infinite Annual Review of Research and Commercialisation at the University of Edinburgh I issue 8
A new ray of light how silicon chips could repair human tissues
ask the experts how can we make water safer?
taming the sea the university tackles climate change
40 years of innovation A celebration of major achievements
The first word
Derek Waddell, Chief Executive Officer of Edinburgh Research and Innovation, provides a lively introduction to Infinite
Discover how the University’s research and commercialisation activities are continuing to influence the world stage and push new boundaries
Glimpsing the future
Iain Macwhirter, 50th Rector of the University, kicks off this year’s issue
The economic downturn has not stifled Edinburgh’s entrepreneurial drive
Recent activities in the School of Informatics prove that its global leader status in informatics research and commercialisation is well earned
40 years of innovation
Appliance of science
World-class research by the University makes its way from the laboratories to find its rightful application in the wider world
Find out why Professor Remo Pedreschi likes to break away from the norm with his innovations
Work by CALL Scotland has been supporting people with communication, access, literacy and learning needs for 25 years
Ask the experts
The University’s collaboration with companies, locally and internationally, passes on its excellent knowledge, expertise and facilities
Take a glimpse of the groundbreaking research that is set to make the headlines in the near future
Combining innovative research with emerging technology to improve health globally
Energy & climate change
New research and renewable energy technology helping the UK tackle climate change
A round-up of the University’s discoveries that have made a huge impact on the world as Edinburgh celebrates innovation since 1969
Contributions to global issues by the University’s research, analytical and testing facilities revealed
Sally Millar at CALL Scotland
Dr Taku Komura gets animated over crowd scenes
Contacts If you enjoy reading this year’s issue of Infinite magazine, and want to get in touch with Edinburgh Research and Innovation to discuss possible collaboration opportunities with the University of Edinburgh, contact:
Chief Executive Officer Derek.Waddell@ed.ac.uk Hamish Macandrew
Head of Research Support & Development Hamish.Macandrew@ed.ac.uk Wendy Nicholson
Head of Business Development & Knowledge Transfer Wendy.Nicholson@ed.ac.uk Ian Murphy
Head of Commercial Development Ian.Murphy@ed.ac.uk Grant Wheeler
Head of Company Formation & Incubation Grant.Wheeler@ed.ac.uk Nora Kellock
28 Professor Remo Pedreschi’s garden at RHS Chelsea Garden Show 2009
This issue of Infinite has been designed and produced by White Light Media for Edinburgh Research and Innovation at the University of Edinburgh. Editorial team
Alex Proudfoot, Keri Eksteen Photography
Unless specified, photography is © Peter Tuffy, The University of Edinburgh. All rights reserved.
Head of Legal Division Nora.Kellock@ed.ac.uk Ian Lamb
Company Secretary/Head of Operations Ian.Lamb@ed.ac.uk
Edinburgh Research and Innovation
J. Thomson Colour Printers
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the first word Iain Macwhirter the Rector of the University is witnessing the transformational power of the university of edinburgh’s research and innovation with great pride
efore I became Rector I had, of
course, heard of the University of Edinburgh’s marvellous reputation in the field of scientific innovation, but I was still astonished to discover the sheer scale of it. The record of 40 years of research and innovation, featured in this edition’s centre spread, speaks for itself. Edinburgh is a world leader in so many fields and there is now significant commercial development of these discoveries. Consider the extraordinary work on stem cell research, renewable energy, animal bioscience and high performance computing. The many innovations of Professor Remo Pedreschi, from steel doors to concrete gardens, demonstrate how resourceful some of our leading researchers are. In this issue of Infinite there are fascinating accounts of research innovation in silicon chip implants that could one day be used to repair damaged tissue in the human body, and new designs for 4G mobile phones and improving the fire safety of building materials. I was initially sceptical when I was first informed about the range and scale of the commercialisation activities at the University, but I can see that this is a vital part of the University’s fabric. The developments I am most proud of at the University of Edinburgh are the progress towards combating neglected diseases, like sleeping sickness, and the work being done on climate change. I am most concerned that universities have been studying the impact of global warming, and its dynamics, but have failed to influence public perceptions of the scale of the problem facing humanity. The University of Edinburgh is addressing this in the most practical ways possible by developing and testing new renewable energy technologies, including a commercial scale horizontal flow tidal turbine, leading Scottish research on carbon capture and storage, and negotiating long-term
contracts with industrial partners to collaborate in research and development of wave and tidal current energy, as well as electricity network integration. Some academics are understandably uncomfortable about the commercial exploitation of knowledge. I have problems with it myself. However, there is no point in pushing the boundaries of human understanding in areas like alternative energy if the discoveries are not developed commercially. That is the only way they can have any impact. I feel privileged to be a part of this great intellectual adventure and I am hugely impressed by the efforts that are being made to translate knowledge into commercial reality. Through Edinburgh Research and Innovation, the University is showing that knowledge transfer need not be merely a political cliché but can become a practical reality.
perspective Derek Waddell The Chief Executive Officer of Edinburgh Research and Innovation is confident that the economic crisis will not curtail the university’s enterprising spirit
n 1969, when Neil Armstrong was taking man’s
first steps on the moon, another significant landmark was made here at the University of Edinburgh with the launch of one of the first technology transfer offices in the UK to actively manage the commercialisation of the University’s world-class research. Forty years on, Edinburgh has developed many important new technologies that have benefited mankind. These include the Hepatitis B vaccine created by Professor Sir Kenneth Murray in the early 1980s, the Smart Wheelchair created by CALL Scotland to help children with special needs, and the CMOS chip designs that led to the development of mobile telephone cameras and whose inventors won the prestigious Rank Prize. We have also created many significant companies that continue to contribute to the economic wellbeing of Scotland, such as Wolfson Microelectronics, Vision Group (now part of STMicroelectronics) and MTEM (now part of PGS). In this year’s issue of Infinite, we celebrate our many successes over the past 40 years, but we also look to the future to highlight some of our current activities which may have a major impact in the next four decades. Our Initiating Knowledge Transfer Fund (IKTF) provides important finance for early stage projects to help them realise their commercialisation potential. Company formation is one of our key commercialisation contributions and, again, we have had a very successful year with 26 new companies formed at the University over the 12 months to July 2009. This success was visibly demonstrated at the fifth Enterprise Expo exhibition in June 2009, where nearly 50 University entrepreneurs showcased their business ideas in front of the Scottish investment community. The excellent work carried out by our LAUNCH.ed activity, which provides high quality support to help staff and students start their new companies. We are working with entrepreneurial researchers from across the University who have developed
excellent new technologies, and we will be working with them over the next 12 months and beyond to help realise their commercialisation potential. Our Research Support and Development staff provide excellent support to researchers across the University and there was further growth in the volume of the University’s research applications and awards in 2008-09. 2,512 research applications worth £905.9m were submitted in the year to 31 July 2009, an increase of 10% on the previous year. Research awards to the University also grew, with 1,064 awards worth £248.9m received (increases of 5% and 17% respectively). Despite the adverse economic conditions, our Consultancy Office has again generated significant growth for the University in the past year, with a 25% increase in consultancy income to £4.5m. 605 contracts were signed, including 190 contracts (31%) with Scottish SMEs. With challenging world economic conditions, we will maximise our efforts over the next 12 months to ensure that Edinburgh maintains its position as one of the world’s most innovating universities.
Forty years on, Edinburgh has developed many important new technologies that have benefited mankind infinite ISSUE 8 04 l 05
news University scoops award for Best Scottish Knowledge Transfer Partnership
ne of the two awards for
best Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) at the recent annual Scottish Awards Ceremony, went to the University for our KTP with local manufacturing company, Powerwall Systems Ltd. The University of Edinburgh is recognised internationally for its outstanding research in Fire Safety Engineering over the last 30 years. This has been characterised by innovative research and the education of several of the current leaders in the field. The Fire Safety Engineering Group has undergone rapid expansion: with new members of staff joining the group; stronger links with industry formed; new research facilities with equipment donated by major players in the commercial property industry;
above: Thermal transmission tests at the University helped Powerwall improve their walling system opposite, left to right:
Professor Jose Torero and Dr Luke Bisby are advancing fire research at Edinburgh
and important consultancy tenders assigned on internationally published incidents. The three-year KTP project with a local Scottish manufacturing company Powerwall Systems Ltd is an excellent example of successful collaboration with industry by Professor Jose Torero and his research team. Powerwall Systems Ltd design and manufacture polymer renders and coatings, and supply insulation systems for the housing market. This project developed methods for more accurately assessing the thermal efficiency, structure strength and fire resistance levels of Powerwall’s lightweight building system. This project provided a comprehensive methodology for the design and manufacture of wall assemblies with an improved combined performance in thermal, fire resistance and load bearing capabilities. This allowed the company to produce a more attractive and competitive product and to increase sales in the UK and abroad. Ahmad Mejbas Al-Remal, Powerwall’s KTP project manager, said: “The company’s endeavour for continual research and development was streamlined by the world-class expertise of the University of Edinburgh. Initial thermal transmission tests at the Rushbrook Fire Laboratory in the University, coupled with sophisticated numerical simulations, helped Powerwall radically improve the design of their walling system. The experience gained has not only boosted sales of existing products, but has also instigated the development of a new fire wall with enormous marketing potential.” The company has been so impressed with the results of the initial KTP project, that they have recently commenced another KTP, employing two associates and being led by Professor Asif Usmani and Professor Yong Lu. This project aims to develop an intelligent system that will monitor and optimise the internal environment of modular buildings and improve its performance under dynamic loads including earthquake resistance (required for the export market).
