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Government embraces Hargreaves IP review

15 August 2011

The government says it broadly supports recommendations made in May 2011 by Professor Ian Hargreaves in his report, ‘Digital Opportunity: A review of intellectual property and growth’. Business secretary Vince Cable said the Hargreaves review highlighted the potential to grow the UK economy by creating a more open intellectual property system that will allow innovative businesses to develop new products and services.

Among the recommendations that have been accepted is the proposal for a UK Digital Copyright Exchange - essentially a digital market place where licences in copyright content can be readily bought and sold. The review predicted that a Digital Copyright Exchange could add up as much as £2bn a year to the UK economy by 2020. A feasibility study will now begin to establish how such an exchange will look and work, and the government says it will report on progress later in the year. A raft of exceptions to copyright has also been mooted.

A new intellectual property crime strategy and international strategy for intellectual property have been published alongside the government response. The crime strategy outlines how the Intellectual Property Office will continue to enforce IP crime issues domestically, while the international strategy sets out the UK’s five-year plan to get the international IP framework in the best possible shape to support innovation and growth - particularly important when you realise that patent backlogs are costing the global economy as much as to £7.4bn a year.

Intellectual property is a key UK export and global trade in IP licenses alone is worth more than £600bn a year. IP minister Baroness Wilcox says UK businesses need to have confidence in the international IP framework so they are able to create and exploit value from their ideas.

Another worthy project falls foul of government cutbacks
Centrifugal pump specialist, Amarinth has decided to continue with its research and development work on manufacturing impellers optimised for best efficiency point to better match pumps to the customer’s duty point, despite the Carbon Trust terminating funding for this project.

Already well advanced as the cutback was announced, Phase 1 of the project had proved that optimised impellers had the potntial to reduce energy consumption by up to 25% compared with ‘fit-to-curve’ pumps, reducing annual CO2 emissions in Amarinth’s target market by 17,000 tonnes by 2020 and 110,000 tonnes by 2050. Phase 2 had developed efficient vanes and commercially viable pattern equipment and Phase 3, the production of prototype impellers and production testing in Amarinth’s new test bay facility, was well under way.

Amarinth was the lead organisation in the High Efficiency Centrifugal pump (HEC-pump) consortium working with Furniss & White (Foundries) and Pera Innovations, and it is currently leading negotiations to keep the consortium together and complete the project. The company's managing director and HEC-pump consortium spokesman, Oliver Brigginshaw expressed his disappointment in a recent press statement.

"The government has clearly stated it wants to invest in UK business and develop export opportunities, particularly in manufacturing," he said. "This project will result in the companies in the consortium becoming world leaders in reducing energy use and carbon emissions in pumps, opening up many new business opportunities.

“Despite this, one of the first things the government has pulled the plug on is important projects such as this which will take the country forward by developing highly technical solutions, generating employment and increasing UK exports. We are still 100% committed to progressing with the project; however, the pace may now have to slow down to spread the additional costs we will have to absorb.”

But it's not all doom and gloom
Win some, lose some, as the saying goes. While Amarinth licks its wounds, the rechargeable Lithium-ion battery specialist, Nexeon is celebrating another big private cash injection to boost its pioneering use of silicon anodes in place of carbon. Oxfordshire based Nexeon wants to use the new funding to establish a world class manufacturing facility, scaling up the production of its latest silicon anode materials to a commercial supply level of 250 tonnes per annum.

Use of silicon anodes in Li-ion batteries produces a significantly higher performance and overcomes the limitations of present-day technology. Batteries with higher energy density can offer longer time between charges, higher power output, smaller size or a combination of these benefits. They are eagerly awaited for applications in cell phones, laptops and many other consumer devices, as well as having important application in electric vehicles and in the storage of renewable energy.

The latest funding brings the total raised by Nexeon to £55m, and its timing is perfect for the company as international interest grows in the wake of recent sample cell developments with significantly higher capacity for their size than the best current commercial equivalents.

Les Hunt


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