Heriot-Watt Includes Underwater Robot Development in Pilot Programme

Image Courtesy of Scrub Marine

The Heriot-Watt “Deeptech Launchpad Programme” has included a project for the development of an underwater robot which will reduce fuel costs, improve maintenance procedures, and minimise environmental impact for marine craft.  It aims to achieve these goals by autonomously removing built-up microorganisms, plants and algae from hulls.

ScrubMarine, founded by engineer Clyne Albertelli, has been accepted into the inaugural cohort of Heriot-Watt University’s DeepTech LaunchPad, a pilot programme which is helping entrepreneurs working in robotics, AI, and advanced engineering to commercialise their innovative ideas.

The robot will be developed to tackle the issue of buildup of organic growth on marine vessels, known as biofouling. Biofouling represents a significant challenge to the world’s shipping industry and can cause damage to hull structures and propulsion systems. The accumulation of biofouling can also result in significantly increased drag of up to 60%, reducing speeds and increasing fuel consumption by up to 40%.

As part of the 6-month pilot, ScrubMarine aims to further develop complex navigation and control systems required for the real-world application of its robotic solution, utilising Heriot-Watt’s array of experts from across its three global campuses and the cross-discipline research outputs of four global research institutes – including iNetZ+, the emerging Global Research Institute for Net Zero transition and beyond.

Speaking about the robot, Clyne Albertelli, commented, “Our underwater robot, powered by deep-learning and supported by Heriot-Watt’s DeepTech LaunchPad, aims to scrub away biofouling challenges, reducing fuel costs and environmental impact.”

Jamie Allan,  the Heriot-Watt University’s Deeptech Launchpad programme leader commented: “The DeepTech LaunchPad marks an incredibly exciting step in strengthening Scotland’s innovation ecosystem and establishing Heriot-Watt as a global leader in commercialising deep technology research. As an international university with campuses and partnerships spanning the world, Heriot-Watt is uniquely positioned to help entrepreneurs translate their ideas into transformative and commercially viable solutions. He added that the programme participants, of which there are six, “will gain access to world-leading facilities like the National Robotarium as well as our vast network of international industry connections, experts and alumni to accelerate their cutting-edge research toward commercial success on the global stage. By fostering this collaboration, we empower the translation of deep science into transformative solutions ready to make real-world impact.”

Grant Wheeler, Head of Commercialisation at Heriot-Watt University, said: “Having a deeptech accelerator is one of the missing pieces in Scotland’s entrepreneurial ecosystem and will allow our nation to create companies that can compete on an international scale. By giving external entrepreneurs access to the same expertise and facilities as our internal teams, the DeepTech Launchpad levels the playing field and fertilises high-growth businesses with world-changing potential.”

ScrubMarine joins five other highly innovative companies from sectors including self-care, prosthetics, and food services. These include Borobo Ltd, founded by industrial designer Alexandre Colle, which aims to advance a new robotics platform targeting enhanced power management and electronic board design. 

GI Healthcare Industries, led by entrepreneur and engineer Aswath Ganesan Indra, is revolutionising food services with semi-autonomous cooking robots for institutional catering. Infinity DPM is creating advanced upper limb prosthetics through expert engineering and biomechanics by founder and mechanical engineer David Yeudall.

Janki Group, led by architect Aisha Janki Akinola, is building an AI-powered tattoo robot system for the personal self-care industry, whilst Wynter Robotics is building mobile robotic solutions for construction industry applications such as measuring, bricklaying, and wood frame assembly.

The six successful companies will receive training and support from the university’s commercialisation team, helping them to become investment-ready with proven prototype products, industry partners and a viable route to market. Applications for the next cohort open in mid-2024 following evaluation of the pilot. Heriot-Watt intends to scale up the programme and potentially expand to other Scottish universities if this first round proves successful.

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