An interview with Bill Shepherd

15 January 2019


Emma Williamson
Emma Williamson

The Atom Incubator is a space for North East startups and offers professional advice, a fully serviced space and access to a community of entrepreneurs and technologists.

The first business to be welcomed to the Atom Incubator was Intogral Limited a spin-out from Durham University who are developing image analysis software using artificial intelligence and deep learning.

As it’s been six months since launch, we decided to have a catch up…

Who are Intogral Limited?

Intogral is a new business started by academics from Durham University. We specialise in the development of artificial intelligence (AI) systems capable of analysing pictures far more quickly and accurately than humans can.

What do you do?

Intogral has two main activities. We develop AI that can speed up the analysis of medical scans, such as x-rays, ultrasound or eye-scans that usually takes a consultant hours to look at. We don’t want to remove the doctors from the diagnosis but we want to remove the time-consuming work from the doctors, so that they concentrate more of their valuable time upon treating patients and not looking at a computer screen. I joined Intogral in the Spring of 2018 as CEO to help shape the company’s future.

What have you been up to since occupying the space?

Intogral’s first task has been to create our first ‘product’: an AI for the analysis of medical imagery. Innovate UK, the Government’s research support arm has helped us fund this work. Our first AI is now available in the Cloud, not yet for patients but for doctors to test.

We have also got an interest in anti-counterfeiting, working with a big multinational we are developing apps that can use a smartphone to differentiate real products from dangerous fakes.

How has the Atom Incubator helped you?

Atom has been great - our fairy godmother! Intogral shares Atom’s ambition to grow something really important in the North East. Atom has provided us with a home in the Rivergreen, and access to your infrastructure and support network. Perhaps most importantly, everyone has been really welcoming and made us feel part of something larger, which is really important as it can be really lonely in a startup. The place has a real buzz about it and a feeling that things are possible here.

What does the future look like for Intogral?

2019 is critical for Intogral. We need to get our products out for use into the real world for the first time. We also need to find investment for growth. We have some ambitious growth plans, and for these to work we need great people and investment too.

What’s your previous experience?

Intogral is a team of technologists, mostly data-scientists, with a background in both academia and industry. We have a great relationship with Durham University so that the team are encouraged to straddle the border between university and company research. We are all techies in the team at the moment, some full-time and some part-time PhD students. Personally, I have worked both in industry and for universities. Most recently I ran an instrumentation business that I started ten years earlier.

How did you get to this position?

I was really lucky. I was looking for something new and interesting to do, and was introduced to the Intogral team by people in my network. It is really useful to have a mixed background in both the technical and commercial worlds.

What’s the toughest thing about your job?

Dealing with stakeholders from all backgrounds and dealing with anything and everything involving the company is probably the toughest and most interesting part of my job.

What’s one piece of advice you would give to startup businesses?

Make sure that all the important people in the business share the same values and objectives.