Sir James Dyson to launch engineering institute in UK

November 5, 2016

Having long lamented the dearth of skilled engineers in the UK, British inventor Sir James Dyson is to launch his own technology university to help the country compete with Asian nations, the Guardian said.

The Dyson Institute of Technology will be based at Dyson’s campus in Wiltshire and will have an initial intake of around 25 students in September 2017. Dyson plans to invest 15 million in the institute in the next five years. He also plans to double his own engineering workforce to 6000.

According to the Guardian report, the entrepreneur came up with the idea after the he complained to the UK government about the shortage of skilled engineers in the UK. He was advised to take matters into his own hands. The Institute is the result.

“We are competing globally with Korea, Japan, Taiwan and Singapore,” he was quoted as saying. “It’s all the major technology nations and we have got to be better than them.”

He said the private sector has a duty to help alleviate the skills gap because the UK now needs 10 times more engineers than 10 years ago.

He said the problem was spreading beyond Europe and the US and was beginning to become an issue in Japan. “It seems that the fast-growing economies or emerging nations really recognise the value of engineering, but when you reach security there us less interest in what makes you successful.”

Students at the Institute will not have to pay tuition fees and will receive a salary for working alongside Dyson engineers. The degrees they receive will be awarded by the University of Warwick until the Institute gains university status from the Department of Education.

Source: The Guardian

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World’s largest marine park created in Antarctica

October 28, 2016

The EU and 24 countries have signed an agreement to protect more than 1.55 million sq km of the Ross Sea, a deep bay in the Southern Ocean in Antarctica.  

 

A map of the Ross Sea protected area released by WWF

A map of the Ross Sea protected area released by WWF

 

 

Over 1.1 million sq km of the area will become a fully-protected marine reserve with no fishing allowed. Beyond this area, designated research zones will be set up allowing for controlled fishing for krill and toothfish. In total, the sanctuary will cover more than 12 percent of the Southern Ocean.

After 5 years of negotiations (including Russia and China blocking the deal), the agreement was made in Hobert, Australia on Friday (28.10.16) at the annual meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources. It will expire in 35 years.  WWF said that in coming years, it “will continue to push for the Ross Sea to become a marine protected area (MPA), protected in perpetuity.”

The area covered by the agreement is home to a huge variety of wildlife including 95 species of fish as well as whales, dolphins, seals, penguins, and seabirds.

“The Ross Sea has been described as the one of the most pristine wilderness areas left on Earth”, said WWF-Australia Ocean Science Manager Chris Johnson, who attended the CCAMLR meeting in Hobart.

“It is home to one third of the world’s Adélie penguins, one quarter of all emperor penguins, one third of all Antarctic petrels, and over half of all South Pacific Weddell seals.

Today’s agreement is a turning point for the protection of Antarctica and the Southern Ocean. Over 1.5 million km2 is to be set aside for conservation – an area the size of France, Germany and Spain combined – with over 70 per cent of it as fully protected marine reserves.

“This is important not just for the incredible diversity of life that it will protect, but also for the contribution it makes to building the resilience of the world’s ocean in the face of climate change”.

Source: WWF

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Toyota invests in US car-sharing company

October 28, 2016

Leading Japanese car-maker Toyota Motor Corp has invested a reported USD 10 million in the U.S. car-sharing company Getaround, Reuters said on Friday.

A popular carsharing service in Germany

A popular carsharing service in Germany

The deal was done through the company’s investment fund, Mirai Creation Investment Limited Partnership set up in 2015 to invest in startups working on Artificial Intelligence, robotics, and hydrogen power.

The car sharing service, founded in San Francisco, US, was launched to the public in 2011 and has been available in San Francisco, Chicago and other US cities since 2013. It offers drivers the opportunity to rent cars from private owners in return for payment.  Owners earn 60 per cent commission on the rental prices they set. The company says it now has around 200,000 members.

According to Reuters, Toyota’s investment comes as automakers “seek to shore up their presence in new technology sectors amid growing competition from transport start-ups”.

Automakers have been scrambling to partner with tech firms to head off competition from self-driving cars and car sharing services that threaten to eventually trim demand for car ownership,” the report said.

Other companies in the automotive sector have shown interest in similar services in recent years.  General Motors Co set up its own car-sharing service, Maven, in January this year. Around the same time, Volkswagen transferred its own service called Quicar, set up in 2011, to Dutch project Greenwheels in which it has a 60 per cent share.  Audi has recently also announced plans to launch a similar service in 2017.

