New research projects seek to support Scottish innovation

New research projects seek to support Scottish innovation

For immediate release: 2 September 2004

Some of the brightest researchers from home and around the world will be able to develop their ideas here in Scotland , thanks to grants totaling over £1.2 million awarded by The Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE).  Innovative research, offering public benefit in areas such as healthcare, the ageing population, communications, energy and the environment is to be supported through the RSE, in partnership with key funders in the public and private sectors. Over 40 new awards are to be announced at the annual Research Awards Ceremony to be held at the RSE in George Street , Edinburgh on 2 September 2004.

RSE President, Lord Sutherland of Houndwood said:

The RSE’s Research Awards support some of the most outstanding young scientists and innovators working in Scotland today.  The benefits of their research are far-reaching, with work in areas such as healthcare, the environment and our ageing population, advancing the social and economic well-being of Scotland .  It is only through valuable partnerships with key bodies such as BP, the Caledonian Research Foundation, the Lloyds TSB Foundation for Scotland , PPARC, Scottish Enterprise , the Scottish Executive and the Wellcome Trust that we are able to provide these awards.  To each of these partners, we offer our sincere thanks.  The Research Awardees for 2004 have attained a standard of excellence, which does them much credit and I wish them every success.

The Organisations and Trusts which fund the RSE to administer these awards are:

The Lloyds TSB Foundation for Scotland ;
The Particle Physics & Astronomy Research Council (PPARC);
The Scottish Executive;
Scottish Enterprise and
The Wellcome Trust.

The latest funding is part of the RSE’s successful Research Awards scheme which supports exceptionally talented academics and potential entrepreneurs.  With support from The Scottish Executive and a broad range of private and charitable bodies, these highly competitive awards enable people with good ideas, across a spectrum of disciplines to research and develop their work for the good of Scotland and beyond.  A full summary of the new projects follows overleaf.  The institution listed immediately prior to the Awardee’s project summary indicates where the research will be undertaken.

Research Awardees 2004

BP Personal Research Fellowship

Dr Benjamin Hourahine. Modern Theory for Optoelectronics Materials.  Department of Physics, University of Strathclyde

For several promising new electronics technologies, silicon is unable to deliver and alternatives have to be investigated. Applications like producing light efficiently or running at extremely low or high power could then extend the battery life of portable devices, make faster electronic switches and produce longer lifetimes for existing devices. A promising type of material for these applications is "wide gap" semiconductors, which include materials like gallium-nitride, silicon-carbide and even diamond. However, many of the properties of these materials are poorly understood and require study. This fellowship will apply new state-of-the-art computer models to investigate the behaviour of these materials.

Scottish Executive Personal Research Fellowships

Dr Richard Blythe. The Statistical Physics of Nonequilibrium Phenomena.  School of Physics University of Edinburgh

Statistical physics is a theory for predicting collective properties exhibited by large numbers of interacting entities. Currently, this theory is highly successful for describing spontaneous, structural rearrangements of molecules when, say, a solid freezes or a liquid evaporates. Unfortunately, it does not cater for "nonequilibrium" systems that flow or evolve over time. Examples are many, varied and include the dispersal of crowds from public venues, the spread of an epidemic through a human population, or indeed its virtual counterpart as a computer virus spreading across the internet. The aim of this research is twofold: first, by working with relevant experts, to gain better understanding of the phenomena that arise from specific models in the physical, biological and social sciences. Secondly, by combining the knowledge gained from these studies it is hoped that common themes can be identified which will allow Dr Blythe to develop a more coherent fundamental theory for predicting accurately the properties of nonequilibrium systems.

Dr Timothy Drysdale. Micro Antennae for Terahertz Endoscope.  Department of Electronics & Electrical Engineering, University of Glasgow

Cancer is the leading cause of premature death in Scotland , making better treatment a national priority. A key difficulty in surgically treating tumours is determining when they have been completely removed, because ill-defined tumours often extend into apparently healthy tissue. Imaging systems that operate at terahertz frequencies (a frequency range between radio waves and light) can determine the exact size of skin tumours, but cannot see inside the body. This project aims to help take terahertz imaging inside the body by developing technologies such as micro antennae that could eventually be retrofitted to a conventional surgical endoscope.

