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T h e S c i e n c e E n g i n e e r i n g & Te c h n o l o g y M a g a z i n e
ISSUE 1 7 S PR
RESEARCHERS SUGGEST NE WW AY S
Encouraging innovation and investment.
We are here to help businesses invest, grow and expand throughout County Durham. That’s why we’re driving forward the development of NETPark and NETPark Net – to ensure that the perfect environment is in place to help science and technology companies grow and flourish. To find out more about how we can help your business grow in County Durham, visit:
www.wherebusinessgrows.com or call us on: 0191 370 8680
where business grows
NETWorks reports on the very latest science and technology news, putting discoveries and advances in the context of everyday life – showcasing the scientific excellence of County Durham and the North East. When you look back at the emergence of the United Kingdom as an industrial powerhouse, you’re struck time and again by key moments when increases in the scale of manufacture become possible. Often this is the direct result either of new proceses being discovered or of new uses for existing materials. That’s certainly been a characteristic of the chemical and pharmaceutical industries where technological advances have had, and are still having, a vital part to play. Sparked by the developing reputation of Teesside as a hub for these sectors, today chemicals and pharmaceuticals are of huge importance to the north east’s economy, with around 200 chemical, pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies throughout the region contributing to what is a £60 billion industry for the UK, providing 600,000 quality jobs throughout the land. In our region, SembCorp’s Wilton International is already well established and home to many of the world’s leading chemical and manufacturing companies such as Huntsman, Invista, DuPont SA, Dow and Uniqema. Recently, former Newcastle University pharmaceutical spin-out e-Therapeutics announced that it was to raise £17.6m in a deal that will see Invesco become its largest investor. In February, the region played host to the Pharmaceutical and Biotechnology Sector – Opportunities and Developments in the North East conference. It brought together big players like GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi-Aventis, but many smaller, fast-growing companies like Boldon-based Immunodiagnostic Systems and Prudhoe-based The Specials Laboratory were also represented. At the University of Sunderland, the new £8.5m Sciences Complex aims to deliver research with “real world” impact, from new drugs to therapies and improved health practices and within the region the sectors have benefitted from the tremendous support of NEPIC and CPI. And the potential is enormous. A glance at the R&D spend top ten shows just how enormous - $8.7bn at Roche; $7.4bn at Pfizer; $5.59bn at GSK... So it’s important that there’s a long-term, consistent policy framework within which the industry can thrive. Innovative companies need access to finance and a competitive tax regime that incentivises R&D and rewards IP . Stewart Watkins Managing Director, County Durham Development Company (CDDC)
CDDC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Durham County Council, encourages innovation and strategic investment in the County and is driving the development of the North East Technology Park (NETPark) and the virtual innovation environment NETPark Net.
NETWorks is published by Distinctive Publishing Ltd, Aidan House, Sunderland Road, Gateshead, Tyne and Wear NE8 3HU Telephone 0191 4788300 Managing Director John Neilson Creative Director Martin Williamson For all enquiries including editorial, subscription and advertising please contact Distinctive Publishing. With thanks to all our contributors.
L T H C O M PA N
06. 07. 08. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 18. 19. 20. 21. 22. 25. 27. 28. 29. 30. NEWS & EVENTS...NOT TO BE MISSED NETPARK BUSINESS PREPARES FOR GROWTH COLLABORATIVE ACTION BENEFITS THE WHOLE PROCESS INDUSTRY NEWCASTLE UNIVERSITY, CHANGING AGE! ENCAPSUWATE PAINTING A GREENER FUTURE HEALTH COMPANY SECURES LISTING THE BIG IDEA AT NETPARK EMPLOYMENT BOOST FOR RENEWABLE INDUSTRY £6.5M NETPARK EXTENSION UNDERWAY NORTHSTAR VENTURES INVESTING IN INNOVATION NEW GENE TEST DISCOVERED NEUROMUSCULAR DISORDER ART OF SCIENCE AT NETPARK SENSING THE NEED FOR INNOVATION N.E. LEADS THE WAY IN PLANNING FOR AN AGEING POPULATION DURHAM ON TRACK FOR HIGH SPEED TRAIN BUILDING PROJECT RESEARCHERS SUGGEST NEW WAYS OF PROTECTING WILDLIFE SCIENCE HOLDS THE KEY FOR REGION RESEARCH THAT’S SIMPLY OUT OF THIS WORLD CLEANING UP THE OCEANS BREAKING THAT AWKWARD SILENCE
E T E S T D I S C OV E R E D
UT OF THIS LY O WO
Where brilliant ideas grow.
The NETPark Incubator doesn’t just provide space to work, it provides a total-support environment in which science and technology businesses can develop and grow. If your business is based on the research, design and development of new technologies, and displays the potential and ambition for growth through innovation, then why not join us? If you have a product to develop, we’ll help you turn it into a business. To find out more, visit us at:
Or contact us at: The NETPark Incubator, Thomas Wright Way, Sedgefield, County Durham TS21 3FD
NETPark enquiries: +44 (0)1740 625180
NETPark is developed by:
where business grows
NEWS & EVENTS... NOT TO BE MISSED
13th April 2011 1st European Chemical Purchasing Conference Radisson Blu Royal Hotel, Brussels, Belgium Up-to-date information about the global and regional economic recoveries, world and local supply issues, energy and credit issues and projections for key chemicals and polymers. www.icisconference.com/europeanpurchasing 9th-10th May 2011 European Pharma Manufacturing Masters 2011 Meliá Berlin Hotel, Berlin, Germany All pharmaceutical manufactures needs to optimise their operations for increasing productivity. The European Pharma Manufacturing Masters 2011 will share challenges, experiences and solutions with a unique networking approach & atmosphere. www.business-masters.econique.com 6th-7th June 2011 The Pharmaceutical Out-licensing Course Understand the key factors leading to a successful out-licensing deal within the pharmaceutical and biotech industries. Learn how to profile your product and prepare product information to maximize its attractiveness to third parties. www.celforpharma.com 7th-9th June 2011 Next Generation Pharmaceutical Summit 2011 The InterContinental, Vienna, Austria An arena for senior level executives to engage in clear and focused dialogue with their peers and examine their management objectives in a relaxed and vibrant environment. www.ngpsummit.eu.com 15th-16th June 2011 - ChemSpec Europe 2011 Palexpo, Geneva, Switzerland The leading exhibition of the fine and speciality chemicals industries, attended by most of the major players in Europe. Connect with new and existing contacts and learn from industry experts in a range of free-to-attend conferences and seminars. www.chemspecevents.com GlaxoSmithKline has begun late-stage trials of two new drugs, GSK2118436 and GSK1120212, for advanced or metastatic melanoma patients. The trials will determine if the drugs stop or slow the progression of skin cancer in patients with the BRAF V600 mutation. GSK has also announced that it is to pay the tuition fees of undergraduates the company hires in the UK. Designed to drive recruitment GSK’s reimbursement scheme is timed to coincide with increased university fees which come into place in September 2012. Financial services consulting group Mercer (New York) is forecasting that investment opportunities in low carbon technology could hit $5 trillion by 2030. While this would be a boost for the chemical industry, there is a downside - climate change could contribute as much as 10% to company share portfolio risks during the next 20 years. More detail in the Mercer study ‘Climate Change Scenarios – Implications for Strategic Asset Allocation’. Most medical apps for the iPhone and other smartphone platforms have been aimed at doctors and patients, but a growing number are being developed for drug developers. Finding clinical trials, capturing and reporting outcomes data, imaging and even clinical trial management systems apps are now available. Bloomberg is forecasting that Japan’s pharmaceutical companies are going to snap up more drug developers. In the past year, reports Bloomberg, there was a 30% jump in the number of overseas deals completed by Japan’s pharma companies. With money to spend, and a stronger yen, there could be a ‘biotech buyout blast in 2011’. The International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) says that, in order to get around tight controls, modified designer drugs are being produced in growing numbers and at an ever-faster pace. Detailed instructions are often shared on the Internet, and the INCB is urging governments to adopt national control measures to prevent the manufacture, trafficking in and abuse of these substances.