Fireproofing the future Thanks to successful research collaboration
between Ove Arup Ltd and the University of Edinburgh, buildings will be better designed and refurbished to withstand the dangers of fire. Structural engineer and fire researcher, Dr Luke Bisby, has been appointed the Arup Foundation/Royal Academy of Engineering Senior Research Fellow in Structures and Fire, to focus on improving the fire safety of both traditional and new building materials, and methods of building repair. In the long term his research, along with that of his colleagues in the BRE Centre for Fire Safety Engineering at the University of Edinburgh, could transform industry thinking around fire safety, encouraging architects and engineers to collaborate to enable safe, efficient and sustainable designs for buildings of the future. Dr Bisby commented: “The combination of complementary expertise in the BRE Centre for Fire Safety Engineering at Edinburgh is unique, and I hope that my addition to the group will help it to conduct leading research in all areas of fire safety engineering.” Sir Duncan Michael, trustee of the Arup Foundation and a Fellow of the Academy, said: “Creating opportunities for greater interdisciplinary understanding is fundamental to the Arup Foundation. By supporting the University of Edinburgh in the appointment of Dr Bisby we are helping to instigate new thinking around the subject of fire safety engineering in buildings, in order to rationalise practice methods and encourage integration with all disciplines involved in building design.”
The expertise in the BRE Centre for Fire Safety Engineering is unique infinite ISSUE 8 06 l 07
news Fios Genomics attracts SMART award and Innovation grant
left to right:
Fraser Morton, Professor Peter Ghazal, Dr Tom Freeman, Dr Gary Rubin, Dr Thorsten Forster and Dr Al Ivens
ios Genomics Ltd, a biotechnology company spun
out from the University of Edinburgh’s Division of Pathway Medicine and Centre for Systems Biology in 2008, has recently secured both a SMART:SCOTLAND award and an Innovation Support Grant – the only University of Edinburgh spinout company to do so this year. The two awards, totalling some £87,000 worth of support, will enable the company to develop a unique, proprietary suite of tools for the automated analyses and integration of large ‘omics’ datasets from a variety of commercial and custom microarrays, SNP genotyping and next generation sequencing platforms. This will allow for rapid processing and efficient analyses of complex high dimensional data, and thus enable Fios Genomics to offer a world-leading
and unique service to the pharmaceutical industry, academia and contract research organisations. Fios Genomics is the third business venture for founder Professor Peter Ghazal, who started the company with co-founders Drs Tom Freeman, Anton Enright and Thorsten Forster. Recognising there was a real market need for comprehensive analysis of highly dimensional complex datasets, the group formed the company with the support of Edinburgh Research and Innovation, and has generated revenue from over 30 client projects during their first year of operation. According to Professor Ghazal: “Fios Genomics’ success can be attributed to its top quality service and the recruitment of an outstanding team focused on the development and delivery of innovative solutions to both industry and academia.”
Click-thru licensing is here In February 2009 Edinburgh Research and
Innovation (ERI) launched a new clickthru licensing system to make it easier for commercial organisations to license key University of Edinburgh technologies. The click-thru licensing system was developed by ERI to offer an online licensing service, enabling customers to easily and quickly order non-exclusive licenses for one or more technologies directly via the ERI website. The click-thru licensing system will profile University of Edinburgh technologies that are available to license under a standard non-exclusive license agreement. An initial portfolio of twelve technologies is
currently available, with further opportunities in the pipeline, which will be added over the coming months. Derek Waddell, Chief Executive of ERI, said: “Our goal in developing this system has been to create a freely-accessible and easy-to-use web-based platform to help industry get access to the technologies available from the University of Edinburgh.” Mr Ian Murphy, ERI’s Head of Commercial Development, commented:
“The click-thru licensing system represents only a subset of the total number of opportunities available from the University of Edinburgh. We also have a wider range of more complex technology licensing opportunities available that require more bespoke license agreements, involving detailed negotiation before conclusion.”
To find out more, visit: http://licensing.research-innovation.ed.ac.uk
The Roslin Institute showcases animal bioscience research In April 2009 the University of Edinburgh’s © norrie russell
Roslin Institute held a showcase event to highlight its current research in animal bioscience, and promote collaboration and partnerships between academia and industry. Researchers provided presentations on current research projects underway at The Roslin Institute and the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies (R(D)SVS). These included research assessing potential applications of stem cells from livestock and companion animals, generation of appropriate models of disease to refine therapeutic strategies and studies looking at how genetic variation in production animals can be exploited by breeding for improved disease resistance. Professor David Hume, Director of The Roslin Institute and Research Director at R(D)SVS, said: “Research at The Roslin Institute and R(D)SVS aims to enhance the lives of animals and humans through improved health and welfare. In order for us to have the best chance of applying our research outputs to achieve our aims, it is critical that we work closely with industry and this event has been an exciting step forward in that process.” The event was hailed as a great success by the representatives from the 50
Dr Tom Shepherd
organisations who attended, including CobbVantress Inc, Novartis Animal Health Inc, Aviagen Ltd, Scottish Enterprise and Midlothian Council. Important new contacts were also made between The Roslin Institute and R(D)SVS scientists and their guests from industry and elsewhere. Dr Tom Shepherd, Chief Executive Officer of CXR Biosciences Ltd, is an existing industrial partner working with the Institute. He said: “The Roslin Institute has an enviable position in the field of animal biotechnology and through its restructuring now has the opportunity to build on this and be a significant player in the animal bioscience sector.” infinite ISSUE 8 08 l 09
Supporting 50 entrepreneurs in five years The financial forecast may still point to some stormy times ahead but doom and gloom in the media has failed to quench the flair and ambition of tomorrow’s great innovators, and University of Edinburgh students and spin-out companies
ince 2004, the University of
Edinburgh has been offering places to graduates from all over the world, to come to Edinburgh and start their own business with support from the Edinburgh Pre-Incubator Scheme (EPIS). Many of those successful candidates have had previous links with the University and in April 2009, EPIS was delighted to welcome its 50th entrepreneur to the programme. Maciej Zurawski, a Swedish citizen having recently submitted his PhD in Informatics at the University, was awarded a full one-year placement on the EPIS programme. Maciej aims to build a company making digital interactive media (primarily video and computer games) more immersive and their development more cost effective, which he aims to achieve by providing an innovative form of middleware software. During Maciej’s year with EPIS, he will be hosted by Dr Alan Smaill within the School of Informatics, where he will have the opportunity to interact with the University’s researchers along with other EPIS Entrepreneurs already placed within the School.
Pufferfish in global success
During 2008–2009, EPIS graduate company Pufferfish Ltd celebrated a double success on a global scale with their unique PufferSphere 360o visual display unit. Firstly, the PufferSpheres were used by rock group Coldplay to deliver live-
feed footage and graphics to enhance the audience’s visual experience on their ‘Viva la Vida’ world tour – the first concert in the world to feature the innovative technology developed by Pufferfish during their year with EPIS. Then, in May 2009, Pufferfish were commissioned to provide their PufferSpheres as part of the stage display at the Eurovision Song Contest finals in Moscow. The lightweight design and compact footprint of the PufferSpheres allowed artistic creators to dictate their movements with minimum effort, offering the camera team the flexibility to fly by, zoom, pan and jib around the displays, ensuring the 100 million-strong television audiences missed none of the excitement or action from each of the performances. Credit crunch no match for Ecometrica
Another EPIS company has defied the odds after being founded at the height of the credit crunch in September 2008. Gary Davis, COO of Ecometrica Ltd, a climate change consultancy, has successfully raised £500k in venture capital funding, as well as boosting fulltime staff numbers to 18 and opening a Montreal Office – all in the first nine months of trading!
To find out more, visit: www.epis.org.uk
right: PufferSpheres being used at ColdPlay’s ‘Viva la Vida’ world tour
Students show entrepreneurial spirit In spite of the economic crisis, the past year
© pufferfish displays ltd.
has been exceptional for company formation and, in particular, student enterprise. LAUNCH.ed, the University of Edinburgh’s support service for entrepreneurs, helped 15 student companies start up and expects even more companies to launch in the year ahead. Levels of participation in the University’s business plan competitions were higher than ever this year. Over 30 teams competed in two competitions, with products ranging from carbon footprint consulting to designer headphones. The top ideas were forwarded to two national competitions run by the Scottish Institute for Enterprise (SIE), where University of Edinburgh students were extremely competitive. In the 2009 SIE New Ventures Competition, for students who have already taken significant steps toward starting their business, nine University of Edinburgh teams advanced to the finals – more than from any other university. University of Edinburgh teams were awarded both first and second place, winning a total of £10,000 cash. First place went to Ed Bolam of Rev Drive Ltd, a final-year engineering student with a new drive chain for downhill cycling, which will be tested by a World Cup team. Ed was awarded funding by SIE earlier this year to help secure a patent and will receive an additional cash award plus in-kind support
from solicitors, product designers, public relations agents and strategy consultants. Richard Burton won second place with his company Hoodeasy Ltd, an online shop for customised clothing. Richard is a first-year politics student, and founded his business in 2007 to fund a gap year trip to South Africa. Since then, Richard has hired a full-time employee and produced hoodies for more than 200 schools and universities around the country. Apollonia Lazou, a final-year student in computer science, advanced to the final round of the SIE New Ideas Competition – a contest for early stage entrepreneurs – with her idea for a video review website for cosmetic and beauty products. Other finalists included: Spinsight Ltd, a sports analysis and visualisation company; Ecommo Ltd, a website that provides instant online shops for small businesses; and Square-Go, a free video games review magazine.
