Gibson index news – december 2009


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GIBSON INDEX NEWS – DECEMBER 2009
HEADLINE NEWS
Will Plastic Logic Ltd save Fleet Street from extinction?
Many have predicted that the rise of the Internet and the free availability of online news resources would sound the death knell of the humble newspaper. While that hasn’t happened yet, the industry realises it must adapt or indeed face extinction.

The Detroit Free Press and The Detroit News have seen the writing on the wall and think the time is right to go digital by partnering with Plastic Logic to offer digital content delivery and distribution with the forthcoming Plastic Logic Reader.

The Plastic Logic Reader is an electronic reader that is about the size of an 8.5 x 11-inch pad of paper and weighs less than many print magazines. It is specifically targeted to mobile business people with support for business document formats, such as Microsoft Word, Excel and Powerpoint, and Adobe PDFs, as well as newspapers, periodicals and books. Its touch screen enables a gesture-based user interface and included software is designed to help business users organize and manage their information. The markup and annotation function allows for documents to be, well marked up and annotated.

As part of the initiative, the Plastic Logic Reader will be offered for purchase or lease to subscribers of the Detroit dailies as an alternative to paper delivery. Users can connect to their information either wired or wirelessly and store thousands of documents on the device. The reader incorporates E Ink technology for high contrast readability, boasts low power consumption and long battery life and runs a version Win CE.

www.plasticlogic.com

Twenty-six companies selected as WEF’s Technology Pioneers in 2010
But only one from the UK.. They come from three main categories - biotechnology and health, energy and environment and information technologies and new media. Candidate companies are nominated by members, constituents, and collaborators of the World Economic Forum, as well as from the larger public. A Selection Committee, comprised of top technology and innovation experts from around the world, reviews all candidate companies and makes a recommendation to the Managing Board of the World Economic Forum, which then takes the final decision on the companies selected as Technology Pioneers.

The one UK company chosen this year – games firm Playfish has 200 staff and was bought last month by US games giant Electronic Arts.

Playfish, one of the world’s largest and fastest growing social game companies, allows friends to play together over social and mobile platforms. The firm disrupted the traditional video game marketplace by introducing social gaming, permitting people

to play with their real-life friends through social networks such as Facebook and MySpace, and the iPhone and Android mobile platforms. Each of the company’s 10 games has been a hit on Facebook, including Pet Society, which boasts 20.5 million users per month, and Restaurant City, which has 17 million.

Both games have surpassed World of Warcraft, one of the most popular online games to date. Playfish games are run as a service and are continually updated with new features to keep play fresh and challenging. Development of Playfish games is done on a weekly basis in the company’s four studios, which are located in London, San Francisco, Beijing and Tromso, Norway, using player feedback and behaviour metrics.

Playfish intends to expand the game-playing audience beyond traditional video games to the 1.5 billion Web users and to the 3.5 billion mobile phone users, by focusing the entertainment experience on interaction between friends.

The remaining Technology Pioneer companies are, in alphabetical order: Amiando, Amobee, Aura Biosciences, BioFuelBox, Bloom Energy Corporation, Boston-Power, Care Electric Energia, CollabNet, Corventis, Dilithium Networks, Epuramat, eSolar, Innovid, Lehigh Technologies, Metabolix, MicroCHIPS, Obopay, Pacific Biosciences, Playfish, Proteon Therapeutics, RingCentral, Serious Materials, StreamBase, Twitter, Ushahidi and VNL.

The list of Technology Pioneers, with their profiles and video interviews with their CEOs, can be found at http://www.weforum.org/techpioneers.

www.playfish.com

New composite materials centre set to open in Bristol
The centre is being backed by the leading aviation and engineering companies in the South West including Airbus, Rolls-Royce and GKN and the South West Regional Development Agency.

Talks are still underway over the exact location of the centre but £16 million worth of public money is being invested in the centre. Private firms including the leading players in the industry are also investing in the project.

The new National Composites Centre (NCC) is part of the Government’s national strategy to back the aviation industry. The aim is to open an independent national resource which will be a centre for world-class innovation in design and manufacture of composites. Bristol was chosen because the South West is a key area for aviation and composite technology. It is estimated that more than £450 million has already been spent on the industry in the region over the last six years.