Dr Annette MacLeod. Human infectivity in African trypanosomes: a genetic and population based approach.  Wellcome Centre for Mollecular Parasitology, University of Glasgow

African sleeping sickness is a fatal disease affecting an estimated 450,000 people in sub-Saharan Africa with current epidemics raging in Sudan and Central Africa . The disease is caused by a parasite, the African trypanosome.  Some strains of the parasite infect humans, causing the disease, whilst others are unable to infect humans. How does this happen? The aim of this project is to determine the mechanisms involved in infecting humans by firstly finding the genes involved in human infectivity, which will ultimately lead to the discovery of new approaches to combat this important disease.

Scottish Executive Support Research Fellowships

Prof Mark Ainsworth, FRSE.  Discontinuous-Continuous Computational Models for Structural masonry.  Department of Mathematics, University of Strathclyde

The existing masonry infrastructure in Scotland is enormous and improved rational assessment procedures to extend the life of what are in many cases part of the national heritage is of considerable importance. The development of sound and reliable mathematical models for masonry would pave the way for alternative repair strategies to be simulated and explored in a virtual environment. Difficulties arise in the numerical modeling owing to the length-scales involved, ranging from the order of several metres in an entire structure to the order of cm in the individual stones, to mm in the mortar joints.  The presence of metal anchors in regions of high-stress means that hairline cracks in the stones and mortar units must also be taken into account if one is to have confidence in the predictions. The aim of the project is develop a mathematical framework for the construction of computational models for the simulation of structural masonry.

Dr Jacques Fleuriot.  Formal Verification of Air Traffic Management Algorithms.  School of Informatics , University of Edinburgh

Over the last decade or so, aeronautics researchers have proposed many procedures for real-time conflict detection and resolution (CD&R) in aircraft trajectories. However, these techniques often involve complex reasoning, especially for multiple-aircraft situations, and so are difficult to prove correct by traditional means, such as pen-and-paper proofs or computer simulations and testing. Moreover, these particular verification approaches are time-consuming, incomplete and potentially error-prone, and so cannot provide any absolute guarantee of correctness. This research aims to develop and apply mathematically rigorous methods from automated reasoning and artificial intelligence to the modelling and verification of air-traffic management algorithms for CD&R. This will result in a guarantee (in the form of mathematical proofs and theorems in a computer system) that the algorithms have the desired properties and thus ensure that they can be trusted in safety-critical situations.

Dr Catherine Jones. Identification of genes influencing Gyrodactylus salaris ectoparasite resistance in Atlantic salmon.  School of Biological Sciences University of Aberdeen

Atlantic salmon can become infected with a freshwater skin parasite Gyrodactylus salaris that has devastated salmon stocks in many Norwegian rivers during the last 25 years. Norwegian control measures involve chemical treatment of infected areas to kill all existing fish, but in other countries, such as Scotland , the greater diversity of wildlife in rivers prevents this approach because of unacceptable collateral damage. Should this parasite infect the highly susceptible Scottish stocks the consequences would be catastrophic, impacting salmon farming, tourism generated from fishing wild salmon and other linked industries. This project aims to understand which genes make some salmon resistant and others susceptible to parasite attack, and devise a test which will allow fish carrying resistant genes to be selected for breeding, providing farms with salmon which should remain healthy if this disease enters the UK. The importance and location of individual genes stimulated by parasite infection will be determined, using genome-wide expression methods (microarrays; miniature grids of thousands of genes) to study their behaviour.

Lloyds TSB Foundation for Scotland

Personal Research Fellowships

Dr Ashley Craig.  The role of Chk2 in mammalian ageing.  CRUK Cancer Centre, University of Edinburgh

As we age, our bodies progressively lose the ability to repair damaged tissues, which has a profound impact on the efficiency of wound healing. However, many of the molecular factors which influence tissue repair in the elderly are currently undefined. It is now becoming clear that factors that protect from cancer are also involved in the ageing process. For example, the cell cycle checkpoint protein, Chk2, is a key component of the cellular damage response that has recently been implicated in the ageing of cultured human cells. This research project will investigate changes in Chk2 activity in ageing tissues, and aims to identify the mechanisms that control Chk2 activity in response to age-related tissue damage signals. The identification of novel age-specific Chk2 regulators will be the first stage in developing specific inhibitors to temporarily switch off Chk2 activity in damaged tissues, and allow them to heal more efficiently. The future application of novel drugs to improve post-operative wound healing will have clear benefits to the health and quality of life of older people undergoing elective surgery.

Dr Anna Dickinson.  Why do older people get flummoxed by computers?  Investigation into development of home-based communication application.  Division of Applied Computing, University of Dundee.

