Proof that the University ignored early warnings that the PedSALi project was about to go "horribly wrong."

 

Submitted to the Formal Enquiry Panel as Document F11

 

 

Meeting request letter to Professor Wood, Head of School of Engineering 27th February 2002

 

Professor Wood did not reply to my request for a meeting, but it is clear from subsequent remarks made by the principle investigator for the PedSALi project, Dr. O. Oyadiji, the letter had been received and discussed with Dr. O. Oyadiji.

 

 

NOTE FOR SPEED READERS
If  you scroll through this document. key passages are written in blue font

 

 

Dear Professor Wood,
I am writing to request a meeting with you, to discuss the business relationship between myself Bill Courtney (trading as Cheshire Innovation) and The School of Engineering.

 

So far this relationship has been highly beneficial to The School - A Foresight Link programme involving The University, Dow Chemicals and Cheshire Innovation has won 212k of EPSRC funding for The School. More joint projects are in the pipeline. However as you will see from the attached document which outlines the relationship, it is in danger of going horribly wrong.

 

In advance of our meeting, I want to emphasise that I am a strong supporter of The School of Engineering and will be attending with a very positive attitude. I enjoy genuine warm relationships with the members of staff that I deal with on a regular basis and would like these relationships to be maintained. The very last thing that I am asking for, is for anyone to be reprimanded.

 

I have just been copied an email from Prof. Cooper calling for assistance, in preparing the Dynamics Lab for an external inspection. In response, I will be in the lab on Thursday 28th Feb. Perhaps, we can have a short meeting tomorrow, Thursday, if this is convenient for you.

Yours sincerely,

Bill Courtney

 

The following document was attached

 

27th Feb. 2002

The Business Relationship between Cheshire Innovation and

The University of Manchester

 

Cheshire Innovation has developed a novel approach to absorbing the energy of impacts and vibrations. We are working with The University of Manchester to exploit the potential of this new technology. Outline details of this technology, which we refer to as Shock Absorbing Liquid, SALi can be obtained from our web site www.cheshire-innovation.com

 

The mutual benefits to be gained from our business relationship

 

Under the terms of a partnership agreement negotiated with Manchester Innovation, the University will normally take 50% of royalties and other forms of income resulting from the commercial exploitation of Shock Absorbing Liquid (SALi) Technology. The University will also be taking advantage of the six man years and approx. 93k private investment Cheshire Innovation has invested in SALi Technology. In return, Manchester Innovation will contribute its brand name, marketing and negotiating skills in order to exploit the potential of the technology. It is anticipated that The School of Engineering will benefit by winning significant levels of funding to enable it to carry out research on SALi.

 

The PEDSALI Project to develop pedestrian friendly bumpers

This Foresight programme, valued by the DTI at 885 k has already brought 212k of research funding into the University. In addition, under the 50:50 royalty shares agreement, the University will earn considerable long term revenues, if the project delivers a product which Dow can get into the market ahead of the competition.

Dow Automotive estimate that the annual European market for pedestrian friendly bumpers is worth $90 million, with a predicted market in North America of similar worth.

 

Other joint projects we are seeking funding for:

BlastSALi: Post September 11th, Anti-terrorist project. A collaboration between Manchester & Cranfield Universities and Cheshire Innovation. We are bidding for $1,650k USA Defence Department funding. A successful outcome will generate long term income from royalties.

CrashSALi: SMART supported one year project to generate research results and papers relating to the use of SALi in vehicle sub-frames, railway rolling stock and suspension units. The long term aim is to attract partners for UK Foresight and EU Framework funded near to market research projects. A successful outcome will generate long term income from royalties. Manchester Innovation will contribute 30k of resources to this project.

SASSY HATS: A NESTA funded project to carry out market research into the use of SALi in soft helmets. 1k has been awarded to date, to commission a short market research report. NESTA The NESTA business advisor will recommend a further investment of approx. 50k, pending a favourable first market research report.

 

Chronology: The following key dates are taken from Cheshire Innovation research diaries. For the sake of brevity, reference to potential joint projects which have collapsed and have a low probability of revival are omitted.

