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I S S U E 15 AU T

NETWORKS 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


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ISSN 1753-6677

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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: or call us on: 0191 370 8680

where business grows

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FOREWORD 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. At 03.09 on 23 September the sun reached its most northerly point and began its journey south. Following the autumnal equinox, dark nights and mornings beckon and it’s easy for the spirits to sag as recollections of last year’s hard, long winter come to mind. So, I’ve come to NETWorks 15 not exactly musing on the inevitability of death and taxes, but needing a pick-me-up and I’m actually very heartened by what I read. Heartened by the research that is being concentrated on improving the life we have and reading about innovation and product development in areas that draw together all aspects of science, engineering and technology. Biomechanics, biotechnology, genetics, genomics, medical devices, pharmacology ... the full list is impressively wide-ranging. We also learn how innovative techniques can assist traditional manufacturing processes. As you read through NETWorks, there’s plenty of evidence of how, as a region, we’re very good at working in partnership – sharing expertise and facilities and encouraging innovative thinking. And, as you’ll see from the articles in this issue, it’s not all just about having innovative ideas – it’s also about protecting those ideas through Patents. I recently saw a tag line for an organisation in life sciences that read something like “a healthy body and a healthy economy”. A useful reminder that the innovative ideas emerging in the sector need to become viable products, but also that when they do their contribution to wealth generation can be significant. Underpinning all of this is the need for a highly skilled workforce that will keep the UK at the forefront of developments. And leadership too – individuals who can inspire and enable those around them; who can help their people and their organisation develop. It’s a unique responsibility and those who posses it are to be valued, rewarded and followed! Read on, and I’m sure your spirits will be lifted just like mine were. 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.

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06. 07. 08. 09. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15. 16. 17. 18. 19. 20. 22. 23. 24. 26. 28. 29. 30. 32. 34. 36. 37. 38. 39.













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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:

INCUBATOR where business grows

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NEWS & EVENTS... NOT TO BE MISSED SUPERBACTERIA ALERT According to a recent report in the Lancet, a new mutation that makes bacteria resistant to just about every antibiotic known to man has made the leap to both the UK and the United States from the Indian subcontinent. Now the NDM-1 “superbug” may spread globally. To give the bacteria its full name, New Delhi metallo-beta-lactamase is a gene mutation that arms many common and harmful bacteria like E. coli and Klebsiella pneumoniae with a super resistance. WINK PROMPTING SPECS Japan’s Masunaga Optical Manufacturing has come up with a device that could be a boon to everyone who spends hours in front of a monitor. The company’s Wink Glasses remind computer users to blink every so often to avoid eye strain. A sensor detects how long you go without blinking and after five blinkless seconds the right lens fogs, obscuring your vision until you blink again.

have developed a new technology in which the ion beams are accelerated by a compactlaser, and not in ‘normal’ accelerators. The advantage of accelerated ion beams is that they have their highest impact in the tumour and, thus, have a better ability to spare healthy tissue. GESTURE RECOGNITION IN APHASIA THERAPY About 250,000 people are living with aphasia in the UK and around 45,000 new cases occur each year. The language disorder is usually caused by a stroke and it affects all aspects of communication - speaking, reading and writing. A new project at City University, London, aims to develop and pilot an innovative gesture training tool to be used in aphasia therapy at home. Mainstream interaction devices such as the Nintendo Wii remote and open source software will be utilised to produce a therapeutically effective, low-cost, gesture training tool.



Organ donation has been much in the news lately. A recent study showed that kidneys from donors who died from heartrelated ailments are just as suitable for transplant as those from brain-death donors.

To register please contact:

Now researchers at Rutgers University in New Jersey are observing how all kinds of organisms, from bacteria to algae, flourish in cold climates – including trying to freeze fruit flies while keeping them alive. Currently, 24 hours is about the maximum duration an organ can remain viable once removed from the body. Not a problem if patient and organ are in the same hospital, but potentially fatal if any extensive transit is involved. The Rutgers research could provide clues to controlling the internal thermostats of living organisms – coaxing human cells to live longer on ice could lead to extended shelf life for donated human organs. NEW LASER TECHNOLOGY Accelerated hydrogen and carbon ions are mainly used to treat inoperable tumours in organs like the brain and bone marrow, which are sensitive to radiation therapy. Researchers of the OncoRay centre in Dresden and of the research centre Forschungszentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (FZD)

26th October Bruce Watson - Northumbria University Design Process 2nd November Nick Edgar - IP Group Plc Access to Finance 2nd November Paul Chapman - Bluefin Insurance Understanding Insurance for High Tech Companies 9th November Julianne Emborg & Dr Pamela Robinson - Durham University Access to Academic Expertise 9th November Kenny Lang - CELS Access to Healthcare Expertise 23rd November Andrew Collier - NDI Access to Defence Expertise


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NETPARK NET BREAKFAST NETWORKING – WHO DO YOU KNOW? County Durham Development Company (CDDC) has recently added yet another tool to NETPark’s high-growth business support toolkit, - breakfast........or rather, breakfast, with a lot of networking amongst other science, engineering, and technology-based companies from NETPark Net. As the network has now grown to over 235 member companies, and the network is gaining critical mass, many members of NETPark Net have been eager to participate in informal networking events that can help companies connect with each other, providing opportunities to integrate their competitive strengths and add value to larger collaborative business opportunities. Each of the Breakfast sessions has a different theme, starting with a 10-minute presentation by an expert speaker to stimulate varied discussion. Recent topics have been: advantages of business angel investment over VC; USP of silicon carbide technology, and advanced instrumentation.  “This was my first NETPark breakfast meeting and I was impressed by the level and quality of the information provided by the speakers and the useful contacts that I made. It was an hour well-spent” - Dr Stephen Clough, Durham University

Catherine Johns, Director of Innovation, CDDC, added, “”This event has proved very popular we started running these because our members had asked for these networking opportunities. Here at NETPark, we listen, and we try our hardest to give our high-tech entrepreneurs what they need to grow, and this is one of many elements of our successful business support for high-growth companies.”   “Our ultimate aim is to create the ideal environment for all organisations to work collaboratively, develop new ideas and commercialise cutting-edge technologies. It also gives us more opportunities to stay close to our members, even if it is whilst munching a bacon butty!” “As NETPark grows there seems to be an increasing buzz of technology and business as more companies choose to locate there. Thanks to the regular events organised under the NETPark Net banner the community seems even bigger, offering networking opportunities and creating a sense that the region does have the critical mass of resources needed for high-tech companies to flourish.” - Dr Gareth Taylor, Evince Technology.


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GROUNDBREAKING ADVANCES IN BIOMEDICAL SCIENCE Groundbreaking advances in biomedical science over the last 30 years have not only improved health and made the NHS more efficient, but offer an unprecedented opportunity to create new jobs, catalyse sustained economic growth and help restore public finances. The UK generates more than 10% of biomedical research publications and has created nearly 1 in 5 of the world’s top 100 medicines. Recent investment in R&D in the NHS is finally allowing the UK to harness the unique research opportunities provided by the world’s only unified health system, and the current partnership between the Government, NHS, academia, industry and charities is promoting the rapid translation of medical research into health and wealth outcomes that specifically benefit the UK population. Investment in medical science has an exceptional long-term payback: for example, every £1.00 invested in UK public or charitable research into cardiovascular disease between 1975 and 1992 produced a stream of benefits equivalent to earning £0.39 per year for ever1 . Our biomedical research base has attracted medical science industries with a combined turnover of £7 billion, supporting over 250,000 UK-based high value jobs. Assuming progress is not hindered by cuts in public spending and an increasingly risk averse pharmaceutical industry, many scientific advances are now on the cusp of translation into benefits for patients and society, including: the development of personalised medicines; stem cells capable of replacing lost or diseased tissues; interventions to restore vision and damaged nerve function; and medical devices such as robotic surgery, implants and prostheses. Here in the North East we have an Academia-NHS Partnership that is at the forefront of these efforts. Newcastle Biomedicine joins Newcastle University with the Newcastle Hospitals NHS Trust and embraces other academic institutions and NHS Hospitals across the region. Its principal aim is to translate advances made

in the Faculties at Newcastle University into direct benefits for patients being treated in its partner NHS Trusts. Its structure is based around seven research institutes with clinicians working side-byside with biological, physical and social scientists and engineers. With a particular focus on cancer, ageing and associated chronic diseases, neurological and genetic disease, in 2009 the Faculty of Medical Sciences at Newcastle University received over £55 million of external research funding from Government, charities, industry and the EU. We host one of only 3 NHS R&D funded Biomedical Research Centres outside London and Oxbridge and in 2010 won a Queen’s Anniversary Prize for our ageing research. We have an unrivalled suite of research facilities for clinical research co-located between NHS services and University Research Institutes and a growing track record of industrial/commercial collaborations. This ranges from local biotech companies, some via knowledge transfer partnerships (KTPs), through to research collaborations with major global pharmaceutical industries. We have an expanding suite of incubator units, some of which house our successful spin-out companies. The opening of our Malaysian medical school campus in 2011 will give us increasing access and exposure to the growing Asian biotechnology market. Recent examples of our translational research include: stem cell therapy restoring vision to patients with damaged corneas; new treatments for patient with cancer, muscular dystrophy and arthritis; salvaging damaged lungs for use in lung transplantation; and the discovery of new antibiotics active against devastating MRSA infections. Many of these advances are already benefiting our local patients, public services and economy and hopefully offer only a taste of what’s to come from the region’s academic health science partnership. Professor Chris Day - Pro-Vice-Chancellor Faculty of Medical Sciences, Newcastle University 1