NETPARK NET CLINIC SCHEDULE 2011
DATE SESSION EXPERT
22 March 5 April 12 April 26 April 10 May 24 May Bruce Watson Graeme Jordan /Paul Sutherland Terry Wilcox Simon Briton Paul Chapman Gary Thompson
Northumbria University think M HMRC Armstrong Watson Bluefin Insurance C2M
Design Expertise for high growth businesses. Market Strategy Expertise for your business Tax implications of imports and exports ‘Tax Breaks For Innovation – R&D Tax Credits And The Patent Box’ Insurance for your company. Concept to Manufacture – how can I get my product made?
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Steve Clements managing director of U2T
NETPARK BUSINESS PREPARES FOR GROWTH
An innovative technology business based at NETPark is gearing up for growth, after the sampling of its first telecom products. U2T Photonics UK Ltd, which has been at the North East Technology Park (NETPark) in Sedgefield, for two years has started selling its products on a small-scale - a process that the firm believes will pave the way for more rapid expansion within the next two years. The business, which currently employs eight people, produces innovative technology that allows the high speed transmission of data across large geographical areas. Practically, this will allow faster and cheaper broadband that is able to meet future demand – expected to soar over coming years. U2T hopes to become a multi-million pound turnover business when it takes the product to market on a larger scale. Steve Clements, managing director of U2T, said: “The product we make has great commercial potential and we expect that within the next 18 months to two years, we will see turnover grow into millions. “Being based here at NETPark has allowed us to quickly get into our office and laboratory space and concentrate on the business. To have use of NETPark’s facilities, as well as access to information and equipment from Durham University’s Research Institute and PETEC has been an extremely valuable support mechanism.”
COLLABORATIVE ACTION BENEFITS THE WHOLE PROCESS INDUSTRY
NEPIC, the North East Process Industry Cluster, was established by industry in 2005 to identify and deliver growth opportunities for the sector and the UK economy and in 2006, the cluster created a Strategy for Growth at a time when our industry sector was widely believed to be at best stagnant or even dying. By harnessing the collective knowledge of key industrialists in the sector, NEPIC built a vision for change and a strategy for growth and with continued support from all parts of the industry, NEPIC has and will continue to deliver fantastic results for the UK economy. Despite the sector suffering from difficult times in the wake of the recent recession, the regions process sector fought back as it sought to accelerate investment, improve efficiency and transition into a new low carbon future. The NEPIC Ten Point Plan and subsequent Tees Valley Industrial Programme were formulated and rolled out over the course of 2010 with huge success, and as NEPIC announces £1 billion Gross Value Added for the UK economy since its inception, the cluster takes a look at the current state of play across North East England’s process sector landscape. Rejuvenation is key to the success of the sector and the region has rapidly established itself as a global hub for the sustainable use of bioresources and waste. We continue to be at the forefront of this vital sector, which is strengthened by the existing commercial and technical infrastructure that the region boosts. The Ensus bioethanol plant, Europe’s largest wheat biofinery, has now been in production for over a year, whilst Harvest Energy who took over the former Biofuels Corporation biodiesel plant on Teesside has recently committed to stay in the region for ten years. Greenergy has made a significant investment with a new state-of-the-art fuel blending, storage and distribution facilities and Four Rivers, based in Cambois Northumberland, have secured a supply agreement with BP to produce biodiesel, with plans well underway for the site to become their first integrated waste to energy plant. These existing projects and infrastructure are expected to be complimented by an INEOS BioEnergy Plant, which will produce a carbon neutral bioethanol road transport fuel from waste together with renewable electricity at Seal Sands. The Sembcorp owned Wilton 10 Power Station on Teesside became the UK’s first large scale biomass power station to use wood as its renewable fuel source and MGT Power has been granted full consent to go ahead with their £500m Teesport based Tees Renewable Energy Plant, with a plant of the same capacity is also being planned for Port of Tyne, Newcastle.
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Similar projects from Gaia Power and others are also being considered due to the fantastic port, rail and road infrastructure in the region. Energy from Waste is another key area for the region. SITA, who already operates a large scale Waste to Energy plant within the region, announced with Sembcorp, proposals for a £200million Wilton 11 Project, which will convert household & office waste to energy on the Wilton Site, whilst Air Products has announced plans to build a new 49MW renewable energy plant in Tees Valley. Pyreco is also building a leading edge plant on the Wilton site that will use advanced patented pyrolysis techniques to break down end-of-life tyres back to their component parts of carbon black, oil, gas and steel. Mitsubishi Chemical Corporation has chosen the Cassel Site at Billingham as the new location for the manufacture of electrolyte – the active ingredient in Li-ion batteries. Elsewhere in the region, the Pharmaceutical Industry remains the main value creator in Northumberland, Durham and Tyne and Wear and should be at the heart of the strategy for economic development of the Northern Local Economic Partnership (LEP) and a key focus of the North East Economic Partnership (NEEP). Many very significant international corporations have big pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities located here. The region plays host to GlaxoSmithKline in Barnard Castle, sanofiaventis at Fawden, MSD in Cramlington and Fuji Biologics Billingham Teesside, along with Piramel Pharmaceuticals in Morpeth, Bolden based ImmunoDiognostic Systems (IDS), and Reckitt Benkieser (formerly SSL International) in Peterlee. These extremely important businesses contribute hugely to the local economy and are joined by our own home grown manufacturing capability in SCM Pharma and The Specials Laboratory in Prudoe and of course not forgetting the amazing growth story of Cramlington based Aesica Pharmaceuticals. These huge manufacturing facilities together produce approximately thirty five per cent of the UKs Pharmaceutical Gross Domestic Product (GDP) – an industry that is often held up as the “Jewel in the Crown” of the UK economy. This sector is in constant flux. The region’s most recent significant acquisition came when Covance, the USA based research organisation, acquired the research facilities of sanofi-aventis at Alnwick. This underlines the very significant Pharmaceutical research capability of North East England.