 

CI = Cheshire Innovation

UM = University of Manchester

 

1996

24th May Following an introduction by Dr. John Coffey of Business Link, a meeting was held between Bill Courtney, who trades as Cheshire Innovation, Dr. Wilson, Department of Mathematics, Dr. Oyadiji and Prof. Wright School of Engineering, to seek technical advice on the commercial exploitation of Shock Absorbing Liquid, SALi Technology.

It was agreed that the first stage in any co-operative work would be for Bill to enrol as an MPhil. Student, in order to produce the experimental evidence required to attract the interest of industrial partners.

 

Sept.       MPhil. Research work begins.

 

28th Oct. Meeting with Jan Hilton, et al. VUMAN. It was agreed that VUMAN, acting on behalf of UM and CI would work together, to promote commercial interest in SALi, to the benefit of both parties.

 

6th Nov.  Returned signed Confidentiality Agreement to VUMAN, relating to joint promotion work. (Pre-dated to 24th Oct, to cover initial telephone contacts.)

 

Dec.       VUMAN mail shot to potential business partners.

 

1997

Dec.       CI & UM work on SALi published as the cover story in "Eureka" a widely read engineering magazine. The article was re-published in "Eureka on Campus", Spring 1998.

1998

Sept.       Submitted MPhil. Thesis on SALi.

 

22nd Oct. BBC Radio 4, "Science in the Attic" A fifteen minute programme about SALi, CI and its working relationships with UM and Manchester Business Link. Included interviews with Prof. Jan Wright & Dr. John Coffey, Business Link.


 

1999

14th July  Auto Express magazine article on the potential applications of SALi, to improve the passenger and pedestrian friendliness of motor vehicles. This resulted in an enquiry from Dow Automotive, a business unit of Dow Chemicals.

 

3rd Aug.  Paper on SALi presented at international engineering conference, Dublin.

 

25th Aug. CI presentation to research workers at Cranfield University (CU) They express interest in future collaborative work with CI and UM, if they can verify predicted blast mitigating properties of SALi.

 

24th Sept.          First meeting between CI, UM and Dow, to discuss PEDSALI Project.

 

20th Oct. First meeting with Michelle Cooper, Manchester Innovation and representatives of Marks & Clark, University Patent Agents. Handed over draft patent applications to be filed by UM, on behalf of Courtney/Oyadiji, relating to: 1) Use of SALi in vehicle sub-frames. 2) Use of SALi as impact protecting fuel stock in space vehicles & artificial satellites. Manchester Innovation subsequently invest 6,000 in patent agent fees and approx. 600 in patent search fees relating to University IP on SALi.

 

29th Oct. Handed over draft application for NASA funded research to Tunde, for him to amend and submit. Two years and Four Months later, this application has still not been submitted.

 

2000

17th Jan.  Joint Dow/UM/CI bid for Foresight Link funding for PEDSALI Project submitted.

 

16th Feb. Meeting at Reading University to discuss future Reading/UM/CI collaborative work on medical applications of SALi, especially relating to hip protection pads for Osteoporosis sufferers. A joint Reading/UM/CI hip pad research proposal was later submitted but rejected by the Medical Research Council, on the grounds that there was insufficient journal literature to give the proposal credibility. It was agreed by Reading/UM/CI than another submission would be made when such papers had been published.

 

 

2nd May  Handed over copy of third SALi related patent application to Michelle Cooper, Manchester Innovation (MI) for submitting by MI. In order to reduce future patent admin costs, it was agreed with Michelle that CI would carry out the bulk of the drafting work on further patent applications on behalf of UM and CI.

 

12th June.          Two part auto-journal paper handed to Tunde for him to amend as necessary and submit to journal. Since then, minor amendments to the sizes of the graphs, thickness of trend lines and sizes of markers have been made, but essentially, the text of the papers has remained unchanged. One Year Eight Months later, the papers have still not been submitted.

 

18th July  Promising results of Cranfield University experiments, to verify the blast mitigating properties of SALi revealed at an MSc Presentation by Major K. Clarke, Royal Engineers.

 

7th Sept.  Paper on SALi presented at ICrash engineering conference, London.

 


 

19th Sept.          DETR make formal offer of funding for PEDSALI Project.

212k EPSRC funding for University input covers 3.0 man-years of research assistance, 1.5 man years of technician assistance.

