A testing kit that can detect a type of bone cancer, a groundbreaking walking aid and an environmentally friendly polymer roof tile are among the innovations shortlisted in the Lord Stafford Awards 2011.
The awards, which are now in their 15th year, celebrate and showcase the best in collaboration between business and universities.
For the first time, the awards are covering both the West and East Midlands with the winners across four categories unveiled at the final at the University of Birmingham Great Hall on Thursday November 18.
Among the innovations shortlisted is the test for myeloma which has been developed by University of Birmingham spin-out company Serascience.
Currently, testing for myeloma – a form of cancer of bone marrow plasma cells – requires patients to attend a specialist laboratory with a waiting time of several days for results.
Myeloma can develop from a condition that is present in 1 per cent of the healthy population, rising to 3 per cent in 60-year-olds and 8 per cent in 80 year-olds with 4,000 new cases of myeloma detected each year.
The new innovation – developed by Serascience Ltd which has emerged from a joint venture between the University of Birmingham and Abingdon Health Ltd – enables testing to be done by medical staff in less than ten minutes.
Another University of Birmingham entry is the university’s Centre for Formulation Engineering which, since 2000, has been delivering lead-edge research for some of Britain’s biggest household names.
Formulation engineering is concerned with the processes that create formulated product structure for use in foods, pharmaceuticals, paints, detergents and agrochemicals.
The centre works with businesses from across the Midlands and beyond including Unilever, Cadbury, Boots and Rolls Royce and is the only facility of its kind in the UK.
The Centre for Formulation Engineering is shortlisted in the Open Collaboration category, going head to head with the Manufacturing Technology Centre at Ansty.
The £40 million flagship research facility for high-value manufacturing is bringing together major industry players such as Airbus, Aero Engine Controls and Rolls Royce.
Funded by Advantage West Midlands and the East Midlands Development Agency, the MTC is the result of collaboration between these agencies and the centre’s research partners, Loughborough University, the Universities of Birmingham and Nottingham, and the TWI, and the manufacturing industry.
Covering a range of sectors – such as aerospace, automotive, ICT, energy and marine – the MTC was established to accelerate innovative product and process development in a wide range of innovative manufacturing capabilities.
In Coventry, three companies have been shortlisted including the Molecular Solar innovation at Warwick University.
The groundbreaking micro-thin solar panel, which could save phone and handheld device users the frustration of flat batteries, has been shortlisted for a prestigious innovation award.
Molecular Solar is a company which was spun out of the University of Warwick’s department of chemistry in 2008, since when they have secured more than £1 million in funding to develop the product to the point where it is ready to go to the market.
The company has developed third generation solar cells which offer the prospect of very low cost, lightweight, flexible panels which could be incorporated into mobile phones or used for roll-up chargers to ensure ongoing charge, even while the user is indoors.
The charger has been shortlisted in the innovation in development category of the awards where it faces competition from the Abianco Walking Aid.
Ian Jones, owner of Abianco Holdings Ltd, has developed the Abianco Walking Aid which includes three revolutionary features which it is hoped could help the ageing population and people with disabilities worldwide.
In addition to an ergonomically designed, soft gel handle, which particularly helps those with arthritis, the walking aid has a self-stand mechanism which prevents it falling to the floor and a shock-absorbing tip which reduces stress on the arms, shoulders and back.
The Abianco Walking Aid was developed in partnership with the Coventry University Health Design & Technology Institute (HDTI) which was set up to help bring medical technological innovations to the market.
HDTI helped Ian with concept design, computer aided design modeling, prototype and other complex procedures to bring the idea to life.
In the ‘innovation achieved’ category a Black Country manufacturing company which makes signaling relays for railways around the world head-to-head with a Staffordshire company which has developed a pioneering electrical testing system used by Jaguar Land Rover.
STS Rail in Cradley Heath has manufactured the relays for decades, exporting the units for use in signal boxes and, thanks to a groundbreaking link up with Birmingham City University, the company has improved testing, transformed production, and is now selling ten times as many units as it was five years ago.
Meanwhile, Cannock-based add2, JLR and the Warwick Manufacturing Group have made major steps forward in improving motor engine testing techniques and will be vital in making the technology for hybrid vehicles viable by developing the groundbreaking testing system for premium vehicles.
Much of the initial testing issues and analysis of different battery conditions stemmed from WMG’s relationship with JLR before it the hardware was developed by add2.
And in the sustainability category, Telford-based Green Roof Tile Company has joined forces with the University of Wolverhampton to develop a polymer roof tile – named the Envirotile – which could revolutionise the construction industry.
The Envirotile was developed by roofer of 35-years and managing director of Telford-based The Green Roof Tile Company, Trevor Wakefield and weighs just 710g – less than a quarter of the weight of conventional concrete roof tiles.
Lord Stafford, patron of the awards, said: “Every year the wealth of innovation in the Midlands developed as a result of collaboration with universities becomes more and more spectacular.
“This year, some of the most impressive innovations and research projects we’ve seen in years have been shortlisted and I wish everybody involved the best for the awards dinner.”