‘Medical Research: What’s it worth?’ Academy of Medical Sciences 2008


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LIFE SCIENCES RESEARCH ATTRACTS INVESTMENT A collaborative research project has secured Government investment of £200,000 to pave the way for dramatic advances in life science research. North East-based Orla Protein Technologies Ltd, The UK Stem Cell Bank (UKSCB) and Newcastle University, were awarded a grant by the Technology Strategy Board, to develop technology which could improve the way cells are grown in a laboratory. The work involves the study of mammalian cells cultured in the lab, an increasingly powerful research tool which is helping to break new ground in the fields of tissue engineering, animal-free drug testing and regenerative medicines. Driving the research is the need to solve a problem that has long hampered work in the field. Although most types of mammalian cells, including stem cells, can be grown, the human body is complex and it is difficult to replicate the way cells behave. For instance, liver cells grown on flat surfaces behave differently from those grown in three-dimensional structures like those encountered in the body, and stem cells are difficult to grow without complicated support systems. Tyneside-based nano biotechnology company Orla has created a system to help overcome this problem, by engineering unique natural surfaces which are simple, animal-free and successfully mimic in vivo environments.

The product has been tested on different cell types by a range of research groups, including UKSCB, with promising results, and it’s hoped that further research and development could see the technology replacing current, more complex methods. Orla Protein Technologies Chief Executive Officer, Dale Athey, said: “We have been developing our system for the past five years and already have a range of cell signal proteins that scientists can use. These tell the cells to attach, grow or change into other cell types and these are the kind of controls that the researchers need. “Our system can also provide these signals in any concentration, mixture or ratio – and that’s important, too, as not all stem cells are the same and scientists need to be able to choose a growth system that exactly matches their needs.” The study brings together partners with expertise in a range of areas, including protein production, characterisation of human embryonic stem cell lines, cell therapies, manufacturing processes and ethical considerations. Dale added: “The development will lead to directly marketable products and services applicable to the development of stem cell therapies for serious and debilitating illnesses that affect significant numbers of people.”


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WELCOME REFORM AT THE PATENTS COUNTY COURT The Patents County Court (PCC) was created to provide an affordable forum for intellectual property litigation for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The PCC has not been successful in this goal to date and reforms in the Civil Procedure Rules coming into force on 1st October 2010 hope to bring about some changes. Previously, the recoverable court costs in IP litigation and the PCC were not limited, and could reach up to £1,000,000. This uncertainty as to the costs which may be awarded against them in the event they are unsuccessful has been a huge deterrent to SMEs in commencing litigation.

judge. It is intended that there will be more of an emphasis on the written aspects of the procedure and the judge should endeavour to limit trials to a maximum of two days. Colin Birss QC has been appointed as a new specialist Intellectual Property Judge to preside over the PCC. He will succeed Judge Michael Fysh, who is retiring. Colin Birss QC has practised as a barrister in relation to patent, trade mark and other IP cases for many years. It is hoped that he will be able to use the new rules to provide a successful alternative IP litigation forum for SMEs.

Under the new rules, the recoverable costs for all claims will now be limited to a maximum of £50,000 for liability and £25,000 for an inquiry into damages or an account of profits. In addition to this, a schedule of costs has been published which sets out the maximum costs that can be awarded at each particular stage of litigation. This is a similar system to the costs scale used by the UK Intellectual Property Office in relation to both Patent and Trade Mark disputes. The costs scale means that a successful party can usually only recover fixed amounts, which may not cover their total expenditure, but this is counter balanced by the certainty of maximum costs payable to the other side should they lose. These changes in the rules mean that a litigant in the PCC now knows the maximum costs to be paid to the other side should the claim fail. SMEs should no longer be deterred from commencing litigation by the prospect of open ended liabilities if they are unsuccessful in their claim. Several procedural amendments are also being introduced. Previously, the PCC operated according to a very similar procedure to the High Court. Now there will be a tighter procedural timetable to follow, to be closely managed by the THE SCIENCE ENGINEERING & TECHNOLOGY MAGAZINE

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FACILITIES FOR LIFE SCIENCE RESEARCH Newcastle Biomedicine provides a range of high class services and facilities to support scientific research, by students, researchers, other academic institutions and industry.

to services including trial design, GMP-grade suites for cellular therapies; and assessment using MR and PET scanners.

Our facilities are driven by scientific need and led by experienced staff, who are encouraged to keep up-to-date with the latest developments in their field. Academic leads also help provide strategic direction, ensuring that new techniques are introduced and the facilities meet the needs of the scientific community.


Over the past few years, we have invested heavily in our facilities. Support has come from the Medical Research Council, the Department of Health, the Wellcome Trust and others. One NorthEast have supported facilities which help industry access university expertise and provide unique capacity in the region; and the Faculty of Medical Sciences itself has invested substantial sums in new equipment. SCIENTIFIC FACILITIES

Many areas of contemporary biomedicine, both within the academic and commercial sectors, are dependent on access to well characterised collections of human tissues. Following the introduction of the Human Tissue Act (HTA) in 2006 there is now a clear ethical and legal framework for such activity to be confidently expanded. Recognising this need we have developed the Newcastle Biomedicine Biobank in the past year. Samples can be stored at -20°C, -80°C or in liquid nitrogen. Tissue processing capabilities include sectioning, immunohistochemical analysis, the preparation of tissue microarrays and digital image storage. A web-based sample tracking system has been introduced and staff employed to provide expert advice.

Our scientific facilities – operated and managed by Newcastle University – include large, expensive to purchase and operate, facilities such as Electron and confocal microscopy; flow cytometry; and Biomedical Mass Spectrometry. We also provide a range of specialist services such as proteomic and bio-physical methods analysis; and bio-informatics support and analysis.

As well as providing the infrastructure and support for existing collections of tissues, including several internationally recognised collections, the existence of the Biobank encourages staff to develop new collections and provides an increasing level of support to, and interaction with, commercial partners.

A full list of all of our facilities is available at http://www.ncl.


Hard copy brochures are also available by emailing our Business Development Manager, Martin Cox: CLINICAL RESEARCH Our Clinical Research Platforms are operated as a collaboration between Newcastle University and the Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. Combining state-of-the-art facilities with staff experienced in all phases of clinical research, they provide support throughout the whole clinical trial process. We now have three physical facilities for clinical trials in Newcastle, at the Freeman, RVI and Newcastle General Hospitals, with a fourth facility being built at the dental hospital and a facility at South Tees. In addition, we can provide access

Newcastle Biomedicine continues to develop close links with industry. Providing access to our facilities, whether for basic scientific research or complex clinical trials, is helping build our relationship with the region’s biotechnology, life science and pharmaceutical industries. Collaborative research, Continuing Professional Development, consultancy services and Knowledge Transfer are all growing too and we are fast developing a reputation nationally and internationally as a key place to do clinical research. To find out more about accessing our facilities or working with us in other ways, contact our Business Development Manager, Martin Cox:; 0191 222 7309. We would be happy to meet you to discuss your specific needs.


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REVOLUTIONISING THE TREATMENT OF CHILDHOOD CANCER Research carried out in the North East has come up with a test which will revolutionise the approach to tackling childhood cancer. Researchers at Newcastle University, funded by the UK’s largest brain tumour charity, The Samantha Dickson Brain Tumour Trust, have developed the test for Medulloblastoma, the most common malignant childhood brain tumour. The test allows doctors to determine a more detailed understanding of the severity of a tumour. That understanding will, in turn, enable more appropriate treatment options and a more accurate prognosis. Approved for implementation across Europe at the International Society for Paediatric Neuro-Oncology Conference in Vienna, the test could be replicated with the development of similar tests across other tumour types.

in our understanding of this tumour type and it will lead to children being treated much more appropriately. “Before now, sufferers have been treated in a uniform way. Now, we will be able to tell which of the children are at a lower risk and have a much higher chance of survival. “Those at low risk can be given less aggressive treatment, which could significantly diminish long term treatment side effects such as hearing loss, attention deficit and learning difficulties.” Chairman of the Trust, Neil Dickson, said: “This is one of the biggest breakthroughs in the treatment relating to this tumour type. “Over the next few years, we will have three different treatment regimes which will aim to reduce side effects for one group of patients and increase survivability for the other groups.”

