Super seven fledgling firms boosted by University of Essex Knowledge Gateway Innovation Fund, including EyeWink smartphone device

Davide Valeriani and Ana Matran-Fernandez of Eyewink. Picture: PAUL TAIT

Davide Valeriani and Ana Matran-Fernandez of Eyewink. Picture: PAUL TAIT - Credit: Paul Tait

A University of Essex fund aimed at unlocking ingenuity and turning ideas into business reality is helping seven fledgling firms get their ideas off the ground.

Simon Mead, left, incubation manager at the University of Essex, with colleagues in the Start-up Hub

Simon Mead, left, incubation manager at the University of Essex, with colleagues in the Start-up Hub. Picture: PAUL TAIT - Credit: Paul Tait

Among the projects which have been boosted by the Knowledge Gateway Innovation Fund is the EyeWink, which enables smartphone users to control their devices with the wink of an eye.

The brain-computer technology, developed by senior Essex university researchers Davide Valeriani and Ana Matran-Fernandez, could soon be in production thanks to a £15,000 grant. It provides a hands-free, voice-free means to complete everyday tasks, helping out users from joggers on the move to people with disabilities.

Six other fledgling businesses, based in the start-up hub at the University’s Knowledge Gateway, have also been awarded grants, totalling nearly £30,000, in the first round of funding.

The start-up hub, which opened earlier this year, provides practical help and support, as well as hot-desk space, to budding entrepreneurs. It is currently home to 14 businesses.

Simon Mead, incubation manager at the University of Essex. Picture: PAUL TAIT

Simon Mead, incubation manager at the University of Essex. Picture: PAUL TAIT - Credit: Paul Tait


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“For some time we have been providing business advice to our students – over 400 have benefited from our programmes, covering everything from financial planning, to registering a business and building a website,” said incubation manager Simon Mead.

“In January, we opened the start-up hub, which also provides them with office space. Now through the innovation fund, we are able to offer much-needed funding, to help them move their businesses to the next stage.”

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Other businesses awarded funding include Enrikas Balsys of Tyron for his shopping app and Claire Parry-Witchell of Healthy Body and Mind Community to launch a website inspired by her own experience after she lost 14 stone in weight. James Sesay of Glamville gained funds for his cosmetics business, and Emmanuel Ferreyra of EvologIt, towards an artificial intelligence device to help people with failing eyesight. Computer game designers Martyn Hinson and Johnathan Fisher. Martyn Hinson of Nysko Games and Johnathan Fisher of Waywood Worlds have also won grants.

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