Bristol wins second major driverless car programme

February 3, 2016 by · Leave a Comment
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Bristol is building on its strength in driverless car technology, hosting a £5.5m project to test out communications systems for driverless cars, while Bristol companies are involved in projects around the country.

The three year FLOURISH project links several members of the current VENTURER driverless car project with Airbus, Age UK and artificial intelligence experts React AI to develop innovative new tools to improve the understanding of user needs and expectations of connected and autonomous vehicles. It will be based in the Bristol City Region and will test capabilities in both urban and suburban networked environments.

The UK is rapidly becoming one of the best places in the world for companies to develop their Intelligent Mobility business,” said Roland Meister, Head of Transport at Innovate UK. “Driven by our work with the Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles this competition has connected together the UK’s fantastic automotive industry, the research base, the insurance sector, public authorities with high growth businesses working in human behavioural science, telematics, information technology, communications, simulation, advanced sensor systems and machine learning.”

Importantly, FLOURISH will address vulnerabilities in the technology operating connected vehicles, with a focus on the critical areas of cyber security and wireless communications. The consortium will seek to develop tools that enable vehicle manufacturers and transport authorities to provide a safe and secure ‘V2X’ communications network that combine vehicle to vehicle (V2V) and vehicle to infrastructure (V2I) technologies.

“FLOURISH is an exciting addition to our portfolio of research in the field of connectivity for autonomous vehicles,” said Professor Andrew Nix, Dean of Engineering at the University of Bristol. “I particularly welcome the opportunity to work closely with Bristol City Council and South Gloucestershire Council on the real-world testing of autonomous vehicles. This will leverage existing investment in the Bristol city region to expand our validation and test capabilities in both urban and inter-urban networked environments.”

Dr Robert Piechocki, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Communication Systems and Networks research group and the University’s project lead, added: “Autonomous cars will rely on secure and dependable wireless connectivity to enable advanced automotive safety features. The FLOURISH project is a unique opportunity to showcase our research that will underpin mobility services of the future.”

Dr Theo Tryfonas, Senior Lecturer in Systems Engineering and a member of the project team, commented: “The security and trustworthiness of wireless connectivity, as well as the privacy of the relevant data in terms of location, personally identifiable attributes of users etc. will be a factor of paramount importance for their successful operation and integration with society.”

The project will bring together industry and academic experts in the fields of wireless connectivity, cyber security, data innovation, human factors and social research.

Fusion Processing, based at the EngineShed in Bristol, is part of the £2.2m Insight project to develop driverless shuttles with advanced sensors and control systems and trial them in city pedestrian areas, with a particular focus on improving urban accessibility for disabled and visually-impaired people.

 

Researchers open up 80THz of bandwidth for data centres

February 2, 2016 by · Leave a Comment
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Researchers from the universities of Bristol and Keio with industrial partners have unlocked 80 THz of fibre-optic bandwidth that will enable future exascale data centres and transform 5G networks.

The collaboration between the University of Bristol’s Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Keio University and numerous Japanese industrial partners, have designed, developed and prototyped a pioneering all-optical router that can unlock 80 THz of bandwidth across a newly defined frequency band named T-Band (thousand band) and O-Band (original band). The adjacent bands span from 1.0 μm (300 THz) to 1.36 μm (220 THz) and are able to support 1600 channels at 50 GHz spacing.
t-band-article

Dr Georgios Zervas, Senior Lecturer in Optical and High Performance Networks in the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, said: “The technology and system proposed and prototyped will unlock the new frequency band and networks to support future exascale data centres, ‘zero-latency’ tactile optical internet, internet of everything, smart cities, fog computing and big data infrastructure among others. This is the outcome of a recent collaboration between Bristol, Keio and other Japanese institutions that brings together people with complementary yet common vision and pioneering concepts.”

The technology fabricated and tested is based on cascaded arrayed waveguide gratings (AWGs) and is designed to potentially construct a 1600 x 1600 wavelength router that can guide data at the speed of light. Specially designed quantum dot chips are used for light sources which were originally developed by NICT in Japan.