Visit: www.launch.ed.ac.uk to find out more infinite ISSUE 8 10 l 11
spirit Enterprise Expo meets Dragon’s approval The annual Enterprise Expo was held in June 2009 at the
University of Edinburgh. The exhibition was an ideal opportunity to meet spin-outs from research, EPIS entrepreneurs and student start-up companies, and LAUNCH.ed – a service that supports the University student entrepreneurs and student-run companies – was excited to see that student companies were more prominent than ever at this year’s Expo. In total, 47 companies exhibited of which 15 were founded and run by current and recent students. More than 250 attendees gathered for the event, coming from all corners of the business community in Scotland and further afield. Investors, business service providers and representatives from some of Scotland’s major corporates provided unique networking opportunities, in particular for the exhibitors. Set against the backdrop of economic downturn, the Expo proved the oft-forgotten notion that whilst a recession presents all companies with huge challenges, it also provides some of the greatest opportunities. That message was echoed by former Dragon’s Den investor Doug Richard, who joined Vice Principal Stephen Chapman in formally opening the Expo. Mr Richard then toured the Expo, meeting many of the entrepreneurs and providing them with some invaluable advice. The reaction to the Expo has been hugely positive. A fact that is almost exclusively down to the quality of the companies exhibiting and the continued support provided to them and the University by the Scottish business community.
above: Representatives from Scotland’s business community took the opportunity to meet with Edinburgh’s aspiring entrepreneurs left:
Former Dragon’s Den investor Doug Richard
Ask the experts
Safe water for everyone The Universityâ€™s expertise and cutting edge research facilities are renowned across the globe. Organisations seeking to take the next step forward in a wide range of areas, from improving treatments for serious illnesses to ensuring a safe water supply, are benefiting from the University of Edinburghâ€™s specialist knowledge
right: Professor Nick Read (left) and Dr Patrick Hickey
infinite ISSUE 8 12 l 13
© patrick hickey
above: 3-D confocal image projection showing fluorescentlylabelled Cryptosporidium oocysts
cientists from the Institute of Cell Biology
are working with a Fife-based firm, Shaw Water Engineering Ltd, to refine their novel pathogen detection technology for testing water for bacterial contamination. Cryptosporidium is a parasite that causes cryptosporidiosis – a potentially fatal disease that is particularly serious in people with weak or undeveloped immune systems, such as the old and the very young. It is most often spread in contaminated drinking water and a number of outbreaks have taken place in both the UK and the US in recent years. Despite representing a major health hazard in many countries, current detection methods are slow and inefficient. Shaw Water Engineering is developing a range of automated detection systems for monitoring water quality. One of its systems currently in development is Crypto Tech, which will enable the testing of water supplies for contamination of Cryptosporidium and other waterborne pathogens. Through the financial support of a Scottish Executive SCORE award, Shaw Water Engineering has been collaborating with Professor Nick Read and Dr Patrick Hickey to develop a system to capture and display images of moving waterborne pathogens using fluorescence tagging techniques. With Professor Read’s lab specialising in advanced imaging and measurement techniques and equipped with state-of-the-art microscopy equipment, he and Dr Hickey are well placed to advise and assist Shaw Water Engineering with developing and validating the detection technology. The pair will be instrumental in helping the company to develop its technology into a commercially viable product. Commenting on the collaboration, Gary Shaw of Shaw Water Engineering said: “Working with Nick and Patrick through the University and SCORE allowed us to make real progress by tapping into the department’s skill set and expertise. The whole SCORE programme was hugely beneficial to Shaw.”
above: Professor John Govan and Dr Catherine Doherty. In 2005, Professor Govan was awarded
the Ettore Rossi Gold Medal by the European Cystic Fibrosis Society and the John Panchaud Gold Medal by the UK Cystic Fibrosis Trust for his contributions to cystic fibrosis research
Expert training in testing for breast cancer Breast cancer is now the most common cancer in the UK
with approximately 46,000 women being diagnosed with the disease every year. This figure is alarming, but with the implementation of the breast screening programme, increased understanding of cancer development and progression, and improvements in diagnosis and treatment, it is estimated that more than 80% of women diagnosed will survive for at least five years. New targeted therapies have been developed to attack the tumour cells, which, unlike chemotherapy, cause limited damage to normal cells. One such targeted therapy is trastuzumab (Herceptin®), a humanised monoclonal antibody that targets and binds to breast cancer cells that over-express the HER2 receptor. Tumours that are HER2 positive tend to grow more quickly and increase the risk of metastases and recurrence. It is thought that one in five women have HER2 positive breast tumours and knowing the HER2 status earlier can influence the treatment choice. The
Improving management of Cystic Fibrosis lung disease The University of Edinburgh’s expertise is currently playing major and complementary roles in research and patient management for cystic fibrosis (CF). The most lethal inherited disease in Caucasian populations, CF presents in one in 2,500 live births and approximately 70,000 children and adults are affected by it worldwide. Cystic fibrosis microbiology and, in particular, the innovative and aggressive use of antibiotics, has been so successful that individuals with CF can now expect to live well into their 40s and beyond. Therefore, it is no longer a paediatric disease and, in many countries, the number of adults with CF now exceeds that of children. Accurate detection of the mutations responsible for the disease has led to national programmes for newborn screening of affected infants, accompanied by translational biomedical research, to provide optimum life-long management of this multi-organ disorder. Amongst striking therapeutic advances is a growing drug development pipeline, which includes new antibiotic formulations based on ‘dry powder delivery’, nanoparticles or liposomes, delivered rapidly by nebulisation directly to CF airways. Attempts to help the pharmaceutical industry validate and deliver new drugs for rarer diseases to the patient as quickly as possible through ‘orphan drug status’ are accompanying these developments.
Edinburgh’s activity includes research into CF microbiology to improve management of CF lung infections, a pioneering gene therapy programme to repair the basic CF defect, and large paediatric and adult clinics, providing state-of-the-art clinical care.
© john govan, the university of edinburgh
ask the experts
Professor John Govan and Dr Catherine Doherty, at the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Infectious Diseases, provide internationally-recognised microbiological facilities for multinational clinical trials, funded by pharmaceutical companies. These include the novel formulation of liposomal amikacin for inhalation (Arikace) with US biopharmaceutical company, Transave Inc. for the treatment of infections caused by the major CF pathogen, Pseudomonas aeruginosa. Professor Govan said: “The microbiology and treatment of CF lung infections is notoriously complex. Major challenges include the need to eliminate or reduce the large numbers of biofilm-forming bacterial pathogens in CF airways, which are responsible for highly-damaging lung inflammation. Identification of new anti-infective compounds, however, is only a first step. Promising agents need to be assessed by large multi-centred clinical trials, and the results carefully audited and evaluated by national regulatory authorities before approval for human use.”
above: Chest radiograph of a cystic fibrosis patient showing serious respiratory infection and inflammation caused by mucoid Pseudomonas aeruginosa
Professor John Bartlett
Department of Health announced in October 2005 that all women with newly-diagnosed breast cancer would be tested for HER2 and any women previously diagnosed and treated would be tested should their cancer return. Professor John Bartlett and Miss Fiona Campbell, at the University of Edinburgh’s Cancer Research Centre, have played a major role in the successful design and implementation of HER2 testing training courses. They have lent their expertise to the training of pathologists and biomedical scientists throughout the UK and Ireland, and laboratories within Europe have expressed an interest in the training courses taking place this year. Feedback from the courses has been very encouraging. One attendee said: “I thought that the course was great and very beneficial. I had some good feedback for everyone when I returned to my laboratory.” The presentation of the courses has been rated as ‘excellent’ and delegates agreed that correct HER2 testing is extremely important in influencing patient care. infinite ISSUE 8 14 l 15
prospekts PROSPEKT is continuing to help commercialise the research completed by the School of Informatics. The Interaction Patches solution developed by the School has the potential to revolutionise the world of animation
omputer-based crowd simulation is a great
solution to create animated crowd scenes in TV programmes, advertisements, movies and computer games, as it requires just a small number of real motion clips produced from a few actors to create scenes of thousands of characters. However, a problem emerges with most computerbased simulation when many characters need to interact closely with each other. Most crowd simulation methods only allow very simple interactions between characters. When they are applied to simulating close crowded scenes, such as those in a medieval battlefield, they produce unrealistic interactions. Like badly choreographed stunts in a lowbudget movie, these simulations may show characters
falling or dodging unrealistically in response to the swing of a weapon, even when it comes nowhere near them. Interaction Patches is a solution for such problems that works equally well for scenes from two characters and up, limited only by computing resources. Using Interaction Patches, Hubert P.H. Shum and Dr Taku Komura, a Lecturer in the School of Informatics, have produced scenes such as one person fighting many enemies, a group of hundreds of characters falling like dominoes, an American football player escaping tackling defenders to make a touchdown, and a group of people passing luggage to one another. During off-line processing, many possible close interactions between characters are automatically simulated and stored as data structures called
infinite ISSUE 8 16 l 17
i To find out more, please visit: www.ipab.inf.ed.ac.uk/cgvu
clockwise from left: Key speaker Guy Kawasaki; James Heward (iBehave Ltd) speaks to Dr David Milne OBE; and Simon Montford (vibio.com)
Informatics showcases commercial ventures In April 2009, the University of Edinburgh’s
Loc8 Solutions Ltd
Informatics Ventures initiative ran the second annual Engage | Invest | Exploit event to showcase ventures created thanks to computing science and informatics research at universities throughout Scotland. The event offered 50 entrepreneurs the opportunity to pitch their commercial ventures to potential investors and industry representatives from the private and public sector. The pitches included computer and web-based ideas from a range of sectors, such as healthcare, media, renewable energy, recruitment and market research. Leading Silicon Valley venture capitalist, Guy Kawasaki, best known for marketing the boom in Apple Macintosh computers in the 1980s, delivered the keynote speech. The enthusiastic entrepreneur shared his insight on how to start a successful company with students, venture capitalists and aspiring businesses at the Informatics Forum. An exciting selection of Edinburgh’s new ventures that pitched and demonstrated at the event included:
Loc8 Solutions’ first product, Hedout, is a location-based entertainment guide designed for mobile and web that provides relevant information on nearby events and venues.
