The Campus Technology Hub
At STFC’s Daresbury Laboratory, the Campus Technology Hub (CTH) is a new and exciting workspace. It is designed to fulfil a unique role for entrepreneurs and small companies; a place where they can come together with people from STFC, and our partners from industry and academia to turn their ideas into reality.
The need for a facility like the CTH is keenly felt by many small businesses and entrepreneurs. Often to reach the next stage of product development, they face the prospect of having to invest heavily in technologies, equipment and expertise. Any of these can quickly become prohibitively expensive, and to get the best results you need a combination of the three.
The CTH was conceived to allow small businesses and entrepreneurs to access the technology, equipment and skills they need to further develop their ideas without having to invest heavily. This can cut development costs, accelerate innovation and reduce the time it takes to get to market.
The CTH is a key part of the Sci-Tech Daresbury campus – this makes it different to a standalone engineering facility, and is why it doesn’t feel like one when you walk in. There are open plan workbenches, workshops and facilities, which can all be reconfigured as each project requires. Everything is designed to be accessible to those looking to solve their engineering challenges.
With views across the Bridgewater Canal and surrounding landscape, the CTH is building key relationships with a host of other research facilities across the North West that all feed knowledge and technical capabilities into the CTH. These capabilities are drawn not only from those at STFC, but from their universities and industrial partners as well, and continue to grow as the CTH does.
David Bogg is the manager of CTH, and believes it is the range of knowledge and skills on offer at CTH which is so valuable: “There are experts in all ranges of science and engineering here, if you want to work with leading scientists and engineers then this is definitely the place to be.”
What the CTH delivers is highly dependent on what an individual or business needs. Often those who use the facilities have a very clear idea about what they want from a project and how they are going to get there.
In other cases, the way forward is a little murkier – and that’s where the expertise brought by the experts on site is so useful. By helping entrepreneurs and businesses to work through (or work around) the problems they’re facing, the CTH can get them to where they need to be more quickly and cost effectively.
Two contrasting companies who have both made use of the facilities and expertise at CTH are Satsafe Limited and GETRAG FORD Transmissions (Getrag).
Satsafe is a Cheshire start-up that set up its R&D centre at CTH to rapidly prototype the Geoblock – a black box device that incorporates advanced crash detection and crash reconstruction technologies for cars. Stuart Millward is the company’s founder and CEO, was able to develop his idea using the CTH with financial support provided by the European Space Agency’s Business Incubation Centre at Harwell (ESA BIC Harwell). This work will continue as Satsafe has been selected as lead consortium partner for road safety as part of Manchester's £10m Internet of Things smart city demonstrator project, CityVerve.
"Joining STFC’s Campus Technology Hub at Daresbury has possibly been the most important strategic development for Satsafe since our inception.” said Stuart. “The advanced engineering facilities and specialist support have been significant for us in terms of credibility and validation”
In contrast to Satsafe, a growing start-up, Getrag are a multinational company with an 80-year history manufacturing transmissions for the automotive industry. They came to the CTH to find out if 3D printing was a commercially viable way to create suitable parts in transmission manufacturing. With the range of 3D printers available at the site and the technical expertise provided, they were able to find a combination of printer and material that would fit into their existing manufacturing process, and used the data from the project to build a strong business case for their internal stakeholders. Parts created during the trial are currently in use, and since the project was completed 3D printing technology has been installed at their transmission plant in Halewood.
Satsafe and Getrag are different companies with different project requirements, but the flexible capabilities of the CTH could support both in delivering tangible products, while saving time and money.
As David Bogg explains, this is the ultimate purpose of CTH: “We are creating an innovation eco-system to enable people to innovate faster, cut development costs and reduce time to market. Companies will have a competitive advantage and the UK plc will benefit ultimately. There are lots of challenges and still lots of unknowns in science and engineering and I think that with our expertise we can answer those questions for business.”
Technical space at the CTH