Case Studies - Working With CPI To Access Finances And Expertise To Bring Nanotechnology Based Products To The Marketplace

Aimed at entrepreneurs and leaders from industry, academia and government, CPI services focus on bridging the gap between scientific and commercial innovation. CPI help clients to surmount their specific innovation challenges for creating and commercialising emerging technologies - connecting needs with relevant expertise, open access facilities, intelligence and funds. Three case studies follow.

Durham Scientific Crystals (DSC)

Since summer 2004, CPI has been working closely with Durham Scientific Crystals (DSC) to source venture investment to catalyse the firm's business expansion. CPI tapped into its venture finance network, opening the door to some 20 different private investment firms. As a result, in a period of approximately nine months, DSC has successfully secured an offer for venture finance from a US investor. Furthermore, DSC won the Technology Award at the North East Business Awards 2005 - the region's biggest business awards in May 2005.

As a spin-out from the Physics Department of the University of Durham, DSC has gone through the product development phase and is now based at NetPark, the prestigious Science Park facility near Sedgefield in the North East of England.

DSC specialises in the innovative production of compound semiconductors cadmium telluride and cadmium zinc telluride in single crystal form. Their technological expertise and patented processes are the result of over 30 years of semiconductor research in this area at the University.

These opto-electronic materials have significant applications as detectors of x-rays and gamma rays, in markets such as medical imaging, security screening, space exploration and non-destructive testing. DSC is already working with several large blue-chip corporations and organisations including the European Space Agency (ESA).

Arnab Basu, Chief Executive Officer of DSC comments - "From the company's formation in April 2003, to the present day, DSC has had backing from a number of agencies. The most important, however, has been the continuous enthusiasm and guidance by CPI. CPI has provided support and advice to the management team of DSC in sourcing venture capital finance, market characterisation and strategic networking. As a result of this we hope to make an announcement soon about a major financing deal from a US venture investor that CPI identified and approached for us".

GlobalPoint Technologies (GPT)

GlobalPoint Technologies (GPT) was the first commercial client for the newly established Centre for Electronic Nano-Systems (CENS), an R&D service established by CPI in partnership with Durham University. CENS and CPI are helping GPT, a North East based firm, to become a world leader in the field of satellite tracking devices, with the launch of the Guardian - a tracker 1,000 times more sensitive than any other product currently available on the market. Measuring just 2in by 1in, it is also the world most compact satellite tracking device.

Using military technology, previously unavailable in civilian global positioning systems, the Guardian is the first tracking system on the market that can transmit signals and information when underground and inside secure containers.

GPT invested significant funds in the tracker and the technology was acquired from QinetiQ, a research and development organisation that supplies the Ministry of Defence. When GPT approached CPI, they required technical support to integrate the tracker with their existing telematics system -a task that CENS successfully delivered and on time.

In just two and a half months, CENS created the hardware and wrote the software by incorporating the tracker with a mobile phone in a larger device with its own microprocessor. This meant the device could communicate via the Internet or SMS and even had the capability to monitor the condition of the object being tracked. It can also store large amounts of information over time and is voice-enabled for two-way communication.

John Davidson, Chief Executive Officer of GPT commented on CPI & Durham University's approach "Without CPI' involvement, this whole project would have been significantly delayed and the product would have been much slower to market... Durham University was quite outstanding. It was inspiring how the team recognised the tracker's potential. For academics they showed a sense of commercial reality and worked incredibly fast to turn it around".

The Guardian will be manufactured by TT Electronics in Blyth, Northumberland - resulting in a true North East enterprise, which will create dozens of semi-skilled skilled jobs in the region. John Davidson is supportive of the region: "We intend to see that all manufacturing development and intellectual property stays here in the North-East, showing a good return for our investors while creating wealth and jobs for the region." The tracker has fantastic potential and the commercial applications are endless, including asset tracking, personal security and logistics support.

Applications of Smartdust in Transport (ASTRA)

Applications of Smartdust in Transport (ASTRA) is a collaborative study between CPI, the Centre for Electronic Nano-Systems (CENS), the Transport Operations Research Group (TORG) at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne and the Department for Transport (DfT). CPI worked closely with TORG and CENS to help secure project funds from DfT. The aim of the study is to explore the potential innovative applications of smartdust and intelligent devices to improve the UK road transport infrastructure. ASTRA forms part of the DfT Horizon research programme, designed for the DfT to collate and analyse insight and possible solutions for the future transport infrastructure over the next 30 years.

Smartdust is a collection of small, independent, low-cost and intelligent devices often incorporating a sensor and computer. The devices are linked together through a wireless network and are able to both communicate with each other and a central computer/network via wireless interconnections.

Smartdust has the potential to provide robust and highly effective solutions for collecting local data, monitoring and alerting. Although the technology is still in an early stage and faces many technological challenges, it is being hailed as a technology that can revolutionise the way in which our cities, homes and work environments interact with us.

Potential applications of smartdust include:

  • Aautomatic vehicle location
  • Real-time passenger information
  • Pay-as-you-go car insurance
  • Tackling road safety issues
  • On-demand rural public transport
  • Managing congestion
  • Monitoring levels of pollution
  • Government road charging schemes

Professor Phil Blythe, Director of TORG comments: "The project enabled partners to harness the research and development skills in the North East of England, to push forward radical new thinking in how to implement road-user charging using new generation wireless technology and the leading edge nanotechnology design and fabrication expertise..."

The ASTRA project is still progressing forward, with objectives to:

  • Present state-of-the-art insight and review of Smartdust telecommunications technologies
  • Investigate likely development pathways and capabilities of the technologies over the next 30 years
  • Conduct on-road proof of concept trials
  • Identify and develop ideas on a range of potential applications
  • Investigate implementation strategies, analysis of market opportunities, standards and links with other emerging technologies

This information has been sourced, reviewed and adapted from materials provided by CPI.

For more information on this source, please visit CPI.

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