The region also boosts a number of Fine & Speciality companies covering a range of process steps from development through to large scale manufacture. Many of these are SMEs, and they employ a range of personnel including highly skilled professional chemists and engineers, process and engineering technicians and associated business support functions, totalling at least 5,000 direct jobs. The traditional products for many of these companies have been low added value, simple chemical transformations, servicing domestic markets, often consumer driven. Price erosion and well established transportation routes have led customers to look to lower cost economies for ways to reduce manufacturing costs and maintain market share. But it is noticeable that the migration of products to low cost economies has slowed down, if not reversed for a variety of reasons such as unachieved quality, logistical and capacity targets. There has also been a realisation that straightforward labour costs do not make up as much of the production cost as was believed and in China and India labour costs have been raising with double digit inflation. The future holds new opportunities for fine and speciality chemical companies. High value added products are being developed using innovation in bio-based industries, specialised medicinal and healthcare industries (including cosmeceuticals and nutraceuticals), coatings, advanced materials, recycling and recovery operations amongst others. Many of these processes are being adopted by manufacturers across Europe and it is essential that North East companies become involved in these developments. Local companies can keep abreast of these developments through the cluster and also the S2B Project that is being led by Teesside University. Elsewhere, within the Rubber & Polymer sector, technology is developing and bringing with it opportunities in new biodegradable, recycled and recyclable polymers and there are in the region of two hundred companies within these sectors in North East England. Polymers were first manufactured on the Wilton Site on Teesside and to this day we can still find many polymers and their intermediates being made here. Purified terephthalic acid, or PTA as it’s commonly known, the precursor of PET (polyethylene terephalate), is manufactured on a very large scale on the site by the Korean owned Lotte Chemicals. Next door, one of the newer innovations in global recycling is taking place, where the patented technology of Greenstar WES (recently been acquired by Biffa Polymers) enables the company
to provide 17 per cent of the polymer used in UK milk bottles as recycled material. Furthermore, the Wilton site is still dominated by SABIC’s huge £300 million investment into Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE), the largest such plant in the world, that has turned the UK into a net exporter of that material. The region also plays host to Lucite International, now part of the Mitsubishi Chemical Corporation, who are the biggest producers in the world of methyl-methacrylate - the driving force behind the global Perspex brand. Victrex and Ineos Notriles also manufacture in the region and Dupont Tejin Films, who make specialist materials such as cling film and electronic tapes, still have a major R&D activity here. It is not surprising therefore that many of the above high-tech manufacturing facilities and the R&D teams that underpin them, are working from the Wilton Centre in Redcar. Here they are generating new materials and processes for the plastic electronic sector, which are finding applications as flexible television and monitor screens, printed circuits, photovoltaic cells and leading edge lighting equipment. Many of these companies are collaborating in these new technology areas with the Centre for Process Innovation – CPI, who support developments in new polymers through the National Industrial Biotechnology and Sustainable Process units, which house scale up equipment to enable company’s to trial their new products and processes. CPI also manages the National Plastic Electronic Centre in Sedgefield, where many new product innovations are taking place. Looking to the future, NEPIC’s current active investment portfolio comprises of 62 projects, totalling a potential £10 billion. The Cluster’s membership continues to fund its activities and can advise on business funding, supply chain connections, planning and land issues, as well as personnel and skills. NEPIC also can assist with marketing and sales and in particular via its website, membership directory and sector publications, which have an extensive circulation directed to contacts in the global industry. NEPIC members regularly report of gaining new business from around the world from their interactions with these tools. Dr Stan Higgins, NEPIC CEO said: “We are totally focused on business growth. Because our industry leadership believe through growth of the sector and individual companies we will continue to have a healthy industry in the region”. www.nepic.co.uk
NEWCASTLE UNIVERSITY, CHANGING AGE
Welcome to the 29 hour day! Increasing longevity means that every day we use 24 hours and gain five more to stockpile for later. Children born today have a 95% chance of reaching the age of 65 and an increasingly large number of us will exceed 85. The over 85s, the oldest old, are the fastest growing sector of society and this is changing the demography of our society. This huge triumph for mankind is both a blessing and a challenge. If we are to make the most of our newly shaped society, then we must learn to think differently about ageing and older people. This is a huge societal challenge and one to which Newcastle University has committed itself, across the University, under its Changing Age societal challenge theme, led from the Faculty of Medical Sciences. Newcastle University prides itself on its reputation for international excellence in a broad range of research around ageing, centred on its Institute for Ageing and Health but extending well beyond the medical sphere. Changing Age has provided the impetus to enhance our ability to work with the public and with business to see genuine impact from our research work. The initiative builds on our extensive networks and the Campus for Ageing and Vitality, a unique environment for collaboration in ageing. The University’s Charter for Changing Age sets out 8 points of challenge to our current attitudes: n Increased life spans represent one of humanity’s greatest achievements n Increasing life expectancy is an economic good n Ageing concerns us all n Each individual has an equal place in our society regardless of age n Much better information about older people is needed n Older people are an under-acknowledged asset n We need to use and expand our scientific knowledge about ageing n We need urgently to adapt infrastructure for an ageing population The University is keen to work with a variety of partners. We may be able to help you, if you are working on products or services which address questions such as: n How do we manage our lives to age as well as possible? n How do we limit the impact of age related conditions? n How do we make products, places and services accessible to all ages? n How do we support those damaged by ageing compassionately and effectively, yet efficiently? To find out more about how we might support your business with innovation please contact: Graham Armitage - Programme Director Campus for Ageing and Vitality, Newcastle University Tel: ++44 (0)191 248 1306 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Whilst all of these are important issues, the last 3 represent not only challenges but opportunities; opportunities to work with older people and to utilise scientific knowledge to innovate in providing the products and services needed in a society where it is more common to be over 60 than under 16. Innovation of this kind is a great opportunity for business, not only to make a difference but, for those who are quick to recognize and address its challenges, for significant financial reward.