This single passive optical system can interconnect over one million end points such as, broadband home users, IoT devices, data centre servers, while offering at least ten Gb/s per end point. Critically it is also future proof since it’s transparent to any communication signal and it can also potentially consume zero power due to its passive nature.

Hiroyuki Tsuda, Professor of Faculty of Science and Technology at Keio University, added: “The enabling technologies for the new frequency band are the quantum dot based optical devices and the silica planar lightwave circuits designed for the new band.

“The collaboration between the University of Bristol who has extensive knowledge of the network architecture, and our Japanese research group with device technologies will create an ultra-high capacity, power-saving optical network system, in particular, for data centres.”

Paper

Full-mesh T- and O-band wavelength router based on arrayed waveguide gratings‘ by Nazirul A. Idris, Ryogo Kubo, Georgios Zervas, Hiroyuki Tsuda et al is published in Optics Express [open access]

UK government targets small tech companies in the region for contracts

December 22, 2015 by · Leave a Comment
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The UK government is to launch a new framework to allow small digital developers in the regions, especially the SouthWest, to bid for work.  This is a major opportunity for small companies to bid for government contracts, and there is a deliberate focus on regional companies.

In February 2016, the Government Digital Service (GDS) and the Crown Commercial Service (CCS) will replace Digital Services 2 (DS2) with Digital Outcomes and Specialists (DOS). All suppliers who are currently on the DS2 framework will need to apply to Digital Outcomes and Specialists, and small suppliers that found DS2 too time-consuming are being encouraged to apply for the new framework.

The aim of the Digital Marketplace is to make the commissioning process simpler, clearer and faster. Buying and selling through the Digital Outcomes and Specialists framework will reduce the time and cost traditionally associated with procurement and allow buyers and suppliers to talk to each other so they can decide whether there is a good fit.

This will be broken down into four separate categories, the first being suppliers who can provide teams to build and support a digital service.  A digital outcome could be a discovery phase to create an information systems vision of an NHS department. This can include performance analysis and data, security, support and operations, testing and auditing or user research. The second category is Digital Specialists who can work on a service, programme or project. A digital specialist’s work must have deliverables and a defined scope. This could include a business analyst,  content designer or copywriter, cyber security specialist, developer, technical architect or product manager.

The other two categories are aimed at suppliers who can offer user research-related services, from user research studios to user research participants.

One way the application has been simplified is that the majority of the evaluation of suppliers won’t be carried out at the application stage as it was with DS2. As each buyer has specific requirements, they’d prefer to evaluate suppliers themselves. As a result, under the new framework, most of the supplier evaluation will be done by buyers when suppliers respond to a brief for a specific piece of work. However, buyers may use the information that suppliers provide on their services in their application to help them evaluate. There will also not be a cap on the number of suppliers on the framework, so there are significant opportunities for smaller companies in the region to benefit from government contracts.

The draft Invitation to Tender (ITT) documents were published last week (as detailed in the High Tech Newsletter), including the framework agreement, supplier declaration and the service description questions. The Digital Outcomes and Specialists framework is now open for applications, and suppliers can create an account in the main navigation on the Digital Marketplace homepage.

Major survey to help region capitalise on digital opportunities

March 6, 2015 by · Leave a Comment
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A major piece of research is being undertaken to ensure the West of England region capitalises on the huge opportunities the future of gaming, animation and visual effects will bring following the successful SW VR conference.

via Major survey to help West of England region capitalise on high-tech opportunities – Business Leader.

 

Konica Minolta sets up €10m startup fund

October 29, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
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Japanese printer company Konica Minolta has set up a €10m fund to help startups in Europe over the next two to three years.

The fund is managed by the European Business Innovation Centre (BIC), based in London, set up this year. Any startup can apply to the fund, which is focussing on the digital workplace, healthcare business, information automation and business technologies.

“Our vision is to develop innovative products, which will revolutionise the market. That is why we are now going through an amazing and radical change. A company, whose roots are printers, is now involving the community and start-ups in order to create innovations on a common basis. This is a radical change – from exclusively proprietary products to collaborative co-innovation,” said Dr. Dennis Curry who heads up the European BIC.

