Siavash Mahdavi, University College London

SIAVASH MAHDAVI has put the technology he developed during his university research at the core of his company, Complex Matters. During his engineering doctorate in evolutionary robotics at UCL, Mahdavi focused on exploiting exotic materials with the use of artificial intelligence. He demonstrated that materials such as shape memory alloys could be controlled effectively, and thus used as artificial muscles in a robotic snake. The innovative control method allowed the robot to become innately adaptive to changes in the environment and able to recover from damage. Named SAS (selfadapting snake), this was the first robot ever to feature such adaptability.

Using the same technology, the embodied evolutionary algorithm, Mahdavi created an adaptive antenna that could tune itself to achieve a better reception. He also used it to control rapid prototyping machines. While writing his thesis he contacted UCL Business about his technology, and after a feasibility study it was decided that a design consulting company should be created with his original technology at its core. He won a £3,500 grant from Camden Council and a further £25,000 from UCL to start his company and develop his technology into a robust and commercial piece of software that could efficiently handle real-world problems.

Complex Matters, now officially spun-off from UCL, is collaborating with more than 10 companies on projects that are making use of its technology. These include work with a medical implant company to create a range of orthopaedic implants that behave more like the mechanical properties of real bone. The company is also in talks with major aerospace and F1 companies that could see Mahdavi’s technology incorporated in the design of small components on aircraft and racing cars.

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