Innovation news in brief: BIOMASS; road gritting; cyber attacks; Sci-Tech Daresbury

The space mission will essentially 'weigh' the world's forests

Space mission to weigh Earths forests moves a step closer

A pioneering mission to measure the Earth’s forests from space has moved a step closer to launch following the signing of a contract to build the technology to do it.

The BIOMASS mission, led by Prof Shaun Quegan from the University of Sheffield’s School of Mathematics and Statistics, will use a revolutionary radar system to create a 3D map of the world’s forests in order to improve our understanding of how carbon is cycled through the Earth system.

The mission’s data will strengthen research into climate change and may be used as a reference point by nations negotiating treaties to better manage forests across the planet.

Airbus UK will lead the construction of the satellite that will carry the radar system in space. This system will measure the amount of woody biomass – mainly contained in trunks and large branches –in the world’s forests, together with their height.

Prof Quegan said: “This mission will give us unprecedented insight into the structure of forests across the world and how changes in forests, both losses from deforestation and gains due to regrowth and reforestation, are affecting the amount of carbon dioxide going into our atmosphere.

“The study will essentially weigh forests – it will tell us their weight and height, and we will be able to see how they are changing over time.

“Understanding how the amount of living material – biomass – in our global forests changes over time is necessary for improving present and future assessments of the global carbon cycle, and therefore our climate.”

New sensors could cut millions from gritting costs

Sensors that could cut millions from road-gritting costs and help local authorities be better prepared for the winter months are being developed by researchers at the University of Birmingham.

The new internet-connected, temperature sensors have already been successfully trialled in Birmingham, London and elsewhere across the country.

Fitted to lampposts, for example, the devices collect and transmit a non-stop stream of data on road-surface temperatures that local authorities, highways agencies and other organisations can use to target precisely where gritting is needed – and where it isn’t.

The sensors have been developed by meteorologists at University of Birmingham in conjunction with Amey plc, an Oxford-based engineering consultancy. They are inspired by the Internet of Things by utilising increasingly pervasive WiFi networks to transmit a single number indicating the local road surface temperature every ten minutes. No cabling is necessary, deployment is rapid and the sensor boxes are fitted unobtrusively near ground level on the street side of the lamppost or whatever else they are attached to.

Two thirds of large businesses experience cyber attacks

Britain’s businesses are being urged to better protect themselves from cyber criminals following new government research found two thirds of large businesses experienced a cyber breach or attack in the past year.

The research also shows that in some cases the cost of cyber breaches and attacks to business reached millions, but the most common attacks detected involved viruses, spyware or malware

The Cyber Security Breaches Survey found that while one in four large firms experiencing a breach did so at least once a month, only half of all firms have taken any recommended actions to identify and address vulnerabilities. Even fewer, about a third of all firms, had formal written cyber security policies and only 10% had an incident management plan in place.

Minister for the digital economy Ed Vaizey said: “The UK is a world-leading digital economy and this government has made cyber security a top priority. Too many firms are losing money, data and consumer confidence with the vast number of cyber attacks. It’s absolutely crucial businesses are secure and can protect data. As a minimum companies should take action by adopting the Cyber Essentials scheme which will help them protect themselves."

A new national cyber security strategy will also be published later in 2016 setting out the government’s plans to improve cyber security for government, businesses and consumers.

Wanted: Innovative life science companies based in the North

Bionow and Sci-Tech Daresbury are co-hosting a free business pitching and networking event for companies operating in the life sciences sector.

The event, which takes place on June 21 at Sci-Tech Daresbury in Cheshire, will give companies a chance to hear about the latest technologies and innovations available from some of the leading companies in the North.

The event will benefit the following companies:
• Those based in the North of England
• Developers of technology, products and expertise in the life sciences sector
• Suppliers of technology into the life sciences sector
• Users of products, technology and expertise from life science companies

More information and to register here

Abingdon Science Park set for 'significant' refurb

The new owners of Abingdon Science Park, Addington Capital, has committed to a significant investment programme into the park to provide accommodation suitable for R&D and laboratory occupiers.

The scheme was originally developed for the life sciences sector and totals approximately 75,000 sq ft. Addington’s investment programme will focus on updating the accommodation to include space ready for lab fit out, rather than having to undertake a comprehensive redevelopment process.