Professor Steve Clifford, who led the research team at Newcastle University, said: “This test is incredibly significant THE SCIENCE ENGINEERING & TECHNOLOGY MAGAZINE

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HELPING BUSINESSES TO INNOVATE AND GROW START-UPs and existing businesses across the region are benefiting from the tools and insight-led business development models that have been tried and tested by Newcastle Science City’s successful Innovation Machine. The Business Development Team has been set up at Newcastle Science City’s central offices in Gallowgate to externalise the business understanding and tools used by the Innovation Managers – a team of entrepreneurs developing cutting-edge businesses based on plugging unmet market needs. Business Development Team Project Manager, Simon Green, said the assistance is a huge advantage for North East entrepreneurs looking to commercialise science-based innovation. He said: “There are a number of business support programmes out there, but ours is specialist – it’s geared for those with innovation and insight at their core, where an unmet need has been clearly identified. “Launching a new business is always tricky, but it is especially so at the moment. However the Newcastle Innovation Machine is already spinning out a series of high-growth, tech-based firms, so we know we’ve got a model that works. “What we’re doing is extending those resources to entrepreneurs and people in the region with the spark of an idea, which plugs an unmet need – the more businesses created in the science and technology space, the faster our city’s economy will grow,” he added. Business Development Programme Manager, Caroline Findlay, said the array of assistance and access to resources was wideranging. “We aim to start working with potential businesses at the earliest opportunity so we can provide as much added-value as possible.

“Whether it’s securing external investment, conducting market analysis, intellectual property mapping or product trials, techbased start-ups face serious challenges prior to launch. What we offer is tailored support to identify insights about the major drivers of those new businesses, helping them to get fighting fit and ready to go to market.” Caroline added that a business’s needs are assessed on a case-by-case basis and candidate firms have to meet eligibility criteria set down by Newcastle Science City. “We’re not here to offer one-size-fits-all solutions – each business is different and has different requirements. Once we’ve interrogated the enterprise to ensure our support can help it grow, we develop a progression plan using the tools and insight principles of the Newcastle Innovation Machine to help that business maximise its potential,” she added. Peter Arnold, Newcastle Science City’s chief executive, said“Our business support function is a key tool we have for the entrepreneurial scientists and researchers and it’s great to have it out there. It’s a bespoke service for insight-led businesses and we aim to ensure our assistance is well directed in terms of securing value for money and ensuring our offering will be constructive. To date over 25 businesses have been supported. “Our approach is consistent with Newcastle’s areas of scientific excellence – stem cell and regenerative medicine, ageing and health and sustainability, but is not exclusive in that respect. While we’ll help businesses with high growth potential in these sectors, we will also offer support across a broad range of science and tech businesses, providing they have the potential to grow and would benefit from our help,” he concluded. For more information on Newcastle Science City’s business development offering, together with information about companies NSC has already supported, visit


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RESEARCH FLAGS UP THE HEALTH BENEFITS OF LOW CALORIES Research conducted in the North East has provided more information on why a restricted diet can lead to a longer lifespan and reduced age-related diseases.

The adult mice’s restricted diet, over a short period, demonstrated that it may not be necessary to follow a very low calorie diet for a lifetime to gain the benefits.

Scientists have known for some time that a restricted diet can extend the lifespan of certain animals but the new work shows how it affects ageing mechanisms. It could help scientists to better understand age-related diseases in humans.

Chunfang Wang, the lead researcher on this project at CISBAN, said: “Many people will have heard of the theory that eating a very low calorie diet can help to extend lifespan and there is a lot of evidence that this is true. However, we need a better understanding of what is actually happening in an organism on a restricted diet.

The research, which was presented at the conference of the British Society for Research on Ageing in Newcastle over the Summer, was conducted by scientists at the BBSRC Centre for Integrated Systems Biology of Ageing and Nutrition (CISBAN) at Newcastle University. Working on the theory that cell senescence – the point at which a cell can no longer replicate - is a major cause of ageing, the researchers set out to investigate what effect a restricted diet had on the process. By looking at mice fed a restricted diet, the team found that they had a reduced accumulation of senescent cells in their livers and intestines. Both organs are known to accumulate large numbers of these cells as animals age. Scientists also found that the telomeres of the chromosomes in mice on restricted diets were better maintained despite their ageing. Telomeres are the protective ‘ends’ of chromosomes that prevent errors, and therefore diseases, as DNA replicates throughout an organism’s lifetime.

“Our research, which looked at parts of the body that easily show biological signs of ageing, suggests that a restricted diet can help to reduce the amount of cell senescence occurring and can reduce damage to protective telomeres. In turn, this prevents the accumulation of damaging tissue oxidation which would normally lead to age-related disease.” Professor Thomas von Zglinicki, who oversaw the research, said: “It’s particularly exciting that our experiments found this effect on age-related senescent cells and loss of telomeres, even when food restriction was applied to animals in later life. “We don’t yet know if food restriction delays ageing in humans, and maybe we wouldn’t want it, but at least we now know that interventions can work if started later. This proof of principle encourages us at CISBAN in our search for interventions that might in the foreseeable future be used to combat frailty in old patients.”


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HELPING TO DRIVE PROJECTS FORWARD Teesside University’s Science 2 Business Hub is an industry-led partnership that drives to create projects and innovative solutions for ‘science using’ small to medium enterprises (SMEs) in the North East of England. This approach, whereby industry itself helps to drive projects forward, is just one example of the innovative thinking that is giving the S2B Hub some real opportunities to benefit local companies. A collaborative approach to working has also been the foundation for a recent research project, also managed by Teesside University, helping to tackle the deadly condition known as deep vein thrombosis (DVT). The condition occurs when blood clots form in one of the body’s deep veins, often the leg, which can result in pulmonary embolism, which occurs when a clot lodges in the lung. DVT can often be caused by factors such as obesity, immobility and old age. The University used nanotechnology to design a prototype for a miniaturised, portable medical device which can diagnose patients with DVT. By looking into better and more innovative methods of diagnosing what is still the most common cause of unexpected deaths in developed nations, it is hoped that this work could provide a real breakthrough in helping to combat the condition. The project was supported by leading researchers from Germany, France, Spain and Hungary, as well as private sector companies. This global approach is a key process that the S2B Hub aim to bring to local companies. Roy Huzzard, Project Manager for the S2B Hub said, ‘Providing global business opportunities for regional SMEs will encourage engagement in open innovation. We will also help provide near to market solutions by utilising strong links within the University to offer a

unique service. The approach will allow access to a variety of resources, including research and technology support and funding advice.’ Using funding provided through the Government’s Science Research Investment Fund (SRIF2), the University built a cleanroom, which became the UK centrepiece for the DVT research. Local companies can use these high-class facilities for sciencefocused research and development needs. The S2B Hub has already supported a number of regional companies, including County Durham-based Thomas Blake Cosmetics Creams Ltd to review the chemical formulation of their Veil Cover Cream for sale over-the-counter in Europe, and to ensure it meets rigorous European Union legislation. Paul Friel, the company’s Managing Director, said, ‘The S2B Hub have been a great help in developing this product. The study has been invaluable. We are extending our relationship with the S2B Hub and will undertake stability testing on our product.’ The S2B Hub are currently helping to define the factors that affect the global speciality chemicals industry by developing a roadmap for the sector, identifying the challenges and opportunities North East companies will face over the coming years. As part of this process the S2B Hub’s next event, aimed at the speciality polymers sector, will take place in the North East on 24 November 2010. For more information contact the S2B Hub directly. Find out how the S2B Hub could help your company’s innovation and technology needs: T: 01642 738200 E:


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LAUGHTER CAN BE THE BEST MEDICINE AFTER ALL A research project involving scientists from Newcastle and Germany has suggested that a better understanding of laughter can help treat conditions that afflict the brain. The scientists discovered that laughter can convey a range of emotions, each processed by a different part of the brain. They say that the information could revolutionise understanding of the way patients with neuro-degenerative diseases communicate, which is particularly useful in tackling the effects of ageing. Their work could be of great benefit, in particular, to people who have difficulty in recognising and expressing feelings and emotions, for example those with Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimer’s. The scientists from Newcastle University and the University of Tuebingen, in Germany, say that laughter is an essential part of human communication, but that before recent studies, little was known about how the process works. Scientist Kai Alter, senior lecturer in the Institute of Neuroscience at Newcastle University, one of the researchers involved, said: “We have investigated three different types of laughter, two positive, one negative. They are joy, tickling and taunting. We are the first group to investigate different types of laughter, and the basic brain mechanisms during recognition.