Ageing can be associated with loneliness, especially for people who are housebound. As we age we are also more likely to experience sensory and physical changes that can make it difficult to stay in touch with family and friends using conventional means. For example, many frail older people find it difficult to write letters since the strength and flexibility involved in holding and manipulating a pen with sufficient force can be lost through arthritis or other age-related conditions, and hearing impairment can severely impede telephone communication.  Computers are tremendously flexible and powerful tools for communication which allow people to create messages by typing, writing or through speech and to receive messages in a form that suits them.  The advantages of computers to help combat loneliness for older people, however, have not been fully exploited: most software is designed for younger people who have a lot of experience using computers.  A computer-based system which did not presuppose experience with computers or the characteristics of a young adult, would help many isolated people to communicate. The Queen Mother Research Centre within Applied Computing at the University of Dundee is a centre for the development of software for older people. Building on the expertise of the research staff in the department, a communication system for older people will be developed and evaluated with older people as a primary method of communicating with remote family and friends.

Lloyds TSB Foundation for Scotland

Research Studentships

Mr Charles Duffy.  Neuromuscular Adaptations to Innovative Exercise programmes for Improving Functional Abilities in Older people.  Department of Applied Physiology, University of Strathclyde

The ageing process often results in older people experiencing a decline in maximal muscle power, to the extent that they can no longer perform everyday activities unaided, like walking and climbing stairs. This leads to a loss of functional independence, which severely reduces the quality of life. Numerous exercise training studies indicate that older people’s muscle functioning can be improved and the effects of ageing are potentially reversible. Nonetheless, the results from these studies have proved inconclusive as to the best method of improving muscle power and functional mobility optimally. The project aims to establish the exercise stimulus that produces optimal gains in muscle power and functional mobility in the older population, through investigating the neural mechanisms responsible for the decline in muscle power with ageing and testing a novel training hypothesis. These results will be used to develop an effective training programme that can be easily implemented into local authority GP referral schemes. This will provide the older population with an opportunity to regain and maintain their function independence into later life, thus benefiting their quality of life.

Miss Beth Wilson.  Remembering the self: Autobiographical memory in an ageing population.  Department of Psychology, University of Dundee

Autobiographical memories are memories where the self plays the leading role.  Theories of identity over the lifespan suggest that ageing is a process of life consolidation, where autobiographical memories are used to create a coherent sense of self. However, this aspect of cognitive function is not well understood in neurodegenerative conditions common to older people. Recent investigations have revealed that loss of autobiographical memory for people with Alzheimer’s disease profoundly affects identity coherence. The proposed research will examine how Parkinson’s disease influences autobiographical memory and identity, as Parkinson’s neuropathology is known to affect memory retrieval processes.  The outcomes of the research will be used to develop strategies for the alleviation of memory deficits that will help to improve quality of life for the ageing population.

Cormack Undergraduate Prize 2003 (Shared)

Ms Nicola Armstrong.  Solar Coronal Heating – Nanoflares  School of Maths & Statistics, University of St Andrews

One of the major problems in Solar physics over the last 60 years has been the heating of the Sun’s outer atmosphere, the corona, which is some 200 times hotter than the surface of the Sun. One of the most likely types of small-scale phenomena to be heating the corona are nanoflares, transient events with energies of about 1023 ergs. Their distribution with respect to energy is believed to be a power law and it can be shown that if the power-law index is less than -2 then the smallest nanoflares dominate the heating. Current published estimates of the index range from -2.7 to -1.2.  The aim of this project is to apply different detection routines to the same data set, to establish if current differences in estimates can be attributed to different detection techniques and come up with a better estimate of the errors involved in calculating nanoflare power-law indices.

Ms Isla Simpson.  Accretion onto stellar magnetospheres: Feeding Young Suns.  Department of Physics & Astronomy, University of St Andrews

T Tauri stars are very young stars that are less than a million years old and have a mass similar to or less than the Sun. They are surrounded by a warm disc of gas and dust within which planets may form, so investigations on these stars are very important in aiding the understanding of processes that occur during the formation of solar systems like our own. It is believed that material falls onto the star from the disc via a process known as accretion. This accretion process has been studied for many years and it has become increasingly apparent that the stellar magnetic field plays an important role.  The aim of this project was to investigate the way in which the stars magnetic field channels the flow of material from the disc onto the star and to see if these flows could be responsible for creating hot spots that are observed on the surface of T Tauri stars. This project showed that gas can leave the circumstellar disk travelling slowly but then accelerates as it falls towards the star, crashing onto the surface at speeds of over 200 kms-1, which is sufficiently fast to create the observed hot spots.  Work is continuing to investigate the accretion processes that go on in these stars and how they affect the disc and the star. This is hoped to give a greater insight into the formation of young solar systems like our own.