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(L-R) Jonathan Quinn - Managing Director of EncapsUwaste, Ben Herbert - Director of Research & Development at Stopford Projects and Prith Rajendran - Managing Director of Stopford Projects
PAINTING A GREENER FUTURE FOR THE WASTE INDUSTRY
The UK paint market is currently the fourth largest in Europe, creating enough waste each year to fill 40 Olympic sized swimming pools. The environmental impact and high costs associated with the disposal of commercial paint sludge has led EncapsUwaste, in partnership with Stopford Projects Ltd, to develop a new ultrasonic micro-encapsulation process that cost effectively diverts paint waste from landfill. EncapsUwaste’s unique process uses specially selected and modified Pulverised Fuel Ash (PFA) to reduce paint volume. The ash is introduced to the paint waste within an ultrasonic reactor, to lock-up the heavy metals and waste fraction. The end product is an inert grey powder which can be used in a number of applications such as breeze block manufacture and filling material in commercial paint production. When developing new paint formulations, the industry is tasked with balancing the performance of the paint with its environmental impact. Dependent on the intended end-use, some paints contain a number of hazardous substances and heavy metals, requiring specialist disposal via licensed contactors. Typical removal costs range between £200 - £500 per tonne of waste, with figures set to rise with increasing landfill disposal costs. Leachable metals present in untreated paint sludge pose significant risk, since many have been shown to be bio-accumulative and toxic within the environment. The EncapsUwaste process serves to lock-up the leachable metals fraction, creating a cleaner, more economical disposal process, while significantly reducing the environmental impact of the waste stream. The EncapsUwaste test plant is currently in operation in Bromborough, Wirral and continues to be rigorously trialled to ensure its performance meets the needs of the industry and the requirements of the regulators. Jonathan Quinn, EncapsUwaste Managing Director says, “the system requires a minimum level of competence to operate and with suitable adjustment is able to support high production volumes. The process has also been designed so that it can be readily integrated within existing manufacturing infrastructure.” The problems associated with hazardous paint waste disposal are not confined to the UK and as such, EncapsUwaste is hopeful that future technological and market developments will facilitate international expansion. EncapsUwaste is a technology driven by market demand and environmental concern. Through support from Stopford Projects’ R&D department, EncapsUwaste is currently seeking to develop pipeline applications for the technology, including the sustainable treatment of inks and dye waste streams. For enquiries about the EncapsUwaste Process, please contact Jonathan Quinn on 07885 775804, or for further details relating to Stopford Projects’ capabilities in the development of green technologies please visit the Stopford website www.stopford.co.uk
HEALTH COMPANY SECURES LISTING
Six years after its launch in Cramlington, Aesica Pharmaceuticals has been named by Deloitte in the Sunday Times as one of the fastest private equity backed firms, with the fastest growth in profits. The company, 3rd in the list of 100 fastest growing companies, was spun out of BASF by Dr Robert Hardy and his management team in 2006. They have since purchased three other businesses across the UK and are seeking acquisitions around the world to achieve further growth. Aesica were joined on the list by Quantum Specials of County Durham (14th), who manufacture and supply pharmaceutical products and medicines, along with Darlington based specialist Healthcare provider Castlebeck (72nd). Dr. Stan Higgins CEO of NEPIC, the Cluster group representing Pharmaceutical industry in the region, said: “Congratulations to
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all these companies that are clearly identifying and providing the growth our economy needs. In particular, Dr Hardy and the team at Aesica Pharmaceuticals, who have been NEPIC members since their formation. “Aesica Pharmaceuticals have grown from a £20m company to well over £100m sales in less than six years, which has been achieved from their Cramlington base. The company now has several major sites across the UK employing over seven hundred people. It just shows what can be achieved by a determined and imaginative management team, even in a competitive globalised industry such as pharmaceuticals.” The Sunday Times Fast Track 100 league table ranks Britain’s 100 private companies with the fastest-growing sales on their latest three years.
THE BIG IDEA AT NETPARK
Between 70-90% of new products fail* in their market place – in today’s tough economy, this failure rate can no longer be an option. Now companies can take advantage of a total innovation support system provided by the Business Innovation Gateway (BIG) a joint facility offered by NETPark, the Centre for Process Innovation and Durham University. The combined strengths of the three partners means the right support at the right time for your business. Space and facilities A broad range is available including Virtual Office, hotdesking, incubation lab and office space, right through to high-end cleanrooms and access to the state of the art equipment at Durham University and CPI. Market knowledge NETPark’s NETIntel business intelligence combines with CPI’s extensive IP landscaping service and export advice from our partners. Money A complete range of finance and funding tools is available, including a funding database, investment readiness assessment, help with business plans, plus links to angels, VC funds and many sources of public sector support. Technical expertise and skills Durham University and CPI are home to world-leading experts in fields from space science to printable electronics to energy and defence technologies and many many more. They can find the right expert and help find skilled people to assist growing businesses. Business support Just setting up and growing a business can be fraught but many people have already successfully achieved this. Companies can bcome part of the NETPark community and learn from the best, and take advantage of CPI’s “SME in a box” service. Support for innovation Ideas generate wealth but only if the right idea is there to develop in the first place. Innovation and product portfolio management processes should be as lean and as effective as manufacturing processes. NETPark’s innovation academy teaches companies how to choose which ideas to progress and which to develop with global companies looking for new ideas. CPI will help roadmap new technologies and broker new partnerships. Fortune favours the well prepared so contact us on email@example.com or call 01740 625186 Anthony Ulwick – Author of ‘What Customers Want Provided by:
EMPLOYMENT BOOST FOR RENEWABLE INDUSTRY
Research has revealed that renewable energy in the UK is starting to make an impact on employment statistics. RenewableUK, the country’s leading voice for the renewable energy industry, has published the most comprehensive ever employment figures for the wind energy industry, showing a 91 per cent increase in full-time employment in the sector between 2007/8 and 2009/10. The growth in employment stands in contrast to the overall UK employment level, which reduced during the same period by 3.4 per cent. The study was jointly commissioned by RenewableUK and EU Skills, the Sector Skills Council for the Power Sector, from Warwick University ’s Institute for Employment Research (IER) and Cambridge Econometrics. The findings are based on information collected from 253 companies with business activities in the wind and marine energy sectors. Of the 10,800 full-time-equivalent (FTE) employees working directly in the sectors, the majority, or 56 per cent, are associated with large-scale onshore wind (turbine output of over 100kW), followed by 29 per cent in offshore wind, whilst 7–8 per cent of the overall workforce is employed in smallscale wind and around the same proportion in wave and tidal energy.
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The report identifies 9,200 full-time employees as working in the large-scale wind energy industries in 2009/10. A comparable study commissioned by RenewableUK from Bain & Company in 2008 recorded 4,800 FTE employees in the sector for the 2007/8 period. Maria McCaffery MBE, Chief Executive of RenewableUK, said: “This sector has withstood the negative GDP growth of the UK recession and bucked the overall employment trend in a spectacular way by a near doubling of the workforce.” Announcements by the Government to continue with ports investments in last year’s Spending Review, followed by a host of inward investment decisions in the supply chain, including Siemens’ recent decision to locate major turbine manufacturing plant in the UK, are expected to further advance employment in the sector in the coming years. Maria McCaffrey said: “It is now obvious that acting decisively on reducing carbon emissions and diversifying our energy supply will bring a double bonanza of increased green energy yields and economic growth.” “This study presents a compelling case for increasing our base of installed renewable energy devices. There is a clear link between sector activity and UK employment gains. Creating a policy framework that ensures that our wind, wave and tidal resources are fully utilised will create jobs and stimulate economic activity at a time when we need it most.”
