Battle of the knowledge superpowers

September 29, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
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Knowledge is power – economic power – and there’s a scramble for that power taking place around the globe, says a feature on the BBC website

Not to invest in high tech and innovation would now be “unthinkable”, says Maire Geoghegan-Quinn, the European Commissioner responsible for research, innovation and science, who is trying to spur the European Union to keep pace in turning ideas into industries. She has announced £6bn funding to kick-start projects next year – with the aim of supporting 16,000 universities, research teams and businesses. A million new research jobs will be needed to match global rivals in areas such as health, energy and the digital economy, all areas that are strong for the South West

BBC News – Battle of the knowledge superpowers.

Bristol & Bath Science Park opens

September 26, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
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David Willetts with glass sculpture of virus 'Smallpox'

Science Minister David Willetts with glass sculpture of virus 'Smallpox' at the opening of the Science Park

The long awaited £300m Bristol & Bath Science Park has opened with the first companies moving in.

Formumetrics – a scientific consultancy that helps formulate new and improved products – BPE Solicitors, YFM Equity Partners and Science City Bristol are the first to move into the new offices. “The Science Park will be a great place to work and do business,” said Dr Keith Bean, managing director at Formumetrics. “On the first morning we bumped into another tenant over coffee that happens to work with the same client base as us and as a result we have already found ways to work together in the future. We know our business will thrive here.

Apitope, a company which focuses on the discovery and development of treatments for autoimmune and allergic diseases, including multiple sclerosis and Graves’ disease, will be moving into the Innovation Centre in October.

Partner companies to the new National Composites Centre are also beginning to come on site and this will expand the scientific and business community.

A significant number of the 250 companies in YFM’s portfolio are from the science and technology sector, many of whom are based in the South West. They include DNA diagnostics company Atlas Genetics, which raised £16.5m earlier this summer, and Gnodal, which has developed high performance computer network equipment.

The Forum in the Science Park

BPE Solicitors is a rapidly expanding law firm with offices in Cheltenham and London. It has a national reputation for corporate finance, technology funding, intellectual property and commercial property work. It has a dedicated science and technology arm and acts for all the UK’s major influencing and grant awarding bodies in the science and technology sector. It will give fortnightly ‘vitamin briefings’ – bite-sized briefings on a changing area of law – in the Park’s social space, the Forum.

The Science Park is one of three buildings to open at the Park this month. The other two are The Forum and the Expansion Space. The Forum will act as the social and collaborative hub of the park, providing a space for businesses to meet and share ideas. The 11,000 sq ft building will be open to the wider community and will feature a high quality café and networking space. The Expansion Space will provide another 25,000 sq ft of space for developing businesses. It is ideal for companies that need flexible terms as well as the support of a lively business community.

These buildings are the focal point of the Bristol & Bath Science Park and represent the first phase of development at the 59-acre Park that aims to create 6,000 high tech jobs. The site was opened by the  Minister of State for Universities and Science, David Willetts.




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First commercial hydrogen filling station opens in Swindon

September 20, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
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The UK’s first commercial filling station has opened in Swindon at the Honda factory. This is the first in a series of stations for the ‘Hydrogen Highway’. More details and the milestones for the project (which was announced in July and operational last month) are at Forward Swindon.

Built and operated by industrial gases company BOC, a member of The Linde Group, the venture is the result of a partnership between Honda, BOC and economic development company Forward Swindon.

The new station is open to anyone developing or using hydrogen-powered vehicles. It can fill vehicles at both 350 bar and 700 bar, the two standard filling pressures adopted by the world’s major vehicle manufacturers.

 While all the major vehicle manufacturers are developing hydrogen-powered models, there are few refuelling facilities available to users. Consumers will not purchase hydrogen vehicles without being confident that there will be a refuelling network; yet the big fuel companies will not invest in new facilities while there are no hydrogen cars are on the road

The Swindon station aims to break this impasse by providing a glimpse of the future, while creating a strategic link half way along the M4 between London and Swansea. As a fully operational, commercial-scale station using tested technology, it is a solution that can be replicated across the country and so create the essential network necessary for the widespread uptake of hydrogen-powered transport.

Among the many innovations of the new station is that it can fill vehicles ‘back-to-back’ from a bank of hydrogen cylinders. This means that vehicles can be filled one after another without having to wait for more hydrogen to be generated.