 

2nd Oct.   Meeting with Andy Swain, University Press Officer, to discuss future public relations work to promote interest in UM/CI work on SALi. It is agreed that a post of Visiting Research Fellow will be sought for Bill Courtney, to formalise the relationship between CI and UM. One Year Four Months later, this position has still not been approved.

 

2001

23rd Feb.          Advert for Research Assistant for PEDSALI project is drafted. This is over five months since we were informed that the PEDSALI Project had been approved.

 

16th Mar. Formal PEDSALI Collaboration Agreement between Dow /Um/ CI signed by representative of all parties.

 

30th April Meeting of representatives of the PEDSALI Partnership. Peter Cate of Dow Automotive informs the partners that their engineer assigned to the PEDSALI Project is an Italian who speaks English as his second language. They request that the University engineer selected to work on the project has good spoken English skills, in order to facilitate accurate telephone communications between the two engineers.

 

2-4 May  Candidates for PEDSALI post interviewed. Dr. Xinqun Zhu is finally appointed but CI express concerns relating to Dr.Zhu's spoken English skills. CI approval for the appointment is given on condition that funding is provided for Dr. Zhu to attend English classes after arrival in UK.

 

4th June   Gave Tunde revised NASA proposal, taking into account developments into space research since October 1999.

 

17th Aug. Basic design of PEDSALI drop rig (minimum drop height 6.5 metres) discussed with Tunde & Paul Townsend, in order to ensure that Dr. Zhu can finalise the design and building can commence shortly after his arrival. Six months later technical drawings and building instructions have not been submitted to Paul Townsend.

 

23rd Aug. First Formal Meeting Foresight PEDSALI Group. Targets for progress agreed and set out using Microsoft Project. Copies of the Project Plan, stored as a Microsoft Project document distributed to all members of the group, including DETR members. Unfortunately, The School of Engineering does not possess a copy of Microsoft Project software, so they are unable to access the plan. (MS Project costs 38 from Manchester Computing)

 

4th Sept.  Meeting with Manchester Innovation. In view of the lack of progress on research proposal submissions relating to UM owned SALi patent applications, it was agreed to withdraw the applications indefinitely, until such submissions have been made.

 

11th Sep. Dr Zhu arrives in Manchester.

 

17th Sept.          In accordance with conditions of appointment, CI made arrangements for Dr. Zhu to meet Catherine Pick, EFL (English as a Foreign Language) tutor at City College, re. Attending part-time English classes. It was subsequently decided by UM that investment in English classes was not necessary. CI disagree.

11th Oct            Roger Morton, representing NESTA visits CI and UM, with a view to NESTA investing in CI & UM project relating to the use of SALi in soft protective headwear.

 

27th Nov  Signed SALi Technology Licensing Agreement with UM. Under this agreement CI grants UM the right to carry out research on SALi. Also, both parties agree to work together, with UM taking 50% of future profits from licensing/sales deals in return for contributing its legal/marketing/technical expertise.

 

20th Dec. Joint Cranfield/UM/CI submission for US Government funding for anti-terrorist applications of SALi. Funding requested: $1,650k.

 

2002

31 Jan.    Marketing Brief meeting with marketing team from Manchester Innovation. For the first 3 month round of market research work, MI will contribute 3,200 of assets.

 

12th Feb. CI submitted SMART application for funding, for first round of research, to attract investment & partners, to exploit UM/CI intellectual property relating to SALi.

 

15th Feb. Email request from Bill Courtney, CI to Tunde and Jan requesting urgent meeting because two deadlines for The University to deliver experimental results to Dow Automotive have been missed.

 

22nd Feb. Second email from CI to Tunde and Jan requesting urgent meeting.

 

27th Feb. At the time of writing, the University PEDSALI team have not responded to CI requests for a meeting.

 

 


 

APPENDIX 1-Email from CI 15th Feb 2002

 

Email written to Tunde & Professor Jan Wright (University team), copied to Xinqun (University team), Michelle Cooper (Manchester Innovation, the business arm of Man. University), Vince Gill (DETR) and Peter Cate (Dow Automotive)

 

15th February 2002

 

Dear Tunde & Jan,

 

I am writing to you as your partner in the Foresight PEDSALI project, to express my concern at the lack of progress we are making. There are several matters which concern me.