“For our experiment, we recorded actors performing each of these laughs in different ways and then got volunteers to listen to the tapes. They were able to identify the type of laughter just by listening to the tapes, which showed us that human emotions are passed on in laughter in a clear way. “Because of this, we were then able to try to find the regions of the brain which process those emotions by using an MRI scanner on the volunteers while they were listening to laughter. Different regions of the brain were in use when different types of laughter were being processed. “Further study is needed but we can now investigate the networks in the brain which become damaged when people suffer from these neuro-degenerative illnesses, by studying how people with these conditions react to different types of laughter and other non-verbal communication, such as exclamations. “Therapists and relatives of patients, as well as doctors could be trained to spot what they are trying to communicate, and new ways of communicating at a lower cognitive level could be developed.” The latest part of the project, which has been running since 2003, was published in the journal Neuroimage.


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A NEW ERA OF SUPPORT ORGANISATION An independent support and development organisation has been launched in the North East which aims to create the conditions for business success, career progression and employment, promoting innovation and enterprise whilst providing the skills and opportunities to succeed. Girl Geeks Limited operates as a national social enterprise which has evolved as a professional business and career development organisation established primarily to support women in science, technology, engineering, digital and innovative industries. Ahead of officially launching its membership and services, Girl Geeks Limited has already accumulated over 800 professional contacts within the North East’s private, public, academic sectors and in response to growing demand for its tailored support Girl Geeks is preparing to expand nationwide. In recognition of the immense contribution a diverse workplace and entrepreneurialism would make to economic growth, stability and future progress. Girl Geeks endeavours to support and nurture the inclusion of talents available to the whole population with its expanding team of leading regional and national industry mentors and professional advisors. Through the introduction of membership, access to industry specialists, workshops, inspirational events, consultation and tailored support, the organisation is committed to ensuring the UK has a strong supply of scientists, engineers, technologists and innovative entrepreneurs. “As we have been organising inspirational events across the North East and growing interest across the UK. It has become apparent that more is needed to support those within our industries and that is why all of this has progressed so that we can tailor membership and services to each individual situation in addition to nurturing young people and the next generations,” Mia Chapman, Founder and Chief Executive of Girl Geeks Limited said.

NURTURING THE NEXT GENERATIONS October 2010 sees the launch of Girl Geeks Charitable Foundation, the UK’s first charity of its kind dedicated to support women and young people in financial hardship by encouraging and increasing participation in science, technology, engineering, innovation and related career paths as well as entrepreneurialism. Operating independent of Girl Geeks Limited, Girl Geeks Charitable Foundation has also been founded by Mia Chapman in partnership with fellow trustees Catherine Marchant, Chief Executive of Young Enterprise North East, Estelle Chatard, Director at Newcastle Science City and Kim Inglis, freelance television presenter and journalist. The aim of Girl Geeks Charitable Foundation is to support women and young people who could not necessarily afford training, advice and support, equipment as well as encouraging these people to embark on careers in science, technology and engineering. If you would like to find out more about Girl Geeks ® and how by becoming a member you can take advantage of our benefits and tailored support for every stage of career or business or if you would like to find out how you can support Girl Geeks Charitable Foundation, please contact us: Twitter: @girl_geeks Email: Telephone: 0191 222 3150

Pioneers, Inventors, Entrepreneurs, Academics, Innovators, Trailblazers, Graduates, Directors, Achievers, Leaders, Experts, Executives… Girl Geeks.

“We will support each individual every step of their chosen career path to progression and leadership, next stages of business growth, further education and training and business start-up from innovative idea, through IP protection, funding, development, to commercialisation and beyond.”


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RESEARCH OFFERS NEW HOPE FOR SCHIZOPHRENIA SUFFERERS Cambridge University research has resulted in a new blood test that could speed early diagnosis of recent-onset schizophrenia. VeriPsych, which was developed by Professor Sabine Bahn, director of the Cambridge Centre for Neuropsychiatric Research, and collaborator at Psynova Neurotech and RulesBased Medicine, is based on a blood-based biomarker test. Prof Bahn said: “Schizophrenia is a complicated and challenging disease, yet current diagnostic approaches continue to be based on patient interviews and a subjective assessment of clinical symptoms. “We expect VeriPsych to be used as an aid to this current process and hope it will provide the psychiatrist with additional confidence in their evaluation, as well as speed up the process.” Schizophrenia typically begins in early adulthood; between the ages of 15 and 25, affecting 51 million people worldwide with more than 250,000 cases in Britain.

PROJECT CASTS LIGHT ON TIME Research conducted in America has provided an insight into the way the human brain keeps time. Scientists at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) conducted a three-year study asking whether or not networks of brain cells kept alive in culture could be trained to keep time. Team members stimulated the cells at intervals lasting from a twentieth of a second up to half a second and, after just two hours of training, noted a change in the way the cells reacted. The UCLA findings are the first to suggest that brain cells in a petri dish can identify time and the research is expected to help medial research into the way the brain works. UCLA’s study was supported by a grant from the American National Institute of Mental Health.

During VeriPsych’s developmental stage, researchers analysed 200 biomarkers to assess their connection to schizophrenia. They discovered 51 with links. THE SCIENCE ENGINEERING & TECHNOLOGY MAGAZINE

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IDENTIFYING YOUR INVENTIONS As patent attorneys, one of the services we offer is what we call “invention spotting”: identifying potentially-patentable inventions.

solve the problem of improving ease of use, speeding up a process, extending the lifetime of components, or reducing manufacturing costs.

If you are involved in product development, you will be constantly improving your products to stay ahead of your competitors. Your products may evolve in a series of small steps, with each step conferring an additional advantage or eliminating a perceived problem. Patent-savvy companies will attempt to patent as many of these developments as possible, in order to ward off competition and to build up a reserve of patents which may be useful in negotiating their way out of a dispute. Given the costs of seeking and maintaining patent protection, how do you identify which developments are most likely to result in a granted patent?

This is where the expertise of a patent attorney comes in useful, as the “problem” is not limited to the problem the inventor set out to solve. An invention may provide other unexpected advantages, and may solve more than one problem. Occasionally, an inventive step may lie in the recognition of the problem, even if the solution to that problem is obvious once the problem has been identified. Our first step is therefore to identify the most relevant prior art, the differences between your invention and that prior art, and the advantages provided by those differences.

In order to be patentable, an invention must be novel and involve an inventive step. Novelty and inventive step are assessed in relation to the “prior art”, that is, all the information which has been made available to the public prior to the filing date of a patent application. Novelty is relatively straightforward: an invention lacks novelty if it has been disclosed in a single instance of a published document, public presentation or public use. However, inventive step is more subjective as it is determined by considering whether it would have been obvious to a “person skilled in the art”, that is, a person who has access to the entire prior art in the relevant field but no inventive capability. If an invention is an obvious progression of the existing technology, or an obvious combination of existing technologies, it will be considered to lack an inventive step. As patent attorneys, we have to persuade patent office examiners that our clients’ inventions are not obvious. So how inventive does an invention have to be? According to the European Patent Office’s so-called “problemsolution approach”, an invention involves an inventive step if it provides a non-obvious “solution” to one or more technical “problems” associated with the prior art closest to the invention. Your invention must therefore have certain technical advantages over the closest prior art. For example, it may

Once possible “problems” have been identified, we then consider whether your invention is an obvious solution to that problem or problems. Perhaps the invention combines the features of two different prior art disclosures: would it be obvious to combine the teachings of those disclosures? This is where a patent attorney’s expertise is again useful in “invention spotting”. If there is a reasonable argument that the invention would not be obvious to the skilled person, you should consider applying for patent protection for the invention. If you have an invention you would like to discuss with a patent attorney, please contact Martin Vinsome or Graham Archer of our Newcastle team to arrange a free consultation. Urquhart-Dykes & Lord LLP Level 12 Cale Cross House Pilgrim Street Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 6SU Tel: 0191 261 8573 Email:


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INNOVATION MANAGEMENT AND ADVANCED TECHNOLOGIES A manufacturer of equestrian safety wear has become the 220th member of the North East’s virtual science park. Airowear, a design and manufacture firm specialising in body protectors, helmets and hi-visibility clothing, has joined NETPark Net, a virtual science community set up to help companies tap into the resources and expertise of one of the fastest growing science parks in Europe. NETPark Net was created to complement the work being carried out at the North East Technology Park (NETPark), based in Sedgefield, County Durham, where some of the most exciting and innovative companies in the country are currently based. While NETPark is a physical base for high-tech companies, its virtual counterpart allows a broader range of companies to explore ways to innovate and stay ahead of global competition.

