Innovation news in brief: Autonomous vehicles; health technology; proton beam therapy; graphene

Autonomous vehicles could drive like humans

Autonomous vehicles to drive like humans, not robots

Jaguar Land Rover is investing in a multi-million pound research project that will help future autonomous vehicles drive naturally like human drivers, rather than like robots.

The three-year £5.5 million Move-UK project, which is led by Bosch, will also use this data to help develop insurance policies for future autonomous cars. Insurance experts will provide their expertise on the liability of certain scenarios using the real-world driving data supplied by the fleet of test cars.

A fleet of Jaguar and Land Rover vehicles will be driven daily by employees of the London Borough of Greenwich, to establish how a range of different drivers react to real-world driving situations, including heavy traffic, busy junctions, road works and bad weather.

Data from sensors in these cars will reveal the natural driving behaviours and decision-making that drivers make whilst driving, including complex and stressful scenarios. These include giving way at roundabouts and intersections, how drivers ease forward at junctions to enter a flow of traffic, or how they react to an emergency vehicle coming up behind their car whilst in a traffic jam.

Health technology industry leaders gather in Nottingham

More than 200 industry leaders, entrepreneurs, academics and investors are expected to take part in ‘The Future of Proactive Healthtech’ at MediCity, Nottingham, on Tuesday 15th March.

Lord Paul Drayson, CEO, Drayson Technologies will lead the programme. An expert in energy-harvesting technology, Lord Drayson is due to explain the impact such technologies will have on new healthcare platforms within the Internet of Things.

In addition to the line-up of speakers, delegates will be able to share ideas, build new collaborations and learn from other industry experts.

David Browning, managing director of MediCity said: "We have deliberately designed this gathering to help accelerate the emergence of new ideas and partnerships that will ultimately improve peoples’ health and wellbeing. There is a pressing need to take a multi-disciplinary approach to the development and commercialisation of systems, products or processes that we will all be able to use to manage our own health and wellbeing.”

To register and to download the full programme, visit:

Engineers develop new imaging technology to improve cancer treatments.

A collaborative project between engineers at Lancaster University and scientists and clinicians at the University of Manchester, The Christie NHS Foundation Trust and CERN, is developing a prototype ‘X-band linac structure’ that can be retrofitted on proton beam therapy equipment, which is used in complex radiotherapy treatments at over 50 hospitals around the world.

The technology will enable proton imaging of adults that can help improve the accuracy of proton therapy. Radiotherapy with protons is important in some cancer treatments as its greater treatment accuracy can reduce side effects, for example when treating some cancers in children.

The proton imaging based on this prototype will enable the most accurate pre-treatment images of patients, improving on the imaging used today, which is based on x-ray imaging.

Dr Graeme Burt, senior lecturer at Lancaster University’s Engineering Department and lead researcher on the 12-month project, said: “Proton imaging will increase the accuracy of proton treatments to under one millimetre, which really counts when treating tumours near sensitive organs.”

Masdar Institute and the University of Manchester launch graphene research programme

The Masdar Institute of Science and Technology and The University of Manchester has launched a research collaborative research program covering three innovative projects in graphene and 2D materials.

The three projects covering composites, sensors and membranes, will be led by faculty members from both research institutions.

The projects will respectively explore the development of novel low-density graphene-based foams for various engineering applications, inkjet-printed graphene micro-sensors for energy and defense applications, and graphene-enabled ion exchange membranes for desalination.

Sphere opens new production facility in Wales

Medical device firm Sphere Medical Holdings has opened a new commercial production facility in St. Asaph, Wales.

The new facilities include a state of-the-art cleanroom and will provide the necessary capacity in order to meet the expected growing demand for Sphere’s Proxima platform over the coming years.

This activity follows the successful financing of the company in April 2015 in which £13.2 million was raised from investors including Woodford Investment Management and the Wales Fund.

Newport – the centre of innovation in Wales?

Newport has the potential to become “the centre of innovation” in South Wales, according to Plaid Cymru Assembly candidate Steffan Lewis, reports the South Wales Argus.

Lewis said the future success of region should be built around two ‘arcs’ of innovation and a third of prosperity.

“One arc along our southern corridor as a hotbed of research and development, with the city of Newport as the centre of innovation for the new capital region building on the world-leading activities of companies such as Airbus in fields such as cyber-security,” he said.

He added: "The second arc along the heads of the valleys, building on the area’s reputation as the birthplace of socialised medicine – what better region for innovation in healthcare and pharmaceutical research?

“And from our eastern border in Monmouthshire – the pantry of Wales – through to the Rhymney river, a central belt of prosperity, centred on unleashing the talents of our people.”

Mr Lewis also said progressing with projects including the Valleys Line electrification, the South Wales Metro and tidal lagoon projects in Newport, Cardiff and Swansea was central to the future of Gwent.