£6.5M NETPARK EXTENSION UNDERWAY
Work is underway on a £6.5m project to add two brand new units to the North East Technology Park (NETPark). The additional units are being specifically developed to cater for businesses that have either grown successfully at the NETPark Incubator and now require larger premises, or for other expanding companies that wish to move to NETPark. Children from Fishburn Primary School got stuck into laying the groundwork for two new units, which are set to be completed by November of this year. The new units will offer space for up to four businesses and represent the latest phase in the rapid development of NETPark, which was last extended in 2010. As one of the fastest growing parks of its kind in the UK, NETPark is expected to be home to businesses that will create thousands of high-quality jobs in the future. The school helped to get building work underway, after visiting the site in February to find out about some of the groundbreaking science and technology businesses that are based at NETPark and the career opportunities these offer. Councillor Neil Foster, Durham County Council’s cabinet member for regeneration and economic development, said: “We have already seen many businesses at NETPark managing to develop and expand at pace, and so the addition of space that offers room for growth for businesses is a real step forward. “Science and technology is a growing and resilient sector, and there is an increasing need for specialised business space and support that meets the changing needs of fast-developing companies. These new buildings will help us to better cater for science businesses, which will in turn make NETPark an even more attractive choice for companies looking for space in which to locate their business.” He added: “The development marked a really important step forward for NETPark and it seemed appropriate to involve local schools as we began the extension. The investment that has been put into NETPark is helping us to continue to put in the place the necessary infrastructure for a successful science industry in the region, which is something the young people we invited to the site, and others like them, will gain profound benefits from in the future.” The units are being constructed on a 2.5 hectare site at NETPark, and are part of a £10m project comprising three units, the first of which was completed in March 2010 and is now occupied by Kromek. Each of the new buildings will provide 1,870 sq m of floor space, which will include serviced office areas and spaces which tenants can fit out as laboratories, clean-rooms or production space. Each building can be divided into two separate units, ensuring that it can be adapted to meet the needs of growing businesses. Around £200,000 worth of renewable energy features will be installed of photovoltaic panels on the roofs to generate electricity for direct use by the building occupiers as well as the addition of charging points for electric cars and bicycles. All three units were partly funded by the European Regional Development Fund and One North East’s Single Programme. One North East Head of Special Projects, Emma Speight, said: “The number of companies growing through the incubation process at NETPark is increasing and so too is the need for additional business space. These new units will help take companies from the incubation stage to a successful commercial organisation.”
(L–R) Ross Linnet - Recite me & Stephen Price - Northstar Ventures
(L-R) Alex Buchan - Northstar Ventures, John Forrest - Re Pet & Peter Calliafas of Accelerating Growth Fund
NORTHSTAR VENTURES INVESTING IN INNOVATION
Northstar Ventures is a Newcastle-based venture capital firm that specialises in turning promising ideas and innovations into commercially successful businesses. As well as financial backing, Northstar offers fledgling firms in the north east the management support and professional know how to help them flourish. Northstar manages two funds as part of the £125m Finance for Business North East programme: The £15m Finance for Business North East Proof of Concept Fund, which supports the very early stages of business creation within the technology sector, with investments of between £20k and £100k. The £20m Finance for Business North East Accelerator Fund, which invests in high growth, early stage businesses in any eligible sector and will complete investments of between £100k and £500k. These funds are backed by One North East, the European Regional Development Fund and the European Investment Bank. Northstar supports entrepreneurial talent in the North East by facilitating successful deals across a range of sectors, including digital media, healthcare, biotech, energy and environment and mobile communications. Through backing new products and processes that enhance living standards and create inspired solutions for business, Northstar has invested in many ground breaking, innovative technologies, which serve as the basis of a sustainable, knowledge-based regional economy. The Finance for Business North East Accelerator Fund Re Pet Plastics manufacturer Re Pet was launched last year to supply the packaging industry with recyclable plastic sheeting for products destined for the food packaging industry. The company has secured £1.2m of investment including a
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contribution from Northstar, which backed the company on behalf of the Finance for Business North East Accelerator Fund. The company’s name is derived from the PET material that it makes which is most commonly used to make drinks bottles and is much easier to recycle than PVC plastic, which is still used by many retailers. Currently the UK imports two-thirds of the PET material used in food packaging and Re Pet aims to become one of the largest PET manufacturers in the country. The product Re Pet makes is cheaper than PVC, so it is a winwin situation for food companies and supermarkets looking to increase their green credentials as well as keep costs down. As much as £800,000 of the £1.2m investment pot has already been used to buy a machine that sandwiches recycled plastic between thin layers of plastic polymer material, which is then pushed through a die under high pressure to create the plastic sheeting. Re Pet expects to be making 100 tonnes of material per week with the help of the new machine and anticipates rapid growth, hoping to attract enough additional investment to secure a second, more advanced, machine in the autumn. Femeda Local company Femeda is leading the charge in the fight against bladder weakness – a condition which affects at least one third of all women during their lifetime. The company, based in Wynyard Business Park, has been backed by the Finance for Business North East Accelerator Fund. Femeda has devised a simple, discreet product to help women improve the strength of their pelvic floor muscle. Pelviva ‘pelpons’ are designed to be as familiar and userfriendly as tampons – disposable, comfortable and easy to use. The product has the potential to significantly increase the quality of life of affected women (1 in 3). To date, sufferers have had to make do with pads which are ineffective in treating the condition, or resort to pills or surgery both of which can have side effects.
Marion Bernard - CEO of Northstar Ventures (L-R) Stephen Price - Northstar Ventures & Kris Wadrop - Solvert
Pelviva is proven to reduce leaks and provides an easy solution to maintain the improvement over the long term. When launched, the product aims to revolutionise how women approach and treat bladder leakage. Pelviva’s objective is to become a global brand by offering an effective treatment that will allow thousands of women to overcome the suffering and inconvenience caused by incontinence without having to having to visit a health care professional. Pelviva has been developed in the North East and will generate employment within the region as the business grows. Originally known as Femestim, the product has already secured awards in the region, winning Healthcare Project of the Year in the 2010 Bionow awards. The Finance for Business North East Proof of Concept Fund Recite Me Former Northumbria University Student Union president Ross Linnett has secured £100,000 from the Finance for Business North East Proof of Concept Fund to continue development of software that helps dyslexic and visually-impaired web users. Linnett’s Recite Me software allows users to adapt websites to fit their particular preferences, translating text into more legible fonts, changing the colour contrast and reading out the content on the page. Recite Me intercepts the page in a similar way to services such as Google Translate, allowing users to alter sites to their tastes from any computer, tablet or smartphone without installing software. The innovative product could make a significant difference to millions of people worldwide. Recite Me has initially been developed for business markets, allowing groups such as local authorities to use the product to improve their accessibility. The product is also being developed to benefit consumers and Linnett is planning to make the software available across the globe.
Solvert Teesside chemical sector expert Kris Wadrop aims to create a £100m manufacturing plant on Teesside which can supply renewable raw materials to local industry. The CEO of Solvert Limited is establishing the UK’s first facility to produce chemicals from organic waste such as leftover food. Solvert has drawn up a four-stage plan which would see the plant operational by 2015, and has taken the first step by raising around £170,000 for phase one. Northstar has backed Solvert’s ambitious plans with £100,000 from its Finance for Business North East Proof of Concept Fund. The chemical sector uses millions of tonnes of butanol and acetone globally every year, but they are currently produced using crude oil. Solvert will use advanced biological fermentation processes to produce renewable n-butanol, acetone, hydrogen and electricity from wet biodegradable waste. Solvert is currently developing the initial phase of its project, and is receiving encouraging results from its smaller-scale testing of the process at the CPI’s Sustainable Process Centre in Wilton. Wadrop is Teesside born and bred and sees the area as the place to build a chemical site in the UK. He has already examined the possibility of moving into locations including Billingham’s former ICI site, Tata Steel at Wilton and the Impetus Reclamation site near Billingham. He says the project “has the potential to provide 80 direct jobs, a couple of hundred support jobs and provide sites on Teesside with the advantage of having renewable raw materials on their doorstep.” Northstar’s experienced and approachable team is always keen to hear from innovative and creative entrepreneurs looking to develop their businesses and succeed. Please contact: Tel 0191 229 2770 firstname.lastname@example.org www.northstarventures.co.uk
NEW GENE TEST DISCOVERED NEUROMUSCULAR DISORDER
Newcastle University scientists have identified a gene which will allow rapid diagnosis and earlier treatment of a debilitating neuromuscular condition. The gene, GFPT1, is crucial in causing a variation of Congenital Myasthenic Syndrome (CMS), a rare genetic condition affecting the way signals travel between the brain and muscles which can cause paralysis and in some cases death. It affects one in every 500,000 births and the severity of the condition varies, depending on where the fault lies in the signals between the nerves and the muscles. The variation of CMS identified by the team of international researchers tends to develop in the first ten years of life with
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patients losing muscle strength and control in their hips and shoulders or arms and legs. Professor Hanns Lochmuller, of the Institute of Human Genetics at Newcastle University, said: “The identification of this gene means that doctors can order genetic analysis and confirm the condition allowing earlier treatment with cholinesterase inhibitors. This offers an effective therapy which can be taken through life.” The international team, headed up by Dr. Jan Senderek from the University of Aachen in Germany and by Dr Juliane Müller from Newcastle University, analysed the genes of 13 families affected by the condition.
