Tech company sets up R&D in Exeter as Silicon Valley parallel

July 12, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
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Technology company Blur Group is to set up a new R&D centre in Exeter as it said the South West shares the same characteristics for tech clusters as Silicon Valley.

The London company, which develops an e-commerce platform, said it has chosen to establish an R&D centre in Exeter as it is in a “prime position” to become the UK’s leading tech region.

Blur highlighted the area’s universities, track record in innovation and amount of investment secured for start-ups in the region as the main reasons for its choice of location. “The South West combines innovation and technology excellence, a great mix of universities with both academic and venture focus, and an established reputation in attracting hi-tech firms while providing great incubation and support for earlier stage business,” said Blur chief executive Philip Letts. “”It’s a combination that has worked well for the US and has the potential to do the same in the UK.”

“Choosing this location was very straightforward. In doing so, we’ve received exactly the kind of support from local universities and the county council that reinforces why the South-West will assume the UK tech cluster crown,” he said. “And one ingredient that everyone overlooks in finding the next Silicon Valley was pointed out to me on the first day of my tenure in the Valley – and is very prevalent here – the sea.”

Councillor Andrew Leadbetter, Devon County Council cabinet member for economy and growth, added: “It’s a great story for Devon when successful UK tech ventures decide to locate here and proves our superb infrastructure is teed up for this kind of business.

Blur is headquartered in West London and also has an office in Dallas. It floated on AIM in October.

via Insider News South West – Tech company to set up Exeter site.

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Intel’s Justin Rattner on its new laser chip business – MIT Technology Review

July 12, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
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Justin Rattner, who just stepped down as Intel CTO, discusses mobile computing, the future of Moore’s Law and the new optical interconnect business.

Today, even as the PC market shrinks and the giant company struggles to convince phone and tablet makers to use its chips, Intel spends $10.1 billion on research annually. Justin Rattner, who has been the company’s CTO until stepping down last week, recently met with MIT Technology Review to argue that this investment will help Intel’s mobile chips overtake those of its competitors and create new businesses.

via Intel’s Justin Rattner on New Laser Chip Business – MIT Technology Review.

Seeing with your ears – new device offers alternative to blind people

July 11, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
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A device that trains the brain to turn sounds into images could be used as an alternative to invasive treatment for blind and partially-sighted people researchers in the Department of Psychology at the University of Bath have found.

The vOICe sensory substitution device helps blind people to use sounds to build an image in their minds of the things around them.

A research team, led by Dr Michael Proulx, looked at how blindfolded sighted participants responded to an eye test using the device.

They were asked to perform a standard eye chart test called the Snellen Tumbling E test, which asked participants to view the letter E turned in four different directions and in various sizes. Normal, best-corrected visual acuity is considered 20/20, calculated in terms of the distance (in feet) and the size of the E on the eye chart.

The participants, even without any training in the use of the device, were able to perform the best performance possible, nearly 20/400. This limit appears to be the highest resolution currently possible with the ever-improving technology.

Dr Michael Proulx said: “This level of visual performance exceeds that of the current invasive technique for vision restoration, such as stem cell implants and retinal prostheses after extensive training.

“A recent study found successful vision at a level of 20/800 after the use of stem cells. Although this might improve with time and provide the literal sensation of sight, the affordable and non-invasive nature of The vOICe provides another option.

Sensory substitution devices are not only an alternative, but might also be best employed in combination with such invasive techniques to train the brain to see again or for the first time.”

The findings are reported in the paper How well do you see what you hear? The acuity of visual-to-auditory sensory substitution, published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, as part of a special topic in Cognitive Science on synaesthesia research.

The research team included the inventor of The vOICe sensory substitution device, Dr Peter Meijer of The Netherlands, and Alastair Haigh and Dave Brown of Queen Mary University of London.

Read more here


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Peter Higgs receives the freedom of the city of Bristol

July 10, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
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Prof Peter Higgs, the scientist who gave his name to the Higgs boson or ‘God particle’, is to be awarded the freedom of the city of Bristol.

Professor Peter Higgs

The retired Edinburgh University physicist – who went to Cotham Grammar School –  predicted the existence of the subatomic particle, which is thought to have been detected by the Large Hadron Collider last year. The school was visited by Prof Higgs in May last year and he will be recognised for his work at a ceremony this week.

“I think it is a wonderful thing and it is great that Bristol has recognised somebody who is clearly an original and creative scientist,” said Dr Malcolm Willis, headteacher at Cotham School.

Almost 40 years after Prof Higgs wrote two scientific papers on his theory, the discovery of a new particle that fitted the description of the elusive Higgs was announced at Cern in Geneva.