Corbridge-based Airowear, which was established in 1986, recognised the potential for NETPark Net to help develop its product range. Lucy Carr-Seaman, director of Airowear, said: “I was recommended to NETPark Net by the Manufacturing Advisory Service. Although I didn’t see Airowear as a typical science and technology company, they showed me that I would still be able to benefit from NETPark Net’s services. “We use specialised equipment and techniques in our design processes and the materials we use for our products are quite high-tech. There are plenty of ways in which we resemble the other companies who are members of NETPark Net.” Of particular interest to the company was NETPark Net’s Innovation Management Academy, the first session of which took place on September 15. The academy is a professional


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Far right Lucy Carr-Seaman, MD of Airowear

development programme aimed at SMEs in the North East who want to make the most of their innovative ideas. Lucy Carr-Seaman said: “I don’t often join networking groups there has to be something that really pulls me in, and that was certainly there with NETPark Net. The Innovation Management Academy was a fantastic day. The presenter really opened my eyes to options I hadn’t considered before. “I was put in touch with all sorts of people who all have an interest in innovation. Being able to meet like-minded people in other companies, whether they’re high-tech or more mainstream, is a great benefit. With such a cross-section of backgrounds, it’s impossible not to take something away from it.”

Catherine Johns, Director of Innovation Development at County Durham Development Company, which manages NETPark on behalf of Durham County Council, said: “We want to make sure we are providing support for businesses in all aspects of the science and technology sector. Even those people who may think themselves to be outside the remit of NETPark Net can find ways to benefit from the connections and services available. “I’m pleased that our latest member is such an unusual manufacturer, as it demonstrates to others just how wideranging the science, technology and engineering sectors in the North East can be.”

NETPark Net offers member companies remote access to the expertise and resources of NETPark as well as comprehensive business support services.


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Jodi Myatt from Cardiac Computers

CARDIAC COMPUTERS CHOOSES NETPARK A high-tech company making its UK home in the North East is preparing to stem the brain drain in the region by employing around fifty highly-qualified staff. Cardiac Computers Ltd, which is developing a range of biometric devices for applications in security and defence, has opened its HQ at NETPark in County Durham. Jodi Myatt, Director of Cardiac Computers, chose NETPark thanks to its reputation as one of the UK’s fastest-growing science parks. Jodi wants to forge close links with local universities, where research into Cardiac Computers’ specialist fields is being carried out. The company’s recruitment drive will be focused on university graduates, targeting those with the high-level skills required for further growth. Cardiac Computers was established by Jodi in March 2009. The company has received funding to prototype a new fingervein recognition system which will require the development of electronic components as well as related ‘back end’ software to manage the system and its applications. Cardiac Computers already has a contract to supply Wal-Mart in the US with the system, which Jodi believes will lead to further deals in the future. The company is looking to achieve £4m turnover by year 3 and has also enquired about grow-on space within the park as they expect rapid growth. Jodi aims to take on around 18 electronic and software technicians as well as associated administrative staff in the next month, followed by another 30 jobs by February next year. The company has identified the region’s universities as a key supplier of these skills through graduates and post-graduates as well as accessing research skills through Knowledge Transfer Protocols (KTPs) to develop their product and technology portfolio.

Jodi Myatt said: “The pattern of veins in the finger is entirely unique, and so it serves as a perfect method of identification. For people worried about potential duplication of fingerprints, or damage to the eye through retinal scans, this negates both risks. “NETPark is the perfect place to develop this product. The support available here is second-to-none, and the access to other innovative companies and the nearby universities can’t be replicated elsewhere. We intend to move into our own dedicated building on the park in the near future.” The company has taken a total space of 2,122 sq ft in the NETPark Incubator – two offices and two laboratory units. The letting arrangement has been handled by the County Durham Development Company (CDDC), which manages NETPark on behalf of Durham County Council. Catherine Johns, Director of Innovation Development at NETPark, said: “NETPark’s incubator is playing a very important role in the development of high tech industries here in the North East. To have a company with such ambitious growth plans as one of our tenants proves the attraction of County Durham and the wider region. “We are very happy to be able to help innovative companies like Cardiac Computers get started and flourish in the future.” Jodi’s future plans also include setting up another company to explore the development of carbon nanotubes for use in fuel cells. This technology would allow for batteries of any shape to be used to power anything from handheld devices to electric cars.


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Paul and David King from 1Daylater

SECURING SUCCESS WITH SOFTWARE CITY SUPPORT There are countless factors influencing business performance in the UK software sector, and whatever stage your business is at – established, start up, or even if you’re just someone with a great idea – there’s a great deal about your current and future business you just can’t know.

“Later, when we were developing a software tool for the conferencing industry they provided us with a contacts database of professional networking players and events coordinators operating in the North East, giving us a ready-made database of end-users and potential partners.

Instead of filling business plans, presentations and pitches with guesswork and speculation a better approach is to develop a wider awareness of your competitive landscape, and that means finding the best sources of information and understanding what they really mean to your business.

“They’ve given us a great overall picture of the business landscape as a whole, allowing us to make well informed management decisions during our software development, and we have already recommended them to businesses we’re close to.”

Sunderland Software City’s Intelligence Service is a rapid research facility which helps software businesses understand their sector, customers and competitors in more detail, often answering enquiries in just 48 hours. The service is free to qualifying companies.

Typical enquiries the Intelligence Service has undertaken include:

“It’s vital to know where your business is located in regional, national and international economies, how developments in technology or legislation may open or close new opportunities and what factors may make business tougher or more profitable,“ said Sunderland Software City’s Chief Operating Officer David Dunn. “Our Intelligence Service can help you develop that awareness”. One company to have benefited from service is 1DayLater. The Newcastle-based firm – who develop online financial management software helping companies keep track of their outgoings- has been named by PCmag’s as one of the best free software of 2010 and by the BBC as one of the best sites on the web, but 1DayLater’s Paul King still recognises the impact of the best business intelligence. “There’s really no substitute to knowing who your customers and competitors are and what opportunities and threats are out there,” he said. “In the early days of 1Daylater the found us details of the number of partially public funded organisations there are in the NE and their contact details - which was useful for exploring the viability of software we had developed to automate timesheets and track expenses within large companies.

n The main market applications for particular software products and services. n The size, shape and behavior of end-user markets, including the growing mobile application market n Exploration of the competitive landscape – players, propositions, and market share n Identification of opportunities – partnering, marketing, funding, and market needs Sunderland Software City is the regional initiative supporting the growth of the software industry in the North East, including everything from one-one-one business and technical mentoring, assistance with financial and business plans and introductions to potential investors, collaborators and customers. The initiative runs a series of professional skills course programmes, giving the local software sector the skills it needs to compete on a global level. The following courses are available in the coming months: n November 18: Stimulating Software Innovation: A fullysubsidised, one-day, course giving an up to the minute view of the software industry and potential future developments The Intelligence Service is available on 08000 121 420 and More information about Sunderland Software City can be found at, from info@, on 0845 872 8575 and @sunsoftcity on Twitter. More information about 1Daylater can be found at


