Test centre to bring tidal technology on stream

Test centre to bring tidal technology on stream

A £2.4 million engineering research facility will seek to speed the development of materials and structures for tidal energy, transport and other industries.

The FASTBLADE facility will test new materials within full scale structures such as tidal blades, plane components and bridge sections.

It will be built by the University of Edinburgh and commercial partner Babcock International at Rosyth in Fife, as part of a strategic partnership nurtured by Edinburgh Innovations.

World first

FASTBLADE will be the first facility in the world designed to carry out large-scale accelerated testing of tidal blades. Testing will use complex forces that simulate real environments, limiting the risks for product developers.

Engineering researchers will use an efficient hydraulic technology – developed by University spinout company Artemis Intelligent Power – which enables structures to be tested significantly faster and using less energy compared with existing technologies.

The system will recover energy between load cycles, reducing the cost of testing.

“This collaboration is an opportunity to develop a world-class engineering facility to accelerate and support the development of new efficient technologies, and will be a great benefit to the tidal energy sector.”


– Professor Conchúr Ó Brádaigh, Head of School of Engineering

Material development

FASTBLADE’s first clients will include tidal stream developers. Tidal blades made of composite materials need to be designed to withstand high fatigue loads in harsh ocean conditions for up to 20 years.

Pioneering measurement systems will enable developers to learn from test datasets to understand damage accumulation and optimise blade structures through data-driven design.

Facility support

FASTBLADE will help fulfil the University’s commitments as part of the Edinburgh and South East Scotland City Region Deal, which includes targets to help improve digital skills across the whole of the region.

The facility has received £1.4m from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and £1m from the University of Edinburgh. Babcock is the principal designer and host of the facility.

FASTBLADE is a key strand of a strategic partnership between Babcock and the University, developed with proactive support from Edinburgh Innovations over the past 18 months.

“For us, this really is a great industrial partnership. Our engineers working alongside the University’s renowned academics has shown what the art of the possible is, in engineering and in working together. Whilst we are still at the early stages of development I know we are creating something that isn’t just a great opportunity for us, it will have real benefit for all the companies using the facility in years to come.”


– Neil Young, Technology Director, Babcock

Related links

Boosting Scotland’s international digital collaborations

Boosting Scotland’s international digital collaborations

With support from Edinburgh Innovations, EIT Digital, a European digital innovation and education organisation with a €100 million annual budget, has opened its first UK Satellite office at the University’s Bayes Centre.

Funded by Scottish Enterprise, the Scottish Funding Council and EIT Digital, and hosted by the Bayes Centre, the new Satellite will contribute to achieving the Scottish Government’s goal to deepen relationships between Scotland and the EU.

It also aims to increase innovation and investment in R&D, increase university-industry knowledge exchange, develop skills in Scottish businesses, and promote Scotland’s offer to investors and talent.

“Our vision is for a Scotland where innovation is an intrinsic part of our culture, our society and our economy.


This project will allow academia and businesses to work together to drive innovation.


It also enables Scotland to raise the profile of its digital assets across Europe, helping to attract both inward talent and investment while connecting Scotland’s businesses to experts and potential collaborators.”


– Innovation Minister Ivan McKee, speaking at the opening ceremony.

Europe’s strategic challenges

With an annual budget of €100 million to drive Europe’s digital transformation, EIT Digital invests to accelerate the market uptake of research-based digital technologies focusing on Europe’s strategic, societal challenges: Digital Industry, Digital Finance, Digital Cities, Digital Wellbeing and Digital Tech.

EIT Digital Chief Executive Officer Willem Jonker told an audience of around 100 at the Satellite opening that the challenge was to create a “digital single market” in connecting technology, educational institutions and finance.

Welcoming EIT Digital to his new home in the recently opened Bayes Centre, Senior Vice-Principal Professor Charlie Jeffery said it was right that the first Satellite should be in Scotland and in Edinburgh in particular.

“You’ll be right next door to the country’s leading grouping of Informatics experts and you’ll share space with other Scotland-wide organisations driving innovation, such as Data Lab, also based in Bayes, and Interface, just across the road, the Wayra startup accelerator programme and many more that are part of a thriving innovation ecosystem.”


– Senior Vice-Principal Charlie Jeffery

First in UK

EIT Digital is one of eight Innovation Communities of the European Institute of Innovation and Technology. It has 10 Co-Location Centres across Europe, including one in London, and the Scottish satellite is the first to be opened in the UK.

The EIT Digital Academy breeds entrepreneurial digital talent focused on innovation through a blended Education Strategy that includes a Master School, Doctoral School and Professional School.

The Edinburgh Satellite intends to host a new Doctoral Training Centre, with a focus on Fintech, and Cyber Security via a new programme supported by the Scottish Government’s Cyber Resilience Unit and ScotlandIS, plus other areas of national strategic importance.

Doctoral students

The doctoral students will be supported by universities across Scotland, with the first expected to start at the University of Edinburgh later in 2019.

In anticipation of EIT Digital’s launch in Scotland there has been increased interest in the EIT Digital annual funding round, and it is expected that the Satellite office will stimulate growth in the quantity and quality of collaborative research projects.