Affect Labs Ltd
Affect Labs’ system analyses the emotions behind online conversations across social media, saving money and time by expressing what your online audience thinks about you. iBehave Ltd
Dr Taku Komura
iBehave ‘sequencing behaviour’, the analysis of animal behaviour, is used throughout the £55bn drug discovery industry. Currently, it is a manual process, that is slow, expensive and unreliable. iBehave provides a software solution for the automation of behaviour analysis, reducing the time to deploy a screen by 80% and bringing drugs to market more rapidly.
Spinsight aims to enhance fans’ and coaches’ insight into sports by generating live, affordable, value-adding data that enriches TV broadcasts, augments media offerings and improves team performances. Vibio Ltd
Vibio.com is developing a web-based Social Trading Network that searches across multiple e-commerce websites and finds items that are owned by people within the user’s social network. Andrew Mitchell, of the University of Edinburgh’s School of Informatics, who organised the event, said: “Despite the economic climate, this event is defying the downturn and proving to be a big draw for investors. Scotland’s computing and informatics sector is fast establishing a strong track record in taking great ideas to the marketplace. We are delighted to bring together the ambitious people behind these ideas and the investors who can make success happen for our start-ups and spin-outs.”
i To view a video clip of the event, visit: www. informatics-ventures. com/eie09
© douglas robertson
‘Interaction Patches’. Predefined rules govern how interactions may be combined, either spatially or temporally. During run-time, the system uses the rules to concatenate Interaction Patches to create scenes in which a large number of characters interact closely with one another. Using this method, it is possible to produce, automatically or interactively, animations of crowds interacting with each other to suit almost any style of scene. Interaction Patches can be used for many different kinds of animations including those in TV programmes, advertisements, movies and computer games. The method requires little memory or computational power, making it suitable for mobile devices. The University has applied for a patent for Interaction Patches and, with the help of its Initiating Knowledge Transfer Fund, is developing the research into a prototype suitable for demonstrations to commercial partners. Partners interested in licensing the technology and developing it further are welcome to get in touch.
40 years of innovation
40 years of inNovation at the university of edinburgh
n 1969, the University of Edinburgh recognised the
need to formalise the way it transfers new ideas and discoveries into business and industry. That year, the University established one of the first technology transfer offices in the UK to promote and encourage collaborations with industry and commerce. In the 40 years since launching the Centre for Industrial Consultancy and Liaison, Edinburgh Research and Innovation and its predecessors have helped bring a number of significant discoveries and inventions to the world today. All these achievements have been successfully translated from academic ideas into an industrial environment through the inspiring innovation of some of the University of Edinburgh’s entrepreneurial researchers.
Professor Ian Underwood was one of the original founders of MicroEmissive Displays PLC in 1999. The company established itself as the world’s leading developer of polymer-organic light emitting diode-based microdisplays and achieved a place in the Guinness Book of Records for manufacturing the smallest television screen in the world. Dr Marc Moens was co-founder and CEO of Rhetorical Systems Ltd, which spun out from the University of Edinburgh in June 2000 to commercialise text-to-speech software (rVoice). rVoice quickly became widely recognised as the most natural-sounding text-tospeech software solution on the market offering a range of different languages, regional accents and dialects.
Professor Sir Ken Murray is one of Scotland’s most eminent scientists and a true modern day philanthropist. He not only developed the first genetically-engineered vaccine against Hepatitis B, in the early 1980s, but then donated his share of the substantial earnings from licensing the vaccine to BIOGEN NV to the Darwin Trust, a charity he established in 1983 to support education and research in natural science. In 1984, Dr David Milne led the spin-out of the Wolfson Microelectronics Institute to become Wolfson Microelectronics Ltd. The company has since established itself as a global leader in the supply of mixed signal integrated circuits to many of the world’s leading manufacturers of digital audio, digital imaging and portable electronic products, including Apple’s iPod touch/iPhone. Professor Peter Denyer led a research team that developed a new form of electronic imaging device, called the CMOS image sensor, in the 1980s. The resulting spin-out company became the world’s leading producer of cost-effective, highly integrated vision systems, used in webcams, digital cameras and mobile phones. In 1995, the Vision Group PLC became the first Scottish university spin-out company to list on the London Stock Exchange.
Through new innovative programmes, Edinburgh Research and Innovation continues to support even more researchers and entrepreneurs; helping them to turn their ideas into a commercial reality. If the past 40 years are anything to go by, then it is worth keeping a lookout for the next exciting innovations.
Edinburgh Research and Innovation have helped bring a number of significant discoveries and inventions to the world today infinite ISSUE 8 18 l 19
left: CALL Scotland's Smart Wheelchair right: Professor Peter Denyer led VLSI Vision Ltd in revolutionising the digital camera industry
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clockwise from top: Professor David Brock pioneered amniocentesis in prenatal screening; Mobile Acuity Ltd developed an award-winning mobile marketing tool; Professor Tom Brown spun out Oswel Research Products Ltd; MicroEmissive Displays Ltd developed world's smallest TV screen
Professor Ken Murray's Hepatitis B vaccine has generated over ÂŁ40m in royalty income
40 years of innovation
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below: Professor Alan Murray and Dr Evangelos Delivopoulos are using silicon chips to grow neurons, the basic cells of the human nervous system
Glimpsing the The University of Edinburgh has a proud history and is founded on a tradition of furthering human knowledge to help us better understand and improve our world. That same tradition is at the heart of current ground-breaking research that promises to open up exciting possibilities for the future
glimpsing the future
Research breakthrough paves way for silicon chip implants to repair the human body
niversity of Edinburgh researchers have moved a
small, but important, step closer to producing silicon chips that could one day be used to repair damaged tissue in the human body. Professor Alan Murray and Dr Evangelos Delivopoulos from the School of Engineering, working with Dr John Curtis from the School of Biomedical Sciences, have used conventional silicon chip design and manufacturing to grow neurons – the basic cells of the human nervous system – in finely-detailed patterns on the surface of otherwise conventional silicon chips. This process creates silicon chips with conventional electronic circuitry combined with ‘road maps’ for neurons and/or other cells to follow. Thanks to this development, neuroscientists will be able to perform more precise experiments on cells grown on chips, to understand the function of the brain and other organs in hitherto unachievable detail. The technology may also ultimately enable damaged nerve or muscle fibres to be replaced by chips. The discovery was, however, a ‘scientific surprise’. During the chip manufacturing process, biologically-inert patterns are printed on the smooth silicon surface, using a Teflon-like substance known as parylene. The chip is then dipped in protein-rich serum. The team’s initial hypothesis was that cells would ‘dislike’ the non-stick parylene surface and grow on the silicon dioxide surface. However, the neurons grew with great accuracy on the water-resistant parylene. Future projects will study the surface (bio) chemistry to begin to understand why this apparently counter-intuitive effect occurs. In the meantime, and with assistance from Edinburgh Research and Innovation, the work is being moved toward commercial application through the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council’s (EPSRC) Follow-On programme, which aims to take the results of the EPSRCfunded academic research closer to exploitation. It is hoped that the method will eventually enable any type of tissue to be grown on a tailor-made pathway and implanted as prosthetic tissue in the body. These prosthetic chips could eventually be used in support of conventional micro-surgery. The technique also works with stem cells. Professor Murray said: “This is a small but important step on the path towards the long-term goal of many scientists and medics – to develop surgical implants using silicon chips. We also hope that the technique will allow better methods of drug discovery and reduce the need for animal testing, as new medicines could be tested on chips rather than in live creatures.”
