World Intellectual Property Day 2022: ‘IP and youth’ with Wootzano

To celebrate World Intellectual Property Day 2022, Mathys & Squire has collaborated with three SME leaders on a series of articles, exploring innovation and the impact IP has had on each business.

In the second of our series, we interviewed Atif Syed, CEO of Wootzano, a robotics company based in the North East of England.

1. How is your idea/invention creating a better future?

My invention was the electronic skin which allows robots to sense and feel like humans do. At the time when I was developing this, there were very few, if any, people who were actually looking into this field. Through Wootzano, we were able to catapult and scale up the manufacturing of the e-skin and became one of the first in the world to mass-manufacture e-skin. Using Wootzano as an inspiration, there are now many companies and research institutes (including Edinburgh, my own alma mater) looking into developing their own e-skin.

At Wootzano, we are using the e-skin within our Avarai robotic system, which is the world’s first and only system that can autonomously and dexterously pick and package complex fruits such as table grapes. The Avarai robotic system is enabling fruit packers to increase their margins and get an ROI of one year. Avarai is helping to reduce food waste and remove laborious and mundane human labour jobs, converting them into higher skilled, higher paid and more secure engineering jobs. The applications of the e-skin are versatile. We already used it in robots for nuclear power plant decommissioning, autonomous maintenance and repair of offshore wind turbine blades. In the future, we have plans to use it within prosthetic limbs and quite a few other applications which we have in our plans.

2. What were the challenges you or your team faced when growing your business?

There are various challenges: from finding the right people, to technical challenges. Since what we are doing is completely new, there are no references anywhere for this. We had to create our own models and generate our own data to feed into the machine learning models to enable the Avarai robotic system to handle grapes and other delicate fruits.

3. What role does IP play in protecting your invention and supporting your business objectives?

IP is one of the biggest assets we have. By protecting the IP, we are increasing an immense value within the business which otherwise would be untapped.

4. What advice would you give to your younger self to better navigate your journey?

I wouldn’t make many changes as many of the failures I have had actually helped me develop better strategies which otherwise I wouldn’t have thought about in the way I currently do. There is still a lot to learn!

5. What forward-looking plans do you have to ensure an even better future for your business and/or the wider society?

We have quite a few interesting plans, but I will leave some for the imagination! Wootzano exists to democratise robots. We want to see robots becoming common use by businesses and individuals. There are a lot of exciting plans for Wootzano in the coming months and years. The so-called “Google” of the robotics world does not yet exist, but we genuinely believe that we will take that spot in the next few months!

6. What activities do you carry out to ensure your business keeps innovating?

Innovation is at the heart of everything we do at Wootzano. We will be allocating specific budgets for R&D and we work very closely with various universities in the UK, Europe and the US. We are always on the look-out for other interesting tech which can complement the robotic systems we have developed, as we would also be very keen and interested in acquiring some of the tech within our robotic systems.

Mathys & Squire recognises the invaluable contribution inventors and innovative businesses offer to building a better future, and we are also aware of some of the challenges they might face. In an effort to help entrepreneurs, startups and scaleup businesses protect their inventions, we launched the Scaleup Quarter, a microsite with resources and a tailored offering for SMEs.

For more information, contact a member of our team.