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Cheshire and