Bath startup uses ant algorithms to improve silicon chip design

May 1, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
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Bath startup Thalia Design Automation has raised its first equity funding to commercialize natural algorithms such as those used by ants for analogue, mixed signal and power design tools and is set to launch the beta versions of two new tools.

The key is that the Amalia and Emera tools use algorithms borrowed from natural processes such as ant movements to optimize placement and routing in these designs. This is traditionally regarded as a black art, needing highly skilled and scarce engineering resource, relatively long design cycles and often multiple design iterations to get to a production product, so using natural algorithms is a way to automate the design process further. Optimizations which typically took several days to weeks to complete can now be performed in a matter of hours says the company.

 “Analogue design methodology has remained unchanged for a long time,” said founder and CEO Sowmyan Rajagopalan. “I have seen the technical and time consuming efforts analogue designers have had to live with in order to design and optimise their circuits. Thalia’s tools will enable users to meet more challenging design requirements within shorter time frames. Custom chip design companies will benefit from reduced design times, shortened redesign cycles, better performing parts and more effective use of scarce skilled design resource.”

A further benefit is that the toolsets can be used to rapidly retarget existing designs to alternative silicon foundries for cost reduction and sourcing flexibility.

Thalia has now completed its initial equity funding round with Mercia Fund Management and Finance Wales. In addition the company has secured grant support from the Technology Strategy Board (TSB) and the Welsh Government.

“We are extremely pleased to have invested in a company that has developed solutions that not only address a technical challenge but also bring productivity gains for customers,” said Everard Mascarenhas, Investment Manager at Mercia Fund Management. “Thalia has developed a truly disruptive technology in a multi-billion dollar worldwide market where the incumbents grow and expand their offer through acquisition.”

Thalia provides two suites of EDA design tools; AMALIA, an intelligent analogue design optimisation and automation toolset and EMERA, a unique power device optimiser, schematic and layout generator. As well as offering these tools on a time-based software license, Thalia will also offer a design optimisation service directly and through partners.

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Bristol leads 4G revolution

April 9, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
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Bristol has  led the 4G revolution and will continue to do so thanks to the skills and talent in the city says one of the directors of telecoms giant EE.

Gerry McQuade, chief marketing officer and board member at the Aztec West-based firm, said Bristol was the first place to get 4G – with the first transmitter in the UK just off the M32.

Speaking to delegates at the Business Showcase South West, he said: “Being here gives us a pool of talented graduates better than anywhere else in the UK. Having the universities of Bristol, Bath and UWE on our doorstep gives us access to the best young talent around.”

“It is not just about graduate talent though, we also need to be in a location where we can get mature talent. There is a plethora of media, high tech and engineering business giving us access to new blood with the necessary experience that helps keep us successful.”

He said UK consumers had led the way globally in mobile internet use but businesses had not always done the same. The arrival of 4G was changing that with 200,000 small businesses and 5,000 large corporate firms using 4G, which allows them to use more data, more quickly and opens up mobile working.

He added: “Mobility will change not just the way you contact customers but it will change the way you run your business.”

Mr McQuade was one of several high profile speakers at the showcase, staged at the Colston Hall.

via Aztec West-based director of mobile giant EE, Gerry McQuade, says Bristol has led the 4G revolution | Blog.

Kainos creates 50 IT jobs and brings AppCamp to Bristol

April 9, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
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A Belfast technology company that provides IT systems is setting up in Bristol and creating 50 jobs.

Kainos, which works mostly in healthcare, financial services and the public sector markets, is moving into the Orega Business Centre in Victoria Street.

The company cited Bristol’s strong support for business, as well its strength as a source of graduate talent with two first-class local universities, which is fostering a growing community of high-tech firms and digital agencies.

“We are looking forward to welcoming the Kainos team to Bristol and supporting them in its ambitious growth plan,”said Professor Joe McGeehan, chair of Invest Bristol & Bath. “As a proven global technology leader, we are hopeful Kainos will make great contributions to our city and local economy, as well as to the established Bristol digital community.”

Kainos will also be hosting its summer AppCamp in the city this year.The camp is a free event where undergraduates in computing or related subjects are trained to develop apps for Apple iPhones or iPads by Kainos software developers over an eight-week programme. Chief technology officer, Tom Gray, said: “The build-up to each AppCamp is tremendously exciting, and this year is particularly special because of the additional event in Bristol.”

