Archive for the ‘Inside Innovation’ Category

Testing… Testing

We all appreciate its importance when the proverbial has hit the fan. Software Testing and Quality Assurance that is. Just ask the organisers of the London Olympics whose online ticketing system has been far from Gold Standard or BAA whose new baggage handling system at Heathrow’s Terminal 5 failed to get off the ground during thenew building’s much heralded opening.

While these high profile examples help prove the case, it is clear that the importance of software quality assurance globally has never been greater. Industry research proves it is increasingly a major differentiator in the global software and technology industries. Not surprising perhaps when both quality and security of technology is now not only business critical but can often be life critical.

At a time when there is a growing trend in software development towards low cost regions such as China and India, there is a need to add value and compete on another level than price alone. Quality Assurance does just that. The question is can NI, with leading edge technology clusters in areas such as digital media, financial software, telecoms and embedded systems get a bigger slice of the global software pie through a focus on Quality?

I for one think the answer is yes and in particular if we all pull together in the same direction. I was delighted to see the newly launched initiative by a group of 20 companies in Northern Ireland supported by Invest NI, DELNI and Momentum, who have come together to encourage people to consider a career in software quality assurance, pledging to create hundreds of jobs between them in this field in the next few years. Among them are global players such as Openwave, Deloitte, Allstate, NYSE, Liberty IT as well as SQS and Navinet, both based at the Science Park.

According to local ICT trade association Momentum, there’s a global shortage of software testers; a shortage which is due partly to a growing emphasis on quality within the international software industry.The other factor is that for some unexplained reason software testing and quality assurance has been seen as the poor relation to software development. Traditionally software testing was excluded from most academic courses here, and unlike software development there were no corresponding professional pathways for software testing. Typically it has been left to individual companies to train their own people in the necessary software testing skills. But that is now changing and software testing is raising its game to emphasise the many and varied career paths available.

Part of the new initiative announced recently includes the creation of a Software Testers Academy to provide graduates with the skills and experience required to take up opportunities in the IT industry. This type of response demonstrates how effective a partnership approach between government, industry and the further education sector can be and hopefully will bear some fruit for the local industry.

I see two major advantages for NI plc in targeting this area. Not only is there massive potential to immediately serve the software testing needs of the international markets of business software, finance, connected health and media but if this campaign promotes and embeds an ethos of quality assurance in our very own software output, then this can provide additional strategic advantage to NI software houses wishing to compete globally.


Place your bets on KETs

The European Commission’s High Level Expert group on key emerging technologies (KETs) has recently identified six key areas of technology that are worth US$832bn today but could be worth US$1,282bn by 2015. They believe these big technology bets will be at the core of future consumer electronics devices, healthcare, transport and communication solutions and should be a core focus for our scientists and manufacturing industries.

KETs are defined as knowledge and capital-intensive technologies associated with high R&D intensity and rapid integrated innovation cycles, high capital expenditure and highly-skilled employment. Mastery of KETs is a strategic priority, to ensure Europe-based companies can produce the innovative products of the future.

Combinations of KETs are embedded at the core of most advanced products. For example, an electric car is a combination of advanced materials for batteries, microelectronics components for power electronics in order to reduce the weight of the car, photonics for low consumption lighting, industrial biotechnologies for low friction tyres and advanced manufacturing systems to produce vehicles at a competitive cost.

According to this Group Europe, once the cradle of the Industrial Revolution, hosts a manufacturing base built upon a long-established engineering tradition, a strong R&D capacity backed by strong universities and the ability of industry to adapt to technological progress and to produce high quality products with global potential.

Today the same manufacturing industry provides technologies and solutions which are needed to respond to major challenges of the 21st century, including, climate change, resource and energy efficiency, security, an ageing society and sustainable mobility. Not surprisingly the market is highly competitive and technologies are typically created within a business environment, where SMEs can play an important role, especially by providing inputs and innovative solutions to global companies. Local companies should take note.