Bristol University is involved in the scheme along with Airbus, GKN, Rolls-Royce and Vestas. Talks are still taking place over the location but the plan is to have the centre open by April 2011.

www.ncn-uk.co.uk

New ‘UK Space Agency’ to replace British National Space Centre
The newly launched UK Space Agency aims to build on a space and satellite sector that supports ‘68,000 jobs and contributes £6.5 billion a year to the economy’. Science Minister Paul Drayson said the ‘bureaucracy-busting’ agency would replace the British National Space Centre and would draw together six UK government departments to oversee space activities and ‘enhance efficiencies’.

Space has been one of the nation’s “unsung economic success stories” in recent years, noted Drayson, who claimed the sector had grown in real terms by about 9 per cent a year since 1999-2000, more than three times faster than the economy as a whole.

“Our space sector hasn’t missed a beat during this recession,” he said. “This is the classic story of outstanding UK science and entrepreneurship continuing to create jobs and achieve exceptional growth. The new space agency is about making sure that the UK fully exploits its competitive advantage in satellites, robotics and related technologies.”

Mike Ramsay, MD of Scotland Electronics International Ltd, said the creation of the agency would give a good advantage to companies operating in the sector.

SEIL, which is based at Forres, in Moray, has made components for clients such as the European Space Agency and the NASA.

www.bnsc.gov.uk

Former VC to head ‘external review’ into UEA climate research team
Sir Muir Russell, ex-Vice Chancellor of the University of Glasgow, is to lead ‘an external review’ into the allegations made against climate researchers at the University of East Anglia. The UEA set up the review after the emails of researchers at the Climatic Research Unit were published on the internet. UEA says Russell will ‘report in the spring’.

The ‘independent’ review will investigate the key allegations that arose from a series of hacked emails from CRU. The review will:

1. Examine the hacked e-mail exchanges, other relevant e-mail exchanges and any other information held at CRU to determine whether there is any evidence of the manipulation or suppression of data which is at odds with acceptable scientific practice and may therefore call into question any of the research outcomes.

2. Review CRU’s policies and practices for acquiring, assembling, subjecting to peer review and disseminating data and research findings, and their compliance or otherwise with best scientific practice.

3. Review CRU’s compliance or otherwise with the University’s policies and practices regarding requests under the Freedom of Information Act (‘the FOIA’) and the Environmental Information Regulations (‘the EIR’) for the release of data.

4. Review and make recommendations as to the appropriate management, governance and security structures for CRU and the security, integrity and release of the data it holds.

Sir Muir will have the discretion to amend or add to the terms of reference if he feels necessary, devise his own methods of working, and call on appropriate expertise in order to investigate the allegations fully.
Comment: UEA, the Met Office and allied agencies have brought this mistrust – and worse - upon themselves. For decades we have been assured that their climate data was completely accurate, and not open to manipulation. However, both the Met Office, along with NASA, refused all FOI requests for independent access to climate data, even from scientists with impeccable track records. The software used by UEA to ‘analyse the Met Office’s data appears to be ‘shot with errors’, and it is not clear how the Russell enquiry will restore trust in the UEA’s software capability – the core of climate change analytics.

UEA’s statement is as follows: On Tuesday November 17, a substantial file including over 1000 emails either sent from or sent to members of the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia, was downloaded on the RealClimate website, together with meteorological station data used for research by CRU into the rate of the Earth’s warming, particularly over the past 150 years, and other material.

On December 1st the current head of the CRU, Professor Jones stood aside as director until the completion of the review ‘to ensure that CRU can continue to operate normally’. Professor Peter Liss CBE, FRS is now the acting director.

www.uea.ac.uk/mac/comm/media/press/2009/dec/CRUreview

PraxisUnico - the new name for UK research commercialisation bodies
This announcement followed the organisations’ recent merger to enable more effective support for the technology and knowledge transfer community.

It is hoped the new organization ‘will stimulate knowledge transfer activities which facilitate the commercialisation of university and public sector-based research’, such as consultancy, collaborative and contract research, licensing, spin-out formation and teaching. This rebranding is heavily influenced by a wish to acknowledge the strong brand heritage of both Praxis and Unico by stakeholders.

David Secher, PraxisUnico chairman said, “This is a key moment for PraxisUnico. Over the last few years Praxis and Unico have been working closely together but this unification further enables us to maximise our full potential.”