L-R Bridget Kennedy, Audrey Colbeck, Sir Prof Arnold Wolfendale, Steve Sproates, Catherine Johns and Janet Rogers
ART OF SCIENCE AT NETPARK
NETPark is proving that science is an art, with the unveiling of new work created by local artists. The North East Technology Park (NETPark) is now displaying the work of three artists from across the region in its Incubator unit, which is home to a host of growing science businesses. The displays, which will remain on site for six months, were unveiled on Thursday, March, 3, at an event opened by Sir Arnold Wolfendale FRS, emeritus professor in the Department of Physics at Durham University. The artwork, by Bridget Kennedy, Steve Sproates and Janet Rogers, has been designed to link to science, as well as enhancing the Incubator with eye-catching displays. The artists’ work was chosen by NETPark tenants. Catherine Johns, director of innovation at County Durham Development Company (CDDC), which manages NETPark on behalf of Durham County Council, said: “NETPark is already home to a number of innovative science businesses that are creating exciting new technology. “To have the work of equally talented artists on display is a great way of creating an inspiring environment, as well as showcasing the skills and talent we have in this part of the country.” Sir Arnold, who has long been interested in the crossover between science and art, said: “Art has a very important role to play in the development of science. It gives a different view, a different perspective. “People are only just beginning to realise the interplay between art and science, and I think it is very significant and interesting. And there can be nowhere better to showcase the interplay than here at NETPark.” Janet Rogers is one of the artists whose work is being displayed at the site. The self-taught glass maker, developed pieces from fused glass, designed to look like circuit boards and stem cells. The Durham-based artist, who has her own business, Crushed Chilli, selling her work, said: “I wanted the pieces to link to science, so each has been developed especially for NETPark, with work that is designed to look like scientific tools and components. I am delighted to have my work on display here at NETPark.” Another artist whose work is on display at NETPark is Bridget Kennedy. She said: “When I start a piece work, I begin by creating a set of rules and that becomes a system that I follow through until I have developed a final piece.” Steve Sproates, who is sponsored by Sir Arnold, has created conceptual art pieces that are designed to represent scientific theories. He said: “I am interested in science and mysticism. I use art to represent our knowledge and to make philosophical statements about the world, where we came from and the universe.”
SENSING THE NEED FOR INNOVATION
In today’s highly competitive marketplace innovation is often the key to success. But with ever-expanding costs and the current economic climate, finding a resource-efficient way of maintaining this drive towards innovation is a hard goal to achieve. This is why many businesses are now looking at different ways of maintaining this ‘innovation drive’. One of these ways is the increasing number of industry–university collaborations and the move towards a more ‘open innovation’ approach to business development. By tapping into the high quality expertise, research and facilities at universities such as Teesside, businesses can gain huge benefits. From research and development savings to idea generation and access to a variety of technological resources, the opportunities are far-reaching. One company to benefit is Electrochemical Sensor Technology (EST) Ltd, an SME based in County Durham, who provide expertise in the research, development, design and manufacture of high quality electrochemical sensors. With a chemical sensor development facility they also provide a range of electrochemical testing services. EST recently introduced a new portable sensor to measure ammonium ions (NH4+) dissolved in liquids. The sensor offers significant technical and commercial advantages and uses a disposable sensor probe for each measurement. Following initial contact with Teesside University through their Science 2 Business (S2B) Hub, EST realised the potential of collaboration through the Hub to investigate the effect of mechanical and electrochemical polishing of screen printed electrodes. The S2B Hub is an industry-led partnership that drives
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to create projects and innovative solutions for science using SMEs through a project part financed by the European Union through the European Regional Development Fund 2007-13. The S2B Hub utilised the University’s links with high quality research, specifically expertise in screen printing and optical microscopy, to help resolve some of EST’s initial problems. Screen printed electrodes were used to detect analytes from drinking water and dilute ammonia solution. The sensor was used to characterise a number of noble metal electrodes. Optical microscopy was used for visual surface characterisation and determination of the noble metal nanoparticle distribution in the electrode before and after mechanical and electrochemical polishing. The measurements of active area available for detection demonstrated a high level of repeatability and robustness of the electrode after several repeated measurements, showing only negligible decrease in current. Dr John Dobson, Technical Director of EST, said, ‘We were delighted with the resources and expertise made available to us through the University. As a result of the successful laboratorybased activity, further collaboration with Teesside University is planned to research and develop screen printed electrodes for other sensor applications.’ To find out how the S2B Hub could help with your company’s technological and innovation needs, email email@example.com or visit www.tees.ac.uk/s2b.
N.E. LEADS THE WAY IN PLANNING FOR AN AGEING POPULATION
Experts at Newcastle University have been selected to lead a study into health and social care provision for the UK’s ageing population. Led by Professor Feng Li, of the University’s Business School, the £2 million project will investigate how technologies and services can help older people remain independent in their own homes for longer. Professor Li said: “Our current health and social care institutions don’t have sufficient resources or capacity to keep up with our growing ageing population. Demand on essential services is rapidly increasing and this is something we really need to be paying attention to. Unless we make some significant changes in the next decade or so there are going to be serious problems. “However, we are fortunate to have a great deal of new digital technology at our fingertips which can create novel ways of dealing with this issue at the same time as reducing pressure on already stretched services.” The sustainable business models the team is working on are expected to lead to new services that will save millions of pounds a year and generate new business by putting into practice what Professor Li’s refers to as ‘the i-Tunes effect’. He said: “Before i-Tunes came along the online music market was in a real mess. Very few people were paying for music they downloaded and there was no sustainable business model. It not only reinvented the way online music makes money, but also stopped it from being a fragmented market. This is the kind of clarity we want to bring to assisted living technologies and services.” The project follows a successful funding application to the Government-backed Technology Strategy Board and the University will spend the next three years working with partners from the private, public and voluntary sectors to come up with solutions. “We have something very special here in the North East, with a broad range of expertise that is not currently joined up,” said Professor Li.