1.      The original project plan drawn up 30th April 2001 envisaged quantitative results being delivered to Dow before the end of the year 2001. At our 7th December 2001 meeting, this date was put back until mid February, 2002. (See December 7th meeting minutes, item 3.2) It is now mid February and the drop rig and instrumentation required to produce these results have still not been built.

2.      The pedestrian friendly bumper market is potentially very lucrative. Under the Three Partner Collaboration Agreement signed with Dow 16th March 2001 and the further joint collaboration agreement signed between Cheshire Innovation and The University, 27th November, 2001, both the University and Cheshire Innovation should benefit significantly if the outcomes of the PEDSALI Project are achieved. However, Peter Cate of Dow Automotive made it clear at our first meeting, 24th September 1999, that SALi based bumpers are only one of the alternatives that his company are considering as an offering to the pedestrian friendly bumper markets. It is now 2 years 5 months since that meeting. We cannot assume that their alternative technologies have remained passive during this time.

3.      I am not able to work at best efficiency on the PEDSALI Project because I do not have full access to the benefits of having a formal association with The University. The proposed solution of my having a post as Visiting Research Fellow was first broached more than twelve months ago, but still the matter has not been sorted out.

4.      There is also concern that Dr. Zhu, after making an excellent start in September 2001, seems to be losing motivation. His lack of access to test equipment and own computer to work on, seem to be slowing him down. We cannot afford to lose his interest and commitment.

 

I request that the three of us and Dr. Zhu have a meeting in the near future, to thrash out a plan of action, to start to bring the PEDSALI Project back on course. Items for discussion should include:

a.      State of progress in the construction of the 3 metre drop rig and instrumentation.

b.      State of progress in the construction of the 10 metre drop rig and instrumentation.

c.      The possibility of adding a bungee elastic catapult to the 3 metre drop rig, as used at Cranfield University. This would increase the maximum impact velocity of the tup, and enable us to provide Dow with more intermediate results, until the 10 metre rig is constructed.

d.      The possibility of Dr. Zhu using impact test facilities at UMIST or an other university, to generate some preliminary results for Dow.

 

I hope you will give my concerns your urgent attention.

Yours sincerely,

Bill Courtney

 

 


 

APPENDIX 2-Email from Dow Automotive 15th Feb 2002

 

Email reply from Peter Cate, Dow Automotive, 15th Feb. 2002.-Copied to everyone listed above.

 

This note gives me great cause for concern. My remote role in this project requires that I depend on the University team to make progress in my absence as planned. If this is not the case, we will have to review the project plan and potentially revise our involvement.

Dow indeed is moving forward with alternative solutions for Pedestrian Safety - we testing a system recently at a German OEM and further tests are planned in the next weeks at another OEM.

I trust Bill's comments will be acknowledged and the PedSALi project can be re-accelerated to meet our timing commitments. There is a lot of value in the concept but if we can't bring it to commercial reality on time, the opportunity will be wasted

I look forward to your response.

NOTE: I had pencilled in 15th March as our next mtg date after Bill's comment that the original was a holiday - was this new date confirmed?

thanks and rgds

PETER CATE

 

 

 

APPENDIX 3-Email from CI 22nd Feb 2002

 

Dear Tunde, Jan & Xinqun,

FORESIGHT PEDSALI-
Re: My request for a meeting with the University team dated 15th Feb 02

As lead partner in the Foresight PEDSALI Project, Cheshire Innovation is obliged to:

 

1)      Use its best endeavours, to ensure that the partners work together, to meet the project objectives.

2)      Inform the DETR in writing if the project is at risk of failing to meet its objectives.

Accordingly, I request an urgent meeting with the University team, to draw up a written plan, to deliver experimental data to Dow Automotive a.s.a.p. in order that Dow can fulfil its project commitments.

Please inform me of the earliest date & time that the University team can meet up with me and I will adjust my own work schedules to conform.

 

Thanks,
Bill Courtney

References:
Collaborative Agreement Section 2.1
DETR Link Foresight Conditions of Offer

 

Verifiable proof that the above letter was sent to Professor Wood

 

Use the FoI Act to request a copy of the following email and attachment: