Revolutionary research complex creates 20 jobs
A WELSH university’s revolutionary research complex has created 20 jobs and won millions of pounds in grants over the last five years.
Since acquiring The OpTIC Centre in St Asaph in 2009, Glyndwr University has made huge strides with a number of projects, including the world-leading ESO team’s ground breaking achievements in polishing mirrors for the £900m European-Extremely Large Telescope (E-ELT).
Glyndwr Innovations, the commercial arm of the University, was named fastest growing company in Wales in 2012 and fourth-fastest last year, as well as topping the Creative and Knowledge Industries category for the second time in a row.
And in 2013/14 alone, The OpTIC Centre has won contracts with external partners totalling more than £500,000, having won over £2m in research grants.
VIP visitors have included Prime Minister David Cameron, First Ministers Rhodri Morgan and Carwyn Jones, Labour Party leader Ed Miliband and Karren Brady, vice-chair of West Ham FC and a star of BBC’s The Apprentice.
Among the businesses housed on-site in cutting-edge incubation units at OpTIC are View Holographics, Kent Periscopes, MC Diagnostics, and Zeeko, innovative and high-technology firms all reporting strong growth and clearly benefiting from the facilities on offer.
Glyndwr’s own technology groups have also gone from strength to strength, according to Centre for Solar Energy Research (CSER) Director, Professor Stuart Irvine.
“Since 2008, CSER has grown from a small team of six to over 15, carrying out world class research in photovoltaic solar energy and working with industry to develop new opportunities,” he said.
“We’ve already attracted over £5m of new investment and worked with over 40 companies; this could not have been achieved without the unique facilities at OpTIC.”
Geoff Andrews, CEO of View Holographics, said the OpTIC community is populated by “world-leading experts creating world-leading technologies and businesses”, a point echoed by Peter Maguire, managing director of MC Diagnostics.
“I would highly recommend start-up companies locate their business at The OpTIC Centre,” he said.
“The premier location and facilities are superb, and you can never underestimate the benefits of interacting with like-minded people. Basically, it’s a great place for new and growing businesses.”
Under Glyndwr’s management, demand for business facilities at the site has grown to record highs, forcing plans for expansion.
The site is also home of the National Facility for Ultra Precision Surfaces, where the team, led by Tony Fox-Leonard, are successfully polishing mirrors for the E-ELT, a giant eye on the sky made of 798 segments and located on Mount Cerro Armazones in Chile, where it is set to gather 15 times more light than the largest telescopes around today.
They recently polished the 1.5 metre optic down to just 7.5 nanometres – which equates to around the size of a haemoglobin molecule – a world-best result putting Glyndwr firmly on the map of international applied research and development.
Professor David Walker said: “From basic operations in an otherwise empty building, Glyndwr has developed the National Facility for Ultra Precision Surfaces into a world-renowned centre attracting academic and industrial visitors from around the globe, commercial contracts, and publications in the top-ranking international optics journals and conferences.
“The facility has won projects and grant-funding from Welsh Government, EPSRC, STFC, TSB, EU-FP7, plus contracts from both the science base and industry. The acquisition of OpTIC by Glyndwr University in 2009 helped secure the development of the technology programme, and gave additional academic stimulus to the work.”
“Its execution required considerable foresight on behalf of the University, both to commit to the major capital investment needed, and to create a team capable of the aggressive technical development demanded.
“It is notable that two mirror segments have now been formally accepted by ESO, and that the quality not only matches ESO requirements, but is 2-3 times better than the French competitors - the incumbents in the field.”
He added: “This investment is now paying off, as it has equipped the UK in general, and Glyndwr University in particular, with an advanced technical capability that is both unique and in worldwide demand.
“Alongside processing the third segment which is well underway, the team is actively working on developing the partnerships and commercial relationships to secure the long-term vitality, productivity, and financial security of this national facility.”