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IMechE fund to bridge 'valley of death'

03 September 2015

Institution of Mechanical Engineers launches fund to help bridge ‘valley of death’ between research and bringing products to market.

The Institution of Mechanical Engineers has launched a £2m fund to help bridge what it calls the ‘valley of death’ between research and bringing products to market.

The £2m Stephenson Fund has been set up to invest in innovative companies working in the field of mechanical engineering and is aimed at helping companies overcome the investment hurdle between research and development and bringing a product to market.

The fund, initially worth a total of £2 million, is in line with the Institution of Mechanical Engineers’ original statement of purpose set out by founder George Stephenson in 1847 to “give an impulse to invention likely to be useful to the world”. It is the first investment fund of its kind by the Institution, and is believed to be the first of any UK professional engineering institution.

The Stephenson LP Fund is independently managed by specialist venture capital company, Midven, and aims to invest in innovative companies engaged in mechanical engineering over the next few years.

The fund’s first five investments are into blade compressor company Lontra, fuel cell catalyst developer Amalyst, sensor company Oxsensis, fusion energy company Tokamak Energy and space technology business Oxford Space Systems.

Stephen Tetlow MBE, Chief Executive of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers, says the fund are not just about providing monetary investment, but about connecting these and other companies to the vast resources and network of the Institution and its membership.

“The fund fulfills the Institution’s original purpose to give an impulse to invention and also help companies overcome the investment hurdle between Research and Development and bringing a product to market," he says. "I am really excited that through the Fund the Institution is able to support Lontra, Amalyst, Oxsensis, Tokamak Energy and Oxford Space Systems in developing exciting and innovative technologies which really are inventions likely to be useful to the world. This is the Institution getting back to its roots.”

Personal development
Meanwhile, the Institution has launched Engineer360, a new personal development diagnostic tool that allows users to develop and build on their strengths.

Designed for those looking to identify their development needs – whether for an appraisal, to support a membership application, or simply for ongoing personal development – Engineer360 delivers useful feedback to help users to identify their own strengths and weaknesses.

Designed by engineers, for engineers, Engineer360 evaluates users against the five competencies required and defined by the Engineering Council:

Technical understanding
Problem solving
Leadership skills
Interpersonal skills

The tool comes in the form of a questionnaire, which is sent out to line managers, colleagues and teams for completion. The results then outline what respondents think is important for success in the user’s role, as well as the user’s performance against this.

Combining the thoroughness of 360 degree feedback with industry-specific areas of focus, Engineer360 is unique in that it allows a thorough review of performance in the areas that are most important to being a successful engineer.

As well as providing engineers and their managers with an accurate gauge on performance, the Engineer360 tool can also evaluate how an individual is perceived (and how they perceive themselves) within their organisation, highlighting areas of similarity and difference.

Through evaluating individual performance, feedback allows employees to develop a level of self-awareness of their own progression, which is justified rather than based on self-belief. By aligning an individual’s view of their performance with team and managerial perspectives, it also ensures that targets can be realistic.

Find out more about the Engineer360 tool here.

Les Hunt

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