Dr Joel Goldstein, from the Cern project and a University of Bristol physicist, said: “Peter Higgs made some very important contributions to fundamental physics in the 1960s and his work really underpinned our current understanding of the way that the fundamental laws of nature work.

“Every physics student in their final year as an undergraduate or when they become a graduate student, learns about the theory that Higgs and his colleagues developed and everyone learns about the particle, so he is one of those big names that everyone has to know about. As a UK citizen, as a Bristolian and as a physicist, I am really very proud of what Higgs achieved and the recognition he is getting.”

Bristol was also the birth place of another famous physicist, Paul Dirac (1902-1984) who was born in the city and developed a key equiation for quantum mechanics.

From BBC News

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Global R&D consultancy offers £25K STEM bursaries at Bath

July 9, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
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Science and engineering students have until 16 September to apply for paid bursaries totalling £25,000 with a leading global research and development consultancy.

Sagentia, which undertakes innovation, technology and product development work globally on behalf of leading organisations and start-ups in the medical, industrial and consumer products sectors, is offering 10 bursaries of £2,500 to support science and engineering students during the academic year starting September 2013.

Bath is one of four universities to benefit from the new bursaries which are on offer to students currently studying or have accepted a place on a range of science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) courses. The others are Cambridge (where Sagentia is based), Oxford, Southampton, Loughborough, Surrey and Imperial College London.

Dan Edwards, Managing Director at Sagentia, commented: “Sagentia has a strong track record of providing exciting career opportunities to talented STEM students, who join us in applying cutting edge scientific and engineering thinking with the world’s most innovative and successful businesses. The company is launching the Sagentia STEM Bursary Scheme to help financially support the brightest prospects in the next generation of innovators as a key component of Sagentia’s graduate programme and focus on innovation.”

“This investment in the education of British STEM students aligns PLC corporate social responsibility with the future requirements of Sagentia as a science and engineering company,” said Bath alumni Martyn Ratcliffe, Executive Chairman and lead investor in Sagentia. “The UK has a well-deserved reputation for innovation, built on the UK’s world leading science and engineering universities. Sagentia’s future growth is dependent on increasing this excellent resource pool and the success of the company in recent years enables Sagentia to now make this investment.”

Professor Bernie Morley, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Learning & Teaching, said: “Innovation is a top priority at Bath, and we believe that the best young talent shouldn’t be held back by financial worries. That’s why we’re delighted to be part of the Sagentia bursary scheme. It will help us to attract and retain the next generation of bright minds in STEM subjects, improving skills and employability for students from low income families.”

Eligible courses include Chemistry, Computer Science, Electronic Engineering, Engineering, Life Sciences, Mathematics, Materials Science, Mechanical Engineering, Physics, Product Design, or similar. Successful applicants will also be given preferential consideration for paid 10 week summer placements with Sagentia in 2014. Sagentia has provided opportunities to interns since 2000 with many going on to work for the company after graduating.

More information about how to apply can be found here. Deadline for entries is 16 September 2013.


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NMI looks to celebrate the best UK tech in 2013 awards

July 9, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
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The National Microelectronics Institute is looking for the best UK technology for its 2013 awards. Categories include best young engineer, best collaborative R&D and best University department as well as best small company, but the deadline for entries is August 22nd.

Applications are made on-line and there is no fee.  Winners will be presented with their awards by the sponsor at a Gala Dinner and Award Ceremony in London in November.

This year there are awards for:


Gala Dinner

Table sponsorship and dinner Registration is now open for the NMI Gala Dinner 2013.

This years event will take place at the Millennium Hotel, Regent Street, London on 21st November 2013.

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‘Science buskers’ to entertain SouthWest holidaymakers this summer

July 8, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
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Marine engineers from the University of Southampton are becoming ‘science buskers’ in the SouthWest this summer to showcase the significance of their work and to raise awareness of the importance of high tech and innovation in global ocean use.

The ‘Marine Engineering Connections’ project will see around 30 engineers engage and entertain holidaymakers travelling to and from the mainland to the Isle of Wight over 10 summer weekends.The engineers will be trained in science-busking techniques to captivate, educate and start informal dialogues with holiday travellers on Wightlink’s most popular routes between Portsmouth and Fishbourne and Lymington to Yarmouth.

Using a specially-designed marine engineering toolkit, engineers will give three 10-minute ‘busks’ to small groups of passengers by moving around the ship’s open areas and stopping where appropriate. Activities will all be hands-on, in the sense that the engineer can hand the kit over to a passenger to demonstrate to others while the engineer offers a commentary on the principle or effect on display.