The camp starts on June 30 and interested students can apply for a place by visiting or email to

via IT firm Kainos creates 50 new jobs at Orega Business Centre in Bristol | Blog.

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UK’s business secretary visits the EngineShed and LEP

April 4, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
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Bristol showcases local business innovation to Vince Cable

Secretary of State for Business Vince Cable visited the EngineShed in a whistle-stop tour of some of Bristol’s innovative and growing businesses yesterday, Thursday 3rd April.

His tour included visits to businesses recently awarded funding from the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership’s (WE LEP) £25 million Growth Fund, and he joined the WE LEP for a special board meeting in the Bristol SETsquared Centre at Engine Shed, for a round table discussion on the key issues in driving growth and job creation, as well as the strategic economic plan submitted to Government by the WE LEP earlier in the week.

VC & Nick Sturge in Engine Shed

A tour of Engine Shed, Bristol’s newest innovation hub – a £1.6 million refurbishment of Brunel’s original train station and a unique collaboration between the University of Bristol, WE LEP and Bristol City Council – followed the meeting. Nick Sturge, director of Engine Shed and the Bristol SETsquared Centre, introduced Vince Cable to three fast growing, highly successful SETsquared businesses: Blu Wireless Technology, Plexus Planning and Fusion Processing. Blu Wireless Technology have just received £1 million from the Growth Fund.


“Today I’m witnessing that here in Bristol fast-growing businesses like those based at SETsquared are providing a real boost to the economy,” said Cable (above right).

“We were pleased to have the opportunity to showcase some of the innovative and internationally significant projects in our region,” said Colin Skellett, chair of the West of England LEP. ” It was good to be able to demonstrate how the local growth fund money has helped local companies to grow.  The first round of our West of England growth fund has allocated almost £15 million to nearly 150 local businesses and this in turn has attracted more than £52 million of private sector investment.

“The LEP Board also had the opportunity to discuss with the Secretary of State what else needs to be done, in particular, to support SMEs, to develop the skills we need for a growing economy and to continue to grow our successful inward investment capabilities”.

Nick Sturge, director of Engine Shed and SETsquared, (pictured above left) said:  “We were pleased to welcome Dr. Cable back to SETsquared in our new home and to be able to demonstrate some of the cutting edge technologies being developed here. He was particularly interested in the CycleEye technology from Fusion Processing and we were delighted to be able to report on the exciting level of activity within the tech cluster in Bristol and Bath.”

Mayor of Bristol George Ferguson said: “Enterprise zones are an important part of the government’s plans for growth across the UK. I was pleased to be able to share with the minister our dynamic plans for the future development of Bristol Temple Quarter Enterprise Zone, one of the largest regeneration projects in the UK, that will deliver mixed use development, 17,000 jobs over 25 years, a new performance arena and will be the principal new gateway for the city region.”

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Last call for Qualcomm’s 2014 wireless startup prize

March 31, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
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The deadline for the 2014 QPrize, run by Qualcomm Ventures, the investment arm of San Diego based Qualcomm Inc, is approaching.

QPrize is open to all start-ups and entrepreneurs who have raised less than US$2 million in financing and have innovative wireless or technology based products or services that can positively impact the wireless ecosystem.

One winner will be selected from each of our seven regions: Europe, China, India, Israel, Korea, Latin America and North America. The winners will be awarded a US$100K prize in the form of a convertible note. In addition, all regional winners will be invited to San Francisco to participate in our Grand Finals event for an additional $150K in prize funding. The Grand Final will be held at Bloomberg’s Next Big Thing Event at the spectacular Cavallo Point on June 9-10, 2014.

For more information click here or to apply, please visit  The deadline for business plan submissions is April 18, 2014.

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Is Google a threat to electronic component distributors?

March 31, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
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Electronics distributors have a problem. Battling with direct competitors for number one spot in Google entails giving Google everything it needs to keep potential customers away from them. Think it can’t happen with the electronics industry? Think again. Giant companies have a habit of diversifying, and trying to tap into the riches of unrelated industries. Amazon have already encroached into the industrial engineering markets with Amazon MRO.