“Start-ups profit enormously from collaboration with established companies like Konica Minolta”, said Curry. “We own resources, networks and management know-how. Being a partner with us means always playing a part in designing the future and obtaining privileged access to Konica Minolta’s industry-leading know-how. Our partners get access to our leading R&D, including top-tier scientists and engineers worldwide.” Start-ups in particular can speed up the time to market for their new products by leveraging our supply chain and sales channels. They accelerate their return on investment and company growth.“Konica Minolta wants to draw in Europe’s top talent from start-ups. To create this win-win situation, we need platforms upon which companies and start-ups can meet,” he said.

The first strategic partner of Konica Minolta is the Austrian augmented reality start-up Wikitude. Today, Konica Minolta announced its initial intention to partner and investment in the company. “When a multinational company like Konica Minolta engages in a partnership dedicated to augmented reality, the possibilities are enormous. While we at Wikitude will provide our award-winning technology, expertise and vision, it will be Konica Minolta’s market presence and business network to mark the next milestone on our mission to augment the enterprise world”, Martin Herdina, CEO of Wikitude says.

Konica Minolta is also launching a “Leading Edge Partner Community”, a pan-European tool to build up new partnerships and develop innovations together with these partners. The community is a place to collaborate online, i.e. in special Leading Edge Networking Sessions (LENS), as well as during client events and start-up events. It is a place to achieve knowledge transfer and advance the commercialisation of ideas and prototypes.Anyone with an idea can join the community and apply for funding. Promising development ideas will pass through a formal investment process consisting of five review points, which Konica Minolta will use to filter the most viable partners to take a business idea right through to commercialisation. The emphasis is on co-innovation, on working with others in related fields to accelerate a proof of concept or vision.

It has set up a specific platform especially for startups at https://pioneers.konicaminoltabic.spigit.com. If start-ups have an idea, a concept or product connected to the related fields, they can join the platform and submit their ideas. The best ideas will win the opportunity to shape the future digital workplace in the Konica Minolta labs and receive funding.

http://bic.konicaminolta.eu/

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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South West research universities team up in new GW4 group

January 25, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
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The Universities of Bath, Bristol, Cardiff and Exeter today announced a formal collaboration, to boost research expertise and capability in the South West of England and Wales.

The collaboration will explore and identify opportunities for combined research to address global challenges, while also maximising the impact of and return on investment from research funding.

The group of four research intensive universities, each of which have significant research capabilities and which represent a total turnover in excess of £1,300 million, will be known as the GW4. There are already strong partnerships across the four institutions and the collaboration seeks to build on these.

Professor Eric Thomas, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Bristol, said:  “Regional groupings of research intensive universities are a rapidly emerging and important evolution, enabling the sharing of research infrastructure and the identification of thematic areas of expertise.  These will be increasingly important in order for universities to address grand intellectual and societal challenges.”

Professor Dame Glynis Breakwell, Vice Chancellor of the University of Bath, said: “The collective strength of the new grouping is much more than the sum of its individual parts. Taken together, the breadth and depth of our research expertise is truly impressive providing a powerful new contender in the increasingly intense competition for research funding on both the national and international level.”

Cardiff University’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Colin Riordan, said: “We want to enhance Cardiff’s world-leading research and reputation by creating a critical mass of research excellence with other UK universities. In a competitive higher education sector we need to find new ways for Wales to compete for research income.

“Working in collaboration with fellow research-intensive Universities will help us to succeed in research and tackle some of society’s biggest research challenges. Critical mass is the key to success and the combined research excellence of Bath, Bristol, Cardiff and Exeter will give Cardiff – and Wales – a new and competitive edge that will place us at the forefront not only in the UK, but internationally.”

Professor Sir Steve Smith, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Exeter, said: “This is a vital development for ensuring the growth and development of world class research in the South West and Wales. It gives us the critical mass and the quality to succeed in an increasingly competitive and research-intensive environment. The four universities already have a strong tradition of working together and GW4 will take that collaboration to a new level.”

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Imaging beauty down to 1nm in Bristol

February 9, 2011 by · 1 Comment
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Scientists at the University of Bristol now have a new tool that will yield yet more and unprecedented levels of information without disturbing the physical state of the object under scrutiny.