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INNOVATION MANAGEMENT AND ADVANCED TECHNOLOGIES This autumn the North East became the venue for discussions on innovation management, advanced technologies, and how science-based companies can become more involved with their local communities. The UK Science Park Association (UKSPA) held its members meeting at Hardwick Hall Hotel in Sedgefield, County Durham, on September 16th and 17th, hosted by the North East’s own science and technology park, NETPark. Ahead of the event we caught up with UKSPA’s chief executive, Paul Wright, to talk about the role of the UK Science Park Association and its members. “UKSPA is a trade association like any other, only with a slightly different focus,” says Paul. “Our members include 70 science parks, along with 10 associate members, who are science parks or incubators that are under development. Those parks host in the region of 3000 tech-based companies, employing around 70,000 individuals, who are mainly scientists and other highly specialised people.” UKSPA’s aim is to be the authoritative body on the planning, development and creation of science parks that are facilitating the development and management of innovative, high growth, knowledge-based organisations. As chief executive, Paul plays an important role in the running of UKSPA’s events programme. “We organise three meetings like this each year,” he says. “Every other year we have a big conference and exhibition, at which we hold our awards ceremony. The larger conferences are international and we sometime think, ‘who’s going to come to an event like this?’ but last year we had 300 people from all over the world, representing 60 different countries. It was quite a coup for such a small organisation like us. “We also have international members, who want to be members

of the association so that we can share the good practice that we have in the UK. We’re seen as one of the leading countries in the world for developing science parks.” The events are designed to allow UKSPA’s members to meet and discuss issues important to them. Paul sees this as one of the core reasons behind the association’s existence. He says: “UKSPA is about making connections. People need to be able to talk about collaborative activity and good practice, and we give people the opportunity to network with likeminded souls at other science parks. “One of the fascinating things for me is that new members of the association say to me ‘Aren’t we all in competition with each other?’ Look at Cambridge – we’ve got 13 science parks in and around the town. You’d expect some level of competition, as they’re all looking at the same clients – techbased companies which will grow really quickly. But that’s not the case. With UKSPA, we’re able to draw together all those different organisations, different players and different stakeholders, and actually talk about something we all have in common – innovation. We’re all in the same game at the end of the day. What pleased me most about the association is that we never have any arguments about competition, it’s always about collaboration – locally, regionally, and nationally.” With nearly all the science parks in the UK under the UKSPA banner, Paul is always looking for ways to support the organisation’s members. “One of the things we’ve been working on over the last 18 months is something called ASPECT: A Science Park Evaluation and Checking Tool. We originally designed it for members to examine themselves over a number of criteria. What our members want is a way to show that they are a high quality


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site, so we’re now looking at making it into a way of identifying an ‘UKSPA assured’ science park. “In the last six months I’ve also written a training programme for science park managers. We’ve been looking at establishing a qualification in the UK for the profession, but getting a body to accredit the course is a long process. We’re now thinking about running it ourselves. “I’ve come across people who are coming up through the ranks of science park management who have said that actually it’s not a known industry, it’s not recognised as a profession. I think it’s something that we could do – we could improve people’s awareness of the sector.” Paul is very passionate about the need for dedicated science and technology hubs in the UK. “If you didn’t have science parks, there wouldn’t be the right connections, there wouldn’t be the right people, there wouldn’t be guidance and support systems, there wouldn’t be the environment for high-tech companies to grow. About six years ago we undertook a really long study, and we compared a number of companies based on science parks with similar companies based offsite, or on non-science parks. We found really hard evidence that companies grow more quickly when based on a science park.

which Paul has praise. He pointed out why the park is unique: “I think it stands out because it’s got an element within it that other parks don’t always have. It’s all about the wider community – for example, the recent visit by NASA astronauts and bringing schoolchildren in to see what’s happening at NETPark. It’s a wonderful way to get them interested in science. “That’s going to be increasingly important in the next three to four years. With the advent of Local Enterprise Partnerships, local authorities will be looking at ways for business to engage with the local community. “The other great things that makes NETPark stand out is its virtual arm – NETPark Net. NETPark has opened up the services that its tenants benefit from to other companies in the region, and not simply as a revenue stream – you can see that they’re doing it because it helps to develop a wider community. There aren’t many places where you feel the sense that the businesses are working for the benefit of the whole community. Maybe that’s historical, the legacy of the industrial decline creating a community approach throughout the region’s business community. “We’re hoping to find out at the conference how the lessons learned at NETPark can be implemented at parks elsewhere in the country. It’s part and parcel of the science park ethos.”

“Science parks offer excellent facilities, the right environment, the right labs, the right equipment, the right kind of set-up for workers. And one of the most import things is the people: the park management needs to be made up of people who understand innovation. The manager needs to be more than a facilities manager, they need to be able to help the businesses in all sorts of additional ways.” As the host of the event, NETPark is high on the list of parks for


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SHEDDING LIGHT ON THE WORLD’S FASTEST GROWING ENERGY MARKET Business leaders on the frontline of the solar energy revolution will meet at a major conference later this year to plot the UK’s future in the rapidly growing market. The Solar Flair 10 conference will see key players in the photovoltaic sector gather at Lumley Castle, County Durham, to discuss the future of the emerging industry and the many opportunities that lie ahead. As the Government steps up its drive to channel more solargenerated power into the National Grid, delegates at the event will explore how businesses and consumers can reap the rewards of going solar.

CDDC’s managing director Stewart Watkins said: “The conference is particularly timely, following as it does the implementation by the Government earlier this year of a feed-in tariff for solar energy – offering financial incentives for embracing solar energy. “This new tariff makes the installation of solar panels affordable not simply for businesses but also for residential customers who will be able to sell unused units of energy back to the grid. The feed-in tariff has the potential to stimulate the photovoltaic sector and generate job opportunities in the North East and further afield.”

Some of the most innovative photovoltaic technology on the planet will also be on show as attendees learn how to get involved in the solar power supply chain, how projects are funded and where the market is heading.

Alongside Mr Watkins, other speakers at the event include representatives from the UK’s national flagship printable electronics facility PETEC, based at NETPark, County Durham, the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Research Organisation (CSIRO) and the BBC.

Earlier this year the Government introduced feed-in tariffs for solar photovoltaic systems to help generate investment in the UK renewable energy market and create a more sustainable future for the country’s national grid.

Solar Flair 10 will be held at Lumley Castle, County Durham on 8th and 9th of December. For more information please visit

Speakers at the event, which include representatives of the Centre for Renewable Energy at Durham University and the Electronic Knowledge Transfer Network (EKTN), will look at how government incentives will fuel ongoing growth in the sector while also examining solar power’s future relevance to the construction, space technology and transport markets. The conference has been organised by County Durham Development Company (CDDC) on behalf of the event’s financial backer, EKTN. THE SCIENCE ENGINEERING & TECHNOLOGY MAGAZINE

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TACKLING THE MOSQUITO MENACE A team of American researchers may have come up with a new way of tackling one of the deadliest insects on the planet - the mosquito. Research conducted at the Kansas State University, in America, used nanotechnology to make the insects more susceptible to pesticides or even kill developing mosquitoes before they reach maturity. Kun Yan Zhu, professor of entomology, Xin Zhang, graduate student in entomology from China, and Jianzhen Zhang, a visiting scientist from Shanxi University, China, introduced a double-stranded ribonucleic acid molecule that silenced specific genes into mosquito larvae, through their food. The method prevents the translation of the gene into its product. In the case of Zhu’s research, it silenced genes responsible for the production of chitin, the principle constituent of the exoskeleton in insects, crustaceans and arachnids.

Zhu said that, although the method used in the study was not yet 100 per cent effective, it did leave the mosquito’s body with less ability to combat insecticides, which must penetrate the mosquito’s exoskeleton. If the gene, called chitin synthase, could be completely silenced, the mosquitoes may die without the use of pesticides. According to Zhu: “Because we can select specific genes for silencing, and the nanoparticles are formed from chitosan -- a virtually non-toxic and biodegradable polymer -- this pest control technology could target specific pest species while being environmentally-friendly.” Other insects can also have their genes silenced and the team investigated the idea in the European corn borer and in grasshoppers, a major insect pest in China.


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£2.6M SECURED FOR A GREENER FUTURE Enterprise Europe Network North East (EEN) have helped The Sustainable Processing Centre (SUSPROC) to secure a £1.2m investment from the Technology Strategy Board, towards an overall total of £2.6m for the Algae based, carbon abatement technology project, AlgaeCAT. ABOUT ALGAECAT A collaborative research and development programme, AlgaeCAT aims to contribute to the EU 2020 target of reducing carbon dioxide emissions by more than 20%, by developing an innovative, low cost, algae carbon abatement system for the reduction of industrial scale CO2 emissions. United by EEN, AlgaeCAT’s experienced project consortium comprises of large scale European energy generators and process industries such as cement, lime and metal production, including companies such as; Alcan Aluminium, Semcorp Utilities and Steetley Dolomite, as well as system design and environmental consultants ARUP. Together they aim to address key barriers to algae technologies, which are heavily reliant on large land area, low cost labour, an arid climate and readily available water. Once overcome, the output of a novel, high performance system coupled with the potential to shift to a sustainable biomass co-fuel, would help to significantly decrease CO2 production, as well as extend the lifetime of natural resources, reduce capital expenditure and operating costs, and ultimately enhance the commercial viability of algae based technology. HOW EEN HELPED SUSPROC TO SECURE FUNDING Enterprise Europe Network North East helped to identify how SUSPROC’s core skills in industrial biotechnology and proven track record in process intensification, could be used to develop a technical and commercial offering in the field of algae processing. Subsequently, EEN’s primary aim for the Technology Strategy Boarch bid was to support the centre’s capacity, ability and resources within this sector.