Search for a Cortex M3 and Google provides a list of brand options, prices, and sellers. On its shopping tab, Google presents search results using the same model as used for AdWords, merchandisers have to pay to play.Based on this scenario, Google has the ability to help the users choose between chips provided by various manufacturers, then provide the user with purchasing options.

See the whole article at Is Google a threat to electronic component distributors? at Bath-based technology PR firm Publitek.

Bristol startup slashes memory power with standard logic process

March 4, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
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A Bristol startup has developed an entirely new way of building static memory on a standard logic process that cuts the power in half without paying a penalty in area or speed.

Rob Beat (L) and Mark de Souza

Rob Beat (L) and Mark de Souza

Silicon Basis is based at the EngineShed and is developing the tools to help chip designers add memory to their devices in a way that uses less power, reduces the number of extra chips they need and gives them flexibility to move to different process technologies.

“Fundamentally memory has some real problems everyone does it the same way,” said Mark de Souza, chief executive at Silicon Basis  and formerly at memory IP supplier Virage Logic. “They all take the TSMC arrays and put them together.” These arrays are specifically designed on a particular process.

Silicon Basis sees two key advantages for its technology it can save up to 50% of the power consumption and it can go below the bit cell voltage of the foundry memories. This lower voltage allows the memories to be powered by the same voltage source as the logic and so eliminates the need for a second DC-DC converter which adds cost and complexity to a design.

This also makes the technology foundry independent and scalable to new technologies such as FinFet, says de Souza. The company has produced all the models needed and is now working on 28nm silicon to prove the implementation.”We use our own bit cell so we are not restricted to the foundry’s Vmin which is a huge advantage,” said de Souza. “Dropping the voltage makes a huge difference.”

All of this comes from a new way of looking at the design of the cell which is currently being patented. “No one has seen this way of designing SRAM before,” he said. “We are talking to the experts in memory design and no one has seen this way of putting memory together. Its all using standard rules and standard CMOS. Its an architectural difference that means we don’t need to use sense amps and because we are using logic rules we can go down to the logic voltage floor and possibly below that.”

“Our cell size is about the same as the high speed cell from the foundry,” said Rob Beat, founder and chief technology officer of Silicon Basis and designer of the new cell. “There’s a compromise on area in the array but because the periphery is more efficient we are competitive in area especially on the smaller RAMs.”

The architecture brings advantages with the compiler that are not to be underestimated, he says. “Our single port compiler also outputs a one port register file,” he said. “Because of the way the bit cell is designed we can use the same bit cell for dual port so the dual port compiler will do the dual port register file and asynchronous dual port memory.” This avoids the problems of having up to five different compilers for each process technology with a significant support burden

The technology has been developed for the TSMC 40nm node and outperforms the high speed bit cell, says de Souza. “This took us a little bit by surprise as we didnt design for speed,” he said. “We did a lot of work at 40nm but what we are seeing from customers is that 28nm HPM is going to be a major node and we think there will be more new designs starting on 28nm than on 40nm.”

The technology is also fully compatible with FinFet vertical structures being used in TSMCs 16nm process node. “Our technology will work very nicely with FinFet right out of the box,” he said. 

The technology has previously been used by Beat to develop low power FPGA fabric but has attracted more interest for the SRAM compiler. “For me, Silicon Basis starts here,” said de Souza.

Startup slashes SRAM power with standard logic process – Electronics Eetimes.


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Bristol and Bath boosts silicon and high tech with £2m investment

February 10, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
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Bristol and Bath is providing £2m to boost silicon and high tech startups.

Twelve startups and small companies in the region have been awarded close to £2m ($3m) from the West of England Growth Fund, with Blu Wireless Technology awarded £1m for its 60GHz programmable IP development. The Growth Fund administers UK and European matched funds for the region and has already awarded £11.85m to SME companies.

All the companies are in the Bristol or Bath centres of the SETsquared incubator.

Bath businesses receiving funding include app developer neighbourly (£94k), Clean Energy (£27k), Citeab (£26k), Tivarri , Envolve Technologies (£132k) and CloudFind (£90k).

”I’m delighted that our companies have benefited from this investment by the West of England Growth Fund – the grants will now leverage additional multi-million pound private investments into these companies,” said Simon Bond, Centre Director of Bath SETsquared and the University of Bath Innovation Centre.

