In a dramatic move, Bristol University is to open up its research and give away the rights to patented technology for free. The University has world leading research in many areas, including microelectronics, materials science and biotech, and is looking to use its intellectual property to build collaboration with industry, says Dr Neil Bradshaw, Director of Enterprise and the man responsible for commercialising the university’s innovation
A birdsong recognition system and a ‘smart’ water-meter development to encourage water saving are just two of the innovative entries submitted for the University of Bristol’s New Enterprise Competition.
The annual event, which is open to students, staff and recent graduates of the University, attracted stiff competition. There is a prize fund of £35,000 along with free professional advice and managed office space at the Bristol SETsquared Centre, to help bring the winning ideas to the market place.
Eight teams have been shortlisted to go through to the final of this year’s competition. The teams are, SunHub – providing solar power systems to rural India, Rapunzel – a new hair-care product range, Gym2 – a new strategy to encourage gym-use, Tweeter – a birdsong recognition and identification system, Puddle – a ‘smart’ water-meter development to encourage water-saving, CheapAFM – the production of affordable Atomic Force Microscopes, and EventBand – a new identification and proof-of-age system for festivals. Your Child Starts Piano – a video tutorial system for teaching the piano was the ‘wild-card’ entry put through by Basecamp, the student business incubator.
The shortlisted entries include thirteen undergraduates, one postgraduate, one post-doctoral researcher, and two staff members – drawn largely from the Engineering Faculty but also including representatives from the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry, and the Faculty of Science.
Dave Jarman, Enterprise, Skills and Education Manager in RED and Chair of the competition judging panel, said: “The event is designed to draw and inspire new high-growth business ideas from the University’s entrepreneurial talent. This year’s competition was extremely fierce and the judging panel had a tough time deciding the shortlisted entries.”
The judging panel comprised representatives from the competition’s sponsors, Bristol City Council, Deloitte, EADS, IPGroup, King Sturge, Motorola, Osborne Clarke, Santander, SETsquared Business Acceleration Centre, and the Wyvern Seed Fund.
The finalists will now write up full business plans with the help of mentors from Basecamp, RED and the sponsoring organisations. The final presentations will take place on 11 May 2011 with the winners announced at the University’s Enterprise Dinner on 28 June 2011.
- Bristol appoints its first Business Fellows to build links with industry (swinnovation.co.uk)
- Bristol engineering students receive prestigious awards from Boeing (swinnovation.co.uk)
- Bristol team builds optical components for quantum computing (swinnovation.co.uk)
The European ENIAC Programme launched its 4th call for proposals (ENIAC Call – 2011) on On February 23rd, and the Technology Strategy Board are investing over £1m into this year’s call. The programme is aimed at companies engaged in research or design for microelectronics, nanoelectronics, micromachined systems (MEMS), System in Package (SiP), and System on Chip (SoC) design.
To help South West companies prepare of their proposals, the Electronics Knowledge Centre, in partnership with the NMI and the Microelectronics iNet, is holding an information day in Bristol on March 17th at the University of the West of England (UWE). This event will provide companies an opportunity to learn about the ENIAC programme, how to apply, and how to find the right collaborative partners.
The event will also include the opportunity for companies to “pitch” their capability, particulary if they are looking to participate in the programme. This will be followed by a brokerage session, giving companies the opportunity to discuss project ideas during private “one to one” meetings.
University of the West of England, Bristol
Speakers from: ENIAC JU, Technology Strategy Board, University of Sheffied, Philips BV
in association with NMI and the South West Microelectronics iNET
Registration fee: £15 + VAT (Members)
£30 + VAT (Non Members)
The government is to invest £7 million in strategic research and development projects and ground-breaking trials to improve co-operation between infrastructure providers, content producers, users and software developers including key innovators in the South West.
Bristol research group 3C Research, computer giant HP, The Met Office in Exeter and we7 in Oxford are all part of the Collaboration Across Digital Industries (CADI) scheme run by the Technology Strategy Board.
The investment follows a competition for funding managed by the TSB which sought to encourage new collaborations between people and organisations from areas of the online world that are looking for better ways to cooperate in delivering digital services. The collaborators in each project will address two or more of three major challenges – developing an internet trusted by users, evolving hardware and software infrastructure, and proving new business models for digital content and services.
“Co-operation between infrastructure providers, content producers, users and software developers is vital if we are to extract true economic value from the Internet,” asid Nick Appleyard, the Technology Strategy Board’s Head of Digital. “Such innovative, collaborative thinking will help to create a world-leading platform for UK business in the future and will allow the UK’s digital economy to grow and thrive.”