Against this background, the major opportunity areas identified include nanotechnology, photonics, industrial biotech, advanced materials and advanced manufacturing systems. By way of illustration of the potential, the EU says micro and nanoelectronics is a US$250bn industry that could be worth US$300bn by 2015, while nanotechnology is a €12bn industry with the potential to grow at 16pc a year to reach US$27bn by 2015. Advanced materials, including new energy sources such as advanced batteries, photovoltaics, gas turbines and solid state lighting, are tipped to grow 6pc a year to become a €150bn market in 2015. Industrial biotechnology – uses enzymes and micro-organisms to make bio-based products in sectors as diverse as chemicals, food and feed, healthcare, detergents, paper and pulp, textiles and bioenergy. The EU identified that this technology could grow from US$90bn to become a US$125bn market by 2015. Advanced manufacturing systems, including semiconductors, has been identified as an area that will grow 5pc year on year to become a US$200bn industry.

Regular readers of this column may have heard me comment on the need to bridge the ‘Valley of Death’ – essentially the gulf between identifying new technologies and successfully commercialising them. They have identified a three-pillar approach to a successful crossing which I would certainly agree with. The first stage ‘Technological Research’ consists of taking advantage of scientific excellence in transforming the ideas arising from fundamental research into technologies competitive at world level and this is where the work of the Science Park and our partners in the Universities is critical.

The second stage ‘Product Demonstration’ will allow for the use and exploitation of KETs on European soil to make innovative and performing products and solutions competitive at world level.
And the third stage, ‘Competitive Manufacturing’, should create European manufacturing ecosystems for globally competitive products and industries to compete with our Asian and US rivals.

By focusing on these key stages of the innovation chain, the hope is to trigger a virtuous cycle, from knowledge generation to market flow with feedback from the market to knowledge generation support, thereby strengthening economic development. It is encouraging to know that it is broadly this same model that is being followed here in Northern Ireland. We just need to place our bets as best we can but yet be flexible enough to switch assured we have the basic science and learning skills in place.

US connections

Sitting in St Cedma’s Parish Church, Larne, for a family wedding on a glorious July day this year and waiting for the bride to enter, late as is the tradition, my eye was drawn to one of the beautiful stained glass windows. I should explain before I go any further that this little church has an ancient and interesting thousand year history.This building dates from 1350 and so is the second oldest building in continuous use in Co Antrim. Anyway, the window in question is dedicated to the Houston family and I realised, from a little internet surfing on smart phone, that this could well be the same family as spawned Sam Houston of Texan fame and which created an early electrical engineering firm, Thompson-Houston, in the mid-1800s. As one internet wag has it, the first words from the moon were Ulster Scots; “Houston, the eagle has landed!” That firm through merger and take-over survives within global corporations such as GE, Thales and Alsthom. Marking the family is great, of course, but often I think we hide our great Ulster engineering lights, not just under bushels but under mountains.
Of course we are infamous as a people for looking back; so at least I should attempt to set the record straight, as far as entrepreneurial activity is concerned. Today we aim to export our ideas with added value, not just our people, and a few nuggets which might interest are:
The President of the US has at his disposal, in the White House and in Airforce 1 and hopefully never to be used, the latest in portable defibrillators from Northern Ireland from a graduate company of the Science Park in east Belfast, that has direct lineage to Frank Pantridge, the Ulster inventor of the device.
In west Belfast, another company, that owes its technology to astronomy and the search for exo-planets, has developed laser-based microscopes that are used at Harvard Medical School directly to observe the antics of the chromosomes inside living cells. I regret that the science park was too young to have helped that company get going from its start as a University spin-out but delighted none the less to report that its founder is often with us as he is getting his second creation into the market place.
In counties Antrim, Armagh and Down several pharmaceutical firms have been developed from scratch that today each employ hundreds (in one case thousands) of US workers to claim a piece of that lucrative but notoriously difficult market place. I love the idea that some of the sheep around Lough Neagh that you might spot from the plane and among the highest value-adding workers in Northern Ireland.
From the west of Ulster, Terrex helps keep the miners of the world supplied with the best of kit to keep us all supplied with our never-ending demand for the earth’s resources.
Meanwhile, a Ballymena business has developed from one-of-many coach builders into a near-unique,globally-ranked provider of rapid transit systems, supplying among other cities, Las Vegas. The StreetCars float past little St Cedma’s on their way to the port, probably not even pausing to think that down below is a record of just how long we’ve been at the game of engineering entrepreneurship. This is so much more important and of note than the few hundred kids who haven’t yet realised that we have traditions older and more fulfilling than recreational rioting in July.

