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Cover-up costs Britain a ten year lead in developing SALi Technology


We Brit’s have a long history of coming up with profitable inventions, and then leaving others to gain from them. Computers, the jet engine, penicillin, body scanners, radar and railways are some of the many British inventions that have made other nations rich.

If you want to witness how our sad history is repeating itself, please read on.


Article summary

SALi based suspension units were invented in Britain by Bill Courtney, but their technical development is being led by China.

The taxpayer funded CrashSALi Project (2002-3) should have investigated SALi based suspension units in the UK, but the University research
was botched and did not deliver any sensible results.
Bill Courtney's  MP asked awkward questions about the failed research, the University bluffed its way out of the problem by ignoring his questions and using legal threats to try and force Bill to approve payment for the failed work.

Somehow Bill's suspension unit designs have ended up in China. Engineers at Nanjing University are publishing papers which suggest that SALi based suspension units are a Chinese invention. They have refused to sign a research licensing agreement with Cheshire Innovation or collaborate on development.
To be fair to the Chinese, the quality of their research work is excellent.

Green energy
One of Bill's suspension unit designs has the capacity to convert suspension vibrations into electricity for charging a car battery.

                    Britain vs. China

British taxpayer funded research into SALi suspension systems at Manchester University   Chinese government funded research using designs copied from an unpublished Manchester University thesis

BOTCHED, but the University still claimed funding for the work.

Leal action was threatened when the inventor refused to approve transfer of public funds.

EXCELLENT, but the Chinese refused to cooperate with the British inventor.


What Britain is losing:
About 45 million road vehicles are manufactured world-wide each year. Suspension manufacturing is a Multi-Million Pound segment of this industry. As we pull out of recession, an opportunity to create world beating manufacturing jobs is being lost.

1. The SALi suspension unit concept

The diagram below illustrates the prototype suspension unit specified in the CrashSALi research contract.

Unlike the SALi filled car bumpers described on the PedSALi page, suspension units must be made from high quality elastic materials that can be subjected to many millions of compression cycles without degrading.

Recommended materials
The research laboratories of the Malaysian Rubber Producers Research Association (MRPRA) advised on the materials to be used. They provided sample materials for testing.

 Here is the design


Figure 1. The British prototype suspension unit

This lightweight unit does not require any precision made parts, so manufacturing costs should be low. The design could be used for a wide range of vibration isolation applications in mechanical and civil engineering.

2.         CrashSALi

The CrashSALi Project (2002-3) was a 65% British taxpayer funded feasibility study into crash protection and vehicle suspension applications of SALi. Cheshire Innovation paid the balance. Copies of the research contract are held by The Small Business Service and Manchester University. 
This project was a profit sharing partnership, because Bill Courtney, (trading name Cheshire Innovation) was contractually bound to give 50% of his royalties from all applications of SALi Technology to the University
[For proof of the profit sharing contract see Appendix 2 below.]


How Britain lost a ten year technology lead

For some puzzling reason that has never been explained, the contractually agreed materials were not used for the Manchester University research.

Figure 2. The materials specified in the contract were not investigated.

The Manchester University research results were an embarrassing nonsense. They could not be used to attract commercial interest in Britain.

The contractual cover-up
Bill Courtney, a research fellow of the University, refused to approve payment of taxpayer funds for the Manchester University research until the work had been done correctly.  The University was reluctant to admit to bad research. It attempted to shift the blame by claiming that the contract had been completed and pursuing Bill for debt recovery.
This is a very worrying precedent, because British science should learn from its mistakes, not resort to legal intimidation, to hide its research failings.
Also, small businesses must be able to trust universities who handle their intellectual property. It is unethical to bully a contractually binding profit and risk sharing partner, to take all the losses when a joint project fails.

Bill Courtney's MP took these problems up to the (then) Minister for Science, Lord Sainsbury.
The minister ruled that Courtney must resolve the dispute with Manchester University himself. (See Appendix 1 below.)
Ten years have been frittered away on this dispute because Bill Courtney cannot afford to employ a solicitor, for a prolonged dispute with Britain's largest University.

Meanwhile, the Chinese are stealing SALi Technology prospects from under out noses. Bill lost his £140,000 retirement savings working with Manchester University trying to develop SALi Technology. After spending many thousands of Pounds on British, French, German and American patents he ran out of funds and the patents were abandoned. This means that the Chinese can now develop SALi Technology without breaching patent law.

