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7 May, 2013 - 15:16 By Tony Quested

Disruptive technology under Cambridge microscope

Seth Copen-Goldstein of Carnegie Mellon University

The programme for the Nerve disruptive technology congress in Cambridge UK this summer emphasises the staggering range of research and innovation emanating from academic labs and corporate R & D think tanks around the world.

Each day of this unique event holds up a mirror to game-changing science & technology as well as innovative funding and business models that together will fashion a new future.

One-day tickets are now available for the conference and expo, which runs at the Corn Exchange and Guildhalls from June 25-27. They can be purchased at

The diversity of the Nerve programme is evident from Day One when medical technology, computer science & the Internet of Things and CleanTech are balanced by insights into social media and the art of scaling global businesses.

Day one

US medical pioneer Jim Heath, from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), who has invented a bio barcode for cancer patients, will talk about the challenge of matching patients and therapies.

Devyn Smith of Pfizer Neusentis addresses the changing pharmaceutical industry and innovation in precision medicine while Loughborough University’s Mark Lewis will reveal how his team has been growing muscle in the laboratory.

Medical science entrepreneur Sir Chris Evans discusses advances in stem cell & regenerative medicine; Darrin Disley of Horizon Discovery will assess the impact of new biology – from genomics to personalised medicine.

Cambridge technology greats will also be in attendance on the opening day of Nerve. Andrew Blake, director of the burgeoning Microsoft Research Laboratory in Cambridge addresses advances in computer science – a subject close to fellow speaker Hermann Hauser’s heart. Dr Hauser, a Silicon Valley Visionary of the Year and co-founder of Acorn Computers, talks about the 6th wave of computing. Microsoft will also be demonstrating the use by surgeons of its Kinect technology in operating theatres.

Autonomy founder and former CEO, Dr Mike Lynch – now heading up the Invoke Capital funding venture predominantly for European software plays – will look at big data while Warren East, CEO of superchip designer ARM offers an in-depth analysis of progress with the Internet of Things.

Lance Chambers of Ikanos Consulting will be demo’ing the Golden-i headset at Nerve. The multiple mobile wireless wearable headset computers are operated by voice commands and head movements and are already proving a boon for crime-fighters.

Its LinkedIn’s 10th anniversary year and the organisation’s EMEA managing director, Ariel Eckstein, will reveal how LinkedIn is ‘Disrupting through Value.’ Transatlantic entrepreneur and angel investor Sherry Coutu will address the significance of disruptive technology and how innovative companies in the space can scale their operations.

Clean technology – specifically energy harvesting and reducing our carbon footprint – occupies the thoughts of several Nerve speakers and the debate opens on Day One. Laurence Kemball Cook of Pavegen and Simon Bransfield-Garth of Azuri Technologies are at the forefront of the ‘green’ revolution. Kemball Cook has developed energy-generating paving slabs that featured at the London Olympics and last month’s Paris Marathon.

With Pavegen, renewable energy is harvested from the footstep. The technology converts the kinetic energy to electricity which can be stored and used for a variety of applications. Azuri’s Indigo technology, developed from IP at Cambridge University’s world-renowned Cavendish Laboratory, is already having a huge social impact in Least Developed Countries. It combines mobile phone and solar technology to provide cheap solar-as-a-service power off-grid.

Day two

Information is power in any walk of life and Day two of Nerve is packed with it. Michele Weslander-Quaid of Google opens the second day of Nerve by emphasising the ‘Information advantage in an ever-changing world’. Chief Technology Officer (Federal) and an innovation evangelist for Google, throughout her career, she has taken on the challenge of creating startups and transforming existing businesses in both industry and government. Through her successes she has been recognised and sought after as a leader of change and innovation. Before joining Google in 2011, Michele’s work experience included nearly 20 years in the national security community. She spent over a decade in industry as an image scientist and chief engineer before being asked to join the US Government in 2002 in various transformational roles.

Joe Parry started Cambridge Intelligence after IBM bought his former company i2 and is working with the US Department of Defense on security-related projects; he will talk on ‘Network visualisation for security.’

