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Sussex Innovation Centre turns 21 with ‘open house’ party
The Sussex Innovation Centre has celebrated its 21st birthday by showcasing some of the ground-breaking University of Sussex research that it supports.
The Centre, which is based on the Sussex campus, was one of only a handful of university-affiliated innovation centres in the UK when it opened in 1996. It was established to encourage more diversity in the local economy, and to help retain more of the skilled graduates emerging from Brighton’s two universities.
The Centre quickly became the go-to place for entrepreneurs and growing companies in the region. In 2008, Sussex Innovation became a wholly owned subsidiary of the University of Sussex, and subsequently has taken a more active role in helping to bring academic research into the commercial realm.
To celebrate its ‘coming of age’, the Centre hosted an open house party on Thursday (28 September), giving guests the opportunity to get hands-on with some of the most interesting ideas that its community of start-ups, scale-ups and academics have to offer.
Several displays celebrated the ground-breaking University of Sussex research currently being supported at the Centre.
MetaSonics, a spin-out collaboration between academics from Sussex and Bristol, demonstrated a way of shaping sound “in the same way a lens shapes light”. They showcased applications for the technology ranging from speakers that can be heard only from a specific location, to ‘haptics’ creating the sensation of a physical object in the air.
Neuroscientist Dr Sarah Garfinkel from the Brighton & Sussex Medical School (BSMS) tested people’s awareness of their own heart rate – a skill shown to be linked with better intuitive decision making, and a key part of the new HeartRater app.
And string quartet played in time to the Syncphonia synchronised score-reading app developed at the School of Media, Film and Music (MFM), with passers-by joining in to offer percussion.
Vice-Chancellor Adam Tickell began the evening by visiting the academic commercialisation exhibit, where several products of Sussex research were on display.
After learning about an innovative electric potential sensor developed in partnership with microchip manufacturer Plessey, he got to trial two applications of the technology: a car seat designed to catch drivers falling asleep at the wheel, and, in neighbouring start-up Emteq’s office, a pair of glasses capable of reading the wearer’s facial expression and replicating it in a virtual environment.
The Vice-Chancellor was particularly impressed after visiting the offices of Internet of Things agency HARE, founded by Sussex alumnus Chris O’Hare. Chris won the University’s annual StartUp Sussex competition, which is delivered by the Innovation Centre’s team, in 2015. In the two years since, he has built a thriving start-up, turning over more than £500,000 per year.
And Chris is not alone: Professor Tickell commended the Centre on its track record of helping alumni to build sustainable businesses, with more than a third of companies across its 21 years founded by former Sussex students and staff.