Another feature is the design: it looks just like a conventional filling station and the time to fill a vehicle is comparable with conventional fuels. The Honda FCX Clarity for example takes less than five minutes. For the consumer, then, the experience should be very similar to refuelling at a normal petrol station.

Also present at the unveiling are a range of different types of vehicles, from passenger cars and light commercial vehicles to an ambulance, a taxi and a London bus – all fuelled by hydrogen. Hydrogen is finding applications across the entire automotive sector.

Speaking at the opening of the facility, Richard Kemp-Harper, Lead Technologist for Transport and Energy at the Technology Strategy Board, said: “The change from conventional transport systems to sustainable, low carbon alternatives is one that can only be made through businesses and government working in partnership to develop innovative solutions. This new refuelling station gives a real glimpse of the role hydrogen can play in practice. It is a great example of the kind of collaboration and innovation we need.”

Mike Huggon, Managing Director of BOC in the UK and Ireland, said: “This is the first commercial-scale, open-access station in the UK. It demonstrates that we can build the infrastructure needed to establish a hydrogen-powered transport system. But even with private and public support – as we have here in Swindon – we need Government commitment to make this work across the country as a whole. We can provide the tools but the Government has to create the policy framework in which we can build the low carbon infrastructure of tomorrow.”

Ian Piper, Chief Executive of economic development company Forward Swindon, said: “I’m proud that we have been involved in such an exciting public-private partnership. Forward Swindon was the initiator of this project and brought together the funding: it’s a great example of how innovative projects can come to life in the UK, even in a recession. Swindon’s strategic location makes it the natural home for new transport technologies, and I’m confident this facility will encourage a growing interest and take up.”

Thomas Brachmann, Head of Electrical Powertrain R&D at Honda, commented: “Hydrogen fuel cell technology is the ultimate transport solution; meeting environmental demands but also delivering the range and performance that customers expect. The cooperation on this project between vehicle manufacturers like Honda, infrastructure providers like BOC and the public sector can be a blueprint for future development.”


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Bristol council leader urges government to back green bank bid

September 15, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
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Bristol leader Barbara Janke has called on the government to back the city’s bid to host a planned £3bn Green Investment Bank.

During the meeting, Janke also made the case for more government funding for superfast broadband infrastructure in Bristol. She also stressed the importance of innovation to the city. “Bristol is a fantastic place to start creative and advanced tech companies – not least because were already at the heart of these industries in the UK,” she said.”I’ve heard a lot of talk about London growing its creative and technology business base with a brand new silicon roundabout. But it must be remembered that we’re already part of the largest silicon design cluster anywhere in Europe, second only to silicon valley in California in terms of turnover.”

via Insider News South West – Janke urges government to back green bank bid.

Bath named as the ‘University of the Year’ by The Sunday Times

September 9, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
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Bath named as the ‘University of the Year’ by The Sunday Times.

Covers the research, teaching, employability and student experience

Snell launches new flexible broadcast router

September 9, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
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Vega is a flexible 96 port fibre and coax router 


One of the world’s leading broadcast equipment makers, Snell, has launched an innovative  new routing platform for broadcsters.

The company, based in Berkshire and Havant, has developed a system that allows users to configure any signal port independently for fibre or coax (copper) connectivity. Vega’s unique design also enables any port to be configured as either an input or output, providing the industry’s most flexible asymmetric routing solution within a space-saving 96-port router.

“Video routing switches are used in virtually all broadcast media installations, and very few of these installations require exactly the same number of router inputs and outputs,” said Kim Francis, product manager at Snell. “Traditionally, broadcast and media companies have obtained the additional inputs or outputs they require by purchasing a larger router. This model is wasteful in terms of unused ports, added cost, and the greater amount of space required. Vega eliminates this waste by allowing users to configure any unused inputs as additional outputs, or vice versa, as the application demands, and its plug-in fiber modules keep the cost and complexity of fiber routing to a minimum. Quite simply, Vega changes the rules of the game.”

Vega has 96 signal ports on its rear panel. The fully asymmetric I/O port designation of the platform enables the user to configure the router with just one input and 95 outputs, 95 inputs and one output, or any combination in between. The use of small fiber plug-in modules and/or miniature coaxial connector types also means that this innovative design yields 50 percent more signal ports than a conventional router of the same rack height.