Its annual conference will take place in 15-17 June 2010, in Nottingham, with the Impact Awards 10 and conference gala dinner taking place in 16 June 2010.

www.praxisunico.org.uk

UK Government gives £150m to a new venture capital fund - Europe’s largest
The Government hopes to build up the fund to £1bn over 10 years and has been calling on private sector investors to invest alongside it in the UK Innovation Investment Fund.

The Government hopes the new fund will be able to match the scale of the funds we see being raised in the US. This innovation ‘fund of funds’ will invest in venture capital funds targeting technology companies in the UK as well as Europe.

The UK is the second largest venture capital market in the world but only receives 4 percent of investors’ funds, compared with 30% in the US, the leading market, according to data from Department for Business Innovation and Skills.

The Government recently backed a proposal from Chris Rowlands, a former executive at British private equity firm 3i Group, to establish a complementary fund providing financing for SME companies.

www.nds.coi.gov.uk

Enormous’ secret funding kept two UK banks alive, admits the UK Government
Frightened that their covert backing of the two worst-performing British banks would be revealed in a forthcoming National Audit Office report into the crisis – the Bank of England finally admitted that it provided additional emergency funding of £61.6bn to Royal Bank of Scotland and HBOS last year as the financial system faced meltdown.

Policymakers owned up to the huge loans at a parliamentary hearing, having kept the move secret for fear of sparking further panic in equity markets.

“In most cases, confidence can best be sustained if the Bank’s support is disclosed only when the conditions that gave rise to potentially systemic disturbance have improved to a point where the disclosure itself should not be a cause of such disturbance,” said a statement from the central bank.

“Having carefully weighed the public interest case for disclosure against the potential systemic consequences, the Bank decided to use its powers to limit the extent of disclosure in its financial statements in the 2009 Annual Report.” The loans were made in October and November 2008 and repaid in full by January this year.

www.bankofengland.co.uk

Rolls-Royce research consortium to develop novel materials at Birmingham
Rolls-Royce and the EPSRC are to work jointly with three UK universities, including the University of Birmingham, in a new £50 million strategic partnership that will develop materials skills and knowledge to support the development of future gas turbines.

The ‘Strategic Partnership in Structural Metallic Systems for Advanced Gas Turbine Applications’ is the first collaboration of its kind between Rolls-Royce, EPSRC, Birmingham, Cambridge and Swansea universities. The partnership will include research, fellowships and postgraduate training to help create the next generation of world-class materials scientists and metallurgical engineers.

www.epsrc.ac.uk

Maritime emissions partnership focuses on ‘dirty’ diesel and bunker fuels
Pressure to reduce diesel and bunker fuels – among the most heavily ‘soot-filled’ oils used by industry, may drive major changes in the world fleet over the next generation.

The newly launched MEREX network in South East England will be run with Southampton University, Southampton Solent University, the Crown Estate, Institute for Sustainability, Veolia, B9, Ovendens and Ricardo.

It will bring together evidence of the market opportunities for business, considering a number of scenarios addressing carbon reduction policies, renewable fuel subsidies and commercial pressure for fuel cost saving.

Contact: simon@marinesoutheast.co.uk


Benefits of Knowledge Transfer Partnerships outlined in new report
Funding organisations also continue to see the value of innovative projects, with the report noting an increase of almost 30 per cent in grant support committed to new KTP projects during the course of the year.

In particular, the metal manufacturing sector has increased its investment in collaboration and innovation despite the impact of the recession, according to a report from Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTP).

The report shows that during 2008-09, the number of KTP projects involving metal manufacturers had increased in comparison with the previous year. The news follows the publication of manufacturing organisation EEF’s recent annual ‘Innovation Monitor’ survey, which revealed that 59 per cent of manufacturing companies have plans to introduce product innovations over the next three years.

The results from the KTP report also show that, on average, businesses stand to benefit from an overall increase in annual profit before tax of more than £126m through the KTP - £43m more than in 2007-08.

EEF senior economist Jeegar Kakkad said: “The shorter KTPs were undoubtedly a key part to greater collaboration between manufacturers and academics, providing much needed flexibility during the downturn and giving them an advantage during the recovery.”

Casting manufacturer The Stockton Casting Company embarked on a KTP project with Teesside University, which saw the business upgrade its efficiencies by implementing an improved operational system and castings design capability to achieve sustainable capacity.

www.ktponline.org.uk
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