Members of the Bristol SETsquared Centre in receipt of awards are Digital TV Labs (£233k), Blue Speck Financial (£220k), AptCore (£80k), Nanoscope Services (£40k) and SecondSync (£100k).

“Bristol and Bath has some fantastic tech businesses – in software, internet technology, electronics, semiconductor, biotech and across all sorts of sectors. These awards will make a massive impact into jobs growth here – and SETsquared has a track record of businesses growing steadily without failing, so these are high-value, sustainable jobs,” said Nick Sturge, Bristol SETsquared Director.

Paul Wilson, chief executive of the West of England LEP, says: “Through this fund we have already invested around £14m, which has attracted more than £41 million of private sector investment into the local economy, creating or safeguarding over 1,500 jobs. High tech is a significant area of growth for us – we already compete internationally and our region is nurturing a future generation of high tech businesses.”

Bristol pumps £2m into silicon and high tech 

£1m boost for Blu Wireless in Bristol

February 10, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
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Bristol-based gigabit wireless IP developer Blu Wireless Technology has won a £1m ($1.6m) grant from the local Growth Fund for its 60GHz IP development.

The initial markets for BWT’s technology include the emerging 60GHz ‘WiGig’ addition to the WiFi family and high-speed wireless links for the latest 4G mobile networks based around small cells. These low cost small cells will be mounted on street furniture such as signs and street lamps.

BWT is already starting work on applying the programmble baseband technology to the emerging 5G telecommunications standard.

The company has seen the investment from the West of England Growth fund that is administering UK and European matched funding to small companies in all sectors. The company has grown from a team of 7 at the beginning of 2013 to 17 and anticipates that by the end of 2014 it will have around 30 staff.

BWT is based in the Engine Shed in Bristol, alongside a growing cluster of high tech and digital businesses.”This grant from West of England Growth Fund, combined with the almost £2.4M we have raised from private investors over the last year, will allow us to complete the development of our prototype design by the end of 2014,” said Henry Nurser, CEO of BWT. “BWT already has a strong working relationship with the University of Bristol and these funds will ensure that these links are further strengthened. All feedback on our technology from the multiple international companies we have been in discussion with has shown us that we have an opportunity to become leaders in these exciting new markets. We are confident that customers will buy our Bristol designed technology as soon as it’s commercially available.””This is the single largest amount we’ve awarded from the £25 million pot and it’s exactly the type of project we want to support,” said Paul Wilson, chief executive of the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership LEP. “Through this fund we have already injected around £14m into the local economy, which has attracted more than £41 million private sector investment, creating or safeguarding over 1,500 jobs. High tech is a significant area of growth for us – we already compete internationally and our region is nurturing a future generation of high tech businesses.”The company has shifted from developing and selling a chip to focus on IP, and last month saw a deal with Interdigital to develop technology for small cell backhaul.

Related stories:

7Gbps 60GHz transceiver IC implemented in 40nm low-power CMOS
IMEC powers ahead with 60GHz building blocks
Infineon samples 60GHz chips for backhaul
UK startup closes $3.1m Angel funding round for 60GHz wireless IP

£1m boost for Blu Wireless 60GHz – Electronics Eetimes.

UK tech sector records best growth performance for almost a decade – Electronics Eetimes

January 28, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
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The UK tech sector has seen its best performance in almost a decade according to a new report from KPMG/Markit Tech Monitor.

UK tech sector records best growth performance for almost a decade

via UK tech sector records best growth performance for almost a decade – Electronics Eetimes.

Bristol and Bath’s leading tech startups | Technology | The Observer

January 15, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
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Bristol and Bath’s leading tech startups meets the founders and executives at 16 of the most exciting tech startups in Bristol and Bath to find out what attracted them to the city and where they are heading

via Bristol and Bath’s leading tech startups | Technology | The Observer.

Southampton switches on one of the most powerful supercomputers in the UK

October 15, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
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The University of Southampton has flicked the on-switch for the most powerful university-based supercomputer in England and the third largest academic supercomputing facility in the UK. ‘Iridis4’ will also enter the top ten of the UK’s elite supercomputers.