2. The successful Chinese research on SALi suspension units

In July 2009, a diligent Cardiff University student who was working with Bill Courtney made a disturbing discovery: state funded research into SALi based vibration isolators is making rapid progress in China.  Unlike the Manchester research, the Chinese work is enviably good!
Two papers have been published by engineers at Nanjing University:

  1. H. d. Teng, Q. Chen, Study on vibration isolation properties of solid and liquid mixture, Journal of Sound and Vibration, 2009 doi.10.1016/j.jsv.2009.04.036.
  2. H. d. Teng, Q. Chen, Performance Characteristics of SALiM Isolator, Proceedings of the World Congress in Engineering, 2009, Vol. II.

Bill promptly wrote to the authors, but they were not interested in a British-Chinese collaboration. They have also refused to sign a licensing agreement to legitimise their work.
However, to be fair to the Chinese researchers, they have acknowledged Bill's unpublished
1998 MPhil research thesis in their references.

Here’s the header from one of the Nanjing University papers. Note that Bill's brand name for SALi has been subtly changed from SALiTM to SALiM.


The authors published high quality research, similar to what should have been done at Manchester University.

For example, their multiple compression tests, showed no tailing off in performance.
Here is the evidence:

Figure 3. This Chinese graph, (originally published as Figure 10 in reference 1) demonstrates that if the right materials are used, a SALi based suspension system makes a full recovery after each vibration.

Q. Did the Manchester researchers produce similar results?

A. No. Instead of subjecting the SALi suspension system to a series of vibrations they simply dropped a heavy weight onto the suspension unit so that it was compressed once. Consequently the deterioration in performance caused by using poor materials did not show up.


 The Chinese researchers conclude:

Reference 2 above, page 4.

This promise of “outstanding performance and a good prospect in engineering practice should be a wakeup call to a sleepy Britain. China is developing know-how that could take engineering jobs from Britain as we move out of recession.

The Nanjing papers include plagiarised material from Bill's 1998 MPhil research thesis. This material is very difficult to get hold of, because the thesis remains unpublished.

Here’s an example of the plagiarism:

Figure 4. This is a reproduction of Figure 1 in Teng and. Chen, reference 1 above.

For comparison, Bill's thesis diagram is reproduced below.

Figure 5. This is a reproduction of Figure 6.4 from  Courtney, W. A., Preliminary investigations into the mechanical properties and potential applications of a novel shock absorbing liquid, MPhil Thesis, Manchester School of Engineering, University of Manchester (1998)


Some curious facts linking Manchester with Nanjing University

# In 2002, when the botched CrashSALi research was starting at Manchester University, the Manchester research team leader co-authored for four conference papers presented at Nanjing University, China.

# Two years later he co-authored a paper written with one of the authors for the excellent Chinese SALi research.

Here are the paper reference details:

# In the same year (2004) Manchester University tried to force the inventor to pay for the botched Manchester research by threatening him with legal action.

# This evidence was submitted to the Formal Enquiry discussed on our PedSALi page.
But the Enquiry Report makes no reference to it.


What can be done to prevent Britain sleepwalking into a technology "failed state"?

If Britain wants to learn lessons, to protect our manufacturing sector, the following questions require answers:

Q. How did an unpublished  British engineering thesis end up in Chinese hands?

Q. Why did the Formal Enquiry at Manchester University ignore the evidence?
(We discuss this in detail in Appendix Four below.)

Q. Why did the government remain passive when presented with evidence that publicly funded research into a  British invention was botched and then covered up?
(For proof of government indifference, see Appendix 1 below.)

A second example of wasted British research on SALi Technology

Manchester University also failed to use the correct materials for the PedSALi project. As a result, Britain lost the opportunity to take the lead in developing soft, pedestrian friendly car bumpers.

For their bad bumper research the Manchester workers used the right filling, but the wrong packaging.!

   Come on Britain       



Excellent work on SALi Technology has been done at Cardiff University.

Here are two examples of good SALi research  at Cardiff University

Suspension units:
Figure 17 on our Battery charging car suspension page shows an encouraging set of results using a valid test and appropriate materials. Unfortunately, this belated British work has to be done on a shoestring budget in the form of short undergraduate projects. The research management is very professional, but we are continuing to fall behind the competition because progress is inevitably slow.

Soft, pedestrian friendly car bumpers:
Based on undergraduate project work, Cardiff University has presented an excellent conference paper on SALi Technology.

Here is the reference

Davies, H., Holford, K., Assoune, A., Trioulier, B., Courtney, B. 2009. Pedestrian Protection Using a Shock Absorbing Liquid (SALi) Based Bumper System. 21st International Technical Conference on the Enhanced Safety of Vehicles, Stuttgart 2009.

Q. So what is holding the British research back

A. The Cardiff research was limited in scope because it was done without the support of public funding. 


Q.  The British government is committed to backing innovation research, so why can't you get a fair share of it?

A. The government has already provided generous public funding for the bad SALi research at Manchester.
As you can see from the PedSALi page, Manchester University has taken the money and managed to bury their  bad research by smearing Bill Courtney's professional name.  He needs to clear his name before asking for more public funds.