Pitch Perfect Entrepreneurs

One of the highlights of my job is the regular contact I have with the next batch of exciting entrepreneurs coming out of Northern Ireland. It never fails to amaze me and my colleagues about the steady flow of innovative and creative ideas that we produce here. For someone of my generation, it is comforting to know that we clearly have not lost those innovative and entrepreneurial genes that we had when Northern Ireland engineering and technology stood proudly on the world stage. For too long we have not developed their commercial potential and we aim to change that.

At the inaugural Pitchfest event held at the NI Science Park last week we saw a veritable feast of entrepreneurial talent representing a variety of sectors including biotechnology, software and green technology. 12 local companies were given three minutes to make their business pitch to a prestigious panel of judges and an audience of over 150 business leaders from within the entrepreneurial community. This was a unique opportunity to get in front of a very influential audience and to test their business model using the wisdom of the crowd.

All twelve offered very strong business proposals at different degrees of maturity and they all grasped the unique opportunity that Pitchfest offered. The prize for such bravery was that each received valuable feedback on their business model and were able to network with experienced and seasoned professionals who had been there and done that. The overall winner on the night, deemed by the judges to offer the most commercial potential, was Jenarron Therapeutics, an early-stage therapeutics company, which is seeking to exploit the novel properties of a patented putty-hydrogel material that can be used to deliver a range of drug substances, such as anaesthetic to wounds, particularly those that pose a significant challenge to modern healthcare.

Theirs is a product that has worldwide application in the medical and veterinary fields and could revolutionise the way wounds are treated. Combining the considerable expertise of its founders, Paul McCarron, Professor of pharmaceutics at the University of Ulster and Head of the Department of Pharmacy and Mark Jenkins Consultant in Emergency Medicine at Antrim Area Hospital Emergency Department they have recognised the potential of their invention. Equally important is the fact that they realise that the current company structure lacks the commercial and business expertise required to manage the company on a full-time basis and they are focused on addressing this as a priority.

In an entirely different field, but nonetheless offering huge potential, was Unitygrids which is developing an innovative smart meter with a suite of supporting software products which will empower customers and allow energy suppliers to deploy, monitor and control the smart meters and offer value-added products and services permitting them to earn additional income from their investment in the smart meter infrastructure. Energy management and efficiency is a key feature of many countries future energy strategies and this type of product and service not only empowers consumers but works equally well for energy suppliers.

These types of platforms are an important staging post for these hungry entrepreneurs who are trying to bridge what is often called the ‘Valley of Death’ – the gap between the ready acceptance of an aspirational research or innovation concept, and the cynical reluctance to accept a difficult business case and the risk needed to make the dream become reality. The good news is they no longer have to stare into this abyss on their own. There is the start of strong innovation eco-system building here in NI where these entrepreneurs can receive invaluable support, advice and guidance on taking their ideas forward. I have no doubt that we will see more of them successful navigate the dreaded valley and come out the other side.

