A new initiative to encourage and support the take up of robotics technology within industry across Europe has been set up at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory (BRL).
The Robotics Innovation Facility (RIF) based at BRL is part of the ECHORD++ project, a €20 million initiative funded by the 7th Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development. There are three RIFs in Europe. The Bristol RIF is the lead institution – the other two RIFs are based at SSSA, Pisa in Italy, and CEA, Paris in France, launching in January. Bristol acts as the clearing house for the projects to be allocated to the most suitable centre, and there is a small fund to support travel and subsistence for the project duration.
The Bristol RIF aims to stimulate the interaction between robot manufacturers, researchers, and end users, by providing free access to robotics equipment and experts. Technical support is provided by a dedicated RIF team, with additional assistance from engineers and scientists within Bristol Robotics Laboratory. The projects can be about control systems and electronics as much as robotics and software and the project will run until 2018.
The RIF acts as a gateway for business, especially SME’s, to help them work with new robotic technologies; develop markets for new robotic products, services or processes; demonstrate proof of concept in novel robot application areas; and develop new value chains in existing and emerging sectors. Projects can have up to 6 weeks of support with equipment and engineers. This can be extended if the project needs it.
“SMEs, other businesses and manufacturers can sometimes find it difficult to access the latest technology, and understand the potential of robotics and how future deployment could help their business. For example, companies frequently have a product or process idea or improvement but can’t take it to the next stage within their current capabilities,” said Farid Dailami, who heads the Bristol RIF. “A company may hear that an expensive robot could help their production capacity, but they are unable to access the equipment or software that would allow them to verify this before investing significant time and money in a new system. Through the RIF we would be able to carry out the necessary experiments and modelling to help them understand possibilities, and resource permitting, support them in getting extra funding to continue development. We can also introduce companies to national and Europe-wide networks beneficial to the development of their innovation and ideas.
“In the first instance companies get in touch with us and through an application process we learn more about what they are trying to do. If the company is eligible, and once we are clear what the problem is and how we can help, we set up a meeting and take the process forward. We are also offering a series of workshops which will help participants to develop their understanding of this field and the potential of robotics to enhance their business.”
Professor Chris Melhuish, Director of the Bristol Robotics Laboratory says, “BRL is leading the way in Europe in this project, providing a service that bridges the gap between industry and the latest research in robotics. At BRL we are committed to research that that has a positive impact on society, industry and the economy. The RIF is an opportunity for us to share the latest innovations in robotics and support existing and new businesses in an ever increasing competitive economy.”
DTVKit, the digital TV open software software supplier, has launched a new membership level for companies wanting to use more than silicon supplier.
Product Plus membership provides the opportunity for members to work with whichever silicon platform they choose, even if the vendor is not a DTVKit delivery member. The membership grants unlimited royalty free rights to use DTVKit software compiled to run on any silicon platform, and as with Product membership, unlimited access to the source code. This is based on the proven technology developed by Ocean Blue Software over the last ten years that is used in over 15 million of TVs and set top boxes around the world.
As an enhancement of ‘Product’ membership, existing members can also upgrade to ‘Product Plus’ at any time.
“Introducing a third level of membership means that we are able to offer a more flexible option to new and existing members,” said Amy Cleary, Marketing and Operations manager at DTVKit. “Product Plus allows access not just to the suite of software components, but also enables members to commercially exploit them on any silicon platform. Having spent time listening to our members needs and expectations, we felt this introduction was a progressive step forward for the foundation’s growth.”
Current members of DTVkit include global manufacturer Tatung Technology and OEM box makers such as Eagle Kingdom Technologies using source code from OBS. This formed the v1.0 release from DTVKit by way of perpetual, irrevocable royalty free licence.
“OBS has, in recent years, been moving from a royalty based model to becoming a service and support provider to its customers. By licensing our software to DTVKit, OBS were able to move completely into the role of integration and support provider for members of DTVKit,” said Cleary.
“Using our expertise we are able to provide a high level of service to those members requiring it in order to achieve the fastest possible time to market. It also allows us to move ahead with developing new applications and functionality that can offer added value to the users of DTVKit, secure in the knowledge that as the membership of DTVKit expands, the risk inherent in such developments is considerably reduced,” she said.
“So far, our experience with DTVKit has been very positive, we are seeing the membership grow and this is generating significant opportunities for OBS. Our next challenge will be to manage the growth of OBS in order to maintain the high level of service we believe our customers deserve.
Bristol-based verification expert TVS has won a key deal helping develop avionics hardware in China.
TVS is one of the fastest growing tech companies in the UK, providing tools and expertise to ensure that hardware and software works the way it should. It has won a significant verification service project in China with TopBrain Design Systems to verify a new avionics FPGA design in compliance with DO-254 avionics standard. This standard is recognized by the Federal Avionics Administration (FAA) in the US as a means of compliance for the design of complex electronic hardware in airborne systems. Such hardware includes FPGAs, PLDs and ASICs and is the counterpart to the well-established software standard RTCA DO-178B/EUROCAE ED-12B. With DO-254, the FAA recognises that avionics equipment contains both hardware and software, and each is critical to the safe operation of aircraft.
The verification project service by TVS helps the leading company to verify its safety critical avionics FPGA designs. TVS will be applying advanced verification techniques such as constrained random verification, functional verification and assertion-based verification to the project. As required by DO-254 requirements traceability will be applied and TVS will use its unique asureSIGN technology to ensure that requirements can be traced to the verification data generated through the advanced verification techniques being applied.