Cormack Postgraduate Prize 2003

Mr Ben Panter.  Star Formation and Metallicity History of the SDSS galaxy survey.  Institute for Astronomy, University of Edinburgh

Understanding how the Universe came to be as we see it today is of great interest to science. By calculating the ages of stars in a hundred thousand galaxies Mr Panter has been able to extract the history of starbirth in the Universe from the present day back to the big bang. This analysis was made possible by using the new "MOPED" data compression algorithm, developed at the Royal Observatory.  The algorithm allowed work that would have taken over ten years of computing time using traditional methods to be completed in just one month with no loss of accuracy.

Cormack Vacation Research Scholarships 2004

Mr Thomas Barber.  The Age of Galaxies.  Institute for Astronomy, Royal Observatory, University of Edinburgh

The ages of galaxies are best determined from the ages of their stars. To do so requires modelling the spectra of the galaxies by evolving the population of stars that compose them. This project involves using a new stellar population synthesis code that incorporates the most complete and up-to-date library of high-resolution stellar spectral templates. The goal of generating high spectral resolution templates was to match the spectral resolution of the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, which for the first time will enable the estimate of galaxy ages using specific spectral features that have proven the most reliable means to date for obtaining accurate ages. The Sloan is a massive astronomical survey being conducted by a consortium of universities that is measuring the spectra of a million galaxies and is providing the most complete knowledge of the present state of galaxies available. The unprecedented amount of astronomical data being collected has led to its becoming a model for the developing astrogrid and e-science generally.

Ms Ruth Carr.  Determination of the Origin of Coronal Loop Oscillations.  School of Maths & Statistics, University of St Andrews

The Sun provides us with a unique opportunity to study a star in close detail and hence form a basis for our understanding of other stars. The solar atmosphere consists of three different layers; the photosphere, chromosphere and the corona (respectively moving outwards). From 4300K at the top of the photosphere, counter to one's intuition, the temperature starts to rise again, until reaching several million degrees Kelvin in the corona. This coronal heating problem has proved to be a major challenge for solar physicists and remains yet to be fully answered.  High-quality, space-based observations by e.g. SOHO and TRACE recently revealed the presence of oscillations in many solar structures. This detection is crucial in order to determine the presence and relevance of waved-based coronal heating mechanisms. Additionally, such observations may be used to improve existing estimates of coronal properties, from methods such as 'coronal seismology'. The idea is that oscillations carry physical information about the structure and the properties of the medium in which they occur. If we can analyse and model observed oscillations, then we can aim to deduce properties of the coronal structures in which they occur.  However, before these oscillations can contribute to coronal seismology, several questions needs to be answered. The positions of the footpoints of the oscillating coronal loops will be examined, as well as the inclination of the magnetic field lines.

Mr Mark Douglas.  The Magnetic Structure of the Solar Corona.  School of Maths & Statistics, University of St Andrews

Mr Matthew Lee.  Shell Properties of Detached Shell Stars.  School of Physics & Astronomy, University of St Andrews

Mr Stuart Lynn.  Irradiation of Accretion Disks near Black Holes.  Department of Physics & Astronomy, University of Edinburgh

Radiation from several parts of the electromagnetic spectrum including visible light can be observed from the centre of a number of galaxies. It is widely believed that many of these galaxies are centered around black holes up to 8 billion times the size of our sun which devour matter from their host galaxies. As material comes close to the supper massive black hole it gets torn apart by the tremendous gravitational forces and forms an accretion disk that spirals in to the hole. This disk, its material increasingly moving faster as it spirals in, becomes superheated and produces ultraviolet and x-ray radiation where as visual light is believed to be generated from parts of the disk that are further out and therefor cooler.  The difficulty with this model is that it predicts far to little visible radiation compared to what is observed. This project is looking at the possibility that the emitted x-ray and ultraviolet radiation from the inner disk is being deflected by the gravity of the black hole itself and in some cases landing on the visual emission region of the disk. The disk would then absorb the radiation and reemit it as visual light accounting for the discrepancy. This will be done by computationally tracing the paths of photons around initially stationary and then possibly rotating black holes.

Ms Rowan Smith.  The Effects of Supernovae on the Interstellar Medium: Linking Theory and Observations.  Department of Physics & Astronomy, University of St Andrews

This project uses a computer program to simulate the effects of stars exploding in our galaxy. These explosions are called Super Novae. The force generated from such an explosion pushes the gas and dust which exists in space outwards creating huge bubbles".

