Scots win £150,000 to wage war on midges

March 7, 2003

Aberdeen University scientists are waging war on that scourge of the Scottish summer - the common midge - with a £150,000 grant from Scottish Enterprise's proof of concept fund to commercialise research.

Aberdeen is among 14 universities and research institutes to win awards totalling £5.6 million in the latest tranche of the scheme. Its study will explore why midges bite some people and not others and will use the information to develop marketable midge repellents with masking chemicals derived from humans.

Jennifer Mordue of the School of Biological Sciences said: "We are one of the elite groups in the world working on midge chemical ecology and are the only team worldwide with the capability to make humans invisible to midges."

Other funded projects include Edinburgh University's bid to develop technology that could dramatically reduce the costs of finding oil and gas.

Anton Ziolkowski, professor of petroleum geoscience, said the technique would allow oil companies to be much more certain of the presence of oil or gas before they started drilling. Currently, 20 per cent of new wells do not strike oil.

Researchers at Dundee University aim to allow computer users to join on-screen action through software that mimics human movements. This would not only track movement but also analyse it, allowing golfers, for example, to practise their swing and compare it with that of golf pros, while doctors could check patients' walking difficulties.

Robert Crawford, chief executive of Scottish Enterprise, said: "Scotland's future prosperity depends on our ability to move ideas and innovation out of our labs and into our businesses. Universities are our investment banks for tomorrow."

The scheme, launched in 1999, has so far made 118 awards and created 285 jobs. Spin-off companies set up through an initial investment of £576,000 have now attracted £6 million in extra funds, the vast majority of it from the private sector.

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