Essex research wins prestigious award

02 April 2009

Colchester Campus

Computer Science and Electronic Engineering, School of

James Rook from IPFour Ltd, Lord Stafford and Professor Hani Haggras

A partnership between the University of Essex and an Ipswich-based business to develop a unique business support system, which is the first of its kind in the world, has received the prestigious Lord Stafford Achievement in Innovation award for the East of England.

The project by the University and IPFour Ltd, has led to the development of a ground breaking intelligent data analysis and decision support system which could be on the market within months. The technology has the potential to be used in organisations and businesses around the world in areas including: financial services (to support better decision making by banks, companies, shareholders and other financial entities), biological sciences (to analyse the relationships between genes and diseases), the pharmaceutical industry (to integrate clinical opinions and recommendations of human experts), the Internet ( for ‘traffic control’, to avoid overloads/bottlenecks) and energy management.

The ‘product’ that has been developed is a set of innovative artificial and computational intelligence systems. The user-friendly technology can help maximise performance, improve efficiency and reduce costs. It also integrates various expert recommendations for group decision-making.

Winners of the Lord Stafford East of England awards – supported by Business Link and the Association of Universities in the East of England – were announced at a gala dinner at the Mumford Theatre in Cambridge on March 31. The award, the most prestigious National Award for University and Business collaboration, is given to a project which demonstrates the greatest potential for an innovative product or service that was developed between a University and company, where the product or service has been prototyped and is market ready.

Professor Hani Hagras, Director of the Computational Intelligence Centre at the University of Essex, has been the principal investigator in the Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) project since it started in October 2006. He explained: “This really is a groundbreaking piece of work which has the potential to have some major benefits for business and commerce across the world in years to come. The system could revolutionise the way major corporations do business. This award demonstrates and asserts the Essex leadership as a world leading centre of excellence for industry related research.”

Dr. Faiyaz Doctor is the Senior Research Officer on the project: “Winning this award has recognised the far-reaching commercial impact of the innovative system we have created with IPFour Ltd. It demonstrates how it is possible to successfully bring together university researchers and the business community, and benefit from this collaboration by creating novel value adding solutions to real world problems.”

James Rook from IPFour added: "These partnerships are unique and I strongly believe these innovative ideas would not get off the ground if it was not for these relationships between universities and companies. This partnership has enabled us to create a very special and unique team for what is an incredibly exciting project.”

Plans are now underway to set up a spin-off company to commercialise and sell the developed technology. The new product, which is currently going through the patenting process, has been piloted with one of IPFour’s subsidiary companies, Sanctuary Personnel, and has already attracted high profile commercial interest in the form of a national accountancy firm and internationally known car manufacturer.

Lord Stafford, Awards Patron and Chair of the Judges, said: “This is an excellent case of a company approaching a university that is well established in this field to develop a piece of innovative software that could have major benefits in many different industries. IPFour knew what it was seeking to achieve, the University of Essex possessed the necessary expertise and the result is a product that is not only benefiting IPFour but could also have a much further reach.”

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