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The sky is no limit for Highlands and Islands medical research

28 January 2014

The Highlands and Islands of Scotland's pioneering role in research into rural digital health is reaching new heights today as the region joins forces with space and satellite technology experts.

A strong link is being established between Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and the Satellite Applications Catapult, which is an independent innovation and technology company working on behalf of the UK industry to catalyse economic growth in the space sector.

The joint group's academic and industry experts will help push the region’s research in new technologies forward into the development of commercial products. This will benefit a variety of sectors including energy and engineering, but it is expected there will be early focus on digital healthcare, resolving problems associated with delivering high standards of medical services to remote communities.

The project builds on HIE’s work to position the region as a prime location for innovative businesses which can work with science and technology experts to unlock new market opportunities and create growth.

One way in which satellite technology in rural locations can help make life changing differences is in the way communities receive medical care. Rapid stroke diagnosis through home-based brain scanning is already being developed in the region by University of Aberdeen researchers at the Centre for Rural Health in Inverness.

Today (Tuesday 28 January) HIE and the Catapult are officially marking their partnership by signing a Memorandum of Understanding at the Centre for Health Science based in Inverness, bringing new technology and communications expertise to the region.

Alex Paterson, Chief Executive of HIE, said: "While the idea of working in space technology sounds a bit like science fiction, the benefits for the Highlands and Islands are very real. The capabilities and uses of satellites are a perfect fit with our region’s current innovations in developing a digital region. By bringing together businesses, academics and industry experts we can develop products and services which will change the way we live and work, particularly benefiting remote and rural locations."

The Catapult is one of seven innovation centres set up by the Technology Strategy Board, the UK’s innovation agency, with the aim of driving economic growth through commercialisation of research.

Stuart Martin, the Chief Executive of the Satellite Applications Catapult commented: “The HIE initiative, and the emerging opportunities in the region, fit perfectly with the Catapult’s remit. We work with industry, researchers and academia to explore and develop new ideas. Through this collaboration and the use of satellite data, our related experts are well placed to develop some innovative healthcare and life science solutions to help those living in rural and remote areas of the Highlands and Islands. Looking forward, through the Catapult network and partnerships, these solutions can then be rolled out across other remote areas of the UK, with Scotland leading the way.”

Today, we are also launching an innovative business project which has located in Moray at the Enterprise Park Forres. Morton Manufacturing Ltd is developing a mobile satellite-enabled communications hub and is being supported by HIE with funding towards its research and development. The product, known as Omni-Hub, has the ability to connect to a wide range of medical equipment, and then can store, receive or transmit detail via a private network using the best available technology – be that satellite, wi-fi or cellular.

Peter Morton has been developing the device with the support of HIE and the Catapult. He commented: “The geography of the Highlands and Islands gives us the perfect location for field trials for the Hub and we have already been testing it in on and off-road locations across the region, including in Shetland, the Outer Hebrides, and along the coast in NW Sutherland. The capabilities of this portable equipment to stream video, audio and allow real time communication between medical teams could prove invaluable to first responders making a diagnosis at the scene of an emergency.

“Working in the Highlands and Islands has been a breath of fresh air. The pace in which HIE has supported the project and the impressive range of high level local contacts I’ve been introduced to has been invaluable in getting to this stage. I look forward to continuing to work with HIE as we develop a plan to get our product into the marketplace, creating valuable manufacturing jobs in the region.”

Research Fellow Dr Alasdair Mort, from the University of Aberdeen, commented “Delivering emergency medical care to patients in the predominantly remote and rural Highlands and Islands is very difficult traditionally. If we can use novel technology to better link patients with remote experts then we have a real chance at improving patient outcome, in particular for those who have suffered a stroke.”

  • About the Satellite Applications Catapult
    Satellite Applications Catapult Ltd is one of a network of UK technology and innovation companies which aim to drive economic growth through the commercialisation of research. The vision of the Satellite Applications Catapult is to support UK industry through the acceleration of the growth of satellite applications and to contribute to capturing a 10% share of the global space market predicted by 2030. It aims to achieve this by exploiting the innovation-potential in the UK industrial and academic communities, by being a focal point where small and medium enterprises, large industry and end users can work together with researchers to challenge barriers, explore and develop new ideas, and bring these to commercial reality. Find out more on the Catapult's website

    Media contact: Karen Rogers, Head of Marketing & Communications, email or call +44 (0)7867 490237
  • About Morton Manufacturing
    Morton Manufacturing Ltd is a private company that is developing some innovative products, led by its main shareholder, Peter Morton, in the areas of transport security, communications and building materials. Morton has formed a new subsidiary, Tactical Wireless Ltd, which will commercialise Omni-Hub. Peter Morton has substantial experience in developing new revenue streams and project management, on a worldwide basis, initially in market leading companies, where he also held senior management positions and directorships, but latterly using his own capital.
  • About Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE)

    HIE is the Scottish Government's economic and community development agency for the north and west of Scotland – a region which covers half of the country.

    HIE pursues four priorities to support Scotland's economic recovery and deliver sustainable growth across the region:

    -Supporting businesses and social enterprises to shape and realise their growth aspirations.
    -Strengthening communities and fragile areas.
    -Developing growth sectors, particularly distinctive regional opportunities.
    -Creating the conditions for a competitive and low-carbon region.

    Media contact: Lesley Gallagher, email or call +44 (0) 1463 244 244

Leave a comment

K. Grey 30/01/2014

I was looking for work in the Highlands. I had experience supporting ground stations for National Assets so checked Catapaults and Morton's website for jobs. I was disappointed to find both based in England and do not have a single job in Scotland. All the profits and salaries go to England?? Without jobs the Intellectual Property also remains in England. What Company in Scotland has jobs in the satellite/ground sector?

Highlands and Islands Enterprise 31/01/2014

Hi, thanks for your comment. We're delighted that Morton Manufacturing, a business with multiple locations in England, has chosen the Highlands and Islands to undertake their communications project with a new business base at the Enterprise Park Forres. Following this initial stage HIE will continue to work with the company as their project progresses to secure associated jobs in the Highlands and Islands. This week's signing of the MOU with Satellite Applications Catapult marks the start of an exciting collaboration between the national agency and the north of Scotland. HIE are committed to establishing a local centre of excellence in association with the Catapult which will focus on innovation and technology which will catalyse growth of the local economy, part of which will be new jobs for our region.

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