“This deal confirms the strength of our partnership with TopBrain. There is a strong demand for advanced verification expertise in China and with more than 130 skilled engineers globally, TVS is well equipped to respond to those needs, and it makes perfect sense for TVS to collaborate with TopBrain,” said Mike Bartley, CEO and founder of TVS. “There are also a number of additional avionics products being designed in China that all require DO-254 compliance where TVS has lots of expertise.”
As a result TVS and TopBrain are considering further DO254 projects in China and as part of its strategy in the country, TVS plans to open an office there in 2015 to strengthen and underpin its presence in the region.
The Science Communication Unit at the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) is working with Bristol Robotics Laboratory and Bristol Zoo Gardens to inspire young people to have a go at designing robots inspired by animals. The Robots vs Animals competition launches today during Tomorrow’s Engineers Week (3-9 November), and is funded by the Royal Academy of Engineering.
Young people aged between 11 and 18 are invited to answer the challenge, ‘What amazing animal ability would you use to design a useful robot?’ The winning entries will be exhibited as part of the Festival of Nature 2015, in the centre of Bristol.
Entry details can be found on the Robots vs Animals page.
As well as the national competition, local schools have the chance to participate in Robots vs Animals bioengineering sessions at Bristol Zoo. The sessions are designed for Years 8 and 9, and include the chance to interact with live animals and cutting-edge robots. “Robots vs Animals is an exciting collaborative project designed to inspire and enthuse young people about the possibilities of engineering as a career. Working with Bristol Zoo Gardens, we are developing workshops which demonstrate how engineering can solve real-world problems by taking inspiration from other realms, such as animals in nature,” said Project leader Laura Fogg-Rogers. “We are really keen to see the designs and creations young people can up with. Biomimicry is such an interesting area of engineering – just think of the possibilities for a robot with the flight of a bird, the sensing power of shrews’ whiskers, or the gentle strength of a monkey’s hand! We hope the young people who take part are really inspired by the competition to continue and develop their skills as engineers.”
The aim of the project overall is to demonstrate engineering as a creative, exciting and innovative field, and encourage a wider range of young people, both boys and girls, to consider it as a career possibility. The competition is a chance for young people to get inspired by nature in order to solve real-world problems.
Competition entrants will need to consider how their robot could be useful by solving real-world problems. It might be a robot that helps us to become more sustainable or supports our health and wellbeing. The robot also needs to take its inspiration from an animal, with careful consideration of the materials that it will be built with and the engineering design process used to make it work.
The winning entry will receive a Rover 5 Raspberry Pi Robot, with other great robotics prizes for runners up, all sourced from Dawn Robotics, a start-up business based in the Technology Business Incubator at the Bristol Robotics Laboratory.
The closing date is 17:00 on 18 May 2015.
Government ministers have been visiting SouthWest robotics and wearable technology companies over the last few days.
Secretary of State for Business Vince Cable has some good things to say about tech in the South West on a visit to OC Robotics and the Bristol & Bath Science Park: Vince Cable to visit South West businesses today – National Composites Centre, OC Robotics, and Messier-Bugatti-Dowty.
Bristol is also perfectly placed to take advantage of the huge potential of wearable technology in the healthcare industry Cities and Universities Minister Greg Clark, who was in the city as part of the President of Singapore’s State visit to the UK. The minister said there were “huge applications” for wearable technology in healthcare around the world. http://www.bristolpost.co.uk/Bristol-pioneer-wearable-technology-healthcare/story-23715125-detail/story.html#ixzz3HdS7nEVv
Cable was in the South West to open a £28m extension to the National Composite Centre on the Science Park. The project has seen the NCC double in size, allowing much greater capacity to develop composite technology for the aerospace, automotive, renewable energy and rail sectors.
As well as providing increased capacity and a dedicated high-speed composite manufacturing technology facility, there will be a new world-class training centre for higher level and vocational skills development. This will help train the next generation of engineers in composites manufacturing and technologies and bring together leading businesses, colleges and universities.
“The NCC is enabling multiple collaborations between industry and higher education partners, both nationally and internationally. Commercialisation of emerging technologies is a significant area of focus for our economy and the activities that take place here are an exemplar of that in action: world-class research combined with the entrepreneurial spirit of investigation and practical application,” said Professor Nishan Canagarajah, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research at the University of Bristol, one of the NCC partners.
Around 50 new jobs will be created, with a further 30 to 50 jobs within member organisations.
Peter Chivers, NCC Chief Executive, said: “The NCC is building the future for UK composites. We will work with companies to accelerate innovation and develop people to deliver commercially viable solutions. Thanks to the BIS capital investment, and HVM Catapult Core funding, we have now installed the world’s largest openly accessible high rate manufacturing press for composites manufacturing. This is aimed at supporting sectors such as automotive, where developing high-rate, low-cost manufacture of composite components is critical. This press is only in its first week of factory trials, yet it is already producing parts within just six minutes.”
After only three years, the NCC has nearly 40 members and has worked with more than 100 companies.
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.
The Meteorological Office in Exeter is to spend £97m on a new supercomputer system that will be the biggest in Europe when it is up and running. This will also open up opportunities for open data operations alongside the Met Office campus.