The full shortlist of Pitchfest companies was:

  •  Annagh ltd – Delivering diabetes monitoring and alarm solutions
  •   Deep Clean Infection Control – An advance hand sanitiser station for use in healthcare environments to counter the incidence of Hospital Acquired Infection
  •   Extremogen – Biotech company developing new Biocatalysts using advanced molecular biology and bioprospecting methods
  •   GenSaf – Offering the next generation of veterinary vaccine delivery systems.
  •   JamPot Technologies – Mobile application development company
  •   Jenarron Theraputics – A therapeutics company offering patented putty material for treatment of wounds
  •   Laser Spoke Project – Cycling technology based on power meters
  • – Online auction platform for hospitality & leisure industry for excess inventory
  •   Okotech Ltd – An intelligent heating control system
  •   RegenaGraft – Offering tissue engineered solutions for heart valve replacement
  •   RepKnight- Social media reputation monitoring company
  •   Unitygrids – Energy smart metering and software company

Do check them out via our website!

What does a Physicist do?

We live in an age where we make extraordinarily high demands on young people, on their performance and on their ability to make choices. I can’t say, in all honesty, that I agree with the latter principle of modern life. Years ago, when I ran a Cub pack, I found the hard way that giving full democracy to the cubs lost their interest very quickly, as they really didn’t have the knowledge to make good choices. So the best we can do today, especially in the subjects like Physics (my own passion and today’s subject) that are deemed “difficult”, to give them the information to make the hard choice. With our heritage, it can come in three sections: culture, satisfaction and reward.

Culturally, both jurisdictions on the island of Ireland have extraordinary credentials in the subject. We have been instrumental in understanding light and climate change; we helped split the atom; we discovered absolute zero temperature and the rudiments of thermodynamics; we discovered electromagnetic precession, key to MRI scanning among many other things; we helped link Europe and the Americas with the telegraph. Oh and we named the electron and that’s just for starters. Other cultures would give their eye teeth for such a heritage but I bet few readers of this article know those facts and fewer still could name the individuals.

On to satisfaction; what does a Physicist do? This is a question I have been asked all my working life, at least since I chose to go to NUU to read the subject some 42 years ago. All physicists report the same problem and sometimes I think that has helped drive them into keeping their own company. Fortunately one other, Sheila Gilheany- the policy officer for Institute of Physics in Ireland (North and South), has also suffered that question endlessly. She hasn’t dodged it but taken it full on and produced a report, just published, entitled “Physics-the brightest minds go farther”, a full survey of what physics graduates do with their degrees and their lives.

The principle headline of the report is that Physicists are very employable and if you want to get an idea of the jobs, check out , where 28 days in the life of 28 young physicists are profiled. Few physicists have done the same thing for many days in a row and many have had diverse and exciting careers in many walks of life.

Material rewards don’t tend to figure highly in our motivations but I’m sure parents and partners would be glad to note in the survey that a good proportion earn over £100,000 a year, with 5% breaching the £150k pa! Much of the report would have been valid in my own day but a welcome change is the trend towards full gender balance in the youngest cohort of the sample set.

To keep up the tradition and to rebuild our ailing economies north and south, physics and the other science subjects are no longer just “nice to have”. It should be clear by now, as it was to Sean Sherlock TD Minister of State, Department of Enterprise, Jobs & Innovation and Department of Education & Skills with responsibility for Research & Innovation , who helped launch the report,  that making money just out of money or even property has gone for a generation. We need to make our livings from high added value exports and services, where knowledge and its practitioners make the best differentiators. Thus I would urge every family to have a look at the report or better still to keep a regular eye on the IOP web-site: .

Information is really is power!

2011 McRobert and other Royal Academy of Engineering Awards

I was delighted once again to have been invited to the Royal Academy of Engineering Awards Dinner. Last year I felt that, despite great successes, the engineering community was on the back foot, probably because of the BP crisis in the Gulf of Mexico and the general feeling that somehow engineers (and scientists) were the cause of “it all”. This year, I am pleased to report, confidence is returning and with the rhetoric led by Dr Vince Cable, the Business Secretary of State, the mood was very much that scientists and engineers need to get back from the city and into the high value adding “real” exports. (Better late than never, I guess, but I hope the pendulum doesn’t swing too far back; financial engineering does a good job for my Science Park and the NI economy!)

The four McRobert finalists exemplified the theme:

One team integrated from government lab and private sector had used their combined expertise to invent, develop, deploy in Afghanistan and begin to export new lightweight armour in less than two years.