Iridis4_Credit_University of Southampton_lw_press

The Iridis4 supercomputer at the University of Southampton

“Southampton is a leader in High Performance Computing (HPC) and Iridis4 allows us to take another leap forward to keep pace with the needs of our world-class researchers,” said Dr Oz Parchment, Director of Research Computing at the University. “There is an ever increasing demand for the use of supercomputing power for research and this new machine will provide the opportunity for even more academics to work on a greater number of projects, at faster speeds.”

In a deal worth £3.2 million, Southampton’s new supercomputer is powered by IBM Intelligent Cluster solutions and designed, integrated and supported by HPC, data management, storage and analytics company OCF. It is four times more powerful than its predecessor Iridis3 and has 12, 200 Intel Xeon E5-2670 processor cores, a petabyte (or one-million gigabytes) of disc space, with 50 terabytes of memory.

The new machine is one of very few in the UK to include to Intel Xeon Phi coprocessors, which can take control of some of the most demanding mathematical calculations to significantly increase its processing power. The Intel Xeon Phi coprocessors are each capable of running at one teraflop, (one trillion calculations per second).

Iridis4 will mainly be used for research by University staff and students across a wide variety of disciplines, from Engineering to Archaeology – Medicine to Computer Science. 2 It is estimated around 350 projects are likely to run on the machine in the first year.

“Staying ahead of the game in High Performance Computing is vital to help the University stay competitive. Simulation and computation enabled by HPC are recognised globally as the ‘third pillar’ of modern research and this investment will ensure we remain world leaders in this field,” said University of Southampton Pro Vice-Chancellor, Professor Philip Nelson.

“The growth of Big Data and the availability of computing power like Iridis4 means that the range of research areas that are enabled by supercomputing continues to grow. We look forward to seeing its impact on the University’s research, already recognised for the range and importance of the science conducted on the supercomputer’s predecessor, Iridis3,” said Steve Legg, IBM’s University Programs Manager in the UK.

Iridis3 will remain in operation, providing an important resource for industrial research through the e-Infrastructure South Consortium that also includes Bristol, Oxford and University College London and operates a ‘Centre of Innovation for the Application of High Performance Computing’. This was set up in 2012 with £3.7 million from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) to upgrade Iridis3 and install resources at Rutherford Appleton Laboratories near Oxford.

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IPL models Google’s copyright process for the digital economy

October 10, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
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Copyright is a thorny problem for the digital economy and companies around the world, and Google’s copyright and takedown process can be a mystery that has dramatic consequences.

Bath-based IT and consultancy firm IPL specialises in data analysis and has publishes its independent report on Google’s copyright notice and takedown process for links in its search results.

Using data gathered on Google’s takedowns over a 12-month period between April 2012 and March 2013, IPL developed a mathematical model to show how well the process is currently working and pinpoint the internal and external factors that affect consistency.

“Our involvement on a high-profile data analysis project such as this one underlines IPL’s strengths in this field and our ability to tackle the problem in an innovative way by modelling a complex process,” said IPL’s CEO Paul Jobbins. “We’re delighted to be informing the debate on what is a very important global issue.”

The report found that despite the volume of requests that Google receives having grown significantly (from less than two million in April 2012 to more than 18 million in March 2013), Google’s performance in terms of timeliness and accuracy has remained consistent.

As well as enabling Google to assess its performance over time, the model can be used by other companies who have to deal with similar takedown requests to perform similar analysis, and to compare this to Google and anyone else using the model.

Moreover, by modelling the relationship between the volume of requests, accuracy and timeliness, Google and others can assess the likely impact of changes to legislation – such as the imposition of a time limit for each takedown request.

“How best to fight copyright infringement online while protecting freedom of expression is a thorny problem,” said Simon Morrison, Google’s EMEA Copyright Public Policy Manager. ” This research shows that Google has done well at balancing these important aims even as the volume of content online has increased enormously.”


You can register for free to access the report on IPL’s website.

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Ultrasonic array gives touch feedback for gestures in mid air

October 8, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
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A team from the University of Bristol has developed a way to provide feedback from a screen without touching it.

Ultrahaptics in action

The team from the University of Bristol’s Interaction and Graphics (BIG) research group has used a phased array of ultrasonic transmitters to focus high frequency sound onto a target in mid-air. This would be used to provide positive feedback for a gesture-based user interface.