VALUE CREATED EEN North East helped to: n Establish a strong initiative towards meeting the EU’s carbon emission targets for 2020. n Secure a £1.2m Technology Strategy Board investment for the AlgaeCAT Project. n Assemble one of Europe’s strongest consortium with expertise in energy generation and processes.

partners and gain a greater understanding of previous project activities, in order to establish a solid proposal. EEN worked closely with SUSPROC to co-write the submission, offering strategic advice to strengthen and refine the bid, and provided commercial contract support as they assembled a skilled project consortia. SUSPROC’s Lois Hobson who worked alongside EEN to write the bid comments ‘EEN’s expertise in bid writing and significant experience of funding schemes played a key role in securing the £2.6m funding for AlgaeCAT. EEN is now responsible for developing the project’s exploitation plan and continues to provide considerable support in the project management of AlgaeCat. We could not have done this without them.’ EEN SERVICES Enterprise Europe Network in the North East of England provide bespoke, hands on assistance in developing R&D proposals for businesses, to successfully secure funding from public and private sources including EU Framework Programme Seven, central government and local public bodies. For more information about Enterprise Europe Network North East visit

Shaping the AlgaeCAT project into a successful bid took around 4 months, throughout which the EEN helped to; assess proposal requirements, conduct market research, identify potential


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WHAT DO YOU GET WHEN YOU CROSS TWO COMEDIANS WITH A HYPNOTIST? We have all been there, the memo comes round the office there is a training course on the horizon, before you even know the subject of the intended interruption to your sanity you hastily check your diary and hope you have to be somewhere else. Unfortunately you can’t get out of it, you will have to take your keep awake pills and start practising staring out of the window (please let there be a window) in short you will have to grin and bear it. Well with Speak Easy you will grin and keep grinning and for a long long time, this is almost unique in its approach to training in the art of presenting, it is so enjoyable it will stay with you, and you will find yourself applying the principles you have learned to all forms of communication with colleagues and customers alke. When invited to attend the course to appraise it for the magazine, I approached it as positively as I could, after all it was being run by two well established and experienced comedians so if nothing else I might get a gag or two, to tell in the pub that night. As I settle down for the first session it starts to become apparent this is going to be very different to any other course relating to presentational skills or indeed confidence building I have ever encountered. The principles introduced themselves Brendan Healy and Ron McKay stage name Danny Crockett. They are well established and larger than life characters with vast experience in stage and theatre, television and radio (check their websites) and last but certainly not least Kevin Flynn a supremely well qualified hypnotherapist. The course is more of a workshop format discussing all aspects of the roll of the presenter.

of the presenter, the news reader, the game show host and the politician which includes a short presentation and discussion on Winston Churchill’s speech ‘’This Was Their Finest Hour’’ and an explanation into the different reasons for the way they deliver. The first part of the day is over before any of us has time to tap the usual bored pencil. To my surprise and delight the whole of the lunch break is taken up discussing the course and not the usual football or last night’s events down at the pub, with Brendan, Ron and Kevin involved to the point they couldn’t have eaten much lunch – they are passionate about what they do and it shows! The afternoon is just as informative and interesting with Kevin giving his support (it is support they give, they talk to you and not at you) and how to use the energy the inevitable nerves bring, as well as some very informative ways of relaxing prior to standing up in front of our inquisitors, and Brendan giving an insight into the importance of body language, with simple but effective ways of avoiding ‘’blocking your message’’ Ron takes us through energising and dramatising text and not only telling us, but demonstrating how words have texture and how to avoid using words that ‘’Stick’’ – even a journalist can learn! We reach the point where we have to put the theory into practice, surprisingly although nervous I am comfortable. Then I am on my feet delivering Humpty Dumpty (your smiling again aren’t you) with the enthusiasm born of restored faith that, with the best will in the world I would have doubted of myself at the beginning of the day. When my task is completed I feel a little relief and a lot of satisfaction.

After the introduction it’s down to business – Ron announces we will be using nursery rhymes as the base to improve and promote our basic techniques.

By the end of the course I have found my confidence has improved dramatically, my view on how to compile and deliver a presentation has changed radically and my view of training courses, well if they are delivered by Speak East Associates take my advice, look forward to them with glee!!

Excuse Me, someone asks, did you say Nursery Rhymes.

Here’s hoping I get asked to review their team building course!

We are all given a nursery rhyme, I have Humpty Dumpty (smiling yet) as well as the rhyme we are given a host of other information, which not to give too much away is, quite frankly fascinating. We are also given an insight into the different styles


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SIEMENS HAS CONFIRMED AMECAL AS ITS ‘PREFERRED SUPPLIER’ The Field Installation Team of the UK’s largest transmission substation contractor - Siemens Transmission & Distribution - has confirmed AMECaL as its ‘Preferred Supplier’ for the calibration of all its testing and measuring equipment! Siemens Transmission and Distribution (STDL) provides the complete design and construction of onshore substations up to 400kV to UK generation, transmission and distribution companies and industrial customers. They also provide services covering all stages of transmission and distribution asset lifecycles including power network studies, operation and maintenance and decommissioning as well as a full range of substation equipment including switchgear, transformers and protection for all network voltages. Howard Oley, of the Field Installation Team (FIT), Asset Management for Siemens Transmission and Distribution, has only good things to say about the long and mutually beneficial relationship with the team at AMECaL: “AMECaL are a ‘Preferred Supplier’ for the FIT for very good reason: it’s not only because of their UKAS Accreditation,

or because they can handle such a wide range of instrumentation, though these are obviously vitally important. “They provide a comprehensive, reliable and professional service: fast, efficient and effective calibration and repair services, but also an immensely useful range of ancillary services to help streamline the FIT’s operations – across the UK and offshore.” AMECaL provides a complete Calibration Logistics package – not simply calibrating and/or repairing equipment but instead taking an integrated approach to the management of that equipment. As AMECaL’s Technical Director Steve Oxborough explains: “As with all our customers, large and small, we provide a high quality and fully traceable calibration and repair service, both in our multi-laboratory facility and on-site - but for our larger clients, like Siemens, we go well beyond this. It’s about making things quicker, easier and more straightforward for the customer – constantly looking to see where we can help, advise or provide assistance and make their lives easier. Really getting


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involved with our client’s business and how they manage the supply, maintenance and distribution of their equipment.” Sales & Marketing Manager at AMECaL, David Heppell, gives some more detail: “This can be as straightforward as collecting the equipment from the client, calibrating or repairing it and sending it directly to the site which needs it next. In this way, we take some of the logistical burden from them – even to the point of storing some of their equipment at our facility if this makes sense. If engineers come to us needing parts or spares or new and specialised equipment (often at very short notice), we can also provide this direct to their site – getting them what they need, when they need it. If engineers don’t know how to best use their new equipment, we can also train them so that they’re up to speed straight away, saving time and helping minimise mistakes and inaccuracies (and easing safety concerns too). Above all else, the greatest advantage we offer clients like Siemens is the wealth of technical experience we have here at AMECaL – and this is always available to them – from a quick bit of advice over the phone to detailed technical consultancy.”

For further details, contact David Heppell at AMECaL on 0191 262 2266; Fax on 0191 262 6622 or email

MORE ABOUT AMECAL Proud of being one of the few privately owned independent laboratories in the North East, AMECaL’s multi-laboratory operation is viewed as a premier facility. The company provides one of the UK’s most competitive portfolios of calibration and repair services, supporting a wide range of industries both locally and nationally in all fields of calibration and on a vast array of measuring equipment. State of the art calibration services are carried out either in one of the company’s environmentally controlled laboratories, or on clients’ sites.


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BAD HABITS COST THE EARTH In the North East we are fortunate to have a plentiful supply of water unlike other parts of the country. Tap water quality in the UK, including our region, is among the best in the world.

n Take shorter showers – save 7 litres every time.

We should still not waste water as it is a precious resource – we are using the same water as dinosaurs and the Victorians used – no ‘new’ water is made!

n Use a bowl when hand washing dishes – save 7 litres every time.

Northumbrian Water is working with its customers to reduce the amount of water that is wasted and the amount of energy used – we should all use what we need but not waste this precious resource.

n Ensure washing machines have a full load – save 8 litres every wash.

Ofwat is the water company’s regulator and to ensure water companies and their customers are responsible about the way they use water it has set a target for every property in the region to save one litre of water a day – there are around one million properties in the North East.

n Use water resourcefully in the garden – use a watering can – save 4 litres every time.

Tap water is abstracted, treated and then supplied to homes and businesses. The water we use then needs to be treated again and is returned safely to the environment. These two processes use a lot of energy – every drop of water that goes down the plughole or flushed away is treated twice and the treatment processes are very energy intensive.