Another had used advanced digital radio technology and design to deploy a new common platform for mobile smart phones so that the operators can keep pace with our unslakable thirst for surfing on the move and for working where-ever we happen to be, as I am now.

The third finalist was Jaguar for the lightweight chassis and market leading commercial success of the new XJ saloon. I had a special interest in this since, I learned it uses the explosive lifting bonnet we had helped research in Malvern some 15 years ago. I was also sitting next to a retired Director and special advisor to Tata, the new owner of the company. He was at pains to tell me and our neighbour on the other side, the President of Boeing UK and a customer of the company, of his pride in the successes of Jaguar-Land Rover. It was great to see, at first hand, the safe hands the companies are in but what an irony that sometimes we do not feel that same pride in our own engineers.

The forth team and overall winner was from Microsoft UK; they had developed and taken to world markets the Kinect technology that allows that company to offer free body movement interaction with computer programmes. Not only does this allow the games that cause so much merriment and embarrassment around homes like mine but it offers a serious purpose of surgery practice and other virtualisations. A worthy winner, though I was voting for Jaguar.

Other prizes and medals went to individuals for personal achievements but an important new addition was the recognition of the next generation with a special category for engineers in early careers and for some younger still for their essays envisaging their views of the 125 year future.

All were up-staged however by the winner of the President’s Medal. He was the polymath “Father of Composite Materials” and Vice Chancellor of Surrey University and founder of that university’s exemplar Science and Research Park, Prof Anthony Kelly CBE DL FREng FRS. Despite his years and his obvious frailty, in a strong and confident voice he exhorted all of us in the audience to “stop whingeing and get on making the country great again”.

What a good  motto for us all!

Keeping the internet “intune”.

I have a confession to make. Last week’s column was ghosted for me because I wasn’t able to attend our Nasdaq vs AIM: Smackdown event. By all accounts, including my own, I missed a great event and one that we all hope will inspire many more of our young entrepreneurs to throw their hats into the ring, so to speak. I’m not apologising, mind you, for I was in Dublin supporting one of our contenders for a possible future IPO in either market: Intune Networks, an exciting company based in Dublin and Belfast.

I’ve written about this company before on the basis that they represented truly disruptive technology, a term often used but rarely experienced. Put simply, and I regret to say that’s as much as I understand these days, their technology offers guaranteed quality of service and efficient use of fibre, despite the anarchy of Internet protocols. If adopted widely, they will allow a continued internet future for all the surfing, downloading, music and video that today’s teenagers accept as given, almost a human right, at least until they get a bit older.

The underlying technology and science behind the Intune Verisima product goes back much further than 1999, when the company was founded as a spin-out of UCD. Basic fibre optics and the laser go back to the sixties when Charles K. Kao made a discovery at STC research laboratories, that led to the first ultrapure fibre optic being made just four years later, in 1970 and for which he earned the 2009 Nobel Prize. Others, including myself in a small way, went on to add to the associated technologies of fibre communication. In particular, very highly tuned lasers were invented which I remember around 1990 were hailed as offering the prospect of each human on earth having a laser line associated with them so they could receive their personal data.

Obviously that didn’t quite happen but another spin-off of military technology of the same era, did. This one was hyped by the suggestion that each of us might have a phone and number which would be recognised and available to us all over the world. So was born the mobile phone.

Meanwhile, fibre optics developed across the world, including here in Northern Ireland. Researchers in STC (Jordanstown) quietly produced the high speed switches, essential for the first generation internet “take-over” of the communication world. This became the business we know today as Nortel and peaked just before the bust at $3Bpa.

Intune Networks is one of the dozen or so exciting companies that erupted mushroom like around Belfast but backed from all over the world, following the Nortel retrenchment: so it is particularly gratifying to see it succeed some ten years later.  The magic dust in this case came from two young researchers at UCD whose genius was to see how all the elements of the technology could some together to solve the key issue for IP users. You can read about it yourself at http://intune-rocks- bono-says-it-will-change-the-world for example. Then think how we can make it our collective mission to ensure that all the good ideas of our young researchers get their day in the sun!