For instance, a participant engineer might use a wave tube to demonstrate the effect of turbulence on the seabed and open dialogue with surrounding passengers about how to engineer solutions to minimise this impact. Depending on the conversation, the engineer might relate this to their own work practice or research, and encourage connections to be made between the ferry and global sea transport.

Dr Steve Dorney, Public Engagement Tutor at the University of Southampton, says:  “This project was driven by our desire for an innovative way to connect our marine engineers with the wider public. We have seen on other projects how powerful the busking methodology can be, and realised that the relatively short journey times of the Solent ferry routes provided a perfect maritime platform for this activity.”

John Burrows, Operations Director for Wightlink, adds: “Wightlink has a long standing relationship with the University of Southampton. In recent years we have acted as a case study for a Group Design Project looking at vessel design and currently sponsor a Research Studentship Project.  We are delighted to be working closely with the University with this venture. At the recent trial run, everybody who saw the busking was absolutely entranced and could not wait to have a go themselves. Over a busy weekend we can carry over 30,000 passengers and I hope large crowds will gather to enjoy the show.”

Marine Engineering Connections, which is funded through the Royal Academy of Engineering’s public engagement grant scheme, Ingenious, is led by the Southampton Marine and Maritime Institute (SMMI) at the University of Southampton, in partnership with Wightlink and Lloyd’s Register.

By 2014, Lloyd’s Register will have moved to be co-located with SMMI on a purpose-built campus site in Southampton. The partnership between the University and Lloyd’s Register is currently the largest academic/industry partnership in the world and is set to maximise marine engineering connections across academia and industry.

The SMMI, based at the heart of the Solent Maritime Cluster, brings together a wide range of engineering disciplines, including acoustical, biomedical, civil, computational, electro-mechanical, environmental, geotechnical and materials. These operate alongside research into energy technologies, ship science, transportation policy and the behaviour of engineering systems in marine environments.


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High tech conference set for October in Torbay

July 8, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
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The Manufacturing, Technology and Innovation fair MTI ’13 takes place at the Riviera International Centre on 24 October 2013, and is yet again set to be a major highlight in the South West’s hi tech & manufacturing calendar; bringing together around 50 leading companies as exhibitors and over 300 delegates for collaboration and networking.

Advanced electronics and hi-tech sectors are a key target for inward investment in Torbay, and this annual event demonstrates the sector’s growing strength in the local area.

Torbay and the surrounding area has long been home to a thriving advanced electronics sector, names like Spirent, Oclaro and Gooch and Housego are accessing a large talent pool of skilled engineers; and by building on the sector and creating a critical mass Torbay becomes even more attractive as a place to invest to related companies and their suppliers.

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Silicon Valley Can’t Be Copied says MIT Technology Review

July 8, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
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It’s the people and contacts that are vital to building a sustainable technology cluster like Silicon Valley, not artificial stimulation, says an article from Vivek Wadhwa, author of The Immigrant Exodus: Why America Is Losing the Global Race to Capture Entrepreneurial Talent.

The article has implications for the sustainability of London’s Tech City and the focus for supporting high tech clusters: getting people to connect effectively.

In 1990, Harvard Business School professor Michael Porter proposed a new method of creating regional innovation centres around an existing research university. He observed that geographic concentrations of interconnected companies and specialized suppliers gave certain industries productivity and cost advantages. Porter postulated that by bringing these ingredients together into a cluster, regions could artificially ferment innovation (see “In Innovation Quest, Regions Seek Critical Mass“).

Porter and legions of consultants following his methodology prescribed top-down clusters to governments all over the world. The formula was always the same: select a hot industry, build a science park next to a research university, provide subsidies and incentives for chosen industries to locate there, and create a pool of venture capital.

Sadly, the magic never happened—anywhere. Hundreds of regions all over the world collectively spent tens of billions of dollars trying to build their versions of Silicon Valley. I don’t know of a single success says Wadhwa.

What Porter and Frederick Terman of Stanford University, who tried to replicate his success with Silicon Valley elsewhere, failed to recognize is that it wasn’t academia, industry, or even the US government’s funding for military research into aerospace and electronics that had created Silicon Valley: it was the people and the relationships that Terman had so carefully fostered among Stanford faculty and industry leaders.

Silicon Valley Can’t Be Copied – MIT Technology Review.


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Minister discovers world-leading quantum processor in Bristol

July 7, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
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Universities and science minister David Willetts paid a visit to the world’s quietest laboratory to learn about quantum technologies last week.

The University of Bristol’s state-of-the-art Centre for Nanoscience and Quantum Information(NSQI) houses over £1m of specialist equipment in a lab where vibration and acoustic noise levels are among the lowest ever achieved, despite being located in the centre of Bristol.