The system will be based around the newly announced Cray XC40 and other next generation Cray XC systems with next generation Intel Xeon processors providing performance of 16,000 teraflops (16PFlops) from 480,000 cores. This will provide 13 times the performance of the current IBM supercomputer but puts it in the middle of the global performance range by the time it is full operational in 2017 (see chart from the top 500 supercomputers). This is Cray’s largest contract outside the US and follows the establishment of Cray’s R&D Centre in Bristol.
“This will make a real meaningful difference to the SW,” said Dave Underwood, Deputy Director of High Perf Computing at the Met Office, speaking to SW Innovation News. “We will have 17Petabytes of storage – this is high tech and we are doing it in the SouthWest.”
He sees the opportunity for companies to cluster around the supercomputer on the Exeter Science Park to take the data outputs from over 10 million weather observations a day that create an atmospheric model for 3,000 tailored forecasts and briefings each day. It is also one of only two centres in the world that provide forecasts of weather above 25,000 ft. Companies will have to be co-located due to the bandwidth requirements.
Storage bandwidth is also vitally important, and the next-generation Cray Sonexion storage solution will be delivered in phases and will include more than 20 petabytes of storage capacity, running at speeds of more than 1.5 terabytes per-second of bandwidth. Cray’s Sonexion storage system combines Cray’s Lustre expertise tightly integrated in a unique design that allows for maximum scalability. Management and operations are simplified through an appliance design with all storage components including software, storage and infrastructure.
Today’s supercomputer uses 5.5MW of energy, which will rise to 12MW when the new system is fully up and running in 2017 as it runs at 99.9% utilisation, says Underwood.
“We are very excited about this investment in UK science,” said Met Office Chief Executive Rob Varley. “It will lead to a step change in weather forecasting and climate prediction, and give us the capability to strengthen our collaborations with partners in the South West, UK and around the world. The new Cray supercomputers, together with improved observations, science and modeling, will deliver better forecasts and advice to support UK business, the public and government. It will help make the UK more resilient to high impact weather and other environmental risks.”
“The award is symbolic for Cray on a number of fronts — it demonstrates that our systems continue to be the supercomputers of choice for production weather centers across the globe, that our close relationship with Intel is providing customers with enhanced capabilities today and into the future and it reinforces the role that Cray plays in impacting society on a daily basis in a wide range of areas,” said Peter Ungaro, president and CEO of Cray. “The Met Office is both a pioneer and leader in weather and climate services, and we are excited that Cray supercomputers and storage solutions will assist them in achieving their important and complex mission of informing citizens and industry how the weather and climate will affect them now and in the future.”
The XC40 supercomputers include Cray’s Aries system interconnect; a network topology called Dragonfly that frees applications from locality constraints; DataWarp applications I/O accelerator technology; innovative cooling systems to lower customers’ total cost of ownership; the next-generation of the scalable, high performance Cray Linux Environment supporting a wide range of applications; Cray’s HPC optimized programming environment for improved performance and programmability, and the ability to handle a wide variety of processor types in a tightly-integrated system infrastructure.
The most powerful supercomputer in Europe at the moment is at the Swiss National Supercomputing Centre (CSCS) and is based on Cray’s XC30 system providing 7.8PFlops.
RS Components in Oxford has launched an Internet of Things (IoT) themed design competition in association with LPRS (Low Power Radio Solutions) to celebrate 25 years of working together.
The entries must be concept based around an application for the IoT which uses LPRS’ eRIC transceiver modules and a wireless gateway. The application could solve an existing problem or it could be a completely new invention.
The competition, hosted within the RS Components DesignShare competitions page, starts today with closing date for entries being 19th December. The DesignSpark community will be invited to vote, share and support ideas throughout the competition. The top 20 ideas, voted for by the community, will receive a limited edition eRIC development kit.
The top five entrants, selected by a panel of judges, will then be invited to take part in a Google Hangout in January 2015 to explain their ideas in more detail. This will be available for all customers to watch, which will be a first for DesignSpark. The final winner will be chosen and notified by the end of January with their concept developed and created into a working product as the prize.
“We recently launched the IoT area within DesignSpark, which is a repository of all information and technical articles on the subject, and this competition comes as an excellent opportunity to not only highlight the latest work of engineers designing IoT-enabled applications but also our longstanding relationship with LPRS as a valuable supplier,” said Pete Wood, DesignSpark Community Manager at RS Components.
“Partnering with RS is an ideal way to launch this unique challenge to the DesignSpark community which has been at the forefront of providing up to date information on the latest industry trends,” said Barry Gillibrand, Managing Director of LPRS. “This couldn’t come at a better time as this year we celebrate 25 years of our relationship and look forward to further collaborations in the future.”
All entries for this competition must be in English language and for further details on how to enter with a list of full terms and conditions please visit http://www.rs-online.com/designspark/designshare/eng/ideas/ or from the LPRS Website.
Does the electronics industry need another low cost development board? After all, we already have nearly 1.5m Raspberry Pi boards shipped worldwide, as well as a plethora of Arduino and Beagle boards. There’s even the Galileo boards from Intel using the low cost, low power x86 X1000 Quark processor.
Imagination Technologies, which has a design centre in Bristol and its wireless division nearby in Chepstow and is a key player for technology in the region, has developed its own version of Raspberry Pi. The Creator C120 uses a MIPS-based processor from Ingenic and is the first board that combines Imagination’s MIPS, PowerVR and Ensigma programmable RF technologies.