DURHAM ON TRACK FOR HIGH SPEED TRAIN BUILDING PROJECT
Durham is preparing to welcome back trainbuilding, after the green light was given to a multi-billion pound project to bring Hitachi to the county. Transport Minister, Philip Hammond, gave the go ahead to Hitachi’s £4.5bn plans to build a factory and manufacturing base at Newton Aycliffe in March. The deal will secure 500 jobs in the county, and potentially thousands more in the supply chain. Work will begin on the site next year, and it is thought the factory will be completed in 2013. Some 530 rail carriages are expected to be built at the site, helping to transform the country’s rail services. The announcement on March 1 was made after months of deliberation by the Government. It was estimated that the original £6.5bn project would provide a £660m boost to the North East economy over 30 years, a return of £48 for every £1 invested in the programme, with the scaled back £4.5bn project still expected to deliver major economic benefits. Responding to the news Stewart Watkins, managing director of County Durham Development Company (CDDC), the strategic investment arm of Durham County Council, said: “This is undoubtedly one of the best pieces of news for the County Durham economy for some time. “In many ways, this is the perfect project for Newton Aycliffe and the wider County Durham. It is bringing rail manufacturing back to its birthplace, it will contribute significantly towards rebalancing the economy, it is a significant inward investment bringing a global company to the area, there is a strong
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commitment to apprenticeships and training as well as a hefty positive knock-on effect on indirect jobs. Add to these the longterm benefits of raised aspirations among young people and the feelgood factor for the local community and you have a recipe for sustained economic success for years to come. The Government’s long awaited decision follows months of campaigning by Sedgefield MP Phil Wilson, Durham County Council and County Durham Development Company (CDDC) to bring Hitachi to Durham. In November 2010, Durham showcased assets including NETPark, Amazon Park and DurhamGate to leading politicians, civil servants and members of the business community at the event in the House of Commons in an attempt to ensure that Transport Secretary Phillip Hammond would press ahead with the plans. The Westminster event, ‘Rebalancing County Durham’s Economy’, allowed Durham council officials to talk to MPs and civil servants about how the area would benefit from plans to develop the sites, as well as showcasing the cutting edge businesses that are already located in the county. Alistair Dormer, managing director of Hitachi Rail Europe, spoke of his “absolute delight” after hearing the announced that the £4.5bn deal would go to the Hitachi-led Agility Trains consortium. He said: “It’s been a long time coming, but we’ve always been very confident in the product we were offering and the service we were offering. “This is the right thing for intercity services in the UK and we are delighted to be establishing a manufacturing centre in the North-East.”
Training of the 500-strong workforce will start in 2014 and manufacturing will begin in 2015. He added: “We are hoping to include a research and development area within the facility, jobs involved in the design and engineering aspect of manufacturing trains and semi-skilled jobs working on manufacturing jobs. “We would encourage our supply chain to be near us very similar to the success story of Nissan.” Nissan has been a major success story for Sunderland and it is hoped Hitachi will act as a similar stimulus for the Durham economy. While the factory itself employs some 5,000 people, it is thought that the Nissan supply chain has created as many as 10,000 North East jobs. It has a significant regional supply chain including North East-based TRW and Hashimoto among others. It was estimated, in a report commissioned by Hitachi, that the IEP’s supply chain will support some 3,800 jobs among its direct suppliers by 2016. James Ramsbotham, chief executive of the North East Chamber of Commerce has urged the region’s business community to make sure that it takes advantage of the opportunities that arise, when Hitachi begins seek suppliers. Mr Ramsbotham said: “This is absolutely phenomenal news for the region. This important announcement brings train building back to the home of the railways which is testament to the skills that we still have in this sector and the high-quality workforce that will be assembled to deliver this work.
“We now have to bring together the businesses that will make up the supply chain so it is not just the 500+ jobs that are on the site but also the potentially thousands more that will support the Hitachi plant. As we saw with Nissan, a home grown supply chain based in the North East increases the economic benefits exponentially and we need to be fit and ready to support Hitachi in every way that we can.” It is hoped that the decision could spearhead the growth of the County Durham economy. Durham County Council leader Simon Henig said that the Hitachi announcement was a massive step in reversing the area’s economic decline, and would help rebalance the county’s economy. He said: “This go-ahead for train building to come back to the cradle of the railways has been given after two years’ hard work by the county council and others. “At the start of the process we weren’t on the shortlist – we weren’t even on the longlist. But we managed to beat competition from 40 other locations across the country to be the preferred site. “It’s excellent news for Newton Aycliffe, County Durham and the whole of the North East.” He added: “This is a massive step in reversing Durham’s economic decline. We will work hard to push it forward.”
- adjective 1. serving to distinguish; characteristic; distinguishing: the distinctive stripes of the zebra. 2. having a special quality, style, attractiveness, etc.; notable. - distinctively a. distinctiveness n.
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RESEARCHERS SUGGEST NEW WAYS OF PROTECTING WILDLIFE
Countries will have to improve their co-operation if they are to protect endangered wildlife in an age of climate change, according to an international study. A team of scientists have come up with a conservation index designed to help policy-makers to deal with the effects of climate change on birds in Africa, the theory of which could help governments across the world as climate change forces species to move to new areas. An international research team led by Professor Brian Huntley and Dr Stephen Willis of Durham, School of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, Durham University, in North East England, looked at how native African bird species will fare in 803 Important Bird Areas (IBAs) across the continent, if climate change continues as predicted. Birds are seen as a key indicator for conservationists because they respond quickly to change and the research, funded by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), and published in the journal Conservation Biology, suggests that hundreds of bird species in Africa will become emigrants, leaving one part of the continent for another in search of food and suitable habitat. Dr Willis said: “The bird map of Africa is set to change dramatically and we need conservation policies that see the bigger picture. “There are large areas of Africa lacking protected status and many of these areas are predicted to be critically important for bird conservation in the future. We need to be ready to protect remnant populations of birds while also preparing for new colonists. “We need to improve monitoring, communication and cooperation to make protected areas work across borders. Conservationists and policy makers will have to work together in new ways as networks become increasingly important in protecting species.”
Stewart Watkins of CDDC, Stefan Przyborski of Reinnervate and Chi Onwurah MP get to to grips with the business’ innovative cell culture technology
SCIENCE HOLDS THE KEY FOR REGION
Science and technology could hold the key for the North East’s economic growth, according to a North East shadow minister. Chi Onwurah, Newcastle Central MP, and shadow minister for business, innovation and skills, thinks that the region’s growing science sector could spearhead the resurgence of the economy here, generating jobs for the future, and putting the North East on the map nationally and internationally. Ms Onwurah made the statement after visiting the North East Technology Park (NETPark) in February. A number of tenants from NETPark accompanied Ms Onwurah on her tour of NETPark, giving her the chance to learn about the innovative science and technology businesses based at the park. Due to her background in engineering, Ms Onwurah is very interested in the development of the technology sector. She believes that the North East can learn from countries like Germany, where the economy has bounced back on the strength of its manufacturing industry. “With the right support, I believe that the North East can capitalise on its strengths in science, technology and advanced manufacturing, and grow its economy. “We have a large number of innovative and highly specialised businesses in the region that are taking technology to new heights and I believe that through support and promotion, something NETPark is doing a fantastic job delivering for its businesses, we can put the North East firmly on the technology map.” She added: “Most people’s view of manufacturing resembles the industry’s image 20 or 30 years ago. “Many of the businesses I have seen here at NETPark, and at sites like the Centre for Process Innovation, paint a very exciting picture of modern manufacturing, and I believe that if we remain at the sharp end of technology, we can unlock the potential that exists in the region.” Councillor Neil Foster, portfolio holder for regeneration and economic development at Durham County Council, said: “NETPark represents a key investment for Durham County Council. “We believe that we need to ‘grow our own’, and create a culture in which businesses start up, develop and stay in Durham and the North East and that is what NETPark is all about.” Stewart Watkins, Managing Director of County Durham Development Company (CDDC), which manages NETPark on behalf of Durham County Council, said: “It was a pleasure to have Ms Onwurah at NETPark. “Her role as shadow minister for business, innovation and skills means that she remains very close to the sector and understands the issues and priorities that businesses operating in the field face. She clearly has a great deal of interest and enthusiasm for science and technology and shares our view that this could be one of the most important growth sectors for the County and wider North East region.”