The researchers are pioneering the field of quantum technologies and demonstrated how quantum processors and devices have evolved to put the UK several years ahead of other nations in terms of research, development and application.  The resulting technologies offer ultra-secure communications, sensors of unprecedented precision and computers that are exponentially more powerful than any supercomputer for some tasks.

The University hopes to take these technologies out of the lab and engineer them into useful devices which will eventually be portable and low-cost. It’s working alongside some leading industry leaders, such as Nokia, Toshiba and BAE Systems, to integrate these concepts into new products. The Minister for Universities and Science was shown the world’s most sophisticated integrated optical quantum processor chip, which can be used to calculate the properties of molecules – an approach that could ultimately be used in the design of new materials, pharmaceutical drugs and clean energy devices.

He said: “Quantum technologies could be the future of computing, information and communications. Today’s visit to the University of Bristol has shown that UK researchers are leading the way in this exciting area of science, working with industry to develop new products.”

His tour focused on the Centre for Quantum Photonics (CQP), located within NSQI, which hosts specialist equipment such as high-powered pulsed lasers and superconducting photon detectors.

“Quantum technologies are going to have a profound impact on every aspect of our economy and society in the future. We were glad of the opportunity to show the minister how we’re using this science to create useful technologies which will ultimately lead to economic growth for the UK,” said Professor Jeremy O’Brien, Director of the CQP. “Quantum technologies will fundamentally change our lives and the first devices are only a few years from market. It’s a very exciting field.”

The CQP explores fundamental aspects of quantum mechanics, as well as work towards future photonic quantum technologies by generating, manipulating and measuring single photons as well as the quantum systems that emit these photons. It spans the School of Physics and Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering in the Faculties of Science and Engineering, and the Centre for Nanoscience and Quantum Information.

Professor Jeremy O'Brien and David WillettsProfessor Jeremy O’Brien and 
Universities and science minister David Willetts MP
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XMOS adds industrial networking to its multicore chips

July 5, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
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XMOS has added Modbus and CANopen xSOFTip blocks to the embedded industrial communications capabilities supported by its xCORE family of multicore microcontrollers.

CANopen and Modbus are well established as the leading industrial communications protocols. The addition of these new soft peripherals allows designers to integrate these commonly-required protocols in xCORE-based embedded designs alongside a wide range of other industrial communications standards with timing-predictable, jitter-free control code.

This unique flexibility of configuration allows embedded designers to build systems with the exact combination of interfaces and control capabilities needed for their applications.

via Modbus and CANopen added to multicore industrial communications chips – Electronics Eetimes.

Xsilon creates a SIG to license M2M technology in the home – Electronics Eetimes

July 5, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
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UK startup Xsilon is looking to open up its machine-to-machine (M2M) technology to the industry for connecting the Internet of Things in the home.

The Bath-based company has set up a Special Interest Group (SIG) to license its Hanadu communication protocol on an accessible FRAND basis, says CEO Russell Haggar. The SIG will work to complete the Hanadu specification, support it on its path to standardization, develop propositions for particular applications and markets, and support a widespread adoption of Hanadu technology. Haggar says he expects 5 to 10 members within the first year

The SIG will take over the development of the Hanadu specification from Xsilon, allowing offerings from multiple vendors to create a broad platform within the home in the same way as the Bluetooth, Zigbee and OpenET SIGs.

“Having worked hard to create the Hanadu concept and to develop its technology base, we are now moving on to the next level as we open out the platform to our partners,” said Haggar. “We’ve had nothing but positive responses to Hanadu from all our partners and customers throughout its gestation, and now they are working with us to build real momentum in the market for Hanadu products.”

via Startup creates a SIG to license M2M technology in the home – Electronics Eetimes.

ST to close its former Inmos design centre Bristol site

July 5, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
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ST to close its former Inmos design centre Bristol site

via Electronics Weekly News | Business | ST to close its former Inmos design centre Bristol site.

Bristol leads £1.2m project to make robots more trusted

July 2, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
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Bristol Robotics Laboratory (BRL) is part of a new £1.2m project which aims to ensure future robotic systems can be trusted by humans.

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) is funding the three-and-a-half-year project, which will explore how robots interact with humans in a safe and trustworthy manner.

Robots are increasingly being developed to serve as active ‘helpers’ in situations where humans require assistance, such as personal care robots which help patients during recovery.

Although there has been some research carried out on safety of robotic assistants during interaction with humans, it is still crucial to understand not only whether the robot makes safe moves, but whether it knowingly or deliberately makes unsafe moves.