The 90.2 mm x 95.3 mm board uses an Ingenic JZ4780 with a 1.2GHz dual core 32bit MIPS with a SIMD engine (for doing graphics quickly) and both single and double precision floating point FPU. It is also adding 802.11 b/g/n WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity. For video and graphics, the PowerVR SGX540 GPU and dedicated video hardware support a suite of video codecs, including MPEG-4, H.264, VP8, MPEG-2, RV9, and others. There’s also two USB ports and an HDMI connector – there’s more details and comments on the background in the EETimes story I wrote.
The other interesting thing is to look forwards. Imagination has pointed out that this first board doesn’t use its Ensigma IP – what about a low cost Ingenic part with the Whisper WiFi IP (more on that here tomorrow!) and Warrior processor embedded as well? A low cost board with good WiFI out of the box running Android 4.4 KitKat? That is a compelling coder/developer board at $25-$35 that would also make a huge difference to ODMs – and don’t forget Imagination has a well established consumer electronics subsidiary (Pure) that already has volume board manufacturing deals. Add in Imagination’s Flow cloud software on this to make it easily part of a home system with some automatic discovery and it becomes compellingly easy to set up and use. Mmmmmmm, some very interesting opportunities there!
US microcontroller maker Microchip is in talks about acquiring CSR (Cambridge Silicon Radio) which recently opened its expanded WiFi design centre in Bristol
The first offer was rejected and Microchip has until 25th September to finalise any deal.
CSR developed a very interesting mesh overlay for Bluetooth that allows smartphones and tablets to easily control many Bluetooth devices in the Internet of Things.
Microchip uses the MIPS cores from Imagination Technologies (also with a design centre in Bristol) while CSR uses the XAP and ARM processors so there would be an interesting mix of technologies. Microchip’s recent acquisitions include flash memory maker Silicon Storage Technology (SST) and WiFi specialist ZeroG in 2010 as well as networking chip maker SMSC in 2012. Microchip also announced a deal in May with Taiwanese Bluetooth chip maker ISSC Technologies that will close in the third quarter this year.
Atego in Cheltenham, the world’s largest independent modelling tool company, is independent no more.
This month the $50m acquisition of the company by Massachusetts-based PTC was completed. PTC has a history in the region, having bought Bristol-based high performance computing and virtual reality pioneer Division in 1999 where they both worked with Airbus. PTC is itself potentially being pursued by GE and late last year bought a pioneer in the Internet of Things, ThingsWorx.
Atego was formed in January 2010 from the merger of Aonix and Artisan Software Tools, creating headquarters in the USA and Cheltenham with subsidiaries in France, Germany, and Italy. The acquisition enhances PTC’s portfolio of product lifecycle management (PLM) and application lifecycle management (ALM) solutions, and strengthens PTC’s commitment to supporting its customers’ systems engineering initiatives with powerful modeling capabilities. Atego launched its
Atego’s market-leading Model-Based Systems Engineering (MBSE) solution connects requirements engineering, architecture modeling, physical product definition, and system verification functions. In doing so, it drives efficiencies and process standardization, allowing distributed teams to collaboratively build digital models of complex systems, while managing system variability and enabling reuse. These capabilities are increasingly important in a world of smart, connected products in which manufacturers must concurrently develop systems that consist of sophisticated mechanical, electrical, and software components.
Most of the cost associated with any product occurs early in the development process. As such, good decisions made early – while architecting ideas – are critically important. With digital models, manufacturers can ascertain product viability and predict product performance early in the development process, thereby reducing project time and decreasing project costs.
“This is an acquisition that makes perfect sense for PTC,” said Peter Bilello, president of analysts CIMdata. “Products are no longer simply mechanical systems. And model-based systems engineering supports collaboration across multiple disciplines (mechanical, electrical, software, and controls) and other enterprise functions (manufacturing, purchasing, finance, service, and project management). CIMdata believes that MBSE will become the pervasive paradigm for product development, supporting and promoting a systems thinking mindset.”
“Today, the competitive landscape is characterized by complexity, and manufacturers must employ a holistic approach when designing smart, connected products,” said Brian Shepherd, EVP of Enterprise Segments for PTC. “For customers in our focused markets, there is increasing importance for multifunctional teams to work in concert while modeling the interdependencies of mechanical, electrical, and software engineering components. The acquisition of Atego extends our existing ALM and PLM technologies, and directly supports customers’ needs to integrate multiple systems engineering disciplines.”
Over the past 12 months, Atego achieved approximately $20 million in revenue.
Bristol-based chip designer XMOS has signed one of the largest chip deals so far this year with a $26m investment that could drive the company into the Internet of Things. “There’s not many chip companies getting funded here or in the US so that is quite a standout event in itself,” said Nigel Toon, XMOS CEO.
The investment comes from Robert Bosch, Huawei and Xilinx Technology Ventures is to accelerate development of the next generation multicore, low latency, low cost processors and programmable I/O. XMOS is looking to expand its silicon design team as a result, says Toon.
The deal includes investment from Europe, the US and China. “Huawei is an interesting partner,” said Toon. “They are focussed on investing in Europe which is a small part of the reason but they are the number 3 supplier in smart phones and interested in the whole extension of that into the Internet of Things – there are quite a few overlap areas. And a partnership with a company like that in China is tremendous.” Last month Huawei announced it was setting up an R&D centre in Bristol.
