Innovation Award, Entrepreneur of the Year and Alumni Business Person of the Year entrant – Alan Graham and AiDenVi
Circuits designed by Alan Graham through his company Blackstick Ltd have gone to the deepest parts of the ocean and are currently orbiting Earth.
Largely self-taught after leaving school at the age of 14, Alan has been working at the cutting edge of design and technology since setting up his business 19 years ago.
Now Alan, from Leek, has turned his attention to AI and has partnered with Staffordshire University AI academics to launch a second business, AiDenVi.
AiDenVi is currently at the development stage and Alan, who is also studying for an MSc in Entrepreneurship at Staffordshire University, is hoping to roll out the first of his AI-driven tools to a group of beta testers by the end of March.
He said: “The ultimate dream is to have a complete AI-driven electronics design tool set, made in Stoke-on-Trent and sold to the world.
“The tools that are available now are fantastic, they’ve come a long way in a short space of time. But they are still lacking in useful automation. We know how to solve this. We know how to make it better.”
Having designed printed circuit boards for more than 25 years, Alan has always looked for better ways of working.
He said: “I have always been aware that the process had areas that needed to be improved. I started looking at AI six or seven years ago, thinking it could probably help. But the infrastructure and technology weren’t quite at the stage to be useful easily. They are now.
“Data shows that at the start of most designs, engineers are wasting between 10 and 20% of their time creating CAD models for their designs. This is quite a menial task that should, and can, be done instantly.
“Our tool enables engineers to ‘drag and drop’ datasheets, to instantly create these CAD models and their supporting information.”
“The feedback from the industry has been extremely positive, particularly from electronics design companies who see this as a boost in both engineering resources saved and time to market.”
“We have a lot of interest from PCB designers for our early beta program but would also like more electronic engineers to sign up.
“Having a more diverse talent pool using the tool at this stage will allow us to better tailor it for everybody’s needs.”
Alan has entered the Entrepreneur of the Year and Alumni Business Person categories of the Staffordshire University Business Awards and has entered his businesses into the Innovation Award category.