06 March 2020

Innovation Fellow: Professor Graham Finlayson

Professor Graham FinlaysonProf Graham Finlayson commenced on a path of entrepreneurship at a young age. At the age of 16, he and a school-friend started a company, High Tech Software, and developed a game simulating the stock market that was on sale on the high street including at WHSmith . One novel aspect of the game was that it was playable in 7 European languages, including Danish and Hungarian. High Tech Software also was on stand at the PC World exhibition in Earl’s Court in 1984 and 85.

Prof Finlayson then started his academic career by studying for a BSc in Computer Science at the University of Strathclyde from 1985-89. Then he moved to Vancouver, Canada where he studied for his MSc and PhD degrees which were awarded from Simon Fraser University in 1992 and 1995. His PhD dissertation was awarded the Dean’s medal for the Faculty of Applied Sciences. His post-graduate research focused on the image processing needed to take the image recorded on a camera sensor to the final rendered photo. 

He was awarded a lectureship at the University of York in 1995 and he then left to co-found, as a Reader, the Colour and Imaging Institute at the University of Derby in 1997. Graham joined UEA in 1999 when he was offered a full professorship aged just 30 years old. He remains the youngest person ever to be awarded a professorship at the University of East Anglia. As a Professor at UEA he has led a large team of researchers across a broad range of areas including, colour imaging; computer vision; colour science; artificial intelligence; and computational geometry.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, given he founded a software company as a school pupil, Prof Finlayson has always been interested in commercialising his research. His work to determine the colour of the prevailing illuminant (the “white balance problem” in photography) was exploited in Hewlett Packard’s Photosmart cameras and Photosmart’s illuminant estimation was lauded in the press . He also helped Foveon Inc to develop their ‘Fill Light’ photo-processing software . These successes naturally led Prof Finlayson to consider developing the IP for his own company (since it was evidently commercially valuable).
Professor Graham Finlayson receiving his Impact and Innovation Award from UEA's Chancellor Karen Jones CBE,  Pro-Vice- Chancellor Professor David Richardson and Pro-Vice-Chancellor Research and Innovation Professor Fiona Lettice.

Professor Graham Finlayson receiving his Impact and Innovation Award from UEA's Chancellor Karen Jones CBE,  Pro-Vice- Chancellor Professor David Richardson and Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) Professor Fiona Lettice.

In 2006 Prof Finlayson spun-out from UEA Imsense Ltd, which produced ground-breaking software to enhance digital photos and improve the quality. In the physical world the clouds in the sky can be thousands of times brighter than objects inside cast shadows. Yet, devices such as smartphones can only reproduce a few hundreds of brightness levels. Imsense developed novel technology to compress the dynamic range of an image in making a pleasant image reproduction. 

Starting in 2011, Prof Finlayson founded, with Dr David Connah (UEA) and Prof Mark Drew (Simon Fraser University) Spectral Edge Ltd.  Spectral Edge developed novel image fusion algorithms that could be applied in remote sensing, automotive imaging and smart phones. The company grew to 20 people in 2019 when it too was acquired by an industry major. 

Academically, Prof Finlayson leads the Colour and Imaging Lab, which is one of the most successful research units at UEA: its impact is evidenced by more than 300-refereed papers, over 12,000 citations, more than £15 million in grant and investment funding, and more than 20 PhDs graduated.  

Prof Finlayson is the recipient of the Philip Leverhulme prize and a Royal Society-Wolfson merit award. He is a Fellow of the Institute for Engineering Technology, the Society for Imaging Science and Technology and the Royal Photographic Society (RPS). The RPS also awarded Prof Finlayson the Davies Medal for his contribution to the photographic industry.

For more information on this story, the Colour and Imaging Lab at UEA, or to find out more about UEA spinouts and licensing opportunities, please email: ip@uea.ac.uk

Sources

1. https://tinyurl.com/HighTechSoftwareTheMarket

2. www.dpreview.com/reviews/hp850/11

3. http://www.foveon.com/article.php?a=73