The XMOS technology fits well with Bosch in automotive, industrial and consumer, and Hongquan Jiang, Investment Principle at Robert Bosch Venture Capital, will join the XMOS board. “XMOS is one of the most exciting young semiconductor companies around today and we see a huge potential for their intelligent multicore technology in various sectors of our parent company,” he said.
The third leg of the investment is FPGA vendor Xilinx. “There’s nothing explicit with Xilinx but we are both programmable companies, we are lower power, they are heavily focussed on infrastructure so there’s a lot of overlap in our general interests,” said Toon, who used to work for arch-competitor Altera. “We have some common distributors so we can benefit from that.”
More on Huawei and XMOS from the FT: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/7de0d9d4-0e9a-11e4-a1ae-00144feabdc0.html
The £16.5m Enterprise Zone, announced by Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne, today, will provide incubation and grow on space for businesses specialising in robotics, biosciences, biomedicine and other high tech areas. It has been developed in collaboration with the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership and the University of Bristol with strong support from South Gloucestershire Council, the University of Bath and the West of England Academic Heath Science Network.
The other three University Enterprise Zones are at Bradford with £12m for a digital health hub, Nottingham building a Technology Entrepreneurship Centre for big data, advanced manufacturing and aerospace, and energy, and Liverpool with £15m to become ‘Sensor City’.
UWE’s Zone in former HP Lab buildings at Frenchay will promote university-business collaboration, provide space for new and growing businesses, access to specialist facilities and expertise, and business support. The £16.5m project is supported by £4m from the government with match-funding from the Local Enterprise Partnership, business and UWE Bristol itself. The Zone is expected to generate over 500 new jobs, and generate more than £50m for the local economy. The 11,000 square metre building will provide laboratory space, offices and workshops, share start-up ‘studio’ space, communal space for networking and meeting, access to specialist equipment and technical support and business services.
Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research and Business Engagement at UWE, Professor Martin Boddy who led the project for the University commented, “The University has a strong track record of working with a whole range of partners to support innovation, business growth and the skills to meet business needs through innovation networks, knowledge transfer partnerships, the i4G Growth Fund and other initiatives.
“The University Enterprise Zone now provides a tremendously exciting opportunity to build on this success with a new venture that will help to drive forwards the major cluster of high growth, innovative, technology-based businesses in the West of England. This is one of a small number of national ‘pilot’ projects which provides the opportunity to demonstrate how collaboration between business and universities can drive innovation, jobs and business growth.
“This will be much more than just a building. It will provide access to the sorts of facilities and expertise that would otherwise be out of reach for new and growing businesses, it will provide ‘wet labs’ – currently a real gap in the market, it will promote collaboration and networking between businesses, university researchers, students and graduates and there will be dedicated business support and services from the University, Bristol Business School and partner organisations. It will complement Bristol and Bath Science Park, the LEP Enterprise Zone and Enterprise Areas and the Engine Shed Incubation Centre at Temple Quay and Bath Innovation Centre – together these provide a fantastically rich and fertile ecosystem to support business growth and innovation across the whole city-region.”
West of England LEP chair, Colin Skellett, said, “The Government’s support for the proposal from the University of the West of England and University of Bristol to establish a University Enterprise Zone with £4m of additional funding is extremely welcome, and recognition of the strengths our region offers. This will create opportunities for greater university-business collaboration, providing grow-on and incubator space alongside leading-edge university research and R&D facilities. The West of England is being seen more and more as a leader in a number of areas, including robotics, high tech, creative and digital innovation, which also form a key part of our strategic economic plan. The University Enterprise Zone very much complements our plan.”
High Tech Bristol & Bath (HBB) is recruiting a part time experienced network manager as its CEO. This is a board level appointment to the newly formed CIC company that will run a range of Special Interest Groups (SIGs) on vertical and horizontal technologies in the West of England area.
These include wireless technologies, high performance computing, smart city, digital health, education & skills and high tech marketing. These groups are led by SIG champions who determine work plans and deliverables.
The network manager will:
- Organise SIG meeting
- Liaise with SIG champions, recruit replacement champions from membership
- Sign up new members locally, nationally and internationally with the support of board members
- Promote HBB activities locally, nationally and internationally
- Manage membership list
- Organise & manage voting for SIG champions where necessary
- Develop new SIGs with new members
- Develop new revenue streams and raise sponsorship
- Liaising with network partners, sponsors, members and the High Tech sector group of the West of England LEP
The role is initially 1-2 days/ week but there is potential to turn this into a full time role depending on the revenue raised. We currently have members from universities, companies and local authorities in the region. The network manager will report to the board of HBB and also sit on the High Tech Sector group of the Local Economic Partnership which acts as the advisory group to the HBB board.
- Self starter
- Experience with running networks
- Electronics industry knowledge
- Innovative thinker
- Collaborative worker
The backgrounder for the HBB activities is here
Deadline for applications is Friday 25th July. Interviews will be in the week of 28th July 2014, date to be confirmed to successful applicants. To apply, please forward your CV and covering letter to email@example.com. If you have any questions please contact Nick on the email above or on 07710 236368
The Bristol and Bath region has an internationally-significant and fast-growing high tech sector according to an influential new report.
The high tech, creative and digital media innovation cluster is showcased in a new report by the Centre for Cities and McKinsey & Company which recommends more Government investment in key clusters to stimulate growth in the UK economy.
