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Company Case Studies

Actuation Lab

Rethinking Industrial Hardware
Rethinking Industrial Hardware

Simon Bates,
CEO and Co-founder,
QTEC Cohort 4 - 2020-2021


Actuation Lab provides innovative machine components to assist industries that operate in the world's most extreme environments. At the core of the company’s portfolio is Callimorph®, a single-part actuator that creates movement by morphing when fluid pressure is applied.

Actuation Lab uses the latest design methods, materials, and rapid manufacturing to rethink the mechanical hardware that keeps process industries moving. The company's components are resilient, powerful, and lightweight. The inherent resilience in their designs reduces servicing and handling costs as well as the impact on our planet.

Why I invested in
Actuation Lab


“The team at Actuation Lab has undertaken considerable research and development to produce a product, which not only represents exciting engineering but also has the opportunity to provide a solution to a real-world commercial problem. This powerful combination, led by a team of sector experts, makes the Company an appealing investment proposition that we are delighted to be supporting.”

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“One of the great things about QTEC is the personal experience. There are the benefits of being in a group ... but the QTEC management and mentors ensures that each Fellow gets the input they need”

The Founder's Journey

Whilst carrying out his PhD research on 3D printing of shock absorbers for the RNLI, Simon started his first company. With a friend, he bought a £600 3D printer and sold consulting services to local engineering companies. “With a lot of fettling, you can get some amazing results with a cheap printer, and we made a little bit of money.” After his PhD, Simon completed a post-Doc printing 3D structures for a European Space project. He then moved back to Bristol where his friend had a computer design for a tubular “origami” actuator.

“It behaved like a muscle, reducing along its length and ‘pulling’ when pressurised with fluid. Having just one part, we envisaged it would be light and servicing-free way of creating movement for machines. 3D printing allowed us to produce prototypes,” said Simon.

They pitched their idea at University of Bristol’s New Enterprise Competition and came second, winning 12-months business development support from SETsquared. “This was a pivotal moment. The competition gave us the confidence to go for it.” With support from Innovate UK’s ICURe programme, Simon set off visiting over 50 companies in 2 months. It helped him identify the issue of actuator corrosion in harsh environments which causes machine downtime, a problem their non-metallic actuators could solve. “As ICURe finished, I was accepted onto the QTEC programme and, within six weeks, I received news that we had been awarded a £300k Innovate UK grant.”

At QTEC, Jane Garrett introduced Simon to Deepbridge who invested to provide the match funding. The company is now located in the National Composite Centre, has taken on a new recruit, won further funding to support Net-Zero activities and appointed an experienced Chair.

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The Quantum Technology Enterprise Centre was an EPSRC funded Skills and Training Hub based out of the University of Bristol which is part of the UK's National Quantum Technology Programme and based out of:

QTIC, 1 Cathedral Square, Trinity Street, College Green, Bristol BS1 5DD

The programme was moved into SETsquared Bristol in July 2022.

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