High-tech businesses thriving with University of Essex support on Parkside

  • Date

    Fri 19 May 23

Peter Schwabach at Parkside

Two high-tech businesses are looking to the future after joining the thriving business community at Parkside, on the University of Essex’s Knowledge Gateway research park.

Industrial Robotics Systems (IRS) has benefited from a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) with the University to develop a transformational robotic system to autonomously assemble sandwiches and other ready meals.

IRS, with venture capital backing, moved to Parkside, as it fine-tuned its robotic gripper and visual software system which identifies, picks and places any ready meal ingredient on standard industrial food production lines. It will soon be testing its patent pending system with leading sandwich manufacturer Raynor Foods in Chelmsford.

Founder Peter Schwabach explained: “The UK industrial manufacturing of ready meals, which rely primarily on manual operators to assemble the ingredients, has been severely impacted firstly by Brexit, then COVID-19, and more recently by double digit inflation.

“I wanted to develop a robotics solution to help the industry transform from being a low tech, low wage industry to being a high wage, high tech one.”

He approached the University’s School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering to enter into a KTP to help deliver the technical solution.

Peter said: “The KTP gave us access to the resources of the university and its extraordinary pool of expert talent, including postgraduates and academic staff.”

PCB Design School, founded by industry expert Roger Benfield, moved to Parkside to take advantage of the University campus location. Roger said: “It’s a fabulous place to be and I felt it would help to legitimise the school.”

Roger set up the school to train the next generation of Printed Circuit Board (PCB) designers to tackle the skills shortage in this vital part of the electronics industry.

Roger’s career began at Marconi before taking him to the BBC Design Department in London. He has produced PCBs for major defence and aerospace projects, the nuclear energy industry, Ford Motorsport and Jaguar Racing Cars.

“The Knowledge Gateway team have done an enormous amount to help us get set up here,” Roger said. “We’re now hoping to establish strong links with the School of Computer Science and Electronic Engineering.”

Parkside’s expansion continues, with a new £10.7 million building due to be ready for occupation later this year.

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