Work out how much carbon is produced by the processes used to treat tap water supplied to your home and wastewater taken away from your home by using our carbon calculator

Simple, small steps in every day routines can save significant amounts of water, energy and reduce utility bills. On average we each use 150 litres of water a day.


Consider having a water meter fitted – most customers reduce the amount of water and energy they use and reduce their water bill – to find out more log onto

Simple water and energy saving tips and advice:

n Report water leaks on 0800 393 084 – this is a 24 hour leakline.

n Turn off the tap when brushing your teeth – use a glass of water to rinse your mouth – save 13 litres every time. n Shower rather than bath – save 10 litres every time.

n Fill a basin when washing your face or shaving rather than letting the tap run – save 5 litres every time.

n Repair dripping taps – save 9 litres.

n Ensure dishwashers have a full load – save 2 litres every wash. n Use a bowl when washing food – save 3 litres every time.

n Log onto for further advice and information and to find out what other products are available to help you save water.

n Request a free water saving pack, which will help save up to 95 litres of water a day and up to £60 per year on utility bills, log onto


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ELECTRIC VEHICLES PROJECT HITS THE ROAD A project to dramatically increase the number of electric vehicles on the region’s roads has made a significant move forward. The Switch EV project has been officially launched with an open invitation issued to drivers in the North East who want to find out more about the vehicles. This unique demonstrator fleet will make available to the public 35 new passenger vehicles, which are all being developed by North East companies and which will include the first all-electric Nissan LEAF cars to hit the roads in the UK. Other cars include the Avid CUE-V hatchback car and the electric taxi being developed by Smith Electric Vehicles, which will form part of the Hackney Carriage fleet in Newcastle. Funded by regional partners alongside the Technology Strategy Board as part of its national demonstrator programme, this three-year, £10.8m project will also feature luxury Liberty Electric Cars Range Rover electric vehicles, and a nine-seat Edison Minibus from Smith Electric Vehicles. Switch EV vehicles will start appearing on the roads in September and members of the public, families, professionals, businesses and large companies with vehicle fleets are being invited to register their interest in trialling the vehicles for up to six months at a time. There has already been interest from a number of individuals and organisations across the North East in trialling the vehicles. As part of the project, the Transport Operations and Research Group at the University of Newcastle will be working with Cramlington-based company Comesys to record and analyse performance data from all of the Switch EV vehicles.

Switch EV has been in development since June 2009 and will build on the experiences of trials that have been taking place as part of the collaboration between Cenex, the UK’s Centre of Excellence for Low Carbon and Fuel Cell Technologies, and One North East, which has also involved the expertise of the TORG staff, Comesys and Future Transport Systems. Switch EV builds on the North East’s position as a leading European location for the low carbon vehicles industry and will take place alongside the installation of 1,300 charging points by One North East as part of the national Plugged in Places initiative, supported by the Office for Low Emission Vehicles. Chris Pywell, Head of Strategic Economic Change at One North East, said: “The low carbon vehicles sector has put the North East on the international map in the past 12 months and this unique trial will be a major step forward for the development of electric vehicles in the UK. “Switch EV will give people in the North East the first chance to travel in these innovative new electric vehicles, all developed by companies in the North East. Alongside our advanced infrastructure of 1,300 charging points, these vehicles will help demonstrate to drivers that the switch to low carbon transport is a serious, viable option.” *Newcastle consultancy Future Transport Systems is providing project management for Switch EV, including the trial candidate selection and management of the vehicles. Companies or individuals wanting to find out more should contact Liz Gray by email at or on (0191) 2431622.


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Christine Parry, from the University’s Clean Environment Management Centre.

£1.76 MILLION FURTHERS RESEARCH INTO RECYCLING OF WASTE A team at the University of Teesside has secured £1.76million to further fund its research into ways of re-using waste. The money was awarded to the Industrial Symbiosis team in the University’s Clean Environment Management Centre (CLEMANCE). Industrial symbiosis is the practice of recycling waste for use as raw materials. The funding will help CLEMANCE towards its target of reducing CO2 by more than 250,000 tonnes and preventing 250,000 tonnes of waste going to landfill. It will help provide assistance to 40 enterprises a year, including small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs). North East Industrial Symbiosis Project Manager Christine Parry, who is based at CLEMANCE, said: “Companies need to consider ways of re-using their waste. Legislation is constantly driving them in that direction and they are also facing increased landfill charges. “A growing number of materials are already banned from landfill, such as electrical items, tyres, liquids and gypsum with more due to be added. This will increase the pressure on companies to find alternative uses for their waste. “We need to increase the capacity and will of SMEs and their workforces to improve business performance by recognising that waste is a useful raw material and a resource to be utilised. There are numerous opportunities for collaborative networking, sharing resources and access to technical information, research and support for virgin material savings between companies. The funding we have received will help us with our work in that area.”

The funding comes from: n £1m over four years from International Synergies Ltd, which helps companies identify new uses for waste from industrial processes. n £621,000 from the European Regional Development Fund Competitiveness programme 2007-13 for North East England, managed by One North East. n £143,000 from the Institute for Local Governance, which helps North East universities work with public organisations to reduce waste. The Institute for Local Governance money will allow CLEMANCE to investigate new uses for domestic waste gathered during kerbside collections, including plastics. The work is supported by Hartlepool and Gateshead councils. CLEMANCE Senior Practitioner Kirk Bridgewood said: “The study was prompted by the recent collapse in the market for recycled items, which could potentially give councils a major problem if they are unable to sell the collected materials. In addition, there were stories about materials being stockpiled because no one wanted to buy. ‘We want to find out ways of making sure that does not happen again and we will also be looking at the amount of materials exported to places like China. We want to see if there are ways in which materials can be recycled in the North East of England instead. Plastics are a good example. There are companies in this area that could use discarded plastics as raw materials.’


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MONITORING SYSTEMS PLAYING A PART IN DETECTING MARINE POLLUTION Work conducted in the North Sea is helping scientists to better monitor pollution incidents such as the one that recently occurred in the Gulf of Mexico. The project, which based its work in another heavily polluted maritime ecosystem, the European North Sea, has spent two decades developing advanced early-warning system for all types of pollution. Working initially within MERMAID (Marine Environmental Remote-controlled Measuring And Integrated Detection), the international team of scientists and engineers developed automatic sensors and analysers, mounted on a network of radio-controlled stations, to record chemical and biological changes in water. Three prototype stations were sited in the North Sea around Germany’s Elbe River estuary and the findings have been adapted to help marine authorities elsewhere in the world. MERMAID, an initiative of the GKSS Institute for Coastal Research, a Government-funded centre based in Germany, has now developed into COSYNA (Coastal Observing System for Northern and Arctic Seas).

Dr Friedhelm Schroeder, COSYNA project manager, said: “We are attempting to link the COSYNA network with systems operated by other North Sea countries. Eventually, we would like all countries surrounding the sea to link their monitoring stations with COSYNA, contributing to a joint North Sea observatory. “In the 20 years since MERMAID began, there have been some improvements in North Sea water quality. Tourist beaches during the past 10 years have not been blighted by the unpleasant foam that results from the degradation of huge algal blooms. “However, levels of nitrates have dropped only slightly, despite the intention of European governments to achieve a 50% reduction. The danger is that high concentrations, usually from fertiliser flushed by rain from farmland, can encourage massive algal blooms, resulting in oxygen starvation and disaster for marine life.” He said that global climate change was also having a major effect; warming water is provoking fish migrations and a rising level of CO2 makes the water more acidic, inhibiting the growth of organisms and threatening the food chain.


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IN CELEBRATION OF FLOWERS The world is a cooler, wetter place because of flowering plants, according to climate simulation results published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Flowering plants evolved about 120 million years ago, during the Cretaceous Period, and took another 20 million years to become prevalent.

According to the research team, the effect is especially pronounced in the Amazon basin, where replacing flowering plants with non-flowering varieties would result in an 80 per cent decrease in the area covered by always-wet rainforest.

Prof Boyce and co-author Jung-Eun Lee, Postdoctoral Scholar in Geophysical Sciences at Chicago, ran computer simulations replacing flowering plants with non-flowering plants in eastern North America, which reduced rainfall by up to 40 per cent. The same replacement in the Amazon basin delayed onset of the monsoon from October 26 to January 10.

The study’s lead author, C. Kevin Boyce, Associate Professor in Geophysical Sciences at the University of Chicago, said that the higher vein density in the leaves means that flowering plants are highly efficient at transpiring water from the soil back into the sky, where it can return to Earth as rain.


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Networks 15  

NETWorks reports on the very latest science and technology news, putting discoveries and advances in the context of everyday life – showcasi...

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