New biomedical testing centre opens in Bristol

March 15, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
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An innovative new centre for biomedical testing aims to provide leading edge research and skills to firms in the region working in medicine, pharmaceuticals and genetics.

The Centre for Alternative Testing and In-Vitro Monitoring (CATIM) is a consortium, led by the Institute of Bio-Sensing Technology, UWE Bristol with the other partners, the University of BristolGooch and Housego, the European Collection of Cell Cultures, the NHS and the Humane Society International, bringing their complementary strengths to the project.

CATIM is cross faculty initiative led by Professors Richard Luxton and Janice Kiely which will specialise in the creation of new technologies that will detect and monitor changes in cell systems, critical for the development and evaluation of many new products, from chemicals to medical implants.

Backed by £896,000 from from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the centre at UWE Bristol’s Frenchay campus aims to give access to advanced technology and expertise in the field of cell monitoring and alternative testing.  One particular area of activity is the development of technology to reduce and replace animal testing.

Dr Bret Dash has been appointed as Centre Director.  He is a bioscience professional with 16 years of experience working with multi-disciplined project teams in publicly funded global corporations and venture capital funded start-ups in the US and Europe. He has helped to develop and commercialise leading-edge technologies for the drug discovery, genomics, and clinical research markets based on high content cellular analysis, capillary electrophoresis with laser-induced fluorescence, and laser capture micro dissection, respectively.

“When I started out as a Biochemistry student many of the techniques used at the time involved the use of lab animals. As a consequence I focused on learning cell biological techniques during my PhD because I was interested in alternative forms of biochemical research,” said Dash. “In-vitro testing using 2-D or 3-D cell cultures enables researchers to create experimental test systems that do not require the use of living organisms. In-vitro work is all about looking for methods that will provide viable alternatives to animal testing and it is a growing industry.”

“Over the coming years I will be working with our key partners at generating research projects and attracting world class academics to build a major centre for this growing research area. It’s very exciting to be here at the beginning and there is enormous potential for collaborations that can make a positive difference in testing methods used across a range of industries.”

Businesses from many sectors – from biomedical and agri-food to advanced engineering – may benefit from access to the Centre’s sophisticated resources and technical support; for example, with designing a test programme, developing skills in testing, or new product development.

Engine Shed project forms heart of innovation for Bristol & Bath region

March 11, 2013 by · 1 Comment
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Frontage of Brunel's original Bristol Temple M...

Frontage of Brunel’s original Bristol Temple Meads station Photograph taken by user:rbrwr (Credit: Wikipedia)

A £1.5 million project aims to create a focus for innovation and creative industries in the Bristol and bath region.

The Engine Shed, which was built by Brunel and previously housed the Empire and Commonwealth Museum at the entrance to Bristol Temple Meads station, will host Bristol’s business incubator and inward investment team as well as 20 companies.

The University’s Vice Chancellor Professor Eric Thomas and Bristol Mayor George Ferguson signed the agreement today [11 March] at a symbolic ceremony to signify the start of a new chapter for the Grade I listed building, which is set to become a focal point for Bristol’s drive to generate inward investment and encourage a new generation of high growth businesses. A planning application has yet to be agreed though.

The building will be managed by Bristol SETsquared – the University’s double award-winning business incubator – who will take the majority of the space to provide premium serviced offices for its early-stage technology businesses.

Around 20 companies will move in here with a further 40 businesses using the business centre’s resources and facilities including hot desks, breakout spaces and meeting rooms. In total, there will be space for 120 people.

It will also provide the headquarters for the newly launched Invest in Bristol and Bath, accommodating representatives from the four West of England Unitary Authority areas, and act as a ‘shopfront’ for potential investors in the region. It will also become the local base for UK Trade & Investment.

Core to the Engine Shed will be a business lounge and co-working and collaboration spaces for academics, entrepreneurs, innovators, investors and business leaders.

“Bristol is repeatedly recognised as having significantly high potential for economic growth and the intellectual capital provided by world-renowned research and the activities of some of the country’s highest performing students go a long way to supporting this,” said Professor Eric Thomas, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Bristol.

Nick Sturge, Director of the Bristol SETsquared Centre which is currently based at University Gate East in Clifton, hopes the move to the Engine Shed will allow it to support even more businesses and in turn create a predicted 750 jobs over the next five years.

“It’s great to be heading up the Engine Shed facility and bringing together so many groups, from companies and entrepreneurs to academics and students,” he said. “Everyone involved has a huge sense of excitement for what can be achieved in this great building. The additional space will literally allow Bristol SETsquared to grow and we hope it will become an active hub of world-class innovation and enterprise activity – located within what is arguably one of the UK’s most connected transport hubs.”

A planning application has been submitted for the Engine Shed, which is likely to be dealt with in the next few months. It was built in 1841 as the original shed for the turning of engines when they came through the Passenger Shed on the London to Bristol line.

Colin Skellett, Chairman of the West of England LEP, said: “After months of planning, it is exciting to see the birth of the Engine Shed project. City marketing must be joined up. By bringing together all our investment specialists we are creating a formidable resource to attract new jobs.

“Entrepreneurial, high growth businesses are the lifeblood of our economic growth. What better place to inspire them than Brunel’s Engine Shed.  Set on the direct line to London and onto Europe, this will be an exciting focus for innovation.”

The Engine Shed will form part of the new Bristol and Bath and Bristol Temple Quarter Enterprise Zone, which will span 173 acres of land around Bristol Temple Meads train station and includes plans for a long-awaited indoor arena, new public spaces and a vibrant business, commercial and shopping district. Temple Meads station will also be completely refurbished.

It’s anticipated that the new Enterprise Zone will create 17,000 new jobs and bring 400 new companies to the city over the next two decades.