Each pair of ports consists of a receptacle cage that accepts a very small plug-in module supporting either fiber (LC-type small form-factor pluggable, or SFP) or copper coaxial (HD BNC and/or DIN 1.0/2.3) connectivity. Because Vega’s ports can be configured simply and quickly, broadcasters and media companies can choose the appropriate connection medium on the fly. Convenient support for fibre connectivity without the need for external converters makes it easy and affordable to maintain high data rates over long-distance links. A bidirectional, 12-port, coax-only rear module type is also available, offering users an entry-level solution when fibre connections are not yet required.

SW Microelectronics iNet small


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Driving your SW Business Forward Through Growth, Innovation and Internationalisation

September 6, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
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Businesses in the South West of England are being offered a half day seminar delivered by Business West to showcase the support available to help businesses grow. The seminar will also include an introduction to two further workshops that Business West will be holding shortly.

If you are planning on growing your business over the next 12 months, this event is for you. The event will enable you to:

  • Gain insight to overseas growth markets from UK Trade & Investment
  • Learn how to access over 14,000 business opportunities for FREE via Enterprise Europe Network’s Partnership Tool
  • Discover how you can grow your business through the Coaching for Growth programme brought to you by Solutions for Business
  • Hear about ‘Innovative Marketing Strategies’, a new workshop that will help increase profit and turnover for companies with a limited budget
  • Hear about Business Finance Options, another exciting new workshop being run by Business West

To register for one of these events, please click the relevant link below

Tuesday 20th September 2011 – The Bristol Golf Club, Bristol –  CLICK HERE

Thursday 22nd September 2011 – Royal Bath Hotel, Bournemouth, Dorset –  CLICK HERE

Tuesday 4th October 2011 – Exeter Golf & Country Club, Exeter, Devon – CLICK HERE

Thursday 6th October 2011 – Brook Madison Hotel, Swindon. Wiltshire –  CLICK HERE

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Researchers develop new microscope to understand bacterial infections

September 5, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
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Scientists from the University of Bristol have worked with colleagues in the Department of Physics to develop a new approach for studying molecules within their natural environment, opening the door to understanding the complexity of how bacteria infect people.

The research, led by a team of biochemists, microbiologists and physicists and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), provides an unprecedented level of detail of the consequences of a bacterium approaching another cell, directly in situ. The team studied the common bacterium Moraxella catarrhalis, which causes middle ear infections in young children, and is a major cause of morbidity in those with heart disease. For many years, scientists approached this problem from the molecular medicine approach — through isolating and studying proteins from the Moraxella cell surface that initiate infection.

From these detailed studies the team have been able to develop an overview of one of the key proteins, called UspA1. Leo Brady, Professor of Biochemistry and Mumtaz Virji, Professor of Molecular Microbiology, who led the research, teamed up with Dr Massimo Antognozzi from the University’s School of Physics, whose group have been developing a novel form of atomic force microscope, termed the lateral molecular force microscope (LMFM).

Together, they have evolved the design of the LMFM microscope to optimise its ability to measure biological phenomena such as changes in UspA1 directly at the Moraxella cell surface. The LMFM differs from more conventional atomic force microscopes in tapping samples (in this case, individual cells) against an extremely fine lever, equivalent to the stylus of a record player, rather than moving the lever as is usually the case. Fabrication of extremely thin but stiff cantilevers together with exceptionally fine motor movements and a specialised visualisation system have all been combined in the device to tremendous effect. The sensitivity achieved has been further enhanced by its location within the extremely low vibration environment provided within the University’s Nanoscience and Quantum Information building. The result has been a machine that can measure exquisitely fine molecular changes and forces in individual molecules directly on a living cell surface.

In the Moraxella study, this development has enabled the research team to correlate intricate, atomic level detail of UspA1 obtained by X-ray crystallography of isolated fragments of the protein with delicate and previously unobservable physical changes of the bacterial cell as it binds to and infects its target human cells.

Professor Brady said: “The findings have triggered the development of a novel technology that promises to open up a new approach for studying molecular medicine. This breakthrough will undoubtedly prove equally useful for the study of many other biological processes directly within their cellular environment, something that has long been needed in molecular medicine.”

This combined study, funded by the Wellcome Trust and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), has enabled the researchers to observe the very first responses as a bacterium binds to a human cell, opening the door to understanding the complexity of infection processes.

