Thermo-chromic window films which regulate room temperature; a heart and
breathing rate monitor which could revolutionise the monitoring of babies during
childbirth; and improved tests for food sensitivities and allergies are among
innovations developed at The University of Nottingham highlighted by the Design Council's
Innovate for Universities initiative.
Innovate for Universities will bring teams of designers into the technology
transfer offices of universities to help scientists and technologists accelerate
the development of astonishing new applications for their research.
The six participating universities won their place through a competitive
entry process. They are Nottingham, Aberdeen, Cambridge, Leeds, University
College London and York. Each has nominated four fledgling technologies that
will be supported by intensive design mentoring for 12 months.
The 24 new technologies include innovations addressing vital issues such as
chronic disease, crime and the environment. Those from The University of
- Solar thermo-chromic films being developed by Professor George Chen and his
collaborators offer the potential to reduce a reliance on air conditioning by
utilising unique window coatings that change colour in reaction to external
temperature. Internal room temperatures can then be controlled without
significant reduction in visible light transmission. The technology could be
used in new builds or retrofitted to existing windows.
- Heartlight is a unique combined heart and breathing rate monitor currently
in development by Dr Barrie Hayes-Gill and Professor John Crowe, of the
Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering, and their teams. The
platform sensor technology, which can be used on any part of the body, will
potentially lead to new or improved monitoring products across a number of
sectors including clinical, domestic, health & safety, sports & leisure
and also veterinary. It could eventually replace the traditional stethoscope
method of monitoring heart rate during childbirth, which is open to human error,
interrupts resuscitation and can fail to detect sudden and serious changes to a
baby's medical condition.
- The Mixed Reality Lab within the School of Computer Science has developed a
powerful Mixed Reality Architecture (MRA) system that can be utilised to enable
geographically dispersed co-workers to interact as they would in a normal office
environment. By joining spaces as opposed to individuals ad-hoc interactions can
be supported as well as pre-organised meetings.
- A potential increase in food sensitivity and allergy in the population
requires improved tests so that conditions can be detected and managed. Dr
Marcus Alcocer of the School of Biosciences is developing a comprehensive new
test system that will accurately and reliably profile any allergy across a large
range of food groups from a single blood sample.
Dr Susan Huxtable, Director of Technology Transfer at The University of
Nottingham, said: "We are very pleased to have won the opportunity to
participate in this exciting initiative. We anticipate that the input to our
projects from the design consultants will accelerate their development and
significantly increase the potential for commercial success."
David Kester, Chief Executive of the Design Council, said: "In the UK we have
a world-class science base with researchers working at the forefront of new
thinking, plus an equally potent design capability with the skills to translate
ideas into products and services that meet the needs of tomorrow's consumer.
Innovate for Universities is about combining both these elements early and
smartly so we commercialise our technologies around the needs of real people and
create enduring new solutions and businesses."
David Secher, Chairman of Unico, the professional body for commercialising
research, said: "Until now, technology transfer offices have not routinely
employed designers to help develop their ideas. Innovate for Universities will
allow designers, through their strategic advice and ability to understand user
needs, to enhance the economic and social impact derived from translating
research into public benefit."
Lord Drayson, Minister for Innovation, said: "This exciting Design Council
project will offer innovators in universities really practical advice to help
bring their innovations to market."
Innovate for Universities is based on a successful Design Council support
service for high-tech start-ups that is part of its national Designing Demand
business programme. It has proved that when designers are involved at the early
stages of science and technology-based product development, commercial
propositions that meet a market need emerge more rapidly. It is funded by the
Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS) and the Higher
Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE).
Innovate for Universities will culminate in a showcase of the resulting
innovations and products in June next year.