An existing computer program will be modified to represent this situation. Several possibilities will be tried out by changing the position of the explosion, how much dust there is and what shape the dust is in.  Results can then be compared with real observations to see how similar they are and hopefully some insights into Super Novae will be gained.

Lessells Travel Scholarships

Mr Robert Currie.  Active Management of Distributed and Renewable Generation.  in Distribution Networks.  Massachusetss Institute of Technology , USA . University of Strathclyde

If renewable energy targets are to be met and expensive upgrading of the electricity grid avoided, active management of the distribution network is necessary. Active management is the real-time monitoring and control of electricity network components and generators to achieve an operational goal, in this case the exploitation of renewable energy. Research has focused on controlling renewable generators in order to achieve network optimisation. Researchers at MIT are considering similar research themes in the context of the American electricity network. This visit will cement the link between the Laboratory for Energy and the Environment (LFEE) at MIT and the Institute for Energy and Environment at the University of Strathclyde.

Mr Joseph Emans.  Vibration enhanced drilling – Experimental and Analytical methods.  Terralog’s offices, California , USA Terratek test facilities, Utah , USA .  University of Aberdeen

Mr Blair Fyffe.  Fracture properties of snow.  Institute for Snow, Davos , Switzerland , University of Edinburgh

The aim of this work is to make a detailed investigation of various aspects of the brittle fracture toughness of snow. Brittle fracture toughness is basically a measure of how easily a crack can propagate through a material. The latest avalanche papers suggest that this is probably the key parameter in the release process of the majority of avalanches, and yet little fieldwork has been done in this area. This award will allow Mr Fyffe to carry out this work next winter based at the Swiss snow and avalanche institute at Davos , Switzerland . It is hoped that this work might be used to develop new snow stability tests and improve avalanche prediction.

Dr Darren Graham.  The Application Of Lean Methods To Construction Project Planning  University of California at Berkeley , USA . University of Edinburgh

The aim of this study is to develop a computer-based tool which will allow lean methods to be applied in construction projects. If a project were viewed as a chain of processes, lean methods involve reducing the waste in every single process along the chain, to ensure value for money is given to the client.  Developing this tool will allow construction managers to plan and control projects using lean methods. It will be most appropriate in projects which are unique or subject to time pressure, and therefore could reduce the cost of constructing schools, hospitals or even Parliament buildings.

Miss Natalie O V Plank.  Carbon nanotubes for nanoscale electronics  The University of Edinburgh . In collaboration with NEC Fundamental and Environmental Research Laboratories, Japan

Due to the constant demands for smaller and more versatile electronic devices, the development of novel processes and new materials for producing molecular electronic devices is a top priority of many research groups around the world.  Single-walled carbon nanotubes (SWNTs), which can be thought of as a sheet of graphite that has been rolled up to form a tube, have unique electronic properties whereby an individual tube may behave as a metallic conductor or as a semiconductor depending upon the tube formation. As well as this, the inherently small scale, ~1nm in diameter, involved means that SWNTs are a prime candidate for nanoscale device fabrication. The key objective of this research collaboration is to develop novel methods of using SWNTs integrated into current silicon based technology for nanoscale electronic devices.

Ms Jana Urban.  Tools for Personalised Multimedia Information Management University of Illinois , USA . University of Glasgow

The fast growing market for digital cameras in combination with the World Wide Web's potentials for sharing information, has significantly contributed to the surge of digital image and video data. Consequently, the requirements to manage and search these vast amounts of data have become ever more pressing and challenging. While a lot of attention has been drawn to providing efficient indexing and search algorithms, the focus of the proposed research is on new interaction paradigms. The idea is to develop a system, which places searching in a personal task-related context by combining the organisation and search process.  This is achieved by adapting to its users based on learning from their actions. The ultimate goal is to provide an effective environment for the user to organise and locate images for their day-to-day requirements.

Caledonian Research Foundation Personal Research

Fellowships in the Biomedical Sciences

Dr Graham Rena.  Biochemistry and cellular biology of FOXO transcription factors Division of Pathology & Neuroscience, Ninewells Hospital & Medical School , University of Dundee

Dr Rena is studying the role of proteins in the body’s cells. Proteins are complex chemicals that are commonly regulated by addition of smaller chemicals such as phosphate. Working on living cells in culture, he recently discovered that clusters of phosphates attached to a protein can act as a cellular 'postcode,' promoting efficient delivery of proteins in a way that cannot be mimicked by a single phosphate. If Dr Rena can work out how cells 'read' or sense these clusters he hopes that this will ultimately foster much more rational and effective attempts to prevent the cancer, diabetes and neurodegeneration that are known to result when cell proteins are incorrectly regulated.