The research paper, to be presented at the ACM Symposium on User Interface Software and Technology (UIST) 2013 by Tom Carter from the Department of Computer Science, will unveil UltraHaptics, using ultrasonic vibrations for the first time to deliver tactile sensations to the user. The ultrasonic transducer array emits very high frequency sound waves that can be steered by changing the phase. When all of the sound waves meet at the same location at the same time, they create sensations on a human’s skin.

By carrying out technical evaluations, the team have shown that the system is capable of creating individual points of feedback that are far beyond the perception threshold of the human hand. The researchers have also established the necessary properties of a display surface that is transparent to 40kHz ultrasound.

The results from two user studies have demonstrated that feedback points with different tactile properties can be distinguished at smaller separations. The researchers also found that users are able to identify different tactile properties with training.

Finally, the research team explored three new areas of interaction possibilities that UltraHaptics can provide: mid-air gestures, tactile information layers and visually restricted displays, and created an application for each. 
Tom Carter, PhD student in the Department of Computer Science’s BIG research group, said: “Current systems with integrated interactive surfaces allow users to walk-up and use them with bare hands. Our goal was to integrate haptic feedback into these systems without sacrificing their simplicity and accessibility.

“To achieve this, we have designed a system with an ultrasound transducer array positioned beneath an acoustically transparent display. This arrangement allows the projection of focused ultrasound through the interactive surface and directly onto the users’ bare hands. By creating multiple simultaneous feedback points, and giving them individual tactile properties, users can receive localised feedback associated to their actions.”

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SouthWest firm drives 60GHz wireless backhaul designs

October 1, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
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A SouthWest firm is taking delivery of a new 60GHz chipset for gigabit wireless links over several kilometres.

Infineon Technologies has started the production of its BGTx0 chipsets for wireless backhaul communication systems, shipping to Sub10 Systems in Newton Abbot.

The lead customer Sub10 Systems is currently qualifying BGT70 and BGT80 E-band transceivers for an FDD (Frequency Division Duplex) system. Mark Stevens, Chief Technology Officer at Sub10 Systems, said: “We are delighted to be collaborating with Infineon on integration of the BGT70 and BGT80 chipset into our newly developed E-band transceiver. We expect high performance and high reliability at the same time, therefore we have chosen the best solution in the market.” The targeted system supports a data rate of more than 1 Gbit/s with link distances of about 2.5 kilometers.

Infineon’s BGTx0 family simplifies system design and production logistics by replacing more than 10 discrete devices by a single device. Due to their low power consumption the single-chip high-integration transceivers also help to reduce operating expenses in high data rate millimeter wave infrastructures

The transceiver family provides a complete radio frequency (RF) front-end for wireless communication in 57-64 GHz, 71-76 GHz, or 81-86 GHz millimeter wave bands. Paired with a baseband/modem, the system solution requires less space, offers improved reliability and lower cost for the critical wireless backhaul links needed in mobile base stations that support LTE/4G networks.

“The wide bandwidth available in V- and E-band millimeter-wave frequencies supports the exploding usage of mobile data with great growth opportunities for Infineon. With our process technology and RF design leadership we offer exactly what the emerging small cell infrastructure requires: highly reliable and easy to use packaged millimeter-wave transceivers,” said Philipp von Schierstaedt, Vice President and General Manager of the Business Unit RF & Protection Devices at Infineon Technologies. “The great interest of customers shows that our BGTx0 family perfectly meets their requirements.”

Each mobile communication standard uses specific frequency bands to transport data. Current standards operate below 43 GHz, known as microwaves. As future standards – like latest LTE/4G – will require more capacity and higher data rates, public authorities have released V- and E-band using millimeter waves. Network operators are expected to invest heavily in small cell infrastructures in the years ahead in order to provide mobile phone users with high speed internet and full network coverage.

Engineering samples of BGTx0 transceivers are already available. Volume production is planned for spring 2014.

Infineon's 60GHz chipset

Infineon’s 60GHz chipset

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September newsletter out now

September 25, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Exclusive, News 

The September 2013 newsletter for the High Tech sector group is out now at

  • Region launches High Tech Special Interest Groups
  • STMicro to close it’s Bristol site
  • NVIDIA opens £2m design centre in Bristol
  • Bristol opens up quantum computing in the cloud
  • Bath plans £100m Innvoation Quarter
  • Regions startups raise over £5m

Bristol makes quantum computing available to everyone

September 12, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
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A revolutionary new project called “Qcloud” run by the Centre for Quantum Photonics at the University of Bristol aims to to make the resources for quantum computing available for everybody via the Internet.