Three of the 12 high-growth, globally-significant UK clusters identified in the report are based in the South West – they are the region’s high tech, aerospace and tourism sectors. Technology is also identified as key to many of those 12 clusters.
Stand-out strengths of Bristol and Bath’s cluster are its diverse combination of industries and strong networks, according to the report, which highlights the region as an in-depth case study.
“It is this diversity of connected sectors, skilled workforce, world leading academic research and brilliant quality of life that make Bristol and Bath so distinctive and attractive,” said Professor Joe McGeehan, chair of inward investment agency Invest Bristol & Bath and special advisor to Toshiba. “Industries ranging from high tech to creative and digital media, and from robotics to aerospace, work collaboratively to drive innovation. Major global players are increasingly setting up operations in the Bristol and Bath region as they seek to benefit from this offering as part of their plan for business growth.’
The cluster covers electronics manufacturers, animation and computer graphics firms, as well as digital start-ups and university spin-outs. This ‘melting pot’ of companies ranges from larger players such as Aardman Animations, HP and Toshiba to small 3D printing and robotics technology start-ups.
Specialist hubs such as Bristol & Bath Science Park, Watershed and the Engine Shed are also highlighted as a vital component of this thriving cluster, along with networks which connect talent, companies, universities and investors across sectors.
Clusters are a major contributor to economic growth, an important source of well-paid jobs and also bring wider business advantages such as a strong understanding of customer demand and support for innovation. As a result, clusters are well placed to attract investment and talent, according to the report.
Inward investment agency Invest Bristol & Bath has recognised the strength of the cluster to secure a flurry of investment and interest from national and international high-tech firms wanting to establish a base in the area.
Chinese telecoms giant Huawei is setting up an R&D facility in Bristol, while Somo, the largest independent mobile solutions company, has chosen Bristol to set up a specialist engineering centre, and digital solutions company Kainos has also invested in opening a new office in the city. Leading online takeaway service JUST EAT has also announced it is expanding its technology development by opening a new specialist hub in Bristol.
The Centre for Cities report also highlights a range of barriers to the development of a successful cluster, including the challenge of securing recognition on a global stage. “Clusters are an essential feature of an innovative and dynamic economy, and the Government needs to support them and remove the barriers to their growth,” said Lord Sainsbury, who commissioned the report.
“We know that relatively small, but targeted investments in areas such as skills and infrastructure can make a significant difference in the UK’s economic output,” said Centre for Cities chief executive Alexandra Jones. “Improving local business environments and increasing the flexibility of our cities to respond to their specific challenges will not only support existing clusters to reach their potential, but encourage the emergence of new clusters and high-growth firms in all sectors across the UK.”
Joe McGeehan who was at the launch of the report, “Just over a year ago, we established Invest Bristol & Bath, the area’s inward investment agency to promote the region at a national and international level. This move is already paying dividends as Invest Bristol & Bath, which is backed by funding from the Government’s Department for Business, Innovation & Skills, has created over 700 jobs in the past year.”
David Sproxton, chairman and co-founder of Aardman, said: ‘It is excellent to see a report focusing on the importance of industrial clusters as powerhouses for the economy, and highlighting Bristol and Bath for its undoubted strengths across the high tech, creative and digital-media space. We definitely need to raise the profile of UK clusters so they can continue to compete on the global stage.’
Bonnie Dean, chief executive of Bristol & Bath Science Park, says: ‘It is the collaborative approach of Bristol and Bath’s technologists, business leaders and academics, combined with its rich network of interlinked, complimentary sectors that make the tech cluster here particularly successful. The region has excelled in creating a lively ecosystem of enterprise, where knowledge, expertise and ideas are shared, innovative thinking is stimulated and business success is accelerated.’
A vibrant and innovative cluster, Bristol & Bath’s tech industry is producing animated films, the latest breakthroughs in analysing ‘big data’ and the world’s smallest drones.
Mayor of Bristol George Ferguson responding to the news said: “This is a very welcome report that recognises Bristol and Bath as one of the most important clusters of economic activity in the UK. Our growing expertise in the creative and digital sector is getting attention and attracting more and more companies to relocate here.”
See also: Bristol is the best tech cluster outside London at http://www.bristolpost.co.uk/Government-urged-backing-Bristol-s-key-clusters/story-21315283-detail/story.html#ixzz36P1AKREE
The deadlines for two health technology funding competitions in the SouthWest are approaching.
The telehealth competition run by the SW Microelectronics iNet and West of England Academic health Science Network (WEAHSN) closes on 4th July for expressions of interest for innovation vouchers worth up to £10,000
The competition is seeking applications from innovative small to medium-sized enterprises in the South West of England for telehealth projects focusing on the delivery of health-related products, processes and services via telecommunications technologies.
If you are interested, and would like to find out more information please email firstname.lastname@example.org for the form.
The deadline to submit Expression of Interest form is Friday, 4th July. There is also a matchmaking workshop on Wed 16th July to put projects in touch with each other.
The latest competition from SBRI Healthcare, an NHS England-funded initiative to develop innovative products and services that address unmet health needs, has £2.5 million available to support small business development across England. Businesses will be able to submit applications for the competition from now until 12:00pm on 10 July 2014.
SBRI Healthcare will be working in partnership with the West of England and Wessex Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs) on medicines adherence, which is one of the five key areas of healthcare that the national competition will focus on.
Businesses in the West of England are encouraged to submit products and services that will help improve how patients follow treatment recommendations to ensure that patients are getting optimum benefit from all the treatments they have been prescribed.
