The first event under the new partnership will focus on sustainability and take place on March 11th at the Gloucestershire offices of global engineering giant Renishaw. Attendees will be welcomed by Gareth Hankins, the company’s Manufacturing Director, and hear about ‘Sustainability the Renishaw approach’ before a Q&A session and a site tour to finish.
Tech firms across the South West have benefited from the latest £47m round of the government’s Regional Growth Fun
LED developer and manufacturer Plessey Semiconductors in Plymouth and Swindon, specialist automotive test equipment maker Anthony Best Dynamics Ltd in Bradford on Avon, chip designer Cambridge Silicon Radio in Bristol and test systems maker Spirent Communications in Paignton have all received backing from round 6 of the fund. Avanti Communications Group in Penzance and Hymec Aerospace (UK) in Plymouth are also beneficiaries
A TEAM of Exeter University students have reached the final four of an international competition to showcase technological innovation.
The Computer Science undergraduates devised a ground-breaking home security system which allows doors to be locked and unlocked via a normal mobile phone. The four-strong team of Matthew Gilbert, Joshua Holmes, George Young and Ashleigh Udoh were one of around 20 university teams from across the UK and the US to enter the Project Arduino competition organised by Thales, a leading engineering and technology company.
Team Lockduino are now facing the University of Reading in the UK, and Caltech and the University of California, Irvine, both in the US, in the final showdown. They face a public online vote at http://www.thalesarduino.com to decide who will be the overall winner. Voting closes on Monday, February 23 at 5pm UK
US startup of the year Uber has submitted an application to Bristol City Council’s licensing department to operate a taxi-like service in the city.
Uber, founded in San Francisco in 2009 and now valued at $40bn, uses an app on a smart phone with an agreed scale of charges. It doesn’t use taxis but ‘ride shares’, although minicab drivers can be Uber drivers.
Using a smart phone allows drivers to see their fares’ exact location using the in-built GPS and users to see the nearest available cars to their location and for them to trace the journey of their cab on an interactive map as they wait for its arrival.
The company already operates in hundreds of cities across the globe, including London and Manchester in the UK, and is focussing on a huge expansion in Europe which it claims could create 50,000 new jobs.
But the company has caused controversy – and has even been banned in some countries.
Just behind Ikea is a tech software company StorMagic! Bristol data storage business StorMagic trebles sales and plans further expansion | Blog.
Great piece on the strength of the cluster – more details to come! Bristol and Bath named biggest UK tech business cluster outside London | Blog.
Simon Young came back to the region this month to head up the West of England Aerospace Forum (WEAF)- ‘Future’s fantastic for our aerospace industry,’ he says
Great story from Rob Buckland that gives an overview of Bristol as a key ‘smart city’
Photonics equipment maker Gooch & Housego has received £1.2m in government funding to support its business in Torbay with 60 new jobs as part of a major expansion.
The company designs, manufacture and supplies fibre optic solutions used across the aerospace, defence, industrial, life science and scientific research sectors and is investing £18million in expanding in the region.
“This company is a great example of how the Regional Growth Fund is helping to build a stronger, more resilient economy and a fairer society,” said environment Minister Dan Rogerson.
“The Regional Growth Fund has enabled us to further strengthen our capabilities in Torbay and facilitate sustainable strategic growth over the next decade and beyond,” said Dr Andrew Robertson, Senior Vice President System Technology Group at Gooch and Housego. “With the ongoing support of the Torbay Development Agency, the fund has allowed us to recruit six new people already and we hope to add thirty more to the team in the coming three years with this number growing to 60 in the next ten. This will allow us to add many new skills to our R&D team, build our talent pool of Photonics Engineers and continue to expand of our production facilities, crucial to securing our long-term growth.”
So far £210 million of RGF money has been invested in businesses across the South West, helping to create 36,000 new jobs as companies have committed to investing an additional £700 million.
RGF Round Six, which will make at least £200 million available to companies across England, has just closed with 174 applications totalling more than £800 million. Thirty two bids worth £109 million were received from the South West. Successful bidders will be announced in the New Year.
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.