Dr Rainer Breitling.  Representation and exploitation of diverse biological evidence in a systems biology context.  Plant Sciences Group, Institute of Biomedical & Life Sciences, University of Glasgow

New experimental techniques, such as whole-genome sequencing and large-scale surveys of gene expression have led to an explosion of available data in biology. To make sense of this flood of data it will be essential to develop automated reasoning algorithms that extract, combine, and interpret current biological knowledge and newly generated data. The proposed work will first examine the ways biologists interpret their data when they analyze them "by hand". In the next step Dr Breitling will formalize and automate these approaches.  The penultimate goal of this research is to develop analytical tools that provide lab researchers with the most concise and to-the-point interpretation of their data to guide their next experimental steps. The ultimate goal is the establishment of a principled automated reasoning system that can help with the construction of predictive biological models that will be at the core of future biomedical research.

Royal Society of Edinburgh/Scottish Enterprise Enterprise Fellowships(2004 Round 1 Enterprise Fellows – start October 2004):

Life Sciences

Dr Paul Ajuh.  Discovery and development of lead compounds for use as anti-fungal drugs based on novel RNA splicing protein targets.  University of Dundee

There is great demand for new drugs in the multi-billion anti-fungal market due to the growing prevalence of severe and opportunistic fungal infections (in patients with weakened immune responses caused e.g. by AIDS, diabetes, some cancer and immunosuppressive therapies) and patent expiry of fungicides with the largest market share. Furthermore, the commonly used fungicides have a limited species activity range, cause serious side effects and are starting to show pathogen drug resistance. RNA splicing, an essential process in all eukaryotes and many viruses, occurs in the cell nucleus before protein synthesis commences. We have identified many novel protein factors in this process that are essential for cell viability, both in humans and in a wide variety of pathogens. Results from our research and others’, validate the potential use of the proteins as new targets for drug discovery. A functional analysis of these new splicing factors has led us to design several small peptides that can inhibit splicing with species specificity. Dr Ajuh is currently using these factors to develop HTS assays to identify chemical compounds that can block splicing. These compounds as well as the inhibitory peptides will be developed into new drug leads. His technology should lead to the development of new medicines that have few of the drawbacks of the commonly used fungicides and with potential applications in cancer and some viral therapies. This fellowship will assist the commercialisation of the technology through a spinout company, which aims initially to identify and develop new drugs that can kill pathogenic fungi e.g. Candida, Aspergillus, etc., by specifically blocking protein synthesis in the parasites.


Dr Rayne Longhurst. Development of Molecularly Imprinted Polymer (MIP) sensors for Environmental Applications.  School of Engineering , The Robert Gordon University , Aberdeen

New European environmental directives require enforcement agencies and operators, such as sewage treatment facilities and marinas, to know with a high degree of accuracy the level of contaminants on their sites. New technology being developed at the Robert Gordon University for commercialisation is based upon a new type of chemical sensor called MIPs (molecularly imprinted polymer sensors). Polymers are imprinted with a target substance, i.e. caffeine, which is a good indicator of sewage contamination.  When the caffeine is washed out, the polymer acts as a sensor with caffeine shaped holes for highly specific rebinding when deployed in the environment. The technology will establish Scotland as a leader in environmental monitoring techniques.

Mr Andrew J. Willshire.  Remote Monitoring & control of electrical submersible pumps using sensor technology.  University of Strathclyde

Optical fibre sensors offer improved range, resolution and bandwidth over conventional sensor types, as well as immunity from electromagnetic interference. However, optical sensor interrogation schemes are expensive, fragile and can be difficult to operate and maintain. This limits their use in industrial environments.  It is the aim of this project to take the proven concept of a solid-state (i.e., no moving parts) interrogator and multiplexer and produce a commercial system capable of addressing multiple sensors with minimal input from the operator. This will allow the non-specialist user to take full advantage of the benefits offered by fibre optic sensors. In addition, the system would be immune to vibration and temperature, facilitating its deployment in hostile environments previously considered unsuitable, e.g., downhole pumps, aero-engines etc.