Source: Reuters

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L’Oréal to develop bioprinting for hair follicles

September 30, 2016

The cosmetics company has announced a research partnership with French biotechnology company Poietis to print the small organs which produce hair. If successful, this could lead to the production of artificial hair for implant. 

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The process will utilise technology developed by Poietis which uses a type of laser printing for cell-based objects, the BBC reported. The company says it has already used the technique to create cartilage and other viable types of cell lines but never hair follicles.

According to Poietis Chief Executive, Fabien Guillemot, adapting it to create hair follicles will be challenging.
“It’s of the most complex objectives so far of all the bio-printing projects that we have created,” he told the BBC.

The technology involves successively layering micro-drops of bioinks using a quick scan by a laser beam, L’Oréal explained. “The living biological tissue created must then be matured for around 3 weeks before it can be used in tests.”

Despite the difficulties, both companies are confident the partnership will open up new opportunities in terms of both research  and for regenerative medical purposes. L’Oréal already uses 3D printed skin for research purposes, and the hair produced by the created hair follicles could also be used for product development.

“For L’Oréal, the combination of our respective areas of expertise opens up the possibility of previously unheard of achievements in the field of hair. This research partnership is very stimulating for the Advanced Research teams,”  José Cotovio, Director of Predictive Methods and Models department, L’Oréal Recherche & Innovation, said.

Fabien Guillemot, CEO and Chief Scientific Officer at Poietis, said of the venture: “We’re very proud to be working with L’Oréal. The fact that a world-renowned company is adopting our technology is a major step for Poietis.”

“Our partnership with L’Oréal should lead to the development of innovative applications in terms of tissue engineering,” added Bruno Brisson, General Manager and Chief Business Officer at the company.

According to a BBC report on the potential of the technology, the firms expect it will take at least three years to adapt the process.

Sources: L’Oréal, BBC

 


Full face transplant lets firefighter finally feel like a ‘normal guy’ again

August 25, 2016

Just one year after receiving the world’s most extensive face transplant, a firefighter in Mississippi says he feels like a ’normal guy’ for the first time since a burning building collapsed on top of him 15 years ago, the Guardian reported this week.

Speaking to reporters at NYU Langone Medical Center, Patrick Hardison, 42, said, “I’m here today because I want others to see that there is hope beyond the injury.”

As a result of the surgery performed in August, 2015, he reported that he can now see, hear, eat and breathe normally. Moreover, he no longer worries about, “people pointing and staring or kids running away crying.”

Back in 2001, Patrick Hardison was a volunteer firefighter in Senatoba, Mississippi, when a burning building came crashing down on top of him.

In the years following, he underwent 71 reconstructive surgeries before receiving the transplant. 

According to a BBC News article, the history of face transplants is very recent, only dating back eleven years.

In 2005, a French woman received a partial face transplant to replace her nose, lips and chin. Since then, there have apparently been just under 40 face transplant surgeries conducted around the world.

Yet what set’s the surgery conducted on Hardison apart is that it is said to be the first transplant to include a scalp and functioning eyelids, the Guardian informs us.

Since the transplant, doctors have also apparently removed Hardison’s breathing and feeding tubes, and made a few adjustments to his features.

In terms of his appearance, the Mississippi firefighter now looks much like he once did. There are no scars on his face, and he once again has a mop of sandy brown hair. Only now his face is rounder and his eyes smaller than before.

The transplant has also made huge practical changes on his daily life.

Prior to the surgery, his field of vision was severely restricted, he said, because doctors had partially sewn shut his eyelids to protect his eyes. 

This has changed thanks to the transplant, as he is once again able to drive and live independently. 

According to Hardison, the effect on his emotional wellbeing has also been dramatic. 

“Before the transplant, every day I had to wake up and get myself motivated to face the world,” he said. 

Now, he said, “I’m pretty much back to being a normal guy doing normal activities. My life has changed, and it has been renewed.”

Back in June, on a trip to Disney World, he said, “I swam in the pool with my children for the first time in 15 years.”

At the news conference, Hardison was joined by four of his five children. His daughter Allison, 21, also noticed a marked difference in her father.

“After the injury he wasn’t normal on the inside. He was very unhappy.” She said. “Now he’s happy with himself and happy with life.”

The Mississippi firefighter, whose donor was a 26 year old artist said to have died in a bike accident in Brooklyn, has been lucky not to have faced any issues with his body rejecting the transplant. 

Eduardo Rodriguez, chairman of the plastic surgery department at Langone, puts this down to the medication, Hardison’s children, as well as his own strength. 

