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Sheffield's Innovation Centres

From electronic rats to drug interaction profiling, the University of Sheffield's Innovation Centres provide support and expertise for a range of companies working on a variety of innovations.

Kirkstall is a biotechnology company developing a ?rat analogue? that can be used to test the safety and toxicity of chemicals, drug candidates and cosmetic ingredients using in-vitro techniques that will reduce the use of animals. The ?electronic rat? has the potential to provide huge cost savings in the pharmaceutical industry by allowing companies to screen out unsuitable drug candidates at a much earlier stage of development.

Kirkstall relocated to Sheffield in 2007 from Cambridge to take advantage of the world-leading expertise at the University of Sheffield in areas such as tissue engineering and toxicity.

Malcom Wilkinson, MD of Kirkstall, explains: ?We have an exclusive worldwide licence to a patented multichamber bioreactor (MCB) technology, which combines leading-edge research from bioscience, microelectronics, microfluidics and optics to create cell-based assays that will accurately mimic human metabolism. ?The support I have received from the Sheffield Bioincubator team has been outstanding. Within a few months of moving the business from Cambridge, we had collaborations in place with two University Departments. Sheffield really is a great place to start a biotech business.?


Sheffield is not just a great central location for your business or research, it?s actually at the heart of the UK?s capabilities in the design, growth and prototyping of semiconductors and photonic devices. The National Centre for III-V Technologies is the UK?s main provider of III-V semiconductor materials for the academic community, as well as supplying some of the world?s leading semiconductor, electronics and photonics manufacturers.

Neil Gerrard, business development manager, says: ?We have traditionally worked with the large multinationals and nationals, but we are developing our proposition further with colleagues in the Innovation Centres team to provide high-quality accommodation and services as well.

?As the Kroto Innovation Centre is housed in the same building, we can continue to work closely with the spinouts from the National Centre and our commercial partners. We can also provide a flexible full-service offering to SMEs and start-ups.

?This means that if a small company or start-up requires device design, growth, fab or prototyping support they can hire a lab or office here on North Campus on a temporary basis and locate their own staff here for the term of the project,? he says.

?This is a fantastic opportunity.Not only does this produce a more efficient and effective relationship with the III-V Centre, but it also encourages the company to practise open innovation at an early stage of its life cycle.?


Sheffield-based Retrogenix Ltd is developing an exciting new technology that will make a major impact at all levels of the drug discovery and development stages, and potentially open up new markets for existing product lines for the world?s major pharmaceutical companies. The technology, which is known as Cell Microarray, will enable the pharmaceutical industry to determine the mechanism of action of pharmaceutical drugs or candidate drugs.

Jim Freeth, MD of Retrogenix, says: ?The new technology will provide clients with a powerful tool to be used across a range of areas in their product development cycle, from identifying novel drug targets, to understanding toxic side effects of drugs in clinical trials, to uncovering new opportunities for these drugs.?

Retrogenix have recently moved into their new lab at the Sheffield Bioincubator, which houses over £300,000 of state-of-the-art equipment donated by Astra Zeneca. Jim continues: ?Thanks to the fantastic support we?ve received from Astra Zeneca, and the Innovation Centres team at the University of Sheffield I?m confident we will build a highly valuable and sought-after biotechnology business and be successful in bringing this exciting technology to market.?


With the development of advanced microscopes and techniques, the commercial and research sectors are progressively able to see and manipulate at the nano scale. By understanding the properties of materials, nanotechnology offers a novel approach to product development and opens fresh opportunities for competitive advantage. Co-located with the Kroto Innovation Centre at the University?s North Campus, the recently opened Sorby Nano Investigation Centre provides companies with access to the most powerful microscopes and leading experts in nanotechnology.

Using the latest equipment, companies are able to analyse the most demanding samples, from advanced materials to biological specimens. Sheffield based Catal International has benefited from working with the Centre, where experts have been helping to develop Catal?s catalytic products and services. Andrew Holt, managing director of Catal, says: ?By working with the Sorby Nano Investigation Centre, Catal International has been able to improve our end products and services to our expanding market-place, including our strong customer base in Asia.?


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Tel: +44 (0) 114 222 5981

Added the 31 August 2009 in category Innovation UK Vol5-1

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