Dr Alan Feighery.  SOFCRoll Fuel Cell.  University of St Andrews

The global market size for fuel cells and hydrogen technology is estimated to be $20 billion by 2011. In order to achieve significant penetration into this massive marketplace, ambitious performance and cost targets must be achieved. This project aims to commercialise our patented ‘SOFCRoll’ fuel cell design, which enables the use of cheap, easily scaleable manufacturing and can compete with other fuel cell designs being developed globally. Fuel cells can potentially be used to generate power in applications ranging from handheld electronic devices to buildings, resulting in decreased reliance on fossil fuels, decreased CO2 emissions and improved power quality.  The SOFCRoll fuel cell is a multi-layer ceramic device which operates at high temperatures. Oxygen and a fuel gas (e.g. hydrogen) are supplied to the fuel cell, which electrochemically combines the two gases, producing electricity and heat more efficiently than by conventional energy production methods.

Food and Drink

Dr KC Namkung.  Innovative Water Cleanup – Advanced Fenton Technology.  University of Abertay , Dundee

Many industries, from food and drink to chemical factories through paper manufacturers, produce aqueous recalcitrant organic wastes that can cause environmental pollution if untreated. They spend around £1.2 billion annually on effluent treatment in the UK alone. These costs have steadily increased due to stricter legislation and increasing public pressure for pollution prevention in industrial activities.  Therefore, there exists a strong demand for more cost-effective and efficient technologies for purification of industrial wastewater. An innovative method pioneered at University of Abertay , Dundee uses a principle called the Advanced Fenton Process (AFP) to convert organic pollutants into innocuous materials. It uses a safe, inexpensive oxidising agent, a solid catalyst and introduces ultrasound energy to enhance the whole process. This project for commercialization of AFP will ultimately contribute to enhancing sustainability of various industrial activities in Scotland.

Royal Society of Edinburgh/PPARC Enterprise Fellowship

Dr Chris Doran.  A User-Friendly Optical Sensor System for Hostile Environments

GA Solutions – Revolutionising Geometry.

The last five years has seen a revolution in the mathematical description of the geometry of space.  This was triggered by the discovery of a new mathematical language, Geometric Algebra, which provides powerful tools for manipulating geometric objects such as points, lines, planes, circles and spheres. Mr Doran is seeking to develop two commercial applications of this new technology.  In computer graphics geometric algebra can speed up calculations involved in ray-tracing and collision detection. These are both essential components of CGI and gaming technologies. The same mathematical techniques can be used to compute the electromagnetic fields around conductors and semiconductors, which is of interest to wireless and mobile phone companies, semiconductor manufacturers, and the defence sector.

Mr Ian Latham.  Aluminium mirrors for gamma ray telescopes and renewable energies

University of Durham

Mr Latham has developed an aluminium mirror for gammaray astronomy telescopes that is 60% lighter and 10% more reflective than traditionally used glass as well as being highly robust and durable. This market is worth £13.8m over the next ten years. The aim of this project will be to expand the application of these mirrors into the renewable energies market, providing less expensive and environmentally cleaner, solar lighting and solar power for homes and industry. Although in its infancy, initial indications are that, in the USA alone, solar lighting would result in the reduction of carbon emissions of over five billion tons a year and represent a revenue of £6m per year from 2008.

Royal Society of Edinburgh/Scottish Enterprise Enterprise Fellowships

(2003 Round 2 Enterprise Fellows – started April 2004)


Mr Ralf Klinnert.  A fun outdoor activity game for children to stimulate physical activity.  School of Engineering , Napier University

The alarming increase in the number of obese children the UK in recent years has fostered a number of high profile initiatives, including Scottish Executive programs, with the common goal of reversing this trend and improving the health and fitness of children. Besides promoting a healthier diet, encouraging more physical activity is the main focal point of many of these initiatives. This Enterprise Fellowship will enable Mt Klinnert to continue the design and development of a novel outdoor activity game for children, and also provides invaluable support in establishing the best way for its commercialisation.  This unique game provides a gripping, competitive and fun challenge for teams of children, while also stimulating their physical activity. The game could therefore not only be played in a variety of youth groups or among friends at home, but it could also provide a valuable tool for professionals involved in the above initiatives, such as the recently introduced activity coordinators in primary schools, who need to think of new ways to “get children moving”.


