Innovation news in brief: Space; health; R&D; energy

Blast off for Lisa Pathfinder space mission. Credit: ESA–Stephane Corvaja, 2015

Blast off for UK-led spacecraft mission

The UK-led spacecraft mission, Lisa Pathfinder, which launched on Friday last week, will help to open up a new observational window into the gravitational Universe, by testing new technologies needed to measure gravitational waves in space.

Predicted by Albert Einstein, these waves are ripples in the curvature of spacetime produced by massive celestial events, such as the merging of black holes.

The UK’s involvement in LISA Pathfinder’s technology demonstration payload and the operational phase of the mission is funded by the UK Space Agency and was formerly funded by the Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC).

Airbus Defence and Space is the prime contractor for the mission, having built the spacecraft, as well as being the LISA Test Package (LTP) architect, on behalf of ESA and the participating member states.

SciSys UK Ltd developed the satellite’s on-board software and UK scientists from the University of Birmingham, the University of Glasgow and Imperial College London designed and built elements of the innovative and complex LTP.

STFC RAL Space was involved in several technology development projects in the early stages of the mission in 2001.

Dr Chris Castelli, director of programmes at the UK Space Agency, said: “LISA Pathfinder is one of the most unique European space missions to date, requiring engineering that has never been done before. We’re immensely proud that this challenging mission to discover the unseen part of our Universe was built here in the UK."

Wanted: Innovations from business for the energy sector

Small businesses with innovative ideas that could be adapted to the energy sector are invited to apply for a share of £1.5 million to support feasibility studies.

Innovate UK is seeking businesses operating primarily outside the energy sector to lead projects that tackle challenges in the oil and gas, nuclear or energy systems.

Innovate UK is hoping businesses working in inspection, ICT, digital, sensors, virtual reality, gaming, robotics, autonomous systems, advanced materials and manufacturing will have ideas of interest to the energy industry.

Existing defence, aerospace, automotive, telecommunications, forensics, medical, space and creative industries technologies could also be relevant.

The challenges are in three key areas:

  • Inspecting buildings, vessels and components, including identifying defects without human entry and repairing corrosion
  • Dealing with and analysing the large volumes of data delivered by the energy industry
  • Finding innovative new ways to get users involved in reducing their energy bills

The competition opens on 28 March 2016, and the deadline for registration is at noon on 4 May 2016.

Find out more and apply.

Science park’s R&D centre plans praised

Ambitious plans to build a new research centre for the car industry at Bristol and Bath Science Park have been praised by the Secretary of State for Business, reports SouthWestBusiness.

Sajid Javid called in to the Bristol and Bath Science Park last week to be briefed on the plans by three of the area’s MPs and the team behind the project.

The £50 million scheme is led by the University of Bath and would be based at the science park in Emersons Green, Bristol.

The research will focus on making cars cleaner and more efficient using light-weight carbon materials and new engine technology.

Mr Javid said: “A successful science, technology and engineering sector will play an important part in supporting the Government’s plans for economic growth.

“That’s why places like Bristol and Bath Science Park have such a vital role to play in meeting our ambitions. I look forward to seeing the future plans for the site develop.”

Research paves the way for technology-assisted health

A pioneering £37 million research project could give people more control over their own health and wellbeing with the aid of digital healthcare services.

Initial findings have been published on the progress of the pan-UK programme, called Demonstrating Assisted Living Lifestyles at Scale (dallas), which has been tasked with making such technology-assisted living a reality.

From wearables to smartphone apps, people are being encouraged to self-manage their healthcare and promote their wellbeing proactively by using new technology. Academics will seek to find out if the UK is ready for this approach.

Researchers from the Universities of Glasgow, Strathclyde and Newcastle have identified five key challenges that should be addressed for future large-scale implementation of digital healthcare tools and services, including:

  • The challenge of establishing and maintaining large heterogeneous, multi-agency partnerships to deliver new models of healthcare;
  • The need for resilience in the face of barriers and set-backs including the backdrop of continually changing external environments;
  • The inherent tension between embracing innovative co-design and achieving delivery at pace and at scale;
  • The effects of branding and marketing issues in consumer healthcare settings; and
  • The challenge of interoperability and information governance, when commercial proprietary models are dominant.

The dallas programme is funded by Innovate UK, the National Institute for Health Research, The Scottish Government, Scottish Enterprise, and Highlands and Islands Enterprise.