Boxing Clever on the World’s Stock Markets

Last week’s ‘NASDAQ vs AIM: Smackdown’ event hosted by NISP CONNECT and the Chartered Accountants Ireland Ulster Society was declared a credible draw in the end following a fascinating bout between two heavyweight teams representing both the New York and London investment markets. Neither team delivered a knock-out blow on the night as it became clear that both markets offered excellent opportunities to Northern Ireland entrepreneurs and high growth companies to float their companies through an Initial Public Offering (IPO).  The challenge was also thrown down to more local companies and entrepreneurs to raise the scale of their ambitions and to consider this route as a means of growing their companies to a £100M+ value rather than selling them at £20M.

Over three debating rounds held in the Europa Hotel, over 200 attendees heard the different perspectives of the investment banker/financier, the bourse and the entrepreneur – all with experience of both markets. In one corner representing NASDAQ there was Tom O’Neill, NASDAQ Board member and Chairman of Ranieri Partners; Isabella Schidrich, Senior Managing Director, NASDAQ and Chris Horn, Founder and former CEO of Iona Technologies which achieved the fifth-biggest initial public offering (IPO) in NASDAQ history. Team AIM was represented by Hugh McCutcheon, Davy Corporate Finance, Marcus Stuttard, Head of AIM, London Stock Exchange and Hugh Cormican, CEO of Cirdan Imaging and Co-founder of Andor Technology, one of only three NI companies to have been floated successfully on AIM to date.

The debate centred on the pros and cons of both these markets but also addressed many of the myths and misconceptions that exist about the process of floating.  To date, Northern Ireland has only a handful of companies which have gone down this route and compared with other regions in the UK we have still a long way to go to realise the full benefits of IPOs. If we are to develop a stronger local economy the message was heard loud and clear – we must aim higher and try to grow more £100M+ companies here which in turn will bring with it increased wealth and investment in Northern Ireland.

There are some encouraging indications that more NI companies are now showing an interest in this route and as a result we hope to see some more public flotations of local companies in the months ahead. We at the NI Science Park and our various business advisory partners involved in NISP CONNECT are working hard to provide whatever support and guidance we can to help companies to successfully approach and navigate the IPO process.  Continuing the boxing analogy… if Northern Ireland wishes to compete for world titles our local technology firms need to box clever on the world’s stock markets. I for one am confident they will. Seconds out…

Friendly competition for a knowledge economy

Last week, I wrote of my hope for the new Assembly and the priority I would wish it to give to supporting our knowledge economy aspirations. This week let me paint the picture of the size and scope of the competition from across the Irish Sea.

My thoughts were prompted by a visit to Daresbury Science and Innovation Park, roughly half-way between Liverpool and Manchester. Until ten years ago, this had been the site of the National Syncrotron, a device once a key part of the UK nuclear programme that had become, in essence, a giant, high-power light bulb. Its light streamed out of a series of ports at wavelengths anywhere between X-rays to mm-waves at fantastic intensities, which allows all sorts of science measurements and experiments from deep physics, through materials engineering to dynamic studies of biological systems.

All things, however good, must come to an end and Daresbury’s Syncrotron was closed in favour of a new device, the Diamond Light Source, but in Oxfordshire, this time. Now, as you can imagine, the gritty North Westerners did not take this lying down. They formed the first Science-Industry Council (akin to Matrix, our Science-Industry panel) in the late 1990s. They first studied and then began to broadcast the state of their region, its dependence on Science and most importantly what to do about it. They faced a task and opportunity similar to ours.