“It is estimated that between a third and a half of prescribed and dispensed medicines are not used as recommended and many end up being wasted,” said Sue Ladds, Chief Pharmacist, University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust. “This has a significant negative effect on patients, the healthcare system and society at large so it is imperative that we find an innovative patient-centred solution to reduce the non-adherence and suboptimal use of medicines.”
The SBRI initiative is a three-phased approach which starts with a six-month feasibility phase with an award of up to £100,000 and then moves on to more detailed product development and NHS validation, where companies can secure up to £2 million in funding support.
“The support we have received from SBRI and the West of England AHSN has been fantastic. We have been able to further the development around our handheld ECG monitory device which can be synced up to smartphones and PCs to help primary care and ambulance staff to identify arrhythmias,” said Steve Cliffe, Business Development Director, Plessey Semiconductors won the last SBRI competition earlier in the year
“We are really encouraging organisations to get involved as this is a fully-funded opportunity for businesses to access support to bring their innovative products and services to new markets,” said Dr Elizabeth Dymond, Deputy Director, Enterprise and Translation at West of England AHSN.
“We have partnered up with the West of England AHSN on this competition because we feel that this is a topic that businesses in our area could really contribute to, said Andy Burroughs Director of Wealth and Enterprise, Wessex AHSN.
There is growing market traction for the Ensigma Series4 ‘Explorer’ radio processor unit (RPU) cores designed in Chepstow as more companies integrate 802.11ac WiFi, Bluetooth 4.1 and other connectivity into their Systems-on-Chips (SoCs).
New customers for the Ensigma WiFi/Bluetooth combo IP cores from Imagination Technologies include Ineda, Toshiba, Toumaz and multiple fabless companies from Korea and China including Rockchip and others from around the world who will be announced publicly at a later time. Among the target applications are streaming media devices, tablets, wearables, IoT devices and standalone WiFi combo chips. The new Ensigma WiFi licensees join the growing Ensigma RPU customer base, which also includes Qualcomm, STMicroelectronics, S2-Tek, Frontier Silicon, Orca Systems and others.
“Moving forward, virtually every device will be connected,” said Martin Woodhead, EVP for Ensigma Communications at Imagination. “To address this, the Ensigma RPU offers the flexibility to design for a range of connectivity and broadcast standards using just one on-chip radio system, so customers can create one design for multiple markets and also have a built-in roadmap for emerging standards. With our end-to-end connectivity solutions including RF, baseband, firmware, software, support and certifications, Imagination is uniquely positioned to help customers address new market opportunities quickly and cost-effectively.”
Imagination has a graphics hardware and software design centre in Bristol as well as the radio design team in Chepstow. The company’s program of WiFi Alliance certifications ensures interoperability. Imagination has recently achieved WiFi Alliance certification for Miracast and Passpoint, adding to a growing list of certifications including WiFi CERTIFIED, WiFi Direct, WPA, WPA2, WMM and WiFi Protected Setup.
The Ensigma Series4 RPUs provide a unique universal and highly scalable solution for integrating global connectivity and broadcast communications capabilities into SoCs. By combining the latest software programmable radio techniques with a multi-processor architecture, a wide range of communications standards are fully supported. The flexible hardware architecture of Ensigma Series4 RPUs means that the engine can be easily scaled to address everything from the smallest most cost-sensitive embedded connected processors to the most advanced connected smart TVs and tablets targeting global markets.
Ensigma RPUs support all key standards for connectivity including 802.11a/b/g, 802.11n with up to 4×4 MIMO, 802.11ac with up to 2×2 MIMO, as well as Bluetooth. They also enable global TV products supporting DVB-T2, DVB-T, ISDB-T, ATSC, GB20600-2006 (CTTB), DVB-S2, DVB-S, ISDB-S, DVB-C, J.83B, ISDB-C; analogue TV; mobile TV including T-DMB, 1-Seg ISDB-T; and broadcast radio standards including DAB/DAB+, HD Radio, 3-seg ISDB-T, ISDB-Tmm and FM.
Cambridge Silicon Radio (CSR) has opened a new Research and Development facility in Bristol to drive further innovation in WiFi technology.
The new site, opened today, is staffed by 33 engineers from a wide range of companies in the area such as ST, Nokia and Imagination Technologies and from all around the world, including India, Italy, Spain and the Czech Republic.
“We were building a WiFi team in Bristol but we needed a step change in capability,” said Joep van Buerden, CEO of CSR at the opening (below). “We had the opportunity to acquire the WiFi team lock stock and barrel from ST-Ericsson 16 months ago but then we discovered how good a place Bristol was. There is a steady supply of graduates from the university and leading companies around with a vibrant community of engineers with all sorts of expertise.”
Since the opening of CSR’s original R&D site at the Bristol & Bath Science Park in 2012, the size of the team has grown to 33 employees and CSR expects to continue this expansion. The new R&D facility, at Almondsbury in Bristol, will better support the needs of the existing team and enable growth over the coming years.
This expansion will create a number of job opportunities in the local area, especially for graduates from South West universities. “We have some spare capacity but I could very easily see this office growing further,” said van Beurden.
“At CSR, we’re passionate about developing cutting-edge technology that helps our customers turn great ideas into market leading products, and to do that we need to invest strategically in R&D,” said Anthony Murray, Senior Vice President, Business Group at CSR. “That’s why we’re opening this new, larger facility in Bristol. Bristol has a vibrant technology scene and with high quality universities that are developing the next generation of engineering talent on our doorstep it is a great place to expand our R&D capabilities.”