If human-robot teamwork is to become viable and productive, the humans involved must be fully confident in the robot’s behaviour.

Experts from BRL, a collaborative partnership between UWE Bristol and the University of Bristol, will work with industry partners and colleagues at the Universities of Liverpool and Hertfordshire on the “Trustworthy Robotic Assistants” (TRA) project.

Bristol University’s Dr Kerstin Eder, the principal investigator for the TRA project at the BRL and Leader of the Verification & Validation for Safety in Robots research theme at the same institute, said: “Safety assurance of robots is an urgent research challenge that must be addressed before many products that already exist in labs can be unlocked for mass production. This requires collaboration of verification experts with roboticists and those who specialize in human-robot interaction, so that a human-centric, holistic approach to safety assurance can be developed.”

‘BERT’, one of the robotic platforms being used on the project, was developed as part of a research project on Cooperative Human Robot Interactive Systems, at BRL. BERT has been used to examine manufacturing scenarios in which BERT collaborated with human colleagues to complete manufacturing tasks, including dynamic component handovers and product manufacture. BERT is based at BRL’s custom robot test and evaluation facility, at UWE Bristol.

Professor Tony Pipe, Professor of Robotics and Autonomous Systems at UWE Bristol, said: “Working on this new research project with colleagues across the UK will enable us to tackle the crucial issue of developing robotic systems which can work safely with humans. This is a vital step in developing robots for a whole range of functions for the future, where they will be useful to humans.”

The project involves teams from the University of Liverpool’s Centre for Autonomous Systems Technology (led by Professor Michael Fisher and Dr Clare Dixon), the University of Hertfordshire’s Adaptive Systems Research Group (led by Professor Kerstin Dautenhahn), the BRL, as well as industrial partners, including the British Automation and Robot Association (BARA) and RU Robots Limited.

Professor Michael Fisher, principal investigator at Liverpool and Director of the University’s Centre for Autonomous Systems Technology, said: “The assessment of robotic trustworthiness has many facets, from the safety analysis of robot behaviours, through physical reliability of interactions, to human perceptions of such safe operation.”

Liverpool’s researchers are internationally recognised for their research on logic, formal analysis, and the foundations of autonomy and, both within the multidisciplinary Centre for Autonomous Systems Technology and within the “Trustworthy Robotic Assistants” project, their role is to provide a rigorous formal basis for developing reliable, safe and trustworthy autonomous systems.

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Bristol at heart of new £18m UK Power Centre

July 1, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
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Bristol is playing a key role in the UK’s capacity in power electronics as part of a new £18 million National Centre of Excellence for Power Electronics.

The investment in the new Centre, funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC),  will be spread as a series of grants, each of which involves multiple universities. These consist of a central coordinating Hub – led by Professor Mark Johnson at the University of Nottingham, and involving the universities of Manchester, Newcastle, Greenwich, Bristol, Warwick, Nottingham and Imperial College London – and a series of four technical programmes:

Devices: Led by Professor Phil Mawby at the University of Warwick and involving the universities of Bristol, Cambridge, and Newcastle.

Components: Led by Professor Philip Mellor at the University of Bristol and involving the universities of Greenwich, Nottingham, Manchester, Warwick and Imperial College London.

Convertors: Led by Professor Andrew Forsyth at the University of Manchester and involving the universities of Strathclyde, Nottingham, Bristol and Imperial College London.

Drives: Led by Professor Barrie Mecrow at the University of Newcastle and involving the universities of Manchester, Nottingham, Sheffield and Bristol.

Welcoming the opening of the Centre, Minister for Universities and Science, David Willetts, said: “We have a leading power electronics industry in the UK, but we need to keep investing in research to ensure it remains globally competitive. This National Centre will bring together our excellent universities and businesses to ensure industry has access to the latest science and technology, as well as helping to maintain a supply of skilled people.

EPSRC’s Chief Executive, Professor David Delpy said: “This £18 million investment in a six-year research initiative is part of EPSRC’s response to the Government’s 2011 BIS Strategy for Power Electronics in the UK. We will invest an initial tranche of £12 million with a further £6 million being released subject to a future review of progress. Power Electronics was also a priority area in our recent call for new Centres for Doctoral Training. ”

The opening of the new Centre comes two months after the launch of the PowerelectronicsUK Forum which is a network backed by industry, academia and the government that aims to boost the number of people within the Power Electronics industry.

Steve Burgin, Chairman of PowerelectronicsUK and UK President of Alstom said: “The new EPSRC Centre for Power Electronics will be key to the future success of UK Power Electronics. It will help to keep UK industry and academia at the forefront of next generation Power Electronics technologies.”

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