Everybody thinks they know the NW of England; Andy Capp, Coronation Street, red bricks, canals and cotton but that’s not what they found. They discovered an economy of 7m people, producing a GVA of £120B (larger than many countries including the Ukraine and ROI) of which some 25% was directly dependent on Science and Technology. They also found one of the strongest research bases in Europe due to Universities with a combined turnover of £1.2 billion, 50 Research Institutes and three of the top 10 UK companies by R&D investment,  Astra Zeneca (£2.5bn), Unilever (£637.5m) and Rolls-Royce (£454m); not forgetting, BAE Systems (£176m), Eli Lilly (£107m), Bentley Motors (£105m), Renovo (£20m) and Protherics (£18m).

Manchester was one of the earliest Science Parks in the UK (and one that has given us much help and advice in our own development) but the beginning of the 21st Century and spurred by the NW Science Industry Council, massive new investments have been made in each corner of the region.  Daresbury alone has had £80m in its infrastructure, with huge success in attracting high quality, high growth tenants, similar to ourselves but scaled by four times the investment. Now the private sector has become involved and all thoughts of the loss of the Syncrotron have been banished.

Now the thinking turns to how to keep it going and that’s why I was there, as the Institute of Physics, to chair a discussion on the industrial perceptions of the value of physics and of physicists. As I’ve written before, with all the proposed changes to Higher Education and in particular the suggested level of funding cuts as well as changes to the schools’ curricula, we have a worry that supply of quality skilled graduates will not keep up with the clear demand from the growing knowledge sector. And speaking from experience, physics is not a topic you can learn late in life.

We need not have worried there: we found all present believed that physics (in combination with other STEM disciplines) continues to be of vital importance to new high growth companies in places like the Daresbury Science and Innovation Campus (and NI Science Park), who are able to employ graduates at full added value.

I also took note that we better get a bit faster in our own plans for the growth of the knowledge economy locally or our graduates might exercise their mobility!

What a fast changing place is Northern Ireland

It’s probably infra dig to refer in one paper’s column to an event sponsored by another but my observation from the recent Belfast Telegraph Business Awards was too significant not to comment; that the overall winner and a fair few of the other award winners and runners-up were local high technology companies.

Almac, the winner of the Outstanding Business Team of the Year, was the third pharmaceutical creation of the late and much missed Alan McClay and it has been able to carve a global position for itself in the complex world of drugs and their effective manufacture and delivery. They have a strong relationship with academe, as signaled by the outstanding McClay library at Queens, whose imposing façade brackets our Victorian jewel, the Botanic gardens, with another award winner, the Ulster Museum. (I look forward to the day when the historically significant Tropical Ravine is restored to its proper splendor, but that’s a different story.)

The others included Andor, a specialist spin-out of Queen’s University. It was formed to make available to the world the excellent camera designs that the Queens’ physics team had created to find planets orbiting suns outside our solar system. Andor has gone on to take the technology into many other markets and I would recommend their website to anyone interested to see, literally, the building blocks of life that they can now reveal :

( .

The third I want to pick out is HeartSine Technologies, a spin-out of the University of Ulster, and the latest in a long line of legacies from Frank Pantridge, our late master of portable defibrillation, or the electrical jolt to re-start a stopped heart. I guess many know of Pantridge but few know the work continues turning his invention into a model of innovation (which is the monetizing of invention and creativity). Without that excellence, which I’m delighted was recognized here, then we would not have the business and the world would not have these wonderful machines which can turn a member of the public into a first aid expert, .

I have to confess a special affection for Heartsine, as the early Science Park (all two of us) moved out of our room in Thomas Andrews House, to let all six of them to set up and get started quickly. Heartsine was never a tenant as their rent went straight to H&W Property Ltd but then UU spun out another company to make some key components for them. By that time, we had room in our old portacabin and they joined us as our second tenant. So began the company that makes the defibrillators for the US president and the European parliament.

The significance of this to me is in the rate of change. Only a decade ago, when we started work on the Science Park, many questioned whether Universities would ever have a role in business (beyond the general “finishing” the education of our business and political leaders). Our aim was nought to Nasdaq in ten years and this year’s awards show we’re getting there!

Well done all the winners but investors should note the accelerating success of our high techs.