Dr Ian Apple.  Silver Nanoparticles and SERRS Diagnostic Systems.  Department of Pure and Applied Chemistry, University of Strathclyde

Communications Technologies

Mr Nandaraj Hosabettu.  Automatic Cable Fault Locator.  Signal Processing Division, University of Strathclyde

Locating cable faults in underground cable networks currently requires high user skills. In the case of underground low voltage distribution cable networks (LVDN) that were installed throughout the world in the 1960s, the structures used had an intended lifespan of 30 – 40 years. LVDN faults are now found to be increasing annually, and utilities are being faced with large costs in locating and repairing them within specified timescales. Currently available diagnostic equipment is not capable of predicting faulted sections of a cable network with multiple T-joints to an acceptable confidence level. Much of the interpretation and judgment depends very much on the skill of the engineer involved. The complexity of fault location increases with the number of T-joints on the cable. The University of Strathclyde has developed novel algorithms to overcome the current approach and automate the location of cable faults. These algorithms were successfully tested and incorporated within a portable hand held instrument. This instrument is currently being beta tested and commercialised.


Mr Matthias Dürr.  Scottish Fuel Cell Consortium Ltd.  Institute of Energy and Environment, Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering, University of Strathclyder Susanne Olsen.  Hybrid Membrane Separation System.  School of Engineering , The Robert Gordon University

Higher levels of greenhouse gases can cause potentially disastrous changes in the environment like violent storms, expanding deserts and melting ice caps, causing sea levels to rise and engulf coastal regions. Driven by the low carbon economy, the development of a CO2 separation system which can operate in high pressure and temperatures is becoming essential to the world. This project will develop a product which can separate CO2 from other gas streams, being appropriate for enhanced oil recovery, exhaust gases from power plants, natural gas upgrade for pipeline specification and many other applications. Carbon dioxide recovery will facilitate utilisation and thus make a significant contribution to the global push for clean fuels on one hand, while helping the industrialised countries to meet international targets on the other.

Life Sciences

Dr Lindsay Cairns.  Peptide Immunotherapy to suppress the immune response to blood group antigens.  University of Aberdeen

Nasal delivery of synthetic peptides that mimic regions of blood group antigens will prevent potentially fatal immune responses that occur as a result of blood group incompatibility. This most commonly occurs as a result of incompatible blood transfusion, or haemolytic disease of the fetus and newborn when an Rh-negative mother encounters the D antigen on the blood cells of an Rh-positive fetus. The mother produces antibodies that cross the placenta, destroying the red blood cells of a fetus, which can lead to severe and potentially fatal anaemia. The current therapy, anti-D immunoglobulin, prevents the initiation of an immune response to the Rh D antigen but is only of temporary benefit because it provides passive immunity. Tolerance to Rh D induced by the administration of Rh D peptides via the nasal mucosa results in active immunity, similar to vaccination and provides long-term tolerance to the antigen. Dr Cairns will develop this novel therapy for both the prevention and reversal of immune responses to Rh D and apply the technology to a variety of other blood group antigens.


Dr Martin O'Dwyer.  Optical Biopsy System for Photo diagnosis of Cancer.  Department of Physics & Astronomy, University of Glasgow

Mr O'Dwyer is attempting to commercialise an optical system that uses laser light to excite fluorescence from human tissue, the detailed characteristics of which allow cancerous or dysphasic tissue to be distinguished from healthy tissue. This optical measurement system is quick, straightforward and non invasive, simply requiring a “pen-sized” probe to be held against the subject’s skin. It may also prove possible to modify the system to detect and monitor a wide range of drugs, again from measurement of skin fluorescence.  Prototype instruments have already been developed and are currently being used by Mr O'Dwyer’s collaborators in the UK and abroad.

Wellcome Research Workshop

Dr David Donaldson.  Getting the most from neuroimaging: developing standards, protocols and best practice for event-related potential studies of human cognition.  Department of Psychology, University of Stirling

Research Prize-winners 2004

Makdougall Brisbane Prize

Dr James Wright. School of Mathematics , University of Edinburgh

Awarded biennially, with preference to a person aged under forty working in Scotland , for particular distinction in the promotion of scientific research. It is awarded to Dr Wright for his outstanding contribution to the mathematical analysis of generalised and singular Radon transforms.

BP Prize Lecture in the Humanities

Dr Rebecca Kay. Department of Central and East European Studies, University of Glasgow

Awarded biennially to a person aged under forty working in a Scottish Higher Education Institution. This award is made to Dr Kay, in recognition of her contribution to the Humanities in Scotland . The Prize Lecture is due to be delivered at the RSE on Monday 5 September 2005.

Gunning Victoria Jubilee Prize Lectureship

Professor Peter Bruce FRSE. School of Chemistry , University of St Andrews

Awarded quadrennially in recognition of original work by a scientist resident in or connected with Scotland . The Prize Lectureship is awarded in the field of chemistry on this occasion and goes to Professor Bruce in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the public understanding of science in his lithium battery work.


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