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Analysis for innovators

Adaptix experience

Innovative Adaptix analyses its path to success

 Mark is CEO of Adaptix Ltd, a company based at Begbroke Science Park, Oxford. Adaptix is on a journey to transform radiology by producing a flat panel X-ray source that allows low-dose, low-cost 3D imaging that is truly portable and travels to the patient. Read about his recent experience of working with NPL.

Adaptix was recently awarded a £1m grant to commercialise its space-heritage technology to support the introduction of low-cost low-dose 3D bed-side imaging in to the NHS.  It is a truism in early stage technology that ‘few successes are actually overnight’ - for us this represents the outcome of almost 5 years of hard effort by a fantastic team that now numbers 32 people with an average of 12 years industry experience prior to joining Adaptix.  It is also a truism that ‘success has many fathers’ – in this case one of the (real) fathers is undoubtedly the National Physical Laboratory (NPL).

Our first opportunity to work with NPL (there have now been several, and hopefully more to come) came through a grant scheme called Analysis for Innovators (A4I), run by Innovate UK. With almost 120 years of cutting-edge science under its belt, NPL is a giant of science who is delighted to let upstarts like Adaptix stand on its shoulders. Adaptix is always happy to stand on a giant or two … we were incubated at the European Space Agency Business Incubator at the Harwell campus, and used (and still use) the cleanroom facilities of the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC). The development facilities of STFC include SEM and other measurement devices but there is a limit to what they can characterise - and that is where our engagement with NPL started.

The A4I scheme works differently to the normal grant process; instead of going in with a proposal for something you want to do, you go in with a problem, a problem that measurement science may be able to solve. These problems can be impacting on your productivity, could relate to reliability of a product, the costs of manufacturing – but essentially involve a requirement for specialist measurement and analysis skills. You are then matched up with scientists who work at measurement laboratories around the country who will collaborate with you on solving this issue; the scientists we worked with were part of the materials characterisation team at NPL. This scheme really opened our eyes to what NPL (and other measurement laboratories) could offer.

Adaptix has raised over £8m of equity, but by working with NPL we can access world-class measurement equipment worth many times this and pay on an hourly basis. Schemes like A4I give UK SMEs funding to access to the world’s best characterisation equipment, but crucially it also gives access to some of the world’s best brains that allow amazing results from that equipment. Characterising our devices down to sub-micron level and understanding the chemistry below the surface has helped us to develop our technology, and has saved us hundreds of thousands of pounds of wasted effort by giving us the data to inform our development choices initially made possible through financial support from the Analysis for Innovators programme. 

In addition, we are now looking at working with NPL to help us apply modern characterisation techniques to manufacturing, so that we start by defining how quality will be defined in our context and how it can be cost-effectively characterised during manufacture to drive down total cost.  We are pleased to be working with NPL as they begin to deploy their unique skills and equipment beyond the laboratory and into the factory, and we see it as something that will add tangible value.

Travelling this journey with NPL has been eye-opening, while I had driven past the Teddington site and thought I knew what was going on there, I did not know that NPL assist in the regulation of medical X-ray across the UK (something of real relevance to us) and did not appreciate that NPL Scotland would be able to assist us in commissioning manufacturing in the heart of ‘Silicon Fen’.  Not only has NPL been able to help us nationally in ways that I would never have imagined, they have been pleased to do and it has always been a pleasure working with them! 

Analysis for innovators


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