost a full decade after the original KTP, we continue to collaborate closely in a number of areas.
Professor Lee Thompson
Department of Physics and Astronomy
This KTP benefitted from background work carried out by a group of Mechanical Engineering students employed as interns, funded by the University. Ideas from a student design project, managed by Jesús, also fed into the KTP.
Jesús has now returned to his homeland Spain, but student group industrial research projects with the faculties of Engineering and Science have now become a regular fixture on LabLogic's calendar, providing the students with real-world experience and the company with ideas for commercialisation.
R&D development and internal progression
With Dr Tom Deakin being the only remaining KTP Associate at LabLogic, he has since progressed within the company to Research Director, heading up the research and development department at the company's dedicated facility since starting with the company as a post-doctoral research assistant nine years ago. This tremendous success story with Tom progressing to a director over the near-decade long relationship with the University really highlights how successful KTPs can be.
Working with LabLogic informs our research-led teaching, keeps it fresh, up-to-date and grounded. The company's expectations of what we can achieve together are realistic and ther
's great communication.
Dr Steve Bradbury
Department of Mechanical Engineering
LabLogic has continued to take on students from the University as interns; most recently Matthew Andrews has undertaken a seven week placement as a Mechanical Research and Development Intern, following sponsorship from IMechE. Matthew is a Mechanical Engineering student and has been looking at the Scan-RAM radio –TLC Scanner and ways to improve it and update its appearance.
Innovative research with commercial benefits: The University of Sheffield and LabLogic have a very successful relationship, in which both sides are comfortable with trying out new ideas and exploring new possibilities.
This leads to ground-breaking research being carried out with a commercial focus in mind, for example a recent project involving plastic scintillation materials has proved successful.
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