Other companies running project include AIMES Grid Services CIC, Avanti Communications, Cybula, Mirriad, Steepest Ascent and Totally Radio. The total value of all the projects, including contributions by the industrial partners involved, is £13.75 million.
The CADI funding competition will see a total of £18 million invested by the Technology Strategy Board over 12 months with a second round of funding will open in March 2011.
- £200K Consumer Trials Scheme For UK Based Digital Entrepreneurs (thenextwomen.com)
- The UK’s blueprint for a G-Cloud (l5consulting.wordpress.com)
New collaborative opportunities are available
A network of Technology Innovation Centres took a step forward with a government report that recommends they are named Turing Centres after the British mathematician and ‘father’ of computing, Alan Turing.
The scheme will be managed by the Technology Strategy Board to create six to eight centres, each backed with up to £10m a year and based on existing areas of expertise.
The TSB is looking at areas such as:
- High value manufacturing;
- Energy and resource efficiency;
- Transport systems;
- ICT; and
- Electronics, photonics and electrical systems.
While the centres would be based on existing research centres in areas of critical mass, there is a risk that centres that do not become part of the network could fail. “We expect that some existing research centres that are part funded by the Regional Development Agencies (RDAs) may become a part of new Technology and Innovation Centres (TICs), but many will not,” said the report. “There is a risk of losing much of the expertise built up with public resources over recent years. The Government should have, by now, set out further details of what will be done to support existing centres that are losing RDA money in March 2011. The Government should ensure that in the short-term any changes do not reduce the overall research and development spend in the regions. In the long-term it should be the Government’s objective to increase the overall research and development spend at both the regional and national level.”
The Turing Centres will provide small and medium sized businesses with access to world-leading technology and expertise, as well as reach into the knowledge base for world-leading science and engineering and be able to undertake collaborative applied research projects with business, particularly small companies.
- UK Government Apologizes for Appalling Treatment of Turing (blogs.sitepoint.com)
- Fight is on to keep Alan Turing’s papers in UK (menmedia.co.uk)
Research and Enterprise Development at the University of Bristol has announced its first Business Fellows – five research scientists at Bristol who will take the lead in supporting a culture of collaboration between academics and industry.
The first Business Fellows are:
Simon Mcintosh-Smith in the Department of Computer Science, Faculty of Engineering
Dr Tom Scott in the Interface Analysis Centre, Faculty of Science
Dr Bo Su in the School of Oral and Dental Sciences, Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry
Dr David Matthews in the School of Cellular and Molecular Medicine, Faculty of Medical and Veterinary Sciences
Fellows are expected to commit half a day a week to the role, supporting their colleagues and stimulating business collaborations in ways that do not impact on their teaching, research and administrative work. The University has been working with London Technology Network (LTN) which has experience in helping science-based university researchers to increase their interactions with business. The new Fellowships involve intensive training and mentoring provided by LTN, who will also facilitate interactions with industry around specific projects.
Bristol Fellows will take part in training programmes and activities alongside researchers from other universities in the spring of 2011.
- Bristol engineering students receive prestigious awards from Boeing (swinnovation.co.uk)
- Imaging beauty down to 1nm in Bristol (swinnovation.co.uk)
- Reader in Neuroscience Imaging : Bristol United Kingdom – Nature.com (nature.com)
- University of Exeter joins SETsquared (swinnovation.co.uk)
- Bristol: Europe’s Silicon Gorge (swinnovation.co.uk)
A key strength of the Southwest, the SETsquared Partnership of the Universities of Bristol, Bath, Surrey and Southampton, has been joined by the University of Exeter.
SETsquared is one of the UK’s most successful and long-running university-enterprise collaborations and runs innovation and enterprise centres across the region, developing routes to market for academic research, raising investment and creating jobs through its support for high-tech, high-growth early stage companies – both university spin-outs and companies in the wider community. Over the last five years the Partnership has supported around 650 companies, helped raise more than £150m in capital and created over 1,000 new jobs.
Exeter already has solid links with Bristol and Bath. Its activity in climate change, functional materials, systems biology and translational medicine adds strength to the Partnership’s research base. Exeter also has strong networks and support facilities for high-tech companies and will be a proactive partner in SETsquared’s incubation and business-creation agenda.
The SETsquared Partnership has nearly 7,500 academics at the five universities, which are jointly responsible for nearly nine per cent of the UK’s research budget.
