Createc will serve as a technical integrator and commercial reseller of Massachusetts-based Boston Dynamics, a world leader in mobile robots.
Matt Mellor, CEO of Createc which is the holder of two Queen’s Awards for Innovation and International Trade, said: “We are very positive about the future for robotics for nuclear decommissioning and collaborating with a company like Boston Dynamics is in line with that vision.
“The opportunity for robots like Spot to do more and to take more people out of hazardous environments is a very good thing for society.
“Over time we are going to have a lot more robots, and we will have improved collaboration between human and machine.
The relationship between the companies came about after Createc had been introduced to the capabilities of Boston Dynamics robots while working on research and development projects.
Matt said: “Legged Robots are being increasingly adopted in a range of industrial settings for inspection and intervention; industrial environments are built for people, so robots with legs and arms that mimic the capabilities of people are a great fit.
“We have been using quadruped robotics in our work with Oxford University’s Robotics Institute for survey and inspections in hazardous environments and looking into ways of removing the need to put human operators into those situations.
“As part of that work we have seen what Spot is capable of.”
Createc, formed more than ten years ago, has an impressive track record of commercialisation of its innovative technology, including its pioneering N-Visage® technology which was used in the clean-up following the Fukushima Daiichi accident in Japan. The company has since gone on to enjoy global success with a range of innovations.
Createc is widely recognised for its success in innovation and problem solving in computer imaging as well as robotics, pioneering some of the latest technology which is being deployed around the world to provide accurate, and readily available, information, such as for the nuclear industry.
Createc applies its thinking and technologies to any problem to find a solution and takes a flexible approach to applying them – so they can be adapted for a range of industries and a range of situations.
Matt said: “My motivation comes from bringing something completely new to life which results in the world being a better place.
“We look at the way we can do something, not where we can do it.
“Seeing all the pieces come together and creating this thing which creates an economic benefit and also has a positive impact on the world is really satisfying.”
Matt sees the relationship with Boston Dynamics as providing Createc with a highly mobile solution through its Spot robot, and he anticipates Createc can help Boston Dynamics build new application capabilities and commercial opportunities.
Createc has been working with Boston Dynamics’ Spot – a four-legged agile robot with advanced mobility and perception to navigate stairs, gravel, and rough terrain while collecting 2D and 3D information with on board-sensors, automating some common data collection and inspection tasks. The company has been using Spot primarily in nuclear decommissioning applications so far but expects to expand to other industrial uses in the future.
Matt said: “If you are trying to do things in industrial environments, then robots like Spot give you a big advantage as they can move around obstacles on the floor, or step over obstacles just like a human would, and in a way which wheeled vehicles are not able to. It recognises terrain and is able to adjust its movements accordingly.
“Boston Dynamics is developing new levels of autonomy and we see advantages in collaborating to build new inspection tools and systems that enable tasks in hazardous environments to be carried out more safely, more efficiently and more cost effectively.”
Matt Mellor, Managing Director
Matt Mellor started his career as an academic working in research and development at Oxford University where his specialist field was in computer vision and robotics with medical application. But in writing papers, which he says were mainly “read by other academics so they could cite it in their research”, Matt could see there was a vital component missing.
“To turn that research into a product I learned that you have got to make that happen yourself to ensure others recognise the value of it,” said Matt. “That started me on an odyssey to learn about the full process of technological development. That means not just learning about technology, but also about business, people, finance – all the parts you need to make something happen which is going to make a positive change in the world.”
With that in mind, Matt moved to Cumbria and joined REACT Engineering. “REACT put the emphasis on entrepreneurship and I joined the company to apply what I had learned in nuclear medicine to nuclear engineering.” In particular, Matt was able to apply his knowledge in medical imaging to provide smart, technological solutions to the nuclear clean-up industry.
In 2007, Matt was the technical lead in setting up REACT’s own spin-out – aerial surveying company, Hi-Def, which gave him valuable experience of the process involved in setting up a spin-out business. Hi-Def went on to be a sustainable, successful business in its own right and in 2016 became part of the BioConsult SH group. Meanwhile, Matt set up Createc in June 2010, and as CEO has led the company to achieve impressive growth ever since.
Createc started out with just three members of staff – Matt, Alan Shippen and Pete Rodgers. The company’s mission was to create a profitable business out of computer vision and robotics research and development, demonstrating the value such a service adds to industry. Building on technological expertise in the nuclear sector learned from REACT Engineering, Createc developed its N-Visage® technology which went on to be used in the clean-up following the Fukushima Daiichi accident in Japan.
Closer to home, Createc used its intellectual property in computer vision to build a business opportunity and set up spin-out company, Sportlight. Earlier this year, it launched a second spin-out from its robotics expertise creating Createc Robotics.
Looking ahead, as society and industry move out of a Covid-19 lockdown, Matt sees robotics playing an ever more important role – but warns those who think it will be an overnight change, to be more patient. “Society has always overestimated what technological development will take place over a two to five-year period. But it has always underestimated what development will take place over 20 years,” said Matt.
“Technological development is an accumulation of small goals which build on top of each other. It creeps forward so that over a 20-year period people then look back and are amazed at how much the world has changed. In 20 years’ time we are going to have a lot more robots, and we will have improved collaboration between human and machine. In some areas that might involve helping to remove people from having to carry out tasks in hazardous environments. In other areas it might be giving people more senses and more capabilities.”
Createc applies its thinking and technologies to any problem to find a solution, and takes a flexible approach when doing so. This means that it can adapt for a range of industries and a range of situations. “We look at the way we can do something, not where we can do it,” said Matt. It’s an approach which has seen its solutions applied in a range of industries and settings, including nuclear and defence, rail and security. Among future growth areas for Createc are heavy engineering, major industrial and general construction.
Createc has received two Queen’s Awards in recent years, one for International Trade and one for Innovation, recognising the company’s success in developing technology. The company is also proud to have won awards for innovation from The Institution for Engineering and Technology (IET), The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Nuclear Decommissioning Authority (NDA).
Createc’s strategy as it moves beyond its 10-year anniversary is to concentrate on research and development to launch a series of further spin-out companies. Two things Matt is keen to influence in the wider economy to help support the company’s ambitions are funding and leadership. “We need to make sure that the UK is more start-up friendly. And we need more entrepreneurs who want to come and run these businesses,” said Matt. “To me an entrepreneur takes complete ownership and picks their way forward and proceeds confidently in the face of doubt.”
“We have had a sustained growth rate of 40 per cent, and we are focused on continuing to grow at this rate. In the first ten years we have grown from a company with three people turning over £180,000 to 30 people turning over £3.5m. To sustain that level of growth by the end of the next ten years we would have 300 people turning over more than £60m.”
Matt has a clear vision of how the company will keep driving forward, and his motivation and appetite to lead the company to further success is clear. “My motivation comes from bringing something completely new to life which results in the world being a better place,” he said. “Seeing all the pieces come together and creating this thing which creates an economic benefit and also has a positive impact on the world is really satisfying.”