RESEARCH THAT’S SIMPLY OUT OF THIS WORLD
Many of the Milky Way’s ancient stars are remnants of other smaller galaxies torn apart by violent galactic collisions around five billion years ago, according to researchers at Durham University. Scientists at Durham’s Institute for Computational Cosmology and their collaborators at the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics, in Germany, and Groningen University, in Holland, ran computer simulations to recreate the beginnings of our galaxy. The simulations revealed that the ancient stars, found in debris surrounding the Milky Way, had been ripped from smaller galaxies by the gravity generated by colliding galaxies. Cosmologists predict that the early Universe was full of small galaxies which led short and violent lives. These galaxies collided with each other, leaving behind debris which eventually settled into more familiar looking galaxies like the Milky Way. The researchers say their finding supports the theory that many of the Milky Way’s ancient stars once belonged to other galaxies instead of being the earliest stars born inside the galaxy when it began to form ten billion years ago. Lead author Andrew Cooper, from Durham University’s Institute for Computational Cosmology, said: “Effectively, we became galactic archaeologists, hunting out the likely sites where ancient stars could be scattered around the galaxy. “Our simulations show how different relics in the galaxy today, like these ancient stars, are related to events in the distant past. “Like ancient rock strata that reveal the history of Earth, the stellar halo preserves a record of a dramatic primeval period in the life of the Milky Way which ended long before the Sun was born.” Professor Carlos Frenk, Director of Durham University’s Institute for Computational Cosmology, said: “The simulations are a blueprint for galaxy formation. “They show that vital clues to the early, violent history of the Milky Way lie on our galactic doorstep. “Our data will help observers decode the trials and tribulations of our galaxy in a similar way to how archaeologists work out how ancient Romans lived from the artefacts they left behind.” The research is part of the Aquarius Project, which uses the largest supercomputer simulations to study the formation of galaxies like the Milky Way. Aquarius was carried out by the Virgo Consortium, involving scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics in Germany, the Institute for Computational Cosmology at Durham University, UK, the University of Victoria in Canada, the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, Caltech in the USA and Trieste in Italy. The research, funded in the UK by the Science and Technology Facilities Council, appeared in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.
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CLEANING UP THE OCEANS
A humble sea creature is being hailed as the possible solution in the campaign to save the world’s oceans from pollution. Scientists at Newcastle University, working with colleagues in Africa, say the sea cucumber is important because it is responsible for cleaning up the sea bed by consuming and mixing marine sediments. However, the animal is used widely in Chinese medicine and cuisine because it is a rich source of glucosamine and chondroitin which are used in a range of common food supplements. Natural stocks of sea cucumbers are now seriously depleted around the world but at Newcastle University, a team led by Professor Selina Stead is investigating how to use them to develop a more sustainable way of farming in the sea. Dr Matthew Slater, an expert in sea cucumbers and part of Professor Stead’s team, said the aim was to investigate the sea cucumber’s potential as a natural cleaner on fish farms around the world. Dr Slater said: “We wanted to find a way to clean up waste produced by large-scale aquaculture so that farming activities in the sea have little or no impact on the ocean floor. By growing sea cucumbers on waste from fish farms, we are not only farming a valuable food product and giving the wild sea cucumber populations a chance to recover, we are also developing solutions to fish farming impacts.” The sea cucumber project was unveiled as part of a marine conference at Newcastle University, marking the launch of the marineNewcastle network, which will bring together the university’s expertise in marine science and technology to address challenges facing the marine environment. Until now, the team has carried out most of its work at Newcastle University’s Dove Marine Laboratory but the next step will be to introduce sea cucumbers to fish farms around the UK. As well as looking at the potential for farming sea cucumbers in the UK, the team – including marine biology student Camilla MacDonald – is leading a major aquaculture project in Tanzania where animals are being grown in lagoon-based cages in a hatchery built for producing juveniles to support a growing industry. Professor Stead, former President of the European Aquaculture Society, said: “One of the key aims of the project is to find solutions for developing community-led aquaculture in East Africa as a way of tackling poverty. Sea cucumbers are fairly simple to farm, they just require clean water and plenty of food in the form of nutrient-rich waste. “Man’s impact on the sea has escalated in recent decades and it is vital we work quickly to try to reverse some of the problems we have caused. Key species of sea cucumbers are already dangerously close to extinction unless we pull back now and give them a chance to recover.”
BREAKING THAT AWKWARD SILENCE
It’s that awkward moment that we all know. There you are, sitting in a bar with on a first date and you do not know what to say. Well, worry no more because now your bar mat can break the ice for you. A group of computer scientists from Newcastle University have developed a way of using an interactive bar surface and camera-based technology which means specially-designed mats can communicate. When the mats are placed on the bar they ‘chat’ to each other in the form of text messages - the words scrolling across the surface like television news bulletins. The aim is that what they say will prompt conversation between those at the table. The mats were developed by PhD students from the university’s Culture Lab with the system being built by Tom Bartindale and Jack Weeden. Tom said: “The idea is that the mats gain a personality when placed on the bar - some are funny, some are naughty, some are scared of other mats and some are out to talk to everyone. “This is a twist on meeting new people in a public space. I think most of us feel quite self-conscious and uncomfortable about starting a conversation with a stranger so what our mat does is make that first move and also provides a talking point.”
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Tom says the group first came up with the idea while they were sat in a bar in Germany. He said: “We were looking around at all these isolated groups and started thinking about how we could get them talking to each other. The interactive beer mats started off as a bit of fun and then we realised their potential for bringing people together.” The technology works by using cameras to sense the positions of traditional beer mats that have been printed with markers on their underside. The conversation starters have been drawn from phrases including humorous chat up lines, serious questions and lighthearted banter. When a drink mat is removed, other mats will comment on this, and encourage conversation with new “unknown” mats. Tom said: “In general, technology tends to kill conversation and trigger quite anti-social behaviour – we bury ourselves in our text messaging, iPods or computer screens and never even look up to see who’s standing next to us. “The focus of our work is to use technology to encourage interaction and relationships. We want these very public text messages to break the ice and make people laugh.”
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