A timeline showing the key events as Britain lost its technology lead to China

Wake up, sleepy Britain!
You are losing potential wealth and jobs for British workers.



Appendix 1

Extract from Lord Sainsbury's letter

(The government turns a blind eye to bad innovation research)



Bill Courtney comments, "This letter provides clear evidence that the government failed to exercise due diligence, to protect British taxpayer funds. As a result, we Brits have lost, and the Chinese have gained.

But the problem is far worse
Lord Sainsbury's refusal  to investigate the failure of the PedSALi project is particularly disturbing. This project was intended to develop a new type of soft, pedestrian friendly bumper, that had the potential to save pedestrian lives and prevent crippling injuries on European roads,"


Appendix 2

Extract from the profit sharing agreement with Manchester University

Why this is important

Bill Courtney is "A proud  Manchester man" by birth and long association with the University. 
He recognises that the vast majority of  Manchester University employees are honourable, trustworthy people.  He has enjoyed working with many of them.

This contract shows that he "puts his money where his mouth is."

When the chance came to give something back into his local University he was proud to share potential royalties from SALi inventions with the University.

But a tiny minority of Manchester University employees have crushed the development of SALi to meet their own private needs.


 MIL was the (then) business arm of the Victoria University of Manchester. Its officers always acted professionally when dealing with Bill Courtney. They played no part in the subsequent intimidating activities discussed below.

Appendix 3

Bill Courtney refused to approve the transfer of public funds to Manchester University until the CrashSALi work was done correctly.

When Graham Brady MP started asking awkward questions about the SALi research at Manchester University, the University tried to discredit Courtney by using Eversheds Solicitors to pursue him for debt recovery.



Using legal threats to hide bad research and intimidate a whistle blower is wrong.

Manchester  University was a profit and loss sharing partner with Cheshire Innovation. It appears to have withheld this information from  its solicitors. It seems to have created the false impression that it was an honourable service provider who was owed money.

Q. Was Eversheds deceived by Manchester University?

A. When Bill pointed out to Eversheds that he was a profit and risk sharing partner of the University who was trying to defend the public purse, not a defaulting debtor, their intimidating letters ceased.
The University has refused to release its correspondence with Eversheds, so Bill's "bad debtor" status remains unclear.
For proof of this refusal, please click.

The Formal Enquiry Panel should have investigated this complaint.


Legal notes

1. Bill Courtney would have been committing criminal fraud if he agreed to sign public funds over to Manchester University for the CrashSALi project, when he had written proof that the work had been done wrong and in breach of contract.

2. Harassing a person to commit criminal fraud in order to obtain a financial gain  is classified as "blackmail" or “demanding money with menaces.”

It is a criminal offense. [Maximum prison sentence, fourteen years.]





Unfortunate coincidence?
Bill Courtney is a sole trader. This means that by standing up to the University he was putting all of his financial assets in jeopardy.
A couple of days after receiving the first intimidating letter from Eversheds, his left eye started haemorrhaging. Shortly after receiving their second intimidating letter his right eye started haemorrhaging. He is now registered partially sighted.


Appendix 4

How a Formal Enquiry whitewashed the Manchester research failings

As discussed on the PedSALi page, the University held a Formal Enquiry into Courtney’s complaints about the failings of the CrashSALi and PedSALi projects.

 Q.  Did Courtney submit evidence to the Enquiry about the intimidating use of Eversheds, to  pressurise him into approving payment for bad CrashSALi research?

A. Yes , but there is no reference to Courtney's evidence in the Report. 
This is surprising because the Panel was supplied with sixteen (16) very detailed arguments opposing the use of Eversheds by Manchester University. 
Click here to view a copy.


Q.  How did the Report explain the failure to carry out research into suspension units using the materials laid down in the contract?

A. The Formal Enquiry Report foes does not offer an explanation or make any reference to the materials used. Instead, as we explain on the PedSALi page, it created false evidence against Courtney, implying that he was an unreliable inventor who could not be trusted.


Q.Traditionally bad research is exposed when other researchers subsequently do the correct work. In the present case, good CrashSALi type research was done in China. Were the good Chinese research findings submitted to the Enquiry for comparative examination?

A. Yes the good research was submitted for examination but it is not mentioned in the Formal Enquiry Report.
This failure to compare the research evidence is one of the reasons why Courtney claims that the Manchester University Formal Enquiry process was corrupt.


Trust nobody!

Visit the PedSALi page for details about how you can check the University side of this story.


PedSALi web page.

Sassy Hats,  

Cheshire Innovation Home page