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Funding the early stages of knowledge transfer Converting good research into successful
knowledge transfer outcomes can be a challenging process and is seldom achieved without considerable targeted support to develop new ideas in their earliest stages. Support mechanisms available from external agencies often stop short of helping with the first steps that are necessary to start on the road toward commercialisation. In order to support projects through this difficult phase, the University of Edinburgh introduced the Initiating Knowledge Transfer Fund (IKTF) in 2007. Its aim is to incentivise research staff to engage with commercialisation support mechanisms already in place, while also striving to enhance the effect of knowledge exchange on University research outcomes. The scheme began when the University was awarded £100,000 in the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council’s KT Challenge competition. The University subsequently committed an additional £500,000 from the proceeds of the sale of spin-out company MTEM Ltd to the Norwegian firm Petroleum Geo-Services ASA for $275m in 2007. Targeting success
Experience shows that focussing on a specific target makes successful knowledge transfer more likely, but any early stage support mechanism must also be sufficiently flexible to cope with the wide variety of circumstances that may arise. Applicants are therefore encouraged to select from one of a number of possible targets for their project; these can include initiating company collaboration, building the case for government-sponsored translational awards, or exploring spin-out opportunities. In excess of thirty awards have been made across a wide diversity of technological areas to date, including bioelectronics, antivirals, genetics, software models, biofuels, sensor systems and renewable energy. Awards made in the initial rounds of IKTF are already achieving their initial targets by successfully stimulating further funding.
One such award, made to Dr Brian Flynn in the School of Engineering, has led to a Knowledge Transfer Partnership between the University and Macom Technologies Ltd. The aim of the partnership is to improve the company’s sensors, which detect the small particles introduced into oil flows as machinery wears, and therefore to allow predictive maintenance. Another IKTF award went to Professor Asif Usmani in the BRE Centre for Fire Safety Engineering, for investigations into the structural dynamics of a lightweight flooring system. This research is now being taken forward through a Knowledge Transfer Partnership with a local SME, Powerwall Systems Ltd. This continues a successful relationship with the company that has helped improve their products and increase their sales. Several awards, two of which are funding projects within the Institute for Energy Systems, have been used to form closer links with industrial collaborators. Dr Markus Mueller is developing machine elements suitable for use in the very latest generation of renewable devices, and his award was used to validate thermal design tools for a variable speed diesel generator system. The results are being used by
Cummins Inc. and by Motor Design Ltd to inform their new designs. Similarly, Dr Dimitri Mignard’s project looking at efficient bulk hydrogen energy storage has led to detailed discussions with Clean Carbon Combustion LLC, which are exploring the possibilities of using the technology within their existing biomass to power processes. A novel technology using electronic lights for communication purposes was also taken forward with support from the IKTF by Dr Harald Haas. The optical interface being developed enables intelligent data transmission under the specific conditions aboard an aircraft, eliminating electromagnetic interference, while at the same time achieving a significant weight reduction through reduced wire usage. Dr Haas is now in discussion with the global aerospace company EADS N.V. and with Scottish Enterprise. Other IKTF projects are underway within the College of Medicine, School of GeoSciences and School of Informatics, ensuring our diverse portfolio of exciting early stage projects continues to grow and add to the University’s continued knowledge transfer successes.
glimpsing the future
Introducing the next generation mobile phones and MP3 players MP3 players, mobile phones and other gadgets
Focussing on a specific target makes successful knowledge transfer more likely
could become smaller, faster and more energy efficient thanks to a new computer design technique developed by scientists in the University’s School of Informatics. Their research has focused on the use of artificial intelligence to combine two of a device’s design stages, automatically optimising the system. Conventionally, the process of designing new devices has involved creating a processor (the central chip of the system) and then developing a compiler (the component that translates human-readable computer programs into machine-code). This compiler can then be optimised to make the device run as fast as possible. However, in this instance Edinburgh scientists have used machine learning – a form of artificial intelligence that allows computers to learn complex patterns in data – to develop both compiler and processor in tandem, streamlining the overall design process and producing more efficient end products. To develop their technique, the researchers ran experiments on millions of combinations of processors and compilers optimised for particular functions. They then built a machine learning model which identifies patterns in the pairings that lead to good performance and energy efficiency. By exploiting the analogous behaviour of similar designs, this technique is able to predict the compiler optimisations that work well on systems never seen before – ideal for use when creating new designs. The tool can be used by manufacturers to evaluate processor designs, giving better
knowledge of how the final product will perform, and helping to create more efficient devices from the outset. Once the design that best fits the manufacturers’ needs has been identified, the tool can be used to automatically generate a compiler for the system that is optimised specifically for their requirements, therefore cutting down on design time. Dr Timothy Jones, Royal Academy of Engineering Research Fellow within the School of Informatics, said: “Using our method would enable designers to choose the best combination of components for their needs. For consumers, this means faster, smaller devices, producing less heat and with improved battery life. Overall, this means cheaper products on the market quicker.” This work has been performed in conjunction with the Milepost project, an EU-funded consortium of academics and industry from across Europe that is developing new compilation technology using machine-learning techniques for embedded programs optimisation. This project is led by Professor Michael O’Boyle at the School of Informatics.
Further information can be found at
clockwise from from top left: Dr Harald Haas, Dr Markus Mueller, Professor Asif Usmani, Dr Timothy Jones
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left: Dr Keisuke Kaji from the MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Edinburgh
Appliance of science Breakthrough in lab-produced stem cells for human transplantation
significant breakthrough has been made in the
field of regenerative medicine, paving the way for stem cells made from skin cells to be safely transplanted into humans. The two teams involved, led by Dr Keisuke Kaji at the University of Edinburgh and Dr Andras Nagy from Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, are the first to reprogram human skin cells to act like embryonic stem cells without needing to use viruses in the process. Reprogrammed or induced Pluripotent Stem (iPS) cells are created by introducing genes, which turn back the developmental clock in adult cells, so that they behave and act like embryonic stem cells. As a result, these induced cells have the key stem cell property of being able to become any type of cell in the body. Dr Kaji commented: “I was very excited when I found stem cell-like cells in my culture dishes. Nobody, including me, thought it was really possible. This new method will
This new method will advance the field of regenerative medicine
advance the field of regenerative medicine, and should help understand diseases and test new drugs.” Until now, reprogramming of cells has typically involved the use of viruses to deliver the key reprogramming genes. This process modifies the recipient cell DNA in such a way that they are unsafe for transplantation into patients. This new method avoids using these potentially harmful viruses, and also allows for the four genes to be removed once reprogramming is complete, which should help prevent any abnormalities in how the cells develop. The findings show how the group has allowed genes to be delivered into the cell by safer, more conventional methods, avoiding the use of viruses to reprogram the cells and creating iPS cells without significantly modifying their genetic structure. Dr Nagy of Mount Sinai Hospital said: “We hope that these stem cells will form the basis for the treatment of many diseases and conditions that are currently considered incurable. We have found a highly-efficient and safe way to create new cells for the human body, which avoids the challenge of immune rejection.” The University of Edinburgh and Mount Sinai Hospital have filed a patent on this technology and are currently in dialogue with a number of commercial partners to license and develop the technology for commercial applications.
Appliance of Science
Professor Jason Crain
University in major research partnership in Molecular Medicine The University of Edinburgh has embarked
on a major strategic alliance with the UK’s National Physical Laboratory (NPL), Isogenica Ltd, IBM Research and the STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory. The aim is to create a research and business development partnership based around emerging technologies related to molecular medicine. The consortium will focus on developing new tools to reveal, in unprecedented detail, the molecular structure of short protein fragments (peptides). The control of these peptides is relevant in a wide variety of biomedical contexts, such as the inhibition of viral infections, the reversal of early-stage protein
aggregation implicated in neurodegenerative diseases and molecular-scale defence mechanisms against bacterial infections. Co-funded by a major investment from the NPL Strategic Research Programme and the Scottish Universities Physics Alliance, the programme will bring a combination of powerful experimental probes, such as neutron diffraction, synchrotron circular dichroism and nuclear magnetic resonance, together with the world’s most powerful computational resources – the IBM Blue Gene Supercomputer. The initiative will aim to reveal the factors that govern the structure of these classes of biomolecules, which can
be used to design more rational approaches to molecular design. A wider consortium of research partners and end-user stakeholders is currently being built and includes St George’s Hospital, the NHS, Princess Alexandra Eye Pavilion, Scottish Bioinformatics Forum and SMEs, such as Chiralabs Ltd and Edinburgh Instruments Ltd. Professor Crain, who is leading the project, said: “The project team is comprised of world-class leaders in their respective fields. We are all very excited about the prospect of a joint research effort that we hope will deliver real quality of life benefits.”
University technology helps company develop life science research tool An innovative research tool developed at the
University of Edinburgh is being utilised by a leading research reagent company to create products that will help life scientists to understand Cancer, Rett Syndrome – and possibly other disorders. Professor Adrian Bird in the University’s School of Biological Sciences has developed and validated a two-step process to separate ‘CpG islands’, based on their methylation status, from bulk DNA to high purity. Modification of mammalian DNA by methylation of the sequence CpG prevents expression of the associated gene, whereas clusters of non-methylated CpG islands keep the gene ‘open’. Such modification of DNA is crucial for the control of normal growth, with aberrant DNA methylation being extensively documented in Cancer and some neurological disorders. Previously, no method was available to isolate non-methylated DNA. This technology has applications for basic and applied research, enabling a rigorous analysis of CpG island methylation status and the potential to identify therapeutic and prognostic targets that have been silenced during development and disease. To make the technology available as a robust and cost-efficient kit obtainable by all researchers, it was necessary to find
industrial partners to develop, manufacture and market the technology. The technology was patented and has been licensed by the University under a non-exclusive agreement to two leading research reagent companies. One of these companies was Active Motif, Inc., which applies a multi-disciplinary approach to create new and modify existing technologies in order to meet the current and future needs of life science researchers. Active Motif has already launched a product, based on the CpG technology.