MAS sees nuclear fusion opportunities for SW companies

September 1, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
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Nuclear fusion could provide exciting new business opportunities for engineering firms in the South West says the Manufacturing Advisory Service (MAS).

One such opportunity is ITER (International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor), an ambitious global research project into nuclear fusion. ITER’s construction offers UK companies a number of business opportunities including civil, mechanical and electrical engineering, consultancy services and project management through to instrumentation, advanced materials and precision engineering.

ITER also offers some challenging engineering opportunities including development and manufacture of high heat flux components, high power electrical engineering, vacuum and pumping systems, remote handling, radio frequency wave heating systems, laser and optical diagnostics, computing and data acquisition.

MAS-SW is keen to actively promote opportunities in nuclear fusion to South West businesses. “Nuclear fusion could become a key sector for manufacturers in the South West. MAS-SW has the expertise to offer targeted strategic support to companies considering branching out into this arena, assisting in identifying opportunities,” said Paul Gilbert, Low Carbon and Innovation Specialist at MAS-SW.

“We have knowledge of the fusion process, enabling us to identify companies that perhaps weren’t aware they possess the skills and knowledge to tender. A wide range of items are required from the simple to the technical, it is not just high-tech manufacturers that will have the opportunity to become involved. Nuclear fusion could represent an essential new revenue stream to a number of South West firms.”

The Culham Centre for Fusion Energy will be managing the Fusion for Energy (F4E) database of companies who have expressed an interest in ITER opportunities.

Dan Mistry, Fusion and Industry Manager at Culham Centre for Fusion Energy, said: “Currently there are over 200 UK companies on F4E’s database, but this is only a drop in the ocean compared to the tremendous expertise that exists within UK industry. Our message is for UK companies to look very seriously at these opportunities, they range from conventional to leading-edge engineering, and also include consultancy and project management.”

Fusion offers many benefits over nuclear fission generation but is still at a relatively early stage of development. It can be very high tech, with conditions in fusion reactors requiring temperatures of over 150 million degrees centigrade, but much of the technology is fairly conventional engineering. Large scale investment in fusion research programmes has resulted in many business opportunities for UK companies, particularly on the European JET machine and the UK’s own fusion device, MAST, which are both based at Culham.

Companies hoping to win business in this exciting and challenging market can find more details by contacting MAS-SW on or by calling 0845 608 3838 .

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Digital manufacturing lab opens in Bath – updated

September 1, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
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Companies are being invited to test and try out ground-breaking 3D printing technology in the Bath Ventures Innovation Centre. Using ‘RepRap’ technology developed at the University of Bath, the new Digital Manufacturing Labprovides easy access to 3D printing and prototyping for new product ideas, all in an environment supported by experts.

“This technology has strong potential benefits for local businesses, allowing them to manufacture items in-house at low cost,” said Lab manager Pia Taubert. “Our new Digital Manufacturing Lab is located right in the centre of Bath, making it really easy for businesses from the region to pop in and try out the machine. Having RepRap here in Bath will allow very small companies access to very powerful technology. We hope that being able to use RepRap will increase awareness among local businesses of the potential of this type of machine.”

RepRap is short for replicating rapid-prototyper; it employs a technique called ‘additive fabrication’. The machine works a bit like a printer, but, rather than squirting ink onto paper, it puts down thin layers of molten plastic which solidify. These layers are built up to make useful 3D objects.

Dr Andrew Dent from the University of Bath’s RepRap Project team, said: “As most of the parts of RepRap are made from plastic, the machine is able to print copies of itself. Therefore it can be replicated for free and shared between companies. This makes using RepRap so much cheaper than traditional industrial 3D printing.”

RepRap was conceived by Dr Adrian Bowyer at the University of Bath in 2004. It is a low cost open source rapid prototyping system. A RepRap printer is also capable of manufacturing a vast range of 3D plastic objects from computer designs. To date there are over 6,000 RepRap machines in use world-wide by both individuals and companies.

Funded by the University’s KTA account the Lab will also showcase RepRap technology to increase awareness of its potential benefits for businesses. “RepRap is a different, revolutionary way of approaching invention. It could allow people to change the ergonomics of a design to their own specific needs,” said Sir James Dyson.

You can book a free of charge introductory briefing to the Digital Manufacturing Lab

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