Monmorillonite particles, cut apart to reveal that one of them is hollow.

Physicists at Bristol’s Interface Analysis Centre have been using the Helios dualbeam instrument, which “unlocks the key to a whole new world,” says Centre Director Dr Tom Scott. The dualbeam looks at surface structures with a resolution of less than a nanometre – the equivalent of ten millionths of the thickness of a human hair.  The resolution of the images produced is just one nanometre, one millionth of a millimetre.

The dualbeam uses a focused ion beam (FIB) and a high spec field emission scanning electron microscope (SEM) with gallium ions derived from a liquid metal ion source that are directed at the surface in a tightly controlled beam . The ion beam can be precisely controlled to remove material from tightly defined areas – essentially performing micro and even nano-surgery on almost any material.

Unlike other techniques used for dissecting materials, the dualbeam can extract information and capture images without causing any detectable damage except over a tiny area.  It can also deposit materials such as gold and platinum, known for their conductivity, on to the surface structure, providing insights into the composition and behaviour of materials.

For physicists looking for quantum wells, biologists looking at the structure of membranes in the ears of tree crickets, and engineers keen to understand the nanostructure of exotic alloys, the dualbeam is invaluable.

A nano-wire made using ion beam milling for gas sensing applications. It also happens to look like a small-scale version of the Clifton suspension bridge in Bristol

“It makes things possible which were previously considered impossible, it’s at the heart of what makes science beautiful,” says Dr Scott.  “It can do things in such a precisely defined way to such a high degree of accuracy that it really is incredible.  In fact, it’s difficult to comprehend just how small a scale this thing works on.”

Some of the project proposals under consideration that would make use of the dualbeam include an examination of the ears of Indian tree crickets, where the dualbeam could be used to slice and view in three dimensions reconstructions of cricket ears.  The findings could ultimately inform medical advancements in hearing devices for humans.

The dualbeam could also be used in quantum cryptography, to devise ways of transmitting messages in a way that is resistant to attempts to tap into the source, using emitters constructed from a single photonic light source so small and so intricately encoded as to be virtually undetectable.

In biochemistry, researchers are looking at making actuators – “gold sandwiches” with a polymer filling which could swim through the bloodstream, collecting information that could be used to inform medical approaches to human disease.

Dr Scott is keen to seek out other collaborations that will test the boundaries of every discipline:  “The dualbeam instrument is a clear example of the University’s commitment to groundbreaking developments in research,” he said. “If we are going to be the leaders in the UK and internationally in terms of research we need to be pushing the boundaries of what is technically possible, and this new piece of equipment will certainly enable us to do that.”

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Working with Chinese avionics firms

February 7, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
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The presentations from last month’s visit to the region by Chinese avionics companies are up at the West of England Aerospace Forum.

Chinese Aerospace Supply Chain and Partnering Mission – Event Slides

China Missions – Paul Calver

Working With Chinese Partners – Vince Cunningham

Briefing on AVIC & COMAC – Douglas Barnes

Chinese Aerospace Market – Paul Calver

SouthWest electronics firms shine in Barcelona

February 4, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
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Deltenna in Chippenham is highlighted in the Computer Weekly roundup of UK firms making a splash at the global gathering of mobile phone companies in Barcelona, Mobile World Congress, later this month. The story at  looks at what Deltenna is doing with a specialist antenna system for the home to boost reception and provide broadband WiFi access in rural areas.

But there are several others from the region: chip makers picoChip in Bath, Icera in Bristol and Nujira, which has a design centre in Bath, are also at the show showing the latest mobile phone technology, while equipment makers Ubiquisys of Swindon and AceAxis, with a radio design centre in Bristol, are also present at the show and chip and system maker IPWireless is also driving mobile phone technology forward from Chippenham  with deals with Ericsson and Apple.

SW Microelectronics iNet

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Welcome

February 4, 2011 by · Leave a Comment
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Welcome to SW Innovation News, gathering all the innovation news from the technology clusters in and around the SouthWest UK. Find us on Twitter at @SWtechNews