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UKINNOVATION UK135 all the people who take part in our knowledge- transfer schemes and activities to let us know how we're doing, and where there are areas for improvement, and I'm look-ing forward to finding out their views. It's essential that we continue to offer a wide range of knowledge- transfer activities and investigate ways in which we can expand the opportunities provided by the Research Councils." Take, for example, First Water Ltd, which specialises in products that allow wounds to heal more quickly - improving patients' well- being and helping to reduce the cost of treatment. Collaboration with Aston University's Biomaterials Research Unit, through Knowledge Transfer Partnerships and collaborative PhD studentships funded by the Engi-neering and Physical Sciences Research Council ( EPSRC), helped First Water devise new products, install improved process technology and boost manufacturing efficiency, increasing turnover by over 50%, from £ 2.4m to £ 3m, during the two- year period of the project. The Knowledge Transfer Partnership ( KTP) between First Water and Aston University started in 2002 to develop equipment and methodology for the analysis of inno-vative hydrogel products. The partnership, funded by EPSRC and the Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council ( BBSRC), was a huge success and has led to a further three related KTPs, enabling Aston Uni-versity Biomaterials Research Unit to develop strong col-laborations with smaller companies like First Water as well as maintaining long- term relationships with larger companies like Johnson & Johnson, Ciba- Novartis and Procter & Gamble. By taking part in Knowledge Transfer Partnerships, First Water has leveraged additional projects worth more than £ 1m, although benefits of the collaboration include not only the commercial value of the resulting products, but the potential for a reduction in the costs of healthcare. Research Councils UK is the strategic partnership of the UK's seven Research Councils: » Arts & Humanities Research Council ( AHRC) » Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council ( BBSRC) » Economic & Social Research Council ( ESRC) » Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council ( EPSRC) » Medical Research Council ( MRC) » Natural Environment Research Council ( NERC) » Science & Technology Facilities Council ( STFC). For more information, contact: Tel: 01793 444592 E- mail: communications@ rcuk. ac. uk Website: www. rcuk. ac. uk The cost of prescribing chronic wound- care products is around £ 100m per year in the UK and it is widely rec-ognised that costs can be significantly reduced and the well- being of patients improved through more effective treatment regimes. Successful collaborations such as this one are vital in driving forward developments in this area. Knowledge transfer is just one aspect of how Research Councils UK works with different partners to ensure that the research we fund has the highest possible impact on society and the economy. Supporting and encouraging excellent and innovative research in the UK is the key to a healthy, productive and sustainable future. To visit the Knowledge Transfer Portal, go to: www. rcuk. ac. uk/ innovation/ ktportal/ default. htm Centres of Excellence Research Councils uk

136INNOVATION UK Centres of Excellence SOUTH WEST: South West Regional Development Agency South West The South West RDA's role in encouraging innovation is a mixture of direct delivery and of influencing the strategies, policies and actions of a wide range of other organisations. Its main aim is to ensure that the innovation agenda is fully recognised throughout the region. It aims to: » » Undertake key initiatives to encourage innovation in business » » Increase the rate of technology transfer between further and higher education, public sector research establishments and businesses, particularly internationally. A range of initiatives supports the promotion of innova-tion in South West England. These include: » » Developing business incubation units and science parks » » Developing a strategy to increase business birth- rate » » Establishing the Regional Venture Capital Fund » » Supporting identified priority sectors for the region » » Developing the South West Observatory. South West England is home to the UK's largest con-centration of silicon designers, second in the world only to the US. The sector employs approximately 5,000 people. A feature of the cluster is its active start- up cul-ture, with more than £ 250m raised in venture capital in recent years. In order to encourage this, a sophisticated support struc-ture has evolved, with assistance from the South West Regional Development Agency. Silicon design companies located in the South West have the dual advantage of a supportive ecosystem and a highly skilled workforce. The latter is the legacy of Inmos in Bris-tol and GECPlessey Semiconductor in Swindon. Between them, these two organisations trained a generation of silicon designers and, while the organisations themselves have changed beyond recognition, the designers endure and have gone on to lead the world in areas like RF, video, multicore processor and reconfigurable components. Central to the growth of the industry are the start- up business incubators run by SETsquared, which is a part-nership between the universities of Bath, Bristol, South-ampton and Surrey. These incubators provide high- growth potential technol-ogy start- ups with serviced office space, business guid-ance and mentoring, as well as access to a high- calibre network of experienced entrepreneurs, potential investors and business professionals. They have a proven track record of helping high- tech ventures to move from initial ideas to commercial viability. Silicon South West was founded by Simon Bond ( who runs the SETsquared incubators in Bath and Swindon) as a way of reaching out to the entrepreneurial semiconduc-tor sector in the region. " Entrepreneurs can be anywhere," Simon says, " embed-ded in an organisation or working at their kitchen table. Some of our entrepreneurs are from spin- out companies from the universities, but the majority just happen to live around here. Silicon South West holds regular events that generally attract in excess of 100 delegates and our news-letter includes some of the most highly regarded writers from the electronics sector. " Semiconductor start- ups in the Silicon South West net-work also enjoy free access to the latest Electronic Design Automation software as a way of helping them to raise investment." Exciting developments are currently underway that look set to secure the future of the electronics sector in South West England. Silicon South West recently secured UK Trade & Investment funding to run a pilot to fast- track semi- conductor start- ups in the region. And, even more significant for the region, are plans to create the UK's first Silicon Research and Development Centre at the S- Park Science Park in Bristol. Simon Bond concludes: " Almost all high- value indus-try, including environmental technology and aerospace, depends on silicon design. The South West's new Silicon Research and Development Centre will allow more semi-conductor design companies to enhance their designs at prototype stage and, subsequently, improve the speed to market for their silicon chips. " Nothing else like this exists in the UK and it will provide an important competitive advantage for the UK, attract-ing growing numbers of inward investors." If we've whetted your appetite to invest in South West England as a place for innovative companies, then you can find out more by visiting www. sw- england. com