SETsquared has been ranked as the top university business incubator in Europe and second best in the world.
The ranking, published by the University Business Incubator (UBI) Index, places SETsquared as one of the world’s leading three incubators, ahead of SCUT Science Park at South China University of Technology and just behind number one, The Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship at Rice University Houston.
“SETsquared did really well on our Global Benchmark and beat numerous business incubators based at top universities,” said Dhruv Bhatli, Co-founder and Director of Research at UBI Index said. “They are one of the best incubation places in the world and certainly the best in Europe, as evidenced from their performance on our global benchmark. It is an outstanding business incubator that provides exceptional quality to its client companies and produces growth companies and high economic impact.”
SETsquared hosts centres in Bristol at the EngineShed and at the Bath Innovation Centre, as well as at the Universities of Exeter, Surrey and Southampton, giving it a strong presence across the SouthWest. Since its inception it has worked with more than 1,000 high-tech start-ups that have raised over £1bn in investment.
SETsquared success stories include companies that have developed swine flu detection kits, microchips that speed up connection to the internet, and security systems that protect against terrorism without impeding world trade.
“I’m delighted by the recognition in this year’s UBI Index – it’s an honour and validates our focus and commitment to entrepreneurs and the businesses that they create,” said Simon Bond, SETsquared Innovation Director who is based in Bath.
“The high ranking also comes with responsibility – the UBI Index highlights that Europe’s university business incubators have to work more effectively in order to compete on the world stage. SETsquared must now reach out to like-minded organisations to form partnerships and collaborations that add value for our entrepreneurs and client businesses,” he said.
UBI Index is the first global index to benchmark performance and best practices of University Business Incubators. Around 800 incubators in 60 countries were involved in the 2014 survey.
Notes to editors
Simon Bond from SETsquared is available for interviews. To arrange please contact Laura Downton on the details below.
About the UBI Index
UBI Index is the first global index to benchmark performance and best practices of University Business Incubators.
Every year there is a nationwide shortfall of 10,000 engineering graduates but the problem is particularly acute among women. Just seven per cent of the UK’s 2.3 million engineers are women, the lowest in Europe. As a job, engineering fares even worse in attracting women than other traditionally ‘male’ careers, such as politics (where 22 per cent of MPs are women). To help meet the government’s aim of doubling the number of female engineering and technology graduates by 2030, the Women’s Engineering Society (WES) is promoting engineering as a career for women.
The fellowships include a five year collaboration with Airbus and NASA on aerospace technology for Dr Alicia Kim from the Department of Mechanical Engineering. She will lead a five year project in aerospace research under the EPSRC’s Fellowship for Growth programme.
“In order to meet drastic demands and ensure affordable air travel in the future, it is essential that aircraft are made lighter and use minimal fuel,” said Dr Kim. “Future aircraft concepts will look very different from present day models. A wing is a highly complex structure to design as it needs to consider the complex interaction between aerodynamics and structural behaviour. This fellowship will allow me to determine the best combination of advanced material and structure configuration, and therefore design an optimum aircraft wing to support different flight missions.”
Dr Marianne Ellis from the Department of Chemical Engineering was recently named as an Engineering and Physical Science Research Council (EPSRC) ‘Rising Star’ – an award that recognises and celebrates scientists and engineers leading research innovation in their field.
She has received a Royal Academy of Engineering /The Leverhulme Trust Senior Research Fellowship in order to further her research exploring ways of using tissue engineering to prevent rejection of skin transplants. Her work focuses on the production of cells that ‘teach’ the body to accept the skin grafts, preventing the need for the often problematic immuno-suppressant drugs which leave patients highly susceptible to infection.
Commenting on the issue of recruiting women into engineering, Dr Ellis said: “Unfortunately engineering can sometimes suffer from a bit of an image problem – especially among girls – and it is not widely recognised for the exciting, dynamic careers that it offers. Role models of successful female engineers are really important. At the University of Bath we are trying to raise awareness of engineering as a subject through our schools outreach activities, in order to increase the proportion of girls considering engineering.”
Dr Laura Torrente Murciano from the University’s Department of Chemical Engineering has been awarded a five year EPSRC-funded fellowship to create a novel manufacturing process to enable the large-scale production of metal nanoparticle-based catalysts and nanostructured materials.
Her cutting edge engineering research will deliver innovative technology to bridge the gap between laboratory experimentation of nanomaterials and their industrial applications with direct social and sustainable benefits. The technology will promote distributed manufacturing and provide competitive advantages to the UK.
The Dean of the University of Bath’s Faculty of Engineering & Design, Professor Gary Hawley, said: “It is hugely encouraging to see promising women researchers recognised for their work and furthering their careers in engineering. The University of Bath is committed to engaging with activities at all levels to promote engineering as an exciting, inclusive and rewarding career for young women.”
Earlier this year the University of Bath’s Faculty of Engineering & Design launched a set of web pages to support and celebrate the Faculty’s female students, staff and alumni. In April a Student Women in Engineering Group was also formed to build a stronger support network around women studying engineering and further career development and mentoring opportunities.
To find out more about life as a female engineer, follow the Twitter feeds of Dr Ellis (@MarianneJEllis) and Dr Kim (@OptimiserAlicia).
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