Firms get real with imaging

March 8, 1996

Nottingham University is hoping to lead the United Kingdom in introducing business to advanced computer imaging techniques which can monitor crops, analyse coal, or plot the progress of slow brain disease.

The project also includes plans for a supercomputer "reality centre", where businesses can set up virtual images of their designs and test them to spot problems before building them in the real world.

Nottingham has received Pounds 500,000 from the European Regional Development Fund, on the grounds that access to university expertise will boost the local economy.

The European grant has been more than matched by private and public sector money. With a total of Pounds 1.3 million the university's department of computer science plans to tailor technology for commerce, industry and medicine.

One technology it plans to harness is mineral imaging. Computer programs can work out the chemical make-up of coal from images of its microscopic structure. Knowing this can help people to predict what effect burning the coal will have on the environment.

The new centre, which will be called the Centre for Industrial and Medical Informatics, will particularly aim to transfer these technologies into the hands of small and medium sized businesses in the East Midlands.

For example, the detailed images of crop distribution that satellites are producing could help with small-scale agricultural and environmental planning.

Medical technology companies may be able to harness techniques that establish the exact dimensions of a tumour.

Magnetic resonance imaging takes pictures of slices of the brain, putting them together to make a three-dimensional image through which doctors can walk.

Farhang Daemi, executive director of CIMI, claimed that "the centre puts the university in the top league as far as computer imaging research and development is concerned, helping us to exploit the benefits of technology".

CIMI's sponsors include three local training and enterprise councils, and companies such as Sun Microsystems and Silicon Graphics.

Dr Daemi said he hoped that other centres of excellence in the university will work with CIMI, thus making the project more interdisciplinary.

"Student placements within regional businesses will help to increase new employment opportunities for graduates," he added.

Dr Daemi will promote the university's services by holding business seminars and workshops for the local companies.

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