Joe Fernandez, CEO of Active Motif, said: “The launch of the UnMethylCollector™ kit is an important step in Active Motif’s goal of accelerating discovery in the field of epigenetic biology. The availability of an assay that positively identifies nonmethylated DNA with an efficient, easyto-use protocol, and works with limited amounts of starting material, creates a great platform for discovery in a very exciting area of epigenetics.”
right: Professor Adrian Bird (left) with Rob Illingworth from the School of Biological Sciences
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serial innovator M eet t h e
Steel, concrete, stone, timber, brick and some rather exotic fabrics have all found their way into the novel constructions that have come out of Professor Remo Pedreschi’s Architectural Research workshop at the University of Edinburgh. Here he shares the inspiration behind his innovative work …
I’m interested in disruptive
innovations, innovations that challenge the common perceptions of technological processes and materials. They tend to lead to visually exciting forms, lower costs and simpler construction. Often they alter existing paradigms and supply chains,” explains Professor Pedreschi. Remo obtained his PhD in Engineering at the University of Edinburgh for research on new forms of masonry construction in 1983 and then spent six years in industry, developing products and systems for construction companies. He is now Professor of Architectural Technology in the University’s School of Arts, Culture and Environment. The cross-disciplinary nature of the School’s activities encourages a breadth of thinking and the generation of new ideas. For Remo, the School is an inspirational environment in which to explore the relationships between engineering and architecture. “The architecture of the 20th century has been greatly influenced by the development of technology, structures and materials, so the contribution of engineers to architecture has been considerable,” he says. Remo co-edited a series of books entitled ‘The engineer’s contribution to architecture’. Although inspired by theory, for Remo practical work is still central to his research. “Proving by doing in the workshop creates a confidence you don’t get with simply thinking and theorising about design,” he explains. “This
confidence comes with experience, but is also something students get when they work with us in the workshop.” Finding new applications for technology
In the 1990s, in a series of projects funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), Scottish Enterprise and industrial sponsors, Remo researched the transfer of technology from the car industry to pre-fabricated building systems using a fabrication technique known as mechanical clinching. The underlying structural performance of the technique was established and presented in a range of research papers and a large number of full-scale prototype structures were tested. Remo was also involved in the development of the first commercial application of the technique with Trichord, San Diego. The programme led to work on the prefabricated housing system Surebuild, which was developed by Corus, and the design of an award-winning lightweight steel beam. Mechanical clinching tends to be capital intensive and the supply chain in the construction industry is more complex than car production, with smaller companies and a much greater need for customisation. Remo and his team followed this up by developing a combined steel and plywood system with much the same features, but which requires substantially less capital, is more sustainable, and allows customisation further down the supply chain by the builder. Remo’s next innovations came to fruition through a Knowledge Transfer Partnership with Martec Engineering Group Ltd, steel fabricators based in Glasgow. The project
involved the review and re-design of their secure entry system of doors and screens for apartment buildings. Remo helped the company shift their production methods from an essentially bespoke approach to a flexible, standardised product. Over the two-year project, Remo and Andy Jones, a KTP Associate working with the company, reduced manufacturing times and material costs, improved the robustness of the system, simplified maintenance and increased customer satisfaction. The new doors were launched in January 2004 and the company expanded its customer base across the UK. As a result of this project, Martec has established an R&D unit that develops new products in-house. In a subsequent KTP partnership in 2006 with Watson Stonecraft, a leading company in stone construction and conservation, pre-fabricated systems for attaching stone to buildings were developed. The company was one of the early victims of the financial crisis and went into receivership in 2008. However, the system has been taken to full-scale prototype and development is still ongoing. Remo has high hopes that this will get to market and make the process of cladding buildings more effective and more flexible. A new take on concrete
As the second most used material in the construction industry after water, the significance of the techniques they have developed to enhance the structure and look of concrete cannot be underestimated. For the last five years, Remo’s workshop has been filled with interesting concrete
forms that he produces with his students, bringing the idea of disruptive innovations into teaching and research. New techniques of casting using flexible fabrics subvert traditional construction processes, allow more complex shapes to be made, improve the quality of concrete and are more sustainable. Ideas are explored through student workshops and postgraduate research. The work has attracted a great deal of interest as it crosses the boundaries between architecture and engineering. In 2008, Remo’s work was recognised with a President’s research award from the Royal Institute of British Architects. This spring, the team developed, designed and manufactured a series of large, organic concrete pieces for the Fenchurch Garden, winner of the most creative garden design and Silver Gilt medal at the RHS Chelsea Garden Show. The technique was also used for an outreach project when children from Castleview School in Craigmillar worked with staff and students to design their own pieces to be attached to a wall in the new school building. This work is continuing with further projects and consultancies. With a sure-fire approach to his work, Remo’s Architectural Research Workshop is set to continue making fascinating discoveries. “Technological design and innovation in architecture and construction does not always require high technology, particularly in comparison with other industries, but the delivery process can be more complex and easily misunderstood. Our approach is to study processes, be open-minded, to learn and then develop new ideas that respond to these processes,” says Remo. infinite ISSUE 8 28 l 29
As CALL Scotland (Communication, Access, Literacy and Learning) marks its 25th anniversary of helping people with communication difficulties, Infinite investigates some of its greatest innovations and achievements
Celebrating 25 years of assisting learning
ased within the Moray House School of
Education, CALL Scotland has been assisting children with additional support needs across Scotland for a quarter of a century, as both a service provider and a highly-successful research unit. The Centre aims to harness new technology to help people with physical, communication or sensory difficulties access education, recreation and employment. CALL is responsible for many ground-breaking inventions over the years, but it’s most significant offering to date is the Smart Wheelchair, which provides disabled children with new opportunities for active and explorative play, interaction and a degree of independent mobility. The first prototype of the Smart Wheelchair was designed in 1987, but it took a further ten years to develop the original design into an award-winning product ready for commercialisation. At the 1998 BETT (British Education and Teaching Technology) Show, the Smart Wheelchair was awarded the Gold Medal Award for ‘Technology for Special Educational Needs’, with judges describing it as “leaping beyond what was previously thought possible”. Since 1999 the Smart Wheelchair has been produced by Smile Rehab Ltd under license from the University, and it is still the only one of its kind on the market. To date, 75 Smart Wheelchairs have been built and supplied to individual children, schools and charities. The power of speech
In 2000, CALL developed CALLtalk, a ‘vocabulary package’ for children who cannot speak and who use computer-based communication aids. CALLtalk runs on several computer and communication aid systems and
consists of 100 carefully structured linked ‘pages’ of language. Young people communicate using CALLtalk by selecting words and phrases from the screen. Today, there are versions on sale through communication aid manufacturers and suppliers across the world – more than 400 licences for CALLtalk have been sold so far. The Scottish Government has recently funded CALL to licence and distribute ‘Heather’, a computer voice with a Scottish accent, free of charge to Scottish schools. The voice is a product of CereProc Ltd, a company spun-out from the University of Edinburgh in 2005 to develop the world’s most advanced text-to-speech technology. The development of digital Standard Grade, Intermediate and Higher examination papers, along with the Scottish Qualifications Authority, for pupils who have difficulty reading or writing is also having a positive impact in schools. Instead of relying on staff to read the paper to them, students use text-to-speech software to help them read the paper, while candidates with writing or spelling problems can complete the assessment on-screen, using support tools such as speech-recognition software if necessary. Thanks to the digital papers, hundreds of candidates were able to sit exams independently this year instead of having to rely on help from staff. Leading the way in technological development and possessing excellent expertise in understanding complex communication and access needs, CALL will continue to work with the Government and businesses to develop innovative solutions to ease and enrich the lives of people with additional support needs for many more years to come.