Few quantum computers exist and most are currently used in academic research at organisations such as Google and NASA. However, from Friday 20 September, the quantum processor housed at the Centre will become the world’s first open-access system, allowing researchers from anywhere in the world to access it remotely via the internet.

Using the website schools, academic research institutions and members of the public can log on and access a quantum simulator, which will be accompanied by user guides and manuals to help users get to grips with the basics of quantum computing. Once users are satisfied with the results of their simulation, they can submit their experiment to be run on a real quantum photonic processor.

The move has the potential to place Bristol at the heart of a new capability in apps for quantum computers.

The research team behind this new initiative are keen to open up the possibilities of quantum computing to the next generation of engineers, mathematicians, scientists and entrepreneurs – those in the classroom, as well as the lab, creating a quantum version of the successful Raspberry Pi low cost computer.

Project leader, Professor Jeremy O’Brien said: “This technology has helped accelerate our research and is allowing us to do things we never thought possible. It’s incredibly exciting to think what might be achieved by making this more widely accessible, not only to the brightest minds already working in research, but to the next generation. I hope that by helping schools to access this technology, and working with the British Science Association to provide educational content around quantum computing, we can achieve incredible things.”

Professor Sir Paul Nurse, Nobel Laureate and President of the Royal Society said. “it is very exciting to see this kind of technology being made accessible, not only to research institutions, but to the next generation of scientists. The fact that we can give budding young talent access to some of the most advanced computing technology is something that we, as a nation, should be extremely proud of, and I wish the University Of Bristol the very best of luck with it”

Quantum computing is a stranger affair than classical computing, relying instead on the qubit as its unit of information. The qubit can exist in multiple states at the same time (a phenomenon known as superposition). Calculations are performed by manipulating the state of the qubit. Theoretically, the nature of qubits means they calculate all answers to a mathematical problem simultaneously, and various algorithms can help the computer to indicate which of the solutions the qubits show is the correct one. This can make complex computations exponentially faster than on a classical machine.

Quantum technologies have demonstrated ultra-secure communications through the exchange of Quantum Keys; measurement beyond the classical limits of precision and calculations such as factoring numbers or solving optimisation problems. This has generated considerable interest in quantum computing as its power becomes more widely understood and new applications are developed. Recent publications have described quantum approaches to numerical simulations such as those used in computational fluid dynamics. As quantum technologies become more widely available novel solutions to society’s biggest problems are likely to emerge

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Bath plans £100m innovation quarter

September 3, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
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A £100m Innovation Quarter in Bath is aiming to create 2500 new high tech jobs in the region.

Bath Innovation Quay will create a business location for the growing ICT, low carbon and creative sectors within the city and will link with the research and academic base in the city’s two Universities. The development, which the Council will be encouraging to come forward by around the start of 2019, would create around 400,000 square feet of modern business space centred on the University of Bath Innovation Centre with up to 170 low carbon homes.

Bath Enterprise areas

Bath Enterprise areas

The University Innovation Centre is a core component of the plans. Dr Rob Head, Director of Research Development and Support at the University, said, “Our strong and successful programmes convinced us of the potential to build on these achievements and establish what we have termed our ‘Innovation Campus’. We have been working with the Council on these plans and I am delighted to see this important progress towards creating around 2,500 high technology related jobs within Bath.”

“Bath & North East Somerset Council wants to create a unique, compelling offer for businesses in the creative, digital, and knowledge sectors to relocate,” said Councillor Paul Crossley, leader of Council.

“The prospect of having hi-tech businesses, University research facilities, and places for people to live combining with the buzz of the city and World Heritage Site is simply mouth-watering in terms of opportunities for local people and prosperity for our area. A healthy, smart, zero carbon development will be created that will become the hub for imagination and creativity not just regionally, but worldwide as we take the area’s internationally respected reputation for digital expertise to the next level.”

The development costs for the plan would be around £65 million with the Council seeking a combination of Government money through the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership and the private sector.

The main locations that would be used are Newark Works, Avon Street Car Park and Coach Park. Investment worth £7.6 million has already been captured to tackle flood mitigation, highways works, and new footbridge over the river. The Council will also look to obtain £800,000 of funding to relocate the Coach Park.

