Innovation news in brief: Robotics; space; construction; health

UKAEA's new RACE (Remote Applications in Challenging Environments) facility

RACE in pole position at Culham

UKAEA’s remote handling and robotics centre RACE has moved to its new 3,000 square metre facility at Culham Science Centre.

The facility will enable RACE to step up its R&D into many applications of remote handling and robotic technology, already used to great effect at the JET fusion facility at Culham. It will also be a key centre for implementing the government’s robotics and autonomous systems strategy, which aims to equip the UK to compete in this emerging global industry.

RACE offers access to test facilities, robotic equipment and expertise for SMEs, multinationals, research laboratories and academia from sectors with ‘challenging environments’ such as nuclear fission and fusion, petrochemical, space exploration, construction and mining.

RACE director Dr Rob Buckingham said: “We are extremely pleased with the new facility – thanks to our sponsors at BIS and the Oxfordshire Local Enterprise Partnership for their support. Our team is 80-strong and growing, and we are now in a position to fully exploit RACE’s potential in nuclear and beyond.”

Hawking backs interstellar space project

Prof Stephen Hawking is backing a project to send tiny spacecraft to another star system, reports the BBC.

The aim is to reduce the size of the spacecraft to about the size of a computer chip used in electronic devices and propel them from earth using solar sails and a giant laser.

A £70 million research programme to develop the concept has been launched by billionaire Yuri Milner, supported by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg.

Hawking said: "If we are to survive as a species we must ultimately spread out to the stars.

"Astronomers believe that there is a reasonable chance of an Earth-like planet orbiting one of the stars [in] the Alpha Centauri system. But we will know more in the next two decades from ground based and space based telescopes.

"Technological developments in the last two decades and the future make it possible in principle within a generation."

Bet365 opens new technology office

Online gambling company Bet365 is to open a new technology office in Manchester, reports Prolific North

The company will hire between 50 and 70 people to support its development teams in Stoke-on-Trent.

Dom Hawley, head of software development, said: “It’s difficult to recruit to one location when you have the demand for IT talent that bet365 does.

“We’ve found exceptional people in Stoke but it’s clear that we now need to expand our operation outside of the local area to grow our development teams further.”

Staff will be involved in working on the company’s back office trading applications, User Interface, middleware and web development for its Sports and Gaming products.

Researchers to analyse superabsorbent polymers in construction

A Glasgow Caledonian University expert in intelligent construction materials has been invited by the Institute of Concrete Technology to host a conference examining the potential for new ‘smart’, crack-free concrete and mortars for the construction industry.

Dr Agnieszka Klemm has conducted significant research, and published over 20 journal articles, focusing on the development of materials modified by superabsorbent polymers.

Despite their worldwide popularity as construction materials, mortars and concrete suffer from various deteriorative processes.

Lancaster University to play major role in NHS Innovation

Lancaster Health Hub, a NHS/University partnership headed by Lancaster University, has co-ordinated a successful application for a pioneering ‘Test Bed’, hosted by Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust and involving Lancaster University, local NHS organisations, lead technology partner Philips, social enterprises and digital health businesses.

Together all these organisations form the Lancashire and Cumbria Innovation Alliance (LCIA), which over the next two years will enable frontline health and care workers in Lancashire to use a range of technologies and interventions to support frail and elderly and people living with long-term conditions and dementia to be cared for outside hospital with the intention of improving their outcomes.

This project is an important building block towards the forthcoming development of a £41 million Health Innovation Campus at Lancaster University.