To find out more about CALL Scotland, visit: www.callscotland.org.uk
improving Identifier l health Identifier
Improving health, changing lives From pharmacology to disease prevention to fertility treatment, University of Edinburgh researchers are at the forefront of programmes to revolutionise healthcare across the globe infinite ISSUE 8 30 l 31
Collaboration finds new way to produce anti-cancer drug
ew ways of enhancing the production of a
potent anti-cancer therapeutic are being identified, thanks to a collaboration between Professor Gary Loake of the University’s Institute of Molecular Plant Sciences and a Korean Biotechnology company. The drug Paclitaxel is derived from the bark of the yew tree – a problematic source for large-scale production because of the scarcity of the tree and difficulties in obtaining sufficient quantities in a costeffective way. Pharmaceutical companies are therefore very keen to develop alternative raw material sources. Professor Loake’s research focuses on identifying the key genes that plants use for defence control mechanisms and to provide protection from diseases and pests, many of which regulate the biosynthesis of plant secondary metabolites. Combining the latest gene sequencing techniques and computational methods for
The collaboration will open a new way to mass-produce rare and valuable phytochemicals
interpreting and annotating the sequence data, Professor Loake’s team is able to identify new plant genes and characterise their function. It is this unique skill set that Korean Biotechnology company Unhwa Biotech was keen to access through collaboration with the University of Edinburgh. It has developed a new plant cell line that enables the culture of large quantities of yew tree cells. Paclitaxel can be readily isolated from these cells in a controllable and cost-effective way, making it both an environmentally and economically viable source of the drug. The collaboration was initially established to further characterise Unhwa Biotech’s unique yew tree plant cells, but has now been extended into a more detailed study of the genes and control mechanisms governing Paclitaxel synthesis within these cells. It is hoped that a better understanding of these can lead to further enhancements in drug production, and increased availability of Taxol, as well as a reduction in the cost of this valuable anti-cancer agent. Commenting on the collaboration, Chief Executive Officer Young-woo Jin from Unhwa Biotech, said: “The collaboration between the University of Edinburgh and Unhwa Biotech will open a new way to mass-produce rare and valuable phytochemicals of high and consistent quality. It will bring a huge opportunity to us all, as it will enable us to develop an innovative platform technology applicable to various industrial fields utilising plant derived biomolecules, such as food, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals.”
Shaking the foundations of life Scientists at the University of Edinburgh
are working on a unique and potentially ground-breaking method for testing the quality of sperm before it is used to fertilise eggs. Researchers hope that an ability to identify and select the best sperm will increase the success of conceiving embryos by sperm injection. Infertility affects at least one in six couples in the UK and can be a stressful and upsetting experience. In approximately
half of these cases, problems exist in the man’s sperm production. Existing techniques of testing sperm quality necessitate the breaking apart of individual sperm cells – a process which then renders the sperm useless. With no accurate way to test individual sperm available, it is impossible to ascertain the quality of the individual sperm injected into an egg and the best that can be done is to select a sperm on the basis of its shape and activity.
Edinburgh expertise combats global neglected diseases The Stamp Out Sleeping Sickness (SOS)
programme focuses on the treatment of cattle to eliminate animal reservoirs of the disease, which is transmitted to humans by tsetse flies that feed on infected livestock. This is a novel approach to disease prevention and has been an immense success in Uganda, where the spread of the disease in humans has been halted, with no new outbreaks of sleeping sickness reported since the programme began. SOS is a collaboration between experts in Infectious Diseases at the University of Edinburgh, the University of Makerere in Uganda, the Ugandan Government, CEVA Santé Animale (a veterinary pharmaceuticals multinational) and WHO, and is funded by the UK Department for International Development (DfID) and IKARE, a Swedish charity. The University of Edinburgh’s expertise in vector borne diseases and its experience of applied disease management has been key to the success of this programme. Professor Sue Welburn, at the University’s Centre for Infectious Diseases, played a major role in the successful design and implementation of the SOS programme in Uganda. According to Professor Welburn: “Edinburgh has also lent its expertise to the training of veterinary scientists at the University of Makerere in Kampala. This is now being translated into real public benefit in Uganda with the University of Makerere establishing the
left to right:
Funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), the new technique represents an unusual combination of scientific methods. Individual sperm are first captured in two highly-focussed beams of laser light, a process known as ‘optical trapping’. Isolated in these ‘optical tweezers’, the molecules of the wriggling sperm cell are then vibrated or shaken by a different colour light in a process known as Raman
INTRACS training programme, in which finalyear veterinary students carry out community health surveillance and management. Five such students have now gone on to set up their own rural veterinary practices in regions that, twelve months ago, had no veterinary services at all.” The SOS partnership has been widely regarded as a success, with DfID’s ‘Research into Use’ programme selecting the SOS collaboration out of their 350 funded projects as a case study for evaluation and potential roll-out to other systems and countries.
Dr Alistair Elfick, Professor Gary Loake, Professor Sue Welburn
spectroscopy. From this, scientists can obtain a chemical ‘fingerprint’ of the sperm, allowing them to assess whether it is damaged in any way. This then enables them to make a decision as to whether the sperm cell is of high enough quality to be used to fertilise the egg. Dr Alistair Elfick, lead scientist on the project, said: “There is concern in the IVF community that all the implications of injecting sperm into the egg are not
fully understood. There is an obvious advantage to being able to select the best quality sperm for the job and this is not easily achieved at present.” The research is currently in a pre-clinical phase and, if successful, could be adopted in the next 5–10 years. It is already attracting interest from commercial bodies wishing to explore how it can be translated into a product or service offering. infinite ISSUE 8 32 l 33
The impending threat of climate change, and the problem of how to meet our energy needs, is one of the most pressing issues of the modern age. Providing some of the worldâ€™s best minds and most advanced facilities, the University of Edinburgh is working to harness the power of the sea
energy & climate change
s an island nation, it seems
a natural option to look to the sea as a source of renewable energy. Yet although it is estimated that marine energy could supply up to 2GW of UK electricity demand by 2020, and significantly more by 2050, progress towards commercial devices has been slower than predicted. Through its Institute for Energy Systems, the University of Edinburgh is working with the Energy Technologies Institute (ETI) and other industrial and research partners in the ReDAPT (Reliable Data Acquisition Platform for Tidal systems) project, which will accelerate the development of tidal energy by installing and testing a commercialscale, horizontal flow, tidal turbine. It will also develop analytical and environmental assessments, and progress certification guidelines, to increase public and industry confidence in tidal turbine technologies. The Rolls-Royce-led ReDAPT project will install an innovative tidal generator with a comprehensive data collection system at the European Marine Energy Centre Ltd (EMEC) in Orkney. In addition to Rolls-Royce plc, EDF Group, Tidal Generation Ltd, E-ON Ltd, Plymouth Marine Laboratory, EMEC and Garrad Hassan and Partners Ltd will also work in partnership with the University. Results from the project could directly feed into the roll-out of tidal turbine arrays around the UK. Installed capacity of 300MW by 2020 and 5GW by 2050 is planned using ReDAPT technology, helping to reduce the country’s CO2 emissions. Commenting on the collaboration, Professor Ian Bryden of the University’s Institute for Energy Systems said: “The sooner we can bring new technologies to the market and deploy them on a large scale, the sooner we can effectively address the challenges of climate change.”
Professor Ian Bryden
The sooner we can bring new technologies to the market, the sooner we can address the challenges of climate change The Energy Technologies Institute is a UK-based company formed from global industries and the UK Government. It brings together projects and partnerships that create affordable, reliable and clean energy for heat, power and transport. The Institute’s public funds come from the Department for Business Innovation and Skills via the Technology Strategy Board and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). These organisations, with the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC), are engaged directly in the ETI’s strategy and programme development. One of the ETI’s roles is to de-risk the future development of the most challenging large-scale energy projects by taking them to full system demonstration.
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Professor Robin Wallace
University signs renewable energy agreement with EDF Group The University of Edinburgh and EDF Group
have formed a major research partnership examining the research and development of wave and tidal current energy, as well as electricity network integration. The signing of the five-year collaboration agreement in late October 2008 signalled a long-term strategic partnership between the University and the EDF Group, which is one of the UK’s largest energy companies. Through its Institute for Energy Systems, the University is currently engaged in research relating to wave, tidal current and wind energy, and to the electricity network integration of renewable energy. This is complemented by research being carried out by EDF Group, both into renewable energy generation, which aims to improve output and reduce costs, and into technologies that improve electricity transmission and distribution networks.
Peter Hofman, Director Sustainable Future for EDF Group said: “We are delighted to be partnering with such a leading scientific establishment as the University of Edinburgh. We are looking forward to working together on renewable energy technologies, a subject that is of critical importance to our company and an example of the diverse range of power sources that will be required to deliver long-term secure, affordable, low carbon energy to our customers.” Professor Robin Wallace, Head of the Institute for Energy Systems, said: “This is a timely and welcome partnership whose joint R&D effort will contribute to the further evolution and acceleration of the sector into an established industry.” This agreement formalises and builds on existing collaborations between EDF Group R&D and the University,
who are presently working together in the EPSRC SuperGen Marine Energy Research Consortium (a five-year university collaboration in underpinning marine energy R&D); the European Community’s Seventh Framework EquiMar project (a three-year European venture to test, evaluate and establish standards and protocols for wave and tidal energy technologies); and more recently with other industrial and academic partners, the Energy Technologies Institute (ETI) funded ReDAPT (Reliable Data Acquisition Platform for Tidal) project. The latter project will accelerate the development of tidal energy by installing and testing a commercial scale horizontal flow tidal turbine. This welcomed collaboration between the University of Edinburgh and EDF Group will therefore support and promote research on the energy of tomorrow.