All projects funded by EIT Digital must be collaborations between at least two countries and must involve an industrial partner.

The University of Edinburgh has been a member of EIT Digital for the six years it has had a presence in the UK, and the relationship has grown and deepened throughout that time. Edinburgh Innovations funds the University’s membership of EIT Digital and is meeting the costs of the office space in the Bayes Centre, which will host three full-time EIT Digital staff.

EI has also helped throughout with relationship management, such as connecting with industrial partners for the Doctoral Training Centre and negotiations between the University and other stakeholders.

Related links

EIT Digital 

Business Insider

Project to bring clean water to billions wins Converge KickStart Challenge

Project to bring clean water to billions wins Converge KickStart Challenge

EI client Dr Ali Abbassi Monjezi, whose Waterwhelm startup aims to bring clean water to billions of people, has won the 2019 Converge KickStart Challenge.

The former Research Associate at the University of Edinburgh’s School of Engineering picked up the £10,000 award for early-stage projects with the potential to become high-growth businesses. The KickStart Challenge is one of four awards making up Converge Challenge, the Scotland-wide entrepreneurial programme for staff, students and recent graduates of Scottish Universities and Research Institutes.

Fresh water from waste

Dr Monjezi’s concept is to commercialise an innovative self-powered technology to produce fresh water from waste water while simultaneously generating electricity.

According to UNICEF, 2.5 billion people worldwide lack access to clean water, a number that is expected to continue to grow.

Dr Monjezi has been working for several years on a solution to this problem, and his project was deemed the most innovative and impactful proposition by the Converge KickStart judges.

Dr Monjezi beat the strong competition from a variety of high potential projects whose quality was said by Converge to be the highest recorded for this category.

The runner-up, winning £5,000, was Saskia Goeres from Designed for Life, a collaboration between the Glasgow School of Art and the University of Glasgow. Her first product, Sofa for Life, is a portable, washable and easily repaired sofa. Designed for life’s line of products aims to dramatically reduce landfill waste caused by low value furniture.

Speaking at the KickStart Awards, Dr Claudia Cavalluzzo, Director of Converge, said: “I heartily congratulate both Dr Monjezi from the University of Edinburgh and Ms Goeres from the Glasgow School of Art on their achievements today and look forward to hearing how they will flourish in the months ahead.”

The 2019 Converge KickStart event was held at the Open Experience, at RBS’s Gogarburn headquarters. RBS sponsored the Converge KickStart Challenge.

Related links

Converge KickStart Challenge

Partnership with heat battery firm wins Knowledge Exchange Award

Partnership with heat battery firm wins Knowledge Exchange Award

The University’s School of Chemistry and Sunamp, a company that makes heat storage products that cut greenhouse emissions and heating bills, have won the Powerful Partnerships Award in the Scottish Knowledge Exchange Awards 2019.

The partnership between the University and East Lothian-based Sunamp has been developing for more than eight years.

Environmental and economic impact

It has grown from a small consultancy project into a relationship that has created jobs, cut emissions from Scottish homes and provided opportunities for undergraduate and postgraduate students. The company is now poised to move into large new markets.

The Knowledge Exchange Awards, organised by Interface, the national organisation linking Scottish business to academics, were presented in seven categories by Ivan McKee, the Scottish Government’s Minister for Trade, Investment and Innovation.

“It is hugely promising to see such forward thinking and successful partnerships between Scottish companies and academia. These partnerships will help to drive a thriving and dynamic innovation ecosystem that is essential for improved productivity, competitiveness and growth.”


– Ivan McKee, Minister for Trade, Investment and Innovation

The Sunamp collaboration began in 2010 as the company sought to develop new heat storage technology using phase change materials (PCMs). The partnership has been supported throughout by Edinburgh Innovations.

Meeting of minds

When Professor Colin Pulham, Head of the School of Chemistry and Professor of High-Pressure Chemistry, met Sunamp’s founder and Chief Executive, Andrew Bissell, the two found common ground for materials research.

Through an EPSRC CASE studentship, PhD student David Oliver worked closely with the company, and within two years Sunamp had unique and world-leading PCMs. The company subsequently launched its first product.

The partnership team receiving their awardThree PhD students from the School of Chemistry have subsequently been employed by the company, five undergraduate students have worked at Sunamp on year-long industry placements, and masters and undergraduate research projects have been inspired by Sunamp’s real-world challenges.

“Not only has this highly effective partnership resulted in the development of exciting new technology that is now on the market, it has also opened up new opportunities for University students and staff, as well as for the company. Moreover, it has led directly to new research discoveries that will undoubtedly have significant impact on greener energy production and consumption.”


– Professor Colin Pulham, Head of the School of Chemistry

Sunamp’s core Heat Battery product, based on Dr Oliver’s PCM, was trialled in the EastHeat project in Edinburgh and East Lothian in 2016, co-funded by the Scottish Government. Sunamp products were installed in more than 650 homes, reducing energy bills for tenants and cutting carbon emissions linked with heating.

