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Engineering Team from the University of Portsmouth Makes it to the Final of the Engineers In Business Innovation Competition

Led by twenty-two-year-old Innovation Engineering student Robert Ball, a team of engineering graduates and students, known as the Wireless Wild team, from the University of Portsmouth has secured a place in the final of the Engineers in Business Champion of Champions innovation competition, which will be hosted by TV presenter Rob Bell at the Royal Academy of Engineering on 22 October 2021.

Robert is joined by twenty-one-year-old Innovation Engineering student Kieran Wright, twenty-three-year-old Electronic Engineering graduate Samuel Gandy, and twenty-one-year-old International Development graduate Victoria Yates, all of which are current or former University of Portsmouth students.

Wireless Wild has invented, Wild Lens, a device that acts as a weather station for biodiversity and they will be pitching their innovation against nine other teams of student and graduate innovators in the national final. A total sum of £15,000 is up for grabs, providing vital seed money to help the winners develop their innovation. The winners will also receive mentoring from business leaders who are members of the Sainsbury Management Fellows network, plus CV packages from Purple CV and entrepreneurial books from Cambridge University Press.

The competition is sponsored by the registered charity, Engineers in Business Fellowship which champions business education for engineers and supports universities by giving them grants to award prizes to students who develop ground-breaking ideas. The grants enable universities to inspire more engineering and technology students and post-graduates to participate in innovation and entrepreneurship, skills that they take into their careers. The world is changing rapidly, and these skills are vital to tackle challenging global problems.


Wild Lens – A Weather Station for Biodiversity and an Accurate View of the Animal Kingdom

Wild Lens utilises advances in image and audio recognition to detect and monitor different species that pass by, estimate the population sizes of different groups, and form an understanding of animal behaviour. These insights will then automatically produce a score of ecological health for the monitoring location, helping customers evaluate ecosystem changes and impact on their land. 

New environmentally conscious policies in the UK and abroad mean that landowners and developers will now need to prove how they are helping wildlife return to their land. Wild Lens offers a non-intrusive, automated solution that requires minimal labour and time when compared to manual surveys from inspection bodies. Unlike in-person inspections, Wild Lens can detect endangered species that may be missed by conventional methods due to its 24/7 operating period. Described by the team as ‘a weather station for biodiversity’, the idea was in fact inspired by meteorology as Robert explains: “The capability for forecasting and understanding the weather is a vital component of modern life, such powers are underpinned by a vast network of systems such as observational weather stations. This led us to the question - could we monitor the natural world like we monitor the weather?

The Engineers in Business competition is designed to inspire engineers to study business and innovation. Robert said, “Engineers have a mindset of problem-solving. They look at a problem and set about developing solutions. This inventiveness lends itself to entrepreneurial roles where engineers can use their mindset and skills to commercialise their solutions. However, engineers are often lacking the skills needed to successfully run a company. They often understand their product but not the market. Teaching engineers business skills would ensure they understand what it takes to build a healthy company.”

The Awards Presentation Ceremony – 22 October 2021

The live online dragons’ den style competition will be compered by TV presenter, Rob Bell. Competing against nine other teams, Robert and his team will have six minutes to convince the judges, through their presentation and Q&A session, that they should be crowned a Champion of Champions and take home a cash prize of between £1,500 and £8,500 depending on the award or awards received! Amongst other criteria, the judges will be assessing the potentially positive impact of Wireless Wild on the environment.

The members of the judging panel are:

  • Dr Andy Phillipps, Entrepreneur and early-stage tech investor and venture capitalist
  • Ana Avaliani, Director of Enterprise and Sustainable Development, Royal Academy of Engineering
  • Dr Jeroen Bergmann, Associate Professor of Engineering Science, University of Oxford
  • Serge Taborin, Government Digital Transformation, Amazon Web Services

Robert and his team will be competing for an Engineers in Business Champion of Champions title against nine other teams from Aberystwyth University, University of Nottingham, University of Aberdeen, University of Exeter, Imperial College London, Nottingham Trent University, University of Birmingham, University of Sheffield and the University of York.

Commenting on the importance of reaching the Engineers in Business Champion of Champions Final Robert said, “To be recognised by the Engineers in Business competition is a very proud achievement for us. Being involved in this competition makes us feel recognised and supported for the effort we have put in. The gift of attending mentoring sessions at the Royal Academy of Engineering has felt like an immense privilege.”

Important Links

Watch Wireless Wild's pitch video