Updated: Oct 31
This Month, Dr Atif Syed was awarded the Princess Royal Silver Medal from the Royal Academy of Engineering. An honour that was only bestowed upon 5 individuals in the UK this year. The award recognises individuals who have made a notable impact on British engineering and have resulted in successful market exploitation, with less than 22 years of full-time employment. ( See below)
Atif had this to say: "Winning the Silver medal was an honour which recognises the important role the electronic skin plays in enabling robotics to be accessible to people. The Avarai robotic system is a testament of amazing work done by the entire team. Avarai is changing how fresh produce is packed and removing one of the most painful points for packers in the UK, Europe and other countries. With 25+ patents, Wootzano is in a unique position to truly make the dream of robotics for all a reality. We have only scratched the surface of what the possibilities are. There is lots more to come in the coming months!"
Atif invented his patented electronic skin 7 years ago whilst completing his PhD in Engineering and Electronics at the University of Edinburgh. He was later awarded an enterprise fellowship in 2018 when he founded his company, Wootzano, and moved his headquarters to Country Durham to upscale the skin's production.
The skin has had various applications for robotic devices ranging from decommissioning nuclear power plants to offshore wind turbine maintenance, in hopes of removing humans from hazardous working environments. The unique features of the skin enabled robots to have greater sensory awareness of their environment, allowing them to feel as humans do. As the company began developing its own robotic system, Avarai, it aimed to lessen the burden of the struggling pack house industry that was often left short of workers year on year, which is not only a national issue but an international one. The complexities of vine produce and the soft exterior of fresh fruit often meant that more industrial systems bruised or damaged the product. This is where Wootzano's unique skin was at an advantage. The skin, paired with the vision and machine learning algorithms, allowed the robots to easily know the exact force required to delicately pick and pack the produce into their designated packaging. The company has been running for only 4 short years and through the hard work and dedication of such an amazing team, we have achieved some fantastic milestones. It has been a collaborative effort to get this far, and we look forward to what comes next!