“From the beginning, when Interface introduced us and we did the first piece of work together under an Innovation Voucher, Professor Colin Pulham and I had a meeting of minds on the value and impact of tackling the huge challenge in developing new Phase Change energy storage materials.

“We have solved the riddle of low cost, high energy density, long life, non-toxic, non-flammable PCMs. This works exceptionally well because of the ‘porous boundary’ between the teams which allows us all to work together ‘as one’. We have achieved massively – transforming heat energy storage.  Further huge leaps are just ahead.”


– Andrew Bissell, CEO, Sunamp

The company has recently signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the world’s largest solar panel manufacturer, Trina Solar, targeting the 66 million Chinese homes that are heated by coal. The aim is to convert the homes to solar-powered heat pumps backed by Sunamp’s energy storage product, so the heat is available whenever needed.

Sunamp, which had three staff at the beginning of the relationship, now employs more than 30 people, a number it expects to rise to 100 soon as the company scales up its operations.

Edinburgh Innovations has worked with the School of Chemistry and Sunamp to develop a model in which Sunamp owns the intellectual property, key to securing substantial equity investment, while giving the University a set of royalty rights, coupled with the ability to publish and jointly promote the technology and associated research.

Related links

Knowledge Exchange Awards


Natural blue colouring pioneers win collaboration award

Natural blue colouring pioneers win collaboration award

University researchers and biotech firm Scot Bio have won a prestigious Scottish Life Sciences Award for their pioneering collaboration on natural blue colourants.

The partnership won the Innovative Collaboration prize for two years of work that has developed new molecular biology and extraction techniques to boost the yield and purity of Scot Bio’s phycocyanin product, a blue pigment it derives from spirulina algae.

Global market

Scot Bio aims to be a global leader in the rapidly growing market for natural food and drink colourants, and to become a major player in the pharmaceutical market, where phycocyanin has potential uses in cancer and liver treatments.

Polly Van Alstyne, Chief Operating Officer at Scot Bio, said: “This award is a welcome endorsement of the hard work carried out by everyone at Scot Bio and the University of Edinburgh, and a clear example of how collaboration between academia and the private sector can have huge potential in the creation of high value jobs and in commercialising intellectual property.”

Phycocyanin occurs naturally in spirulina. Scot Bio, based at BioCity Scotland in North Lanarkshire, uses a patented growing method to increase the volume of phycocyanin that the spirulina produces, resulting in higher yields than traditional pond-grown spirulina.

By producing spirulina in reactors rather than open-pond systems favoured by other suppliers, the company can offer traceability and security of supply that is highly desirable for brands using the blue colourant in their products.

Multiple collaboration projects

The company has collaborated with the University since 2013 on multiple research projects, led by Dr Andrew Free, Dr Attila Molnar and Dr Alistair McCormick from the University’s School of Biological Sciences, and involving several PhD and masters students. Scot Bio’s head of R&D, Dr Rocky Kindt, began his company-sponsored PhD at the University of Edinburgh in 2013 and joined the company in 2016.

From left: Dr Alistair McCormick, Dr Rocky Kindt, Scot Bio COO Polly Van Alstyne, Scot Bio CEO DC Van Alstyne, and Ivan McKee, Scottish Government Minister for Trade, Investment and Innovation.

On winning the award, Dr McCormick said: “We are delighted to have developed such a strong relationship with ScotBio – our collaborative projects have been highly beneficial for all staff and students involved.

“Working with ScotBio has helped to develop an interdisciplinary culture, and our research has since expanded into several new areas. This has led to significant fundamental and applied scientific advances, and high impact publications.

“This is a prime example of what can be achieved when academia and industry work together. We look forward to continued success in the future.”

Studentships and introductions

Supported by Edinburgh Innovations, the partnership has included a PhD studentship funded by IBioIC, two EastBio Case PhD studentships, an EastBio NPIF PhD studentship, a BBSRC Case PhD studentship, two MSc projects, two Phyconet Proof of Concept Awards, a Phyconet IB Seeding Catalyst Fund, and two IBioIC Micro Company Accelerator project awards.

Edinburgh Innovations has also helped connect the company with potential customers.

Two of the collaborative research projects are focused on synthetic biology, seeking to manipulate the gene sequence to increase pigment production, while a third developed an economically viable purification process to produce phycocycanin at scale at medicinal grade purity.

A new collaboration backed by IBioIC and BBSRC has just begun with the University of Edinburgh’s School of Physics & Astronomy to investigate mechanisms for improving the stability of the molecule.

Investment and growth

As the collaboration has developed, Scot Bio has won the backing of investors who see the potential of the company’s innovation. In November 2018 Scot Bio secured £2 million in an over-subscribed funding round to scale up its production, which followed a previous investment of around £500,000 in August 2017.

Scot Bio has recently scaled up its production capability to 16,000 litres and is looking to move from 2,000-litre tanks to 50,000-litre tanks within months. Its staff has grown from three to nine, and it has plans to increase its team by around 20 to accelerate its R&D and sales and marketing.

Related links

Scot Bio

Life Sciences Awards