Thirteen areas will share a total of £95 million in the initial phase

Digital economy gets boost from first wave of full fibre funding

The benefits of access to gigabit-capable full fibre infrastructure took a step closer for many businesses when the Chancellor announced the first phase of a £190 million improvement project.

In his first Spring Statement, Philip Hammond MP revealed that 13 areas will share £95 million in the first wave of the Local Full Fibre Network (LFFN) initiative. The successful bidders are Armagh City, (including Banbridge and Craigavon), Belfast, Blackpool, Cambridgeshire, Cardiff, Coventry (including Solihull and Warwickshire), The Highlands, London, Manchester, Mid Sussex, North Yorkshire, Portsmouth and Wolverhampton.

Although 95% of premises in the UK can get superfast broadband, only 3% have access to full fibre infrastructure. In order to serve the dramatically growing need for this capability, as the IoT and connectivity becomes more important to industry, the Government will look to make deployment of this infrastructure more commercially viable with a series of projects. 

The successful projects include:

  • Using hospitals, health centres and GP surgeries as 'anchor tenants' – providing a full fibre 'hub' to which surrounding homes and businesses can then also connect.
  • Upgrading schools, libraries and emergency response buildings to gigabit-capable full fibre connections.
  • Strategic re-purposing of existing infrastructure, allowing full fibre to be rolled out at a fraction of what it would otherwise cost.
  • Creating 'fibre spines' along major transport routes and public building networks. These extend a supplier’s fibre footprint, making full fibre connections more available to surrounding homes and businesses.

Part of the Government's £31 billion National Productivity Investment Fund, the LFFN programme aims to support the UK's growing digital economy.

The new total artificial heart device mimics a natural human pulse

Heart transplant patients could receive a lifeline with permanent solution

The future of people awaiting heart transplants could be transformed if a project to develop a new permanent artificial heart replacement device is successful. 

Led by the same university that developed the first artificial heart valve in 1960, the solution would provide hope to the millions of people who die of heart disease every year. The device was originally designed by now-retired Richard Wampler, MD of Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU), who was a surgical resident there under Albert Starr, MD, the co-inventor of the first artificial heart valve. The concept is now being advanced by the OHSU Knight Cardiovascular Institute.

“OHSU was the first to have an artificial heart valve, and now we are aiming to be the first to have a permanent, practical total artificial heart,” said Sanjiv Kaul, MD, CEO of the Institute. “We want to close that loop.”

Designed to entirely replace a failing heart in adults and children aged over 10, the simple and robust device does not have the many complex mechanical parts that make existing artificial hearts suitable only as temporary solutions. 

It replaces two ventricles – the human heart’s lower chambers – with one titanium tube that contains a titanium alloy-coated hollow rod that shuttles back and forth. This to-and-fro motion moves blood to the lungs so it can grab oxygen and then sends the resulting oxygen-rich blood throughout the body.

The OHSU device also creates a blood flow that mimics a natural human pulse, reducing the risk of blood clotting, blood damage and other complications. Power would be obtained from a combined controller and rechargeable battery pack that could be carried in a pocket or on a belt; ultimately, advances in battery technology could lead to the pack being implanted under the skin.

If the initial tests on sheep are successful, OHSU will request federal permission to run trials on humans.

“Considering the human heart beats 14 million times a year, it’s crucial that an artificial heart is durable and robust,” Mr Kaul said. “The simple, efficient design of our total artificial heart makes its potential for failure very low.”

Oxygene harnesses electricity generated by photosynthesis process

Living moss helps Goodyear's new tyre design to improve air quality

An innovative system that 'inhales' CO2 and 'exhales' oxygen is at the centre of Goodyear's environmentally-friendly tyre concept, unveiled at the Geneva International Motor Show.

The Oxygene concept features an open structure, allowing living moss growing within the sidewall to absorb water and moisture from the road surface and facilitate photosynthesis. The company claims that if used in a city similar in size to greater Paris, with about 2.5 million vehicles, the tyre could generate nearly 3,000 tons of oxygen and absorb more than 4,000 tons of carbon dioxide.

Other eco-credentials include the tyre's construction – it is 3D printed using rubber powder from recycled tyres and its puncture-free solution will help to cut maintenance costs. Oxygene also harnesses electricity generated during photosynthesis to power its embedded electronics, as well as using a visible light communications system, or LiFi, to connect to the Internet of Things. This allows vehicle-to-vehicle and vehicle-to infrastructure data exchange at the speed of light. 

“With more than two-thirds of the world population expected to live in cities by 2050, the demands on transport networks in urban environments will increase substantially,” said Chris Delaney, President of Goodyear Europe, Middle East and Africa. “Smarter, greener infrastructure and transport will be crucial in addressing the most pressing challenges of urban mobility and development.

“Like the concept designs Goodyear has presented at Geneva in the past, Oxygene is meant to challenge our thinking and help drive the debate around smart, safe and sustainable future mobility. By contributing in this way to cleaner air generation, the tire could help enhance quality of life and health for city-dwellers.”

The research centre will be built in the Deeside Enterprise Zone

New advanced manufacturing facility could add £4bn to Welsh economy

Planning permission has been granted for the Welsh Government to build an advanced manufacturing research centre that will help to boost productivity, commercialisation, innovation and skills. 

The Advanced Manufacturing and Research Institute hopes to see its first facility open in the summer of 2019, so construction will start soon. With a strong focus on sectors such as aerospace, automotive, nuclear and food, there will be the potential to support key manufacturing companies, multi-sector supply chains and the SME economy as a whole. 

“I am delighted that planning permission has now been granted for the Broughton site of our new Advanced Manufacturing Research Institute," said Economy Secretary, Ken Skates. "This means that work can continue at pace on a project which will maximise economic opportunities in the region and  has the potential to increase Wales’ GVA by as much as £4bn over 20 years.

“In order to compete globally, Wales must remain competitive. As set out in our Economic Action Plan this means adapting to modern techniques and understanding the potential opportunities offered by collaboration and changes in economy  such as the  fourth industrial revolution.

“The new institute will have these aims at its very heart. I am genuinely excited by the impact it could have on our economy and look forward to work progressing well  and to the institute opening hopefully in summer 2019.”

Paul McKinlay, Senior Vice President of Airbus – confirmed as the first member to access the Broughton site – said: “The approval is fantastic news not only for Airbus and aerospace but other industries such as automotive. The Institute will give a huge boost to the competitiveness of the advanced manufacturing supply chain in Wales and I am delighted Airbus is part of this exciting journey from the very start.

“I’m looking forward to seeing new technologies and techniques being developed under the AMRI roof and the major benefits they will bring.”