Renewable generators: the next generation Research by the University of Edinburgh’s
Institute for Energy Systems, led by Dr Markus Mueller, is making its mark in the rapidly expanding renewable energy sector via the commercialisation of innovative lightweight modular electrical generator technology. The desire to increase the use of renewable energy devices for energy consumption is well documented both in the UK and Europe. The current EU directive aims to achieve a target of 15% of UK energy consumption derived from renewable resources by 2020. However, any new renewable energy technologies have to be robust, competitive and, most importantly, cost-effective. Dr Mueller’s team has developed a new generator technology for wind, wave and tidal energy converters based on a direct drive rare earth permanent magnet generator design. The technology is lightweight (important for off shore installation in large wind turbines), modular in design (easy to scale up as well
as to fabricate and assemble) and electrically efficient over a wide range of load conditions (still very efficient under part load conditions). The technology was initially proven in the laboratory to work in both linear (for wave applications) and rotary (for wind and current tidal applications) prototype generators. Further funding allowed the initial rotary prototype to be improved and a 15kW rotary generator was fitted, assembled and successfully tested in a commercial wind turbine at the Scottish Small Scale Wind Turbine Test Site. This was a significant step forward for the technology and generated much interest worldwide from industry, including renewable energy companies. Edinburgh Research and Innovation has been working with Dr Mueller and his research team to commercialise the lightweight generator technology. A spin-out company, Novel Generator Technologies (NGenTec) Ltd, is planned to be launched in the third quarter of 2009 and will focus on the lucrative large
Dr Markus Mueller
wind turbine market (1MW to 5MW), but an offshoot of the development program will lead to commercial products in the fast growing small wind turbine market (20kW to 100kW). NGenTec Ltd will retain strong technical direction with Dr Mueller and Dr Alasdair McDonald from the Institute for Energy Systems. In addition, Derek Shepherd (ex Aggreko) and Derek Douglas (Adam Smith Ltd) will provide the essential business expertise. The company has already identified significant leads and collaboration opportunities in Europe, China and Australia, and is looking to complete its first commercial contract in late 2009.
energy & climate change
Is Biochar research our best hope against climate change? In early 2009, the World Economic Forum Global Agenda
Council on Climate Change advocated a global 80% cut in emissions by 2050 relative to 1990 levels. However, it is now widely accepted that drastically reducing emissions of CO2 into the atmosphere is only the first step in responding to climate change. The new UK Biochar Research Centre (UKBRC) at the University of Edinburgh aims to undertake cutting edge multi and interdisciplinary research on the role of Biochar as a carbon storage option, and to provide an understanding of the technological, agronomic, environmental and socioeconomic context and impacts of biochar. Biochar is a carbon-rich material produced from heating plant-derived organic matter in a low or zerooxygen environment to release energy-rich gases and liquids. Biochar is one of a handful of carbon management technologies, which is potentially ‘carbon negative’, meaning it might remove existing CO2 from the atmosphere, although more evidence is required to demonstrate this. However, the value of utilising Biochar does not necessarily rely upon whether it is or is not carbon negative, but rather on how pyrolysis-biochar systems (PBS) compare to other uses of biomass and carbon abatement methods. In contrast with CO2 capture and storage using large centralised power plants, Biochar can be smallscale and capital non-intensive, and can be adopted in developing and developed countries by farmers, small landowners and local authorities. It can therefore potentially contribute directly to rural diversification, forestry protection and poverty alleviation.
above (from left to right):
Dr Ondrˇej Mašek, Dr Saran Sohi and Dr Simon Shackley
Adding Biochar to soil may have other positive effects – not only does it store carbon, but it may also raise crop production or make it more efficient. It increases water retention, and better use of nutrients by crops may mean less fertiliser is required, avoiding further CO2 emissions (fertiliser manufacture being carbon intensive) and possibly also emissions of nitrous oxide, another greenhouse gas. Climate change expert, James Lovelock, originator of Gaia theory, hailed this type of research as our best hope against climate change, saying that “the only way to avoid climatic disaster is through Biochar”.
For further information visit www.biochar.org.uk
BIOCHAR FORMATION BY PYROLYSIS primary
Primary volatiles (oxygenates)
Furans, phenols, BTX, ketones, olefins, CO, CO2, H2, H2O
PAH, CO2, H2 , CO, H2O, CH4
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As one of the world’s leading centres of knowledge and learning, the University of Edinburgh is home to worldrenowned institutes and centres of research that are making crucial contributions to global issues, from the environment to space travel left:
Dr Dusan Uhrin, Head of Research at the NMR Centre
facilities NMR Centre equipped to tackle chemical analysis for industry
he University of Edinburgh’s School of Chemistry
is home to one of the UK’s most comprehensive high-resolution NMR spectroscopy facilities, which includes a range of spectrometers operating at 1H resonance frequencies, from 250 to 800 MHz. This world-class facility, underpinned by the centre’s expertise in Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) interpretation and experimental design, is available to industry for both consultancy and service. The Centre is involved in the examination of small organic and inorganic molecules, new product confirmation, quality assurance, and the examination of steroids, antibiotics, carbohydrates, lipids, polypeptides, proteins, DNA and RNA. The facility combines throughput lower-field instruments with spectrometers that use the strongest, highest resolution magnets available. Lower-field spectrometers are equipped with sample automation, operating continuously and
performing one and two-dimensional experiments on small and medium-sized molecules. High-field spectrometers (600-800 MHz), equipped with cryogenically-cooled probes, can perform a wide range of sophisticated experiments required for the structural determination of biomolecules. In addition to standard proton, carbon and nitrogen spectroscopy, the centre can work with other nuclei such as deuterium, lithium, boron, fluorine, phosphorus, cadmium, platinum and many others. Commenting on the NMR facilities, Dr Dusan Uhrin, Head of Research at the Centre, said: “We continually seek to ensure the Centre can match our client’s requirements. For example, a new 500MHz spectrometer with a 13C dedicated cryogenically-cooled probe will allow us to further increase sample throughput and also reduce the amounts of material required for analysis.”
For further information visit www.chem.ed.ac.uk/business/
Genomics analysis at Roslin ARK-Genomics, the Roslin Institute-based collaborative
Dr Andrew Schofield
The science of soft materials The University of Edinburgh’s School of Physics and
© norrie russell
Astronomy hosts one of the world’s premier research groups in ‘soft materials’ – otherwise known as colloidal suspensions, surfactant solutions and polymers. The Condensed Matter Group seeks to predict and understand the bulk behaviour of these materials from the molecular level upwards, using experiments, theory and large-scale computer simulations. Experimentally, the group investigates well-characterised ‘model’ systems. This helps to gain understanding of a wealth of generic properties, which provide insights into a wide range of ‘real-life’ problems, from the ‘mouth feel’ of various foods through to the stability of fabric conditioners and the seepage of crude oil through porous rocks. The group’s laboratories are equipped with a dynamic light scattering set-up for particle sizing, a Malvern Zetasizer that measures charge on particle surfaces, and a wide variety of microscopes, including epifluorscent and confocal techniques – the latter permitting imaging inside the bulk of more turbid samples. Rheometers are also used to characterise the flow behaviour of colloidal and other soft materials, and, uniquely, the group can image samples at single-particle level during rheological measurements. The group includes a colloid synthetic chemist, whose particles characterised using the above-mentioned equipment, are extensively employed not only in-house but also internationally, for example in Space Shuttle experiments. This pool of equipment and expertise is commercially available to external companies and organisations wishing to examine and understand their own samples.
research centre for comparative & functional genomics, has built up considerable expertise in genomics and gene expression analysis since its creation in 2001. The centre is a high-throughput technology laboratory, focussed on microarray gene expression, SNP genotyping, and both Next Generation and Sanger methods of DNA sequencing. It also houses and distributes extensive EST clone collections for a number of animal species. Equipped with the latest technology, the centre supports a large number of scientists from the UK and abroad. Originally dedicated to animal research, the centre is now applying its technology to all species, from microbes to humans. ARK-Genomics has a history of expertise in gene expression analysis, from experimental design and technology selection, to the performing of wet laboratory protocols and the analysis of data, often carried out in conjunction with commercial partners. All commercially available microarray tools, including Affymetrix, Illumina, Agilent and Nimblegen, are available through the ARK-Genomics facility. The centre is equipped to carry out genotyping analysis using the latest SNP analysis tools from Illumina, which are capable of screening large numbers of samples, ranging from just a few SNPs up to one million. Other DNA analysis, such as comparative genome hybridisation (CGH) and parentage testing, using microsatellites is also available from our experienced molecular biologists. The latest techniques in DNA sequencing for DNA and RNA analysis are also available, using the Illumina GAIIx instrument. This is complemented by classic Sanger capillary sequencing, which enables the centre to offer a complete service for the resequencing of the genomes under examination. ARK-Genomics collaborates with academic and industry partners, preparing projects from experimental design through to data analysis as required.
i To discuss the use of facilities or scientific consultancy contact Dr Andrew Schofield E: firstname.lastname@example.org www.ph.ed.ac.uk infinite ISSUE 8 38 l 39
Research and Commercialisation
UK research councils
Government & public sector
Business & industry
Patent applications filed
total research awards
Total companies formed
Edinburgh Research and Innovation Limited The University of Edinburgh 1 Roxburgh Street Edinburgh, EH8 9TA Scotland, UK Telephone: 00 44 (0)131 650 9090 Fax: 00 44 (0)131 650 9031 Email: Research.Innovation@ed.ac.uk Website: www.research-innovation.ed.ac.uk
Edinburgh Research and Innovation Limited is a wholly owned subsidiary company of the University of Edinburgh. Registered in Scotland No. SC148048. Registered Office at Old College, South Bridge, Edinburgh EH8 9YL. The University of Edinburgh is a charitable body, registered in Scotland, with registration number SC005336.