Incubator aids Scottish firms

November 10, 2000

Peter Denyer, the Edinburgh University professor who founded the spin-off "camera-on-a-chip" Vision Company, has helped found another spin-off that aims to become the world's leading provider of microdisplays within the next ten years.

MicroEmissive Displays Ltd, a spin-off from Edinburgh and Napier universities, founded by Professor Denyer, Ian Underwood and Jeff Wright, is the first company to locate in a pioneering £8.2 million centre aimed at helping small companies research and develop leading-edge microchip technology.

Professor Denyer chairs the new Scottish Microelectronics Centre based at Edinburgh University, a joint venture between the university, Scottish Enterprise and Scottish Enterprise Edinburgh and Lothians.

Staff from Edinburgh's five-star department of electronics and electrical engineering will help to support the incoming companies.

Iain Hyslop, SMC's chief executive, hailed the centre, which is believed to have the potential to create up to 30 companies and hundreds of jobs, as a European leader. Other countries have microelectronics research centres, he said, but spin-offs were almost an afterthought, whereas the Scottish centre was custom-built to incubate companies.

Fledgling businesses will have access to tools and processes that would otherwise be too expensive.

"What we hope to create, atmosphere-wise, is a hothouse environment where the company is sparking ideas and the university is sparking ideas. We will have the industrial world and the academic world in the same building, using the same facilities and drinking in the same coffee room," Mr Hyslop said.

He stressed that the centre was for the whole of Scotland and would market itself to all higher education institutions.

As well as university spin-offs, it hopes to attract interest from multinational companies seeking academic expertise to develop ideas that do not involve their core products.

"Then there's the person sitting at home, who's thought of building a better, faster silicon chip. They could be a final-year undergraduate or a postgraduate who has an idea but has never done anything about it," Mr Hyslop said. "They're the ones who are going to be the hardest to find and in need of the most support."

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