Technological innovations

Queen's Awards
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A computer control system to help patients who have lost lower limbs to walk at different speeds is one of the innovations which have won their developers one of the 16 Queen's Award for Technological Achievement.

The prosthesis-control system has been developed by Chas A Blatchford & Sons, of Basingstoke, Hampshire. A microprocessor controller, working with a pneumatic swing phase cylinder, enables the artificial limb to allow its owner several walking speeds, tailored to the individual's gait. This allows the limb to react immediately to changes in pace, so that the person does not have to think about walking.

A treatment for migraine, a device to protect healthy tissue from radiotherapy waves, a painkiller for bone metastases in cancers and a thin film to cover small wounds are other award-winners with medical applications.

Glaxo Research and Development wins the award for Imigran, a treatment for migraine and cluster headaches. An auto-injector has also been developed so that the patient can administer the drug during an attack.

The treatment for bone cancer effects, Metastron, has been developed by Amersham Healthcare in Little Chalfont, Buckinghamshire. The substance is treated by the body as though it were calcium, clearing from the blood and selectively localising in the bone, giving pain relief for as long as six months in 80 per cent of cases.

Philips Medical Systems, of Crawley, West Sussex, has crafted a multileaf collimator - a device for producing a parallel beam of radiation - to shield healthy tissue from radiotherapy rays. It has 80 leaves which can be moved individually using separate computer-controlled motors.

The Group Research Centre of Smith & Nephew, of Heslington, York, wins its award for a thin, see-through film to cover small wounds, particularly those association with catheters into the vein. It controls moisture levels at the site of wound, preventing bacteria from getting in but moving elastically with the skin.

Marks & Spencer, more often seen in the export awards, has won a joint award for their work with Wace Screen, of Wakefield, to develop a garment panel printing method which bleaches out the ground colour to give its design, cutting down rejects and producing no formaldehyde.

Affinity Chromatography, of Ballasalla, on the Isle of Man, has worked with Cambridge University's Institute of Biotechnology to separate protein pharmaceuticals in its nature-mimicking Mimetic range, which was developed using 3-D computer assisted molecular modelling techniques.

Digi-Media Vision, of Eastleigh, Hampshire, has evolved a system for compressing television signals for digital satellite communications. The innovation has also won the company an export award.

Ultra Electronics, of Greenford, Middlesex, developed a system for reducing cabin noise in turboprop aircraft. Developed by the company's noise and vibration systems division, it works by creating "anti-noise" through carefully placed microphones and loudspeakers.

The Rover Group Electronic and Control Systems, based at Warwick University, won their award for their range of control units for the integrated control of engine fuelling, ignition and idle speed.