Innovation takes centre stage

Jason Ford
News Editor

Briefing’s agenda is fixed very firmly on innovation, having just celebrated the best of collaborative engineering at the fourth The Engineer Technology & Innovation Awards.

Despite the bad weather, representatives from teams shortlisted made it to the Royal Society for the event that saw the Grand Prix Award go to the developers of an orthopaedic stem cell concentrator.

Designed by a team comprising Southampton University Medical School, Southampton University Hospitals NHS Trust (Southampton General Hospital, Department of Trauma and Orthopaedics), and Smith & Nephew, the winning device produces concentrated stem cells from a bone marrow sample taken during surgery, which could significantly improve the outcome of surgery on hard-to-heal fractures.

Congratulations go to all the winners, whose winning entries can be read here.

Innovation is one of three key ambitions set out by the CBI today, who believe the manufacturing sector should be at the forefront of the Britain’s economic development.

The business group today published its ‘Vision and Ambitions for UK Manufacturing’, arguing that government should work with business to harness innovation, and create a tax and regulatory environment that helps UK manufacturers increase growth in productivity and exports.

Specifically, the CBI believes the manufacturing sector should aim to achieve and maintain a target productivity growth rate of five per cent a year; demonstrate leadership in all aspects of innovation; and double the growth rate for UK manufactured goods exports to at least match the OECD average by 2020.

Meanwhile, Sky News reports today that Sir Richard Branson has ‘declared war’ on the shipping industry with a new climate change initiative that calls for an efficiency rating on every ocean going vessel to help ’clean up the industry’.

No stranger to innovation himself, Sir Richard should be heartened by initiatives such Denmark’s Green Ship of the Future project that aims to improve the overall environmental performance of shipping, with scrubbing systems to remove pollutants and modifications to hulls, drive systems and engine performance. Click here to read more.

Elsewher, Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipOne might be taking bookings for space flights but it is Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) that appear to have nailed space logistics and freight with their Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon 9 capsule.

Later on today NASA is scheduled to hold a pre-launch news conference ahead of Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS-1) launch, which is planned for tomorrow.

The planned launch will be first time a commercial company has brought anything back through the Earth’s atmosphere, after SpaceX last month received the first commercial license from the US Federal Aviation Administration for a privately-owned company to re-enter a spacecraft from orbit.

NASA are reportedly considering using the Dragon 9 capsule to transport astronauts after the retirement of its space shuttle fleet, and SpaceX already has a $1.6bn contract with NASA for at least 12 cargo flights to the International Space Station (ISS).

Finally, Manchester University-based academics Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov are in Sweden this week to collect the Nobel Prize in Physics for discovering Graphene, the extremely thin form of carbon that promises to revolutionise semiconductor, sensor, and display technology.