No details are yet available about those private sector enterprises who would take workspace in Innovation Quay, although the Council says it is fielding considerable interest.

Bath Innovation Quay is one part of the Enterprise Area alongside the Residential Quarter where the Council, Crest Nicholson, Homes and Communities Agency and Curo Group are working together to create new homes and commercial space;

Commercial Quarter, of which Innovation Quay is the main part and the City Gateway comprising of Bath Riverside East and Green Park Station offers the opportunity not only for Sainsbury’s to develop their proposals for a new retail store, but also around 160,000 square feet of office, creative, and bar/ restaurant space.

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Swindon Silicon Systems celebrates 35 years of technology

August 1, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
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ASIC designer SWINDON Silicon Systems is celebrating thirty five years of trading. From small beginnings in 1978 in Swindon, the company has grown to become the UK’s largest fabless supplier of high performance mixed signal Application Specific Integrated Circuits (ASICs) with a turnover of £21m and delivering 50 million ASICs annually. ASICs allow almost any analogue or digital circuit to be implemented on a single chip, replacing traditional discrete components. Only a few years ago a bespoke integrated circuit was no more than a dream for most industrial designers, but SWINDON has put them within the reach of any technology sector.

By 1987 SWINDON had set up a test department and moved to its current premises with a separate production facility added in 1999. The company’s success in the automotive market led to it becoming part of Tomkins Plc in 2007, assisting it’s sister company, Schrader Electronics, to become the global leader in tyre pressure monitoring systems. Schrader International was acquired by Madison Dearborn Partners in 2012, bringing SWINDON the benefits of being part of a large multinational whilst maintaining its autonomy to pursue other markets. SWINDON is expecting its growth to continue, and a move to a new custom built facility is planned to accommodate this growth.

“It has always been about offering value to the customer” said Geoff Hall, Managing Director, “this coupled with the in-depth knowledge of all of our engineers and applying that to our customers challenges has enabled us to become an established player and to grow year on year. With the support of our new owners, that growth will continue into developing markets in Europe and beyond”.
The company employs 30 people at the moment but is looking to expand to 100 by 2018.
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Blu Wireless raises $3.1m for its 60GHz chip design

August 1, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
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Bristol-based wireless startup Blu Wireless Technology has closed a $3.1 million (£2m) funding round to customise and productise its chip design for the next generation of high speed wireless connections.

The funding will allow the company to double in size to 30 staff, and complete the development of its HYDRA programmable baseband IP that supports both 802.11ad next generation WiFi (WiGig CERTIFIED) and 4G mobile network backhaul applications that use the 60GHz frequency band rather than today’s 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands, giving much higher speed links.

The funding round was lead by Qi3 Accelerator, who represented a syndicate of over $1.5m (£1m) of London Business Angels private investors, including Wren Capital. A further $0.9 million (£0.6m) was invested by the Angel Co-Fund, several additional investors made up the remainder.

Blu Wireless’s baseband technology uses a programmable parallel processing architecture to efficiently support the complex modulation schemes required for emerging multi-gigabit wireless communication standards. The IP is currently optimised for chipsets used in both advanced WiFi and 4G small cell deployments, and can be simply scaled to support the anticipated future standards as they move to 20Gbps and beyond.

The firm is already working with several of the world’s leading  chip and system companies in these markets, says CEO Henry Nurser with the same customers using the IP for both 802.11ad and for wireless backhaul. The IP will be sold under license agreement to chipset manufacturers that compete in, or want to enter, markets that exploit the unlicensed 60GHz frequency band.

“With the completion of this funding round, we will be executing our plan to become the leading supplier of baseband system IP to manufacturers in the 60GHz sector,” said Nurser.

“This is a very exciting sector and we are convinced Blu Wireless will be a global leader in 60GHz technology,” said Tim de Vere Green of London-based  Qi3 who will also join the board. “We believe 60GHz applications in both consumer WiGig and telecoms backhaul are set for rapid growth, and Blu Wireless is already working with several of the world’s leading Semiconductor companies in these markets. The thorough due diligence we have conducted has given us great confidence in the team’s technical and management capabilities, as well as their deep knowledge of their target markets.”

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