“In these difficult times, the contribution universities make to the economy is key. The SETsquared Partnership has been very effective and expanding our membership will strengthen the role we can play. Exeter is an outstanding research-based university and is strongly engaged with the business community. It is an excellent fit with SETsquared’s existing members,” said Neil Bradshaw, Director of Enterprise at the University of Bristol and a member of the SETsquared Management Group.
“It is excellent news that the University of Exeter has now decided to become a member. It produces outstanding research and is strongly engaged with its regional business community,” said Ron Humphreys, Director of Bath Ventures. “We look forward to working together to bring further beneficial impact to the economy and wider society through our business support facilities and our combined research portfolio.”
Better known for cleaning windows and hospitals and gritting roads, the company has helped create 90 business over the last 23 years with only five failures, says John Telling, group corporate affairs director and nephew of the founder. MITIE takes a 51% share and the businesses can access the groups 26,00o customers. The group is particularly targetting information technology and new systems to increase the efficiency of managing the different companies.
- Rebalancing the economy: Private sector jobs and growth (number10.gov.uk)
- Entrepreneurs Hold Key To Economic Growth (news.sky.com)
The five new iNets in the SouthWest have collaborted in an Innovation Lab to identify four key projects to support.
The four projects are:
- ‘SwapShop’: developing an online space for sharing ideas and building trust and familiarity
- ‘Action Not Talk’: an online space to develop relationships and proactively support projects
- ‘Low Carbon OneStopShop’: collating information about the commercial benefits of implementing low carbon projects within companies, particularly small ones, and taking this on the road across the region
- ‘SME Skunkworks’: Finding ways to help small companies make time for innovative thinking
All five iNets will be supporting the projects in different ways and making use of their companies’ expertise to take them forwards.
Scientists at the University of Bristol now have a new tool that will yield yet more and unprecedented levels of information without disturbing the physical state of the object under scrutiny.
Physicists at Bristol’s Interface Analysis Centre have been using the Helios dualbeam instrument, which “unlocks the key to a whole new world,” says Centre Director Dr Tom Scott. The dualbeam looks at surface structures with a resolution of less than a nanometre – the equivalent of ten millionths of the thickness of a human hair. The resolution of the images produced is just one nanometre, one millionth of a millimetre.
The dualbeam uses a focused ion beam (FIB) and a high spec field emission scanning electron microscope (SEM) with gallium ions derived from a liquid metal ion source that are directed at the surface in a tightly controlled beam . The ion beam can be precisely controlled to remove material from tightly defined areas – essentially performing micro and even nano-surgery on almost any material.
Unlike other techniques used for dissecting materials, the dualbeam can extract information and capture images without causing any detectable damage except over a tiny area. It can also deposit materials such as gold and platinum, known for their conductivity, on to the surface structure, providing insights into the composition and behaviour of materials.
For physicists looking for quantum wells, biologists looking at the structure of membranes in the ears of tree crickets, and engineers keen to understand the nanostructure of exotic alloys, the dualbeam is invaluable.
“It makes things possible which were previously considered impossible, it’s at the heart of what makes science beautiful,” says Dr Scott. “It can do things in such a precisely defined way to such a high degree of accuracy that it really is incredible. In fact, it’s difficult to comprehend just how small a scale this thing works on.”
Some of the project proposals under consideration that would make use of the dualbeam include an examination of the ears of Indian tree crickets, where the dualbeam could be used to slice and view in three dimensions reconstructions of cricket ears. The findings could ultimately inform medical advancements in hearing devices for humans.
The dualbeam could also be used in quantum cryptography, to devise ways of transmitting messages in a way that is resistant to attempts to tap into the source, using emitters constructed from a single photonic light source so small and so intricately encoded as to be virtually undetectable.
In biochemistry, researchers are looking at making actuators – “gold sandwiches” with a polymer filling which could swim through the bloodstream, collecting information that could be used to inform medical approaches to human disease.
Dr Scott is keen to seek out other collaborations that will test the boundaries of every discipline: “The dualbeam instrument is a clear example of the University’s commitment to groundbreaking developments in research,” he said. “If we are going to be the leaders in the UK and internationally in terms of research we need to be pushing the boundaries of what is technically possible, and this new piece of equipment will certainly enable us to do that.”
- FEI Wins Multi-System Order from CANMET Materials Technology Laboratory (nanotech-now.com)
- Maskless GaAs etching reaches 10 nm resolution (nanotechweb.org)