The boundaries of blue skies thinking are pushed back further into outer space by two speakers who will thrill sci-fi fans among the delegates. NASA’s Harold ‘Sonny’ White will talk about his work on warp drive speed and benchmark progress in this exciting area of research with the fictional ‘prototype’ made famous in Star Trek. Mark De Roche of Aerofex in the States has technology closer to Star Wars than Star Trek and has invented a Jedi-style flying bike. At Nerve, he addresses ‘The transformational potential of deconstructed flight’. Later in the day, John M Dolan of Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute will look at the progress being made in the field of autonomous driving – the so-called driverless car.

Machine learning, robotics and new materials feature prominently throughout the second day of Nerve. Chris Bishop of Microsoft Research Cambridge looks at the future of computing. His research interests include probabilistic approaches to machine learning as well as their application to fields such as biomedical sciences and healthcare.

Geoff McGrath, managing director of McLaren Applied Technologies, will show how the automotive innovator leads the world in the application of Formula 1 technology and expertise to other industries. Aside from its work with UK Sport, which helped British cyclists, rowers, sailors and canoeists win 15 gold medals at last summer’s Olympics, MAT has also worked alongside US cycling innovation giant, Specialized, to design Mark Cavendish’s world championship-winning S-Works + McLaren Venge bicycle. With expertise in modelling, simulation, design engineering and human high performance, MAT’s capabilities cover markets including sport, sports systems, health and wellness.

Two of the most eagerly awaited sessions in the whole programme grace Day two. One is the appearance of self-confessed cyborg, Kevin Warwick from the University of Reading. Professor Warwick has already started proving that humans and machines can become one by turning himself into part-man, part robot. In ‘Project Cyborg’ he had a chip implanted in his arm that activated doors, lights, heaters and other devices as he passed. A second implant of a 100 electrode array wired into the nervous system of his arm enabled him to remotely control an artificial hand.

Another coup for the Nerve event is a look into the far future with Seth Copen-Goldstein of Carnegie Mellon University. Seth is an expert on claytronics – a unique form of programmable matter with stunning capabilities in a range of technology and personal applications. Objects made out of claytronics can dynamically form different three-dimensional shapes and change back again to adapt to changing circumstances. For example, you could use claytronics to change the shape of your furniture or the art on the wall to fit your mood.

You could change your cellphone to a laptop and back again. Seth’s work could also lead to the ability to phone someone on the other side of the world and have their spitting image sitting opposite you while you talk.

Day three

The fast-moving programme shows no sign of slacking on Day three, which features a diversity of themes from neuroscience to moon habitation and majors on the Internet of Things (IoT).

Brinda Dalal of the Institute For the Future in Palo Alto kicks off the day by discussing research that focuses on how people will integrate ensembles of networked objects and devices into their lives. She has led projects from the future of consumption, mobility and well-being, to poverty alleviation and access to clean drinking water and will discuss the convergence between IoT and environment monitoring.

The IoT section of Nerve, launched by Warren East on the opening day is taken on by Peter Johnson (The Van Heyst Group), Chris Rezendes (Inex Advisors Inc) and Matthew Bailey (Weightless SIG) who will address, from different angles, how to turn all the talk on IoT into a cohesive ecosystem with a rich payback for business and humanity.

A highlight among highlights on Day 3 will take delegates from a galaxy of technology stars to potential housing on the Moon’s surface: Foster + Partners’ Xavier De Kestelier and Arjun Kaicker will discuss how their studio tackles projects ranging from designing Apple’s new headquarters campus in Cupertino to 3D printing of buildings for lunar habitation. They will also explore how disruptive technology is affecting the way we envision the future of communities, cultures and corporations and how these changes will influence our built environments.

You can see the full programme and book your one-day or full conference tickets at

• PHOTOGRAPH SHOWS: Seth Copen-Goldstein of Carnegie Mellon UniversityTwitter: @nervesummitLinkedIn: Nerve disruptive technology group 

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