NI announces Green Grant recipients

National Instruments has announced the first winners of its Green Engineering Grant programme to support engineering innovation in the UK and Ireland.

The grants, as reported in E&T magazine earlier this year (News, Vol 5 #5), offered up to £25,000-worth of software, support and training to companies developing embedded devices in areas such as medical, energy and green engineering. The programme grew out of a plan which NI started last year, offering very low cost training and certification to unemployed scientists and engineers to help them find jobs – which could then use NI technology.

Ian Bell, NI's market development manager, named four companies which he said had received grants to help them develop some highly innovative technology. He said that each of the four had received a grant equivalent to between £22,000 and £25,000

The first, gearbox and drivetrain specialist Romax Technology, will use NI’s CompactRIO devices to enhance monitoring and predictive maintenance systems for offshore wind turbines. Anything that improves the reliability of these devices - and especially their gearboxes - could pay huge dividends when performing maintenance requires a massive barge crane, as Bell noted.

The second recipient announced was Magnomatics, which is developing contactless magnetic gearboxes and electrical machines. “There’s no physical contact, so there is no lubrication needed or wear,” Bell said, noting that this is a highly promising area of engineering.

“LabVIEW provides us with a highly versatile control and data acquisition system for our test facility, and Veristand and CompactRIO allow us to rapidly prototype and deploy controllers,” added Jan Rens, principal design engineer at Magnomatics.

The next company, Wavebob, has been using NI technology for some years, but is scaling up its work as it prepares to deploy a full-size pre-commercial sample of its 1.5MW wave energy harvesting buoy off the coast of Portugal. The Irish company has been generating electricity from a quarter-scale prototype anchored in Galway Bay since 2007.

Finally, Bell introduced Sunamp, which is developing a powerful heat battery, based on phase-change materials. He said that Sunamp is playing its cards close to its chest for now, but that its technology can efficiently store and release heat, and could have wide application in heating, cooling and hot water systems.

When the grant programme was announced, NI said it would accept applications throughout 2010.  Ian Bell confirmed that the company remains open to applications - to apply for a grant, companies must provide documentation on themselves and their project, and participate in an interview - but warned that the 2010 programme closes at the end of November.

“We plan re-open the program for 2011 at the beginning of next year,” he added. “We are excited to be involved in these innovative projects, especially as they are addressing some of the big challenges in green engineering, such as efficient and reliable power conversion between the mechanical and electrical domains, improved mechanical machine efficiency, energy storage and renewable marine energy.”

Further information:
NI offers development grants to SMEs
A summer of.... graphical system design?
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