Contact: Dr. Rafael Carazo Salas, Genetics
Mentor: Simon Pulman-Jones

The WEAVER software was first invented to meet the researchers’ own needs as they reached the end of a collaborative research project across three countries. How could they ensure that their meeting attendees received the maximum benefit from being in the same place at the same time?

Derived from research which focused on building networks of genes, the inventors decided to use similar computational algorithms to build a network of attendees. They then used this network to introduce people to people that they didn’t previously know through a “speed-dating” event. However, this was not just standard speed-dating – this was based on the attendees’ own requests for the types of know-how that they would want to gain from new contacts.

Although the meeting attendees were initially sceptical about this unusual method, their feedback afterwards was overwhelmingly positive. As a result, the inventors wish to take the software forward into a commercial product and a new spin-out company.

The algorithms are powerful and flexible. They balance the needs of everyone in the group, so that everyone’s requests are catered for equally. Using the same information, “speed-dating” pairs can be adjusted to take account of just one set of data (for example how many degrees of separation there are between the people), or to balance several sets at the same time (for example degrees of separation plus the types of know-how they would like to gain).

The question for the i-Team is to investigate the wide range of possible uses for this new technology, and the ways in which it should be packaged to provide a complete product or service for individuals, companies and the academic community. How can it best be used to foster new interactions and inventions, and how can it best be made available as a commercial product?