The Team

We have a highly experienced and dedicated team at Alta Innovations, who have many years experience in leadership positions in successful knowledge-based businesses.

Alta Team Photo


Pictured above: (from left to right) Simon Freeman, Jonathan Watkins, James Wilkie, Melanie Kaiser, John Pearson, Alan Tibbatts

Many of our team have worked in both industry and academia. We understand the differing objectives and aspirations of both and are experts in connecting them together. Our aim is to provide an efficient and responsive service


Structure of Alta Innovations

 Org chart

Dr James Wilkie, Chief Executive Officer

James Wilkie is the Chief Executive Officer of Alta Innovations Ltd.  James is also Director of Research and Innovation Services at the University of Birmingham.  He joined the University from industry in early 2007 to lead a group which supports academic staff in their competition for Research funding.  

Starting as a research scientist with British Telecom plc, James then joined the management team of a ‘start up’ company in the Netherlands that was sold to Air Products two years later after taking 50% of the worldwide market share for its products.  He then moved to Shell Oil where he remained for eleven years, rising to the position of Strategy Advisor to the Main Board.  During this period he was one of a team of three who successfully made the case for Shell to enter the Renewable Energy sector and he spent five years as Global VP Technology for Shell Solar.  James returned to the UK as Managing Director of the corporate R&D centre of Morgan Crucible plc and then joined Johnson Matthey plc as Development Director for their Fuel Cell business.  

James is an expert in the commercialisation of solar power and fuel cell technologies, a non-executive director of Acal Energy and an advisor to groups including the Grove Fuel Cell Conference, the Centre for Renewable Energy at Loughborough University and the newly formed UK Energy Technology Institute.  In addition to his doctorate, James is a Chartered Engineer and also holds an MBA.



David Coleman, Head of Spin-out companies

David Coleman
David Coleman joined the University of Birmingham in May 2010 and is responsible for both managing the relationship between the University and its existing spin-out companies, and for the development of new high quality spin-outs.  He is further responsible for establishing an infrastructure that supports the University’s spin-out companies (including access to funding and management).

David has 10 years technology transfer experience gained at both Imperial Innovations and University of Bath, where he also acted as Head of Technology Transfer and Consultancy for Bath Ventures in its first year of operation. As well as significant experience in intellectual property and licensing, he has successfully spun-out a number of companies including Ceres Power, NPSL, and Nanogan.”



Simon Freeman, Consultancy Manager

Simon started his career working for the Home Office in London – firstly in its legal department and then in personnel, dealing with senior level appointments.  He then moved to Hong Kong and worked for the legal department of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. Upon graduating he worked for a government funded programme which developed export strategies for SMEs in the West Midlands. He was subsequently appointed Business Development Manager at Aston Science Park where he advised the managing company and tenant companies on business strategy. 

Simon joined the University of Birmingham’s technology transfer team in 1999.  At Alta Innovations Ltd Simon is responsible for organising and managing the consultancy commitments of the University’s academic members of staff via the University Consultancy Service.  In addition to this he manages a number of operating divisions on behalf of academic members of staff and is the principal contact for the negotiation of commercial Development Agreements with industry.



Alan Tibbatts, IP Licensing Manager

Alan joined Alta Innovations in 2009 after 28 years in the aerospace industry and, more recently, a university spin-out company.  He started his career with 14 years in a materials laboratory before moving into a sales and customer support role.  For the last 12 years he has been working in IP, developing and managing an IP portfolio across a diverse range of technologies including advanced materials, control systems and gas turbine components.  He has also been involved in a number of licensing deals.

In the university spin-out Alan was responsible for capturing and protecting IP relating to x-ray technology and key features of the first production product before its launch.



Dr Jonathan Watkins, Senior IP and Licensing Manager

After obtaining a PhD in chemistry at the University of Sheffield, Jonathan spent ten years in the chemical industry as a New Product Development Manager, latterly for National Starch & Chemical (NSC), part of the ICI Group plc.  After helping move the UK-based water-soluble polymers European business unit of NSC to Switzerland, he decided to alter direction and move into the field of technology transfer and commercialisation; firstly in the knowledge management software field and then, in 2002, he joined the University of Birmingham covering all subject areas. 

Jonathan has experience in licensing out technology, setting up spin-out/start-up companies and arranging other types of commercial contracts.



Dr John Pearson, Business Development Manager

 John Pearson
John has extensive experience in industry; initially in a technical capacity, then working for major pharmaceutical companies, primarily in Marketing.  He most recently held the position of General Manager for a multinational FMCG business, where he both directed genomics research and established a new US based genetics business.

His expertise is built on a strong technical background in bioscience and he has substantial experience in sales, marketing and business start-up, gained with blue chip companies such as, Novartis, Schering, Sanofi-Aventis, Akzo Nobel and Mars.