George Ferguson said: “What better springboard for our plans for the Enterprise Zone than the launch of this important project. It is very good to see this serious, solid progress on the ground. Now we need to get out and tell Europe and the rest of the world that Bristol’s open for business.”

Other key partners in the Engine Shed project are Network Rail and the Homes and Communities Agency (HCA), both of whom are key delivery partners for Temple Quarter Enterprise Zone.

With funding from the HCA, the city council bought the freehold for Brunel’s Old Station in March 2012, from the Empire and Commonwealth Museum.

Network Rail is currently working on the masterplan for the redevelopment of Temple Meads station, which includes bringing back into use part of the Old Station and Engine Shed. They have modified their plans to enable the Engine Shed development to go ahead.

Patrick Hallgate, Network Rail Western Route Managing Director, said: “We’re delighted that Brunel’s iconic Old Station is being transformed for 21st century use. As well as meeting our needs for a redeveloped station, it’s great that the Engine Shed is going to be turned into a high-tech business hub and home for the new Invest in Bristol and Bath service.”

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Bristol designed & manufactured AlphaSphere goes global

March 7, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
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The first models of a new electronic musical instrument – the AlphaSphere ‘elite’ – will be dispatched to locations all across the world this week after a year long development.

The Bristol based developer nu desine has been taking pre-orders since April 2012 based on interest which was generated by a production prototype being demonstrated at a trade fair in March 2012.
As pre-orders started coming in, the team of young engineers refined the prototype into a premium instrument which retails at £1,000 through the website –

Though one third of the AlphaSphere elites will stay in the UK, the rest are shipping to the USA, Europe and Japan. The rapidly growing company have now initiated full production of the first several hundred units, in order to fulfill a second round of orders.

Despite the imminent shipping, development has only just concluded. “We were overwhelmed by pre-orders pretty much as soon as we announced the device, and had to move quickly in order to satisfy them” said nu desine’s founder Adam Place “just a single prototype was enough to sell the concept to the world, so it’s going to be really interesting to find out what happens when there are a few more out there.”

Amongst the first elite musicians is Mercury award winning composer Talvin Singh, who described the AlphaSphere as “an incredible universe of an instrument which gives you the feeling to tailor-make tones, aesthetically and sonically, as well as allowing you the capacity to invest in more indigenous and rebellious scale systems.” Talvin who this year is releasing his first new solo album since the acclaimed ‘OK’, first met the team behind the AlphaSphere in late 2012 at their site at Bristol’s harbourside as part of a user testing program.

Production run has taken place entirely in Bristol, though components have been sourced from across the world. The company is now transferring the production process to a facility in Hartlepool, which has a higher capacity than their Bristol HQ.

nu desine are located within the Pervasive Media Studio and also members of The Bristol SETsquared Centre – a good example of the creative and technology sector in Bristol creating exciting new products. “The Alphasphere has been an exciting project to work with over the last couple of years and we are delighted to see this shipping globally. Most of the companies we work with are
‘born global’ and this confirms it,” said Nick Sturge, Centre Director of The Bristol SETsquared Centre.


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Bristol firm drives down cost of complex silicon chips

March 6, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
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XMOS Semiconductor in Bristol is launching a new chip that dramatically reduces the cost of processing for industrial designs.

The xCORE XS1-L4-64 integrates four 32bit processor cores at a price under $3 that is comparable with competing single-core devices but gives ten times the processing power. The devices are used in a wide range of applications, from Sennheiser sound equipment to the latest industrial robots.
“The xCORE L4 offers 400MIPS performance at the price point of other manufacturers’ 40 or 50MIPS products,” said Ali Dixon, Director of Product Marketing and co-founder of XMOS. “Embedded designers working on high-volume applications can now add more features, including those that require real-time determinism, with software that is functionally safe. We believe it’s a real game-changer.”
Priced at just $2.95 in 100‑unit quantities through global distributors, the L4 provides an entry-level platform for designers considering multicore technology for the first time. It is pin-compatible with other members of the xCORE family, opening up the opportunity to cost reduce existing designs.
The new device is aimed at accurate stepper motor control, industrial networking and motion control. With 64bit precision DSP capability, it is also particularly well suited for signal conditioning tasks and applications such as control that combine cost-sensitivity with high performance demands. The xCORE L4 will also help drive the growing trend towards distributed intelligence in embedded design, by allowing developers to locate low-cost processing and communications closer to system nodes such as sensors and actuators.
“The L4 breaks new ground by combining low unit cost, real-time deterministic execution, multicore performance, on-chip DSP and the industry’s fastest response times,” said Nigel Toon, President and CEO, XMOS. “At 400 MIPS it offers a price/performance ratio unbeaten in the world of C-programmable embedded devices. Just as importantly, we provide the design tools engineers need to harness this performance – making the move to multicore technology an instinctive and natural experience.”
The XS1-L4-64 comes in a 48-pin package that is pin-compatible with the existing devices with 64Kbytes of SRAM, the 6-core L6-64 and the 8-core L8-64. This allows designers to take a platform-based approach that permits early implementation of emerging technologies and standards, future-proofing and the addition of new features as requirements evolve. The device continues the XMOS strategy of offering a range of devices at a variety of price points; the xCORE family now includes more than 50 product variants.
Like the rest of the xCORE family, the L4 is supported with the free-to-download xTIMEcomposer development suite that includes compilers, debuggers and unique timing analysis and instrumentation capabilities. The supporting xSOFTip library of soft peripherals and processing blocks provides peripherals such as high speed USB, Ethernet, CAN and LIN via software.
Samples of the XS1-L4-64 are available today, with volume production expected in Q2 2013.

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