Head-to-head with José Maria Peña at Lurtis

One of our first residents at our new Wood Centre for Innovaton (WCFI) is Lurtis, a burgeoning AI company based in Oxford and Madrid. We spoke to co-founder and CTO, José about his company.

Lurtis is developing AI design assistance tools for the construction and engineering sector, tools that enable professional creatives like architects, aircraft designers and building developers to, for example, investigate new materials, look at new design approaches and the configuration of spaces.

José founded the business after a long academic career in AI at the Technical University of Madrid. The move to Oxford in 2014 was to explore links with the University and open up the UK market. He says, “Oxford is the perfect place for Lurtis. It has a very active AI sector that’s open to collaboration”.

The small team of 15 are working on numerous projects. They have developed the Aikinos HouseBuilder tool for the digital content industry and its porting to typical design software like Revit.

They are currently working on a range of one-off projects in this space – looking at the weight and functional requirements of Rolls Royce engines in collaboration with the University of Oxford; and working with Arix Technologies in the US to predict corrosion and instrumenting the preventive maintenance cycles of pipes used in refineries. Lurtis also offers a consultancy service to help solve problems on specific buildings or projects.

They must be doing something right as their clients all come by word-of-mouth. “Our sweet spot is SMEs and architect studios”, says Jose, “Companies that are too small or busy to develop their own software but are large enough to invest in the technology”.

But that’s not all. Lurtis have a couple of data science research projects on their books too. Jose says, “We have been funded by Innovate UK to port procedural content generation techniques to the construction sector and are part of the Eureka-Eurostarts programme to develop artificial intelligence tools for building developers and housing associations. Their research has been published in more than 150 scientific papers.

Also in the pipeline is a project looking at traumatic brain injuries to predict recovery times, and, on a completely different tack, estimating the real estate market for a Singapore Investment Fund. There’s also their work on Virtual Agent – a tool to explore synthetic emotions – for example, how do people behave in emergency situations.

So what are the biggest challenges facing Lurtis over the next twelve months? “Finding the right talent to grow and introducing new ideas to the traditional construction sector” says Jose. “Brexit isn’t helping as we employ the best people in AI from all over the world and we need certainty to develop and grow.”

The team at Lurtis are very pleased to be based at WCFI. They love the location, the great facilities and Stansfeld Park, with its surrounding woodland, doesn’t fail to impress their clients. And we are pleased to have such an exciting company under our roof.

Oh, and the name? Lurtis is named after Jose’s niece’s favourite teddy bear – a present from Niagra Falls that he bought back after a work trip to Canada.