Rodriguez described the man as a “remarkable individual.”

Hardison said he hopes to meet with his donor’s family in the autumn.

 

Sources include: BBC News, Guardian

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If dogs could fly: ANA considering letting dogs on planes

August 24, 2016

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Dogs may soon be allowed to accompany their owners on flights with Japan‘s All-Nippon Airways, according to an article in the Japan Times.

This announcement follows a successful trial package tour conducted by ANA in late May of this year.

On that occasion, 87 passengers with between them 44 dogs were flown from Narita Airport to Kushiro in Hokkaido for a two-night stay.

According to the Japan Times, the basic package for two adults and one dog cost around ¥220,000 ($2,195 or €1,940).

What ANA’s trial flight demonstrated is that there is ample demand for services like this. Within just two days of going on sale, the tickets had already sold out.

Airlines usually require pets to travel in the cargo hold for domestic flights. For many pet owners this is a cause for serious concern, as they worry about the temperatures in the cargo hold.

This issue has also been acknowledged by some airlines.

The Japan Times article notes that ANA, for example, will not allow short-nosed dogs like bulldogs and chins to travel in the cargo area during the hot summer months, as these dogs are particularly prone to heat stroke and respiratory issues. 

On the ANA trial flight, however, dogs travelled in the cabin together with human passengers, albeit in cages strapped to the window seats.

There was also a veterinarian on hand in case any issues arose.

This is not the first time ANA has allowed animals to travel alongside human passengers. Prior to 2005, pets were allowed in the cabin on the airline’s international flights.

The service was discontinued, however, following complaints from passengers who suffered from allergies, or who generally felt uneasy in this environment.

The airline discovered an additional issue after the May trial. Specifically, that some passengers were reluctant to ride in an aircraft that had previously accommodated animals.

In response to this, ANA officials made clear that if the company does launch regular pet flights, it will do much more to inform customers about the way the cabin is cleaned after each flight. 

Despite this concerns, there are those in the tourism industry who expect great success if tours with pets do take off.

Professor of international tourism at Toyo University, Katsuhiko Shoji, who also happens to head a nationwide association promoting tours with pets, goes so far as to say that, “If long-distance travel becomes easier for them, Japan’s tourism industry will be revitalised.”

At the same time, Prof Shoji highlighted the need for cooperation from other actors in the leisure industry, such as hotels.

“Enabling pets to board the airplane is not the end goal. The cooperation of entities at the destination is also necessary,” he said.

 

Sources include: Japan Times

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Exxon spending big on clean tech advertising at Olympics

August 20, 2016

In response to pressure over climate change, Exxon Mobil Corp has been keen to show off its efforts toward advancing more clean technology through TV advertising at the Rio Olympics, Reuters reports.

According to Reuters, the four advertisements made by the oil and gas giant highlight the company’s efforts toward capturing carbon dioxide from power plants, making biofuel from algae and developing fuel-efficient cars. 

Exxon spokesperson Alan Jeffers explained that,”our main objective is to provide people with more information about the important role Exxon Mobil plays in safely and responsibly meeting the world’s growing energy demands.”

He added that, “we want to inform people about the technology and innovation that go into providing energy.”

According to iSpot.tv, Exxon has spent a total of $19.3 million to air 233 TV adverts in the US market between the 5th and 17th August this year.

The company has declined to release figures for advertising expenditure in previous years, however at the Rio Olympics, Exxon has been the eighth largest spender on TV advertising, Reuters reports. 

While there is nothing uncommon about an oil company advertising at the Olympics, this advertising package comes at a time when the company is facing mounting pressure regarding its contribution to climate change, not only from environmental groups, but also from shareholders and state attorney generals.

From shareholders, the pressure comes as governments around the world are cracking down on carbon emissions and seeking to be less dependent on fossil fuels.

This year in particular Exxon has been met by escalating pressure to act on climate change.

In what marks the first shareholder proposal to pass since 2006, in May the company’s shareholders approved a measure that may place an external climate expert on its board.

Then in March, the company came under fire when over a dozen state prosecutors announced that they would be investigating whether or not past and present Exxon executives had misled the public by contradicting research by company scientists regarding the threats posed by climate change.

In response to this criticism, Exxon representatives have claimed that the company has been unfairly targeted by environmentalist groups.

They assert that the company  has acknowledged the reality of climate change for over a decade, and supports a revenue-neutral carbon tax.

The company’s research into carbon capturing is said to have been ongoing over three decades, while it’s endeavours to make biofuel from algae date back to 2009.

 

Sources include: Reuters

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