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Birmingham Science City and the appliance of science

A region-wide partnership, Birmingham Science City uses science, technology and innovation to exploit new opportunities and find solutions to major problems

One of six English Science Cities, Birmingham Science City (BSC) is facilitating the use of science and technology to improve the quality of life and prosperity of the West Midlands.

Growing in size all the time, the Birmingham Science City partnership reflects the strength and diversity of organisations actively committed to exploiting the new opportunities and solutions to major problems provided by science, technology and innovation.

Birmingham Science City supports four thematic areas: digital and ICT, innovative healthcare, low carbon and security.

Birmingham Science City recognises the scientific and technological strengths of the West Midlands and is building on the outstanding knowledge and capabilities of the region?s universities. Strong relationships between industry and Higer Education Institutes across the West Midlands are growing a diverse industry base, built on research strengths, which in turn is leading to the retention of high-quality science graduates in the region.

Birmingham Science City aims to distinguish the city of Birmingham and the West Midlands region as principal locations in the world for expertise in science, technology and their application: attracting high-quality companies and individuals and helping to drive regional growth. Dr Pam Waddell, Director of Birmingham Science City, believes that it is the partnership across all sectors that will be essential in delivering this aim and the ability to build on the strengths of the existing knowledge base.

?We want to use this partnership to catalyse a whole range of collaborative activities to deliver the Birmingham Science City vision,? said Pam.

?The West Midlands boasts a reservoir of expertise in science, technology and its application which has the capability to position the region as an international centre for excellence in these areas.

?Birmingham Science City is not a physical entity, but is more of a movement trying to galvanise people ? we want to catalyse excellence in science, technology and innovation and then communicate those successes to a regional, national and international audience.?

To date, Birmingham Science City ? through funding from Advantage West Midlands ? has funded 11 demonstrator projects across the West Midlands region. In addition to these, it has also invested in the ?Science City Research Alliance? (SCRA), which is a collaborative research project between the universities of Birmingham and Warwick.

Pam adds: ?Long-term investment in the underpinning research is playing a crucial role in realising the potential economic impact in many areas of science and technology in the region and beyond.

?The Science City Research Alliance initially brings together the strengths of the region?s two foremost research-intensive universities, which will further be built on through collaboration with business and other research organisations.

?Such collaboration fulfils Birmingham Science City objectives to stimulate growth in both research capacity and quality to underpin priority aspects of the regional economy, and to ensure the flow and transfer of knowledge and technology for economic benefit.

?Going forward, Birmingham Science City is developing a range of user-led, partnership demonstrator projects,? added Pam.

?We will be engaging with public and private-sector organisations to identify real challenges with potential science and technology solutions and catalysing projects that bridge the gap between researchers, innovative businesses and users.?

Themes for demonstrators being developed with Birmingham City Council include LED street lighting and transport of SEN pupils in electric vehicles. Pam believes that these projects will have a wider benefit for the economy.

?Not only will such projects help the direct user, but by bringing new science and technology to application, can assist with commercialisation of knowledge and creation of new markets,? Pam concludes.

Birmingham Science City - case studies

Science City Research Alliance (SCRA)

The Science City Research Alliance has so far seen £57m of funding from Advantage West Midlands and the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) channelled into science and technology projects, with another £10m set to be invested. The research, which builds on the collaborative strengths of Birmingham and Warwick universities, covers three themes of regional excellence and business relevance ? Advanced Materials, Energy and Translational Medicine. Together with further national funding levered in (almost £30m to date), this investment is creating a critical mass of world-class scientific research with the means and will to engage with business and other users to create sustainable economic and social benefit. As well as working with regional expertise, the Science City Research Alliance has also forged relationships with major national companies, including Unilever and Jaguar Land Rover.

The West Midlands Regional Development Agency, Advantage West Midlands (AWM), is funding joint equipment and research infrastructure at both institutions, with a number of projects already underway. These include the Energy Futures project, a programme on hydrogen energy generation, storage and use, complemented by research, development and demonstration activities in reducing energy demand and increasing efficiency in transport and buildings. The most established research project to date, this has included the development of a hydrogen narrow boat and helped facilitate the country?s first hydrogen filling station.

The research into Advanced Materials can be applied to a number of industries, including aerospace engineering, medical fields and ICT. This work involves research and development into the creation and characterisation of new advanced materials and sensors, which can then be used in differing sectors. The third area of research, Translational Medicine, aims to underline and build on the excellence which already exists in this area at both institutions. A regional and national facility to provide the essential infrastructure for translating high-quality clinical and biomedical research into improved disease prevention, new diagnostics and innovative therapies in Obesity/Diabetes (Metabolism), Infections, Heart Disease (Cardiovascular Sciences), Reproduction and Nervous System are all key areas of the work by the SCRA.

CABLED (Coventry and Birmingham Low Emission Vehicle Demonstrator)

A partnership of 13 private and public-sector organisations, the CABLED project showcases electric cars across Birmingham and Coventry in the West Midlands. The project will make Ultra Low Carbon Vehicles available to a wide cross-section of real-world users and collect data on their everyday use. This is part of a UK-wide trial in which the West Midlands plays a major role.Part-funded by the Technology Strategy Board and Advantage West Midlands, CABLED will deliver a showcase demonstration of 110 ultra-low-carbon vehicles across Birmingham and Coventry. These will be a cross-section of vehicles, powered using battery electric, hydrogen fuel-cell or plug-in hybrid technology.

Launched in 2009, the successful deployment of electric cars through this project will act as a catalyst to develop the supply chain in the UK for electric-car components. This project will raise the UK profile and encourage overseas companies to look to the UK ? and in particular, the West Midlands ? for component supply and potentially vehicle build. The widespread uptake of electric vehicles will significantly reduce carbon emissions across the UK, and reduce local air pollution and noise levels. The CABLED project will also deliver the infrastructure required both in the users? property and workplace, as well as in public areas. The charging infrastructure will be a conventional plug-in system currently deployed elsewhere in the UK. The Hydrogen project, part of the Science City Research Alliance work between the universities of Birmingham and Warwick, has also enabled an increase in the range of the CABLED project to include hydrogen-based technology.

The first phase of the project has already begun, with 25 Mitsubishi i MiEV vehicles launched in December 2009. This is one of eight regional demonstrator projects taking place now across the UK as part of the Ultra Low Carbon Vehicles Demonstrator programme. In all, £25m of Technology Strategy Board and Department for Transport investment has gone towards testing over 340 ultra-low-carbon vehicles on the UK roads over the next 12 months.

Serious Games Institute

Based in Coventry University?s Technology Park, the Serious Games Institute (SGI) is a global thought leader in immersive technologies. The institute enables and facilitates the growth of serious games, virtual worlds and connected industry specialists by supporting research and development into the use and effects of these products, platforms and technologies.This is delivered in no small part by providing a close interface between high-level applied academic research at Coventry University and leading-edge technology companies in the field of game-based learning.

This enables the SGI to exhibit and showcase the products and services of a community of companies, partners and academics involved in the facility, as well as providing business support and facilities to encourage, promote and grow businesses in this sector. Birmingham Science City has also funded a demonstrator project at the SGI, to develop a new channel for businesses to reach markets using virtual computer worlds. The SGI has also developed a particular focus on 3D collaborative multi-user environments and other games develop- ment platforms, which can be harnessed for non-entertainment purposes.

The project originated from the West Midlands? strength in the global electronic games market through local companies like Blitz Games, Codemasters and PixeLearning, in addition to pioneering work in the application of electronic games to serious business applications ? primarily e-Learning and simulation. The SGI already provides business incubation and office space for a cluster of serious-games small enterprises, as well as actively supporting the development of spin-off companies.

Birmingham Science City
Dr Pam Waddell: Director, Birmingham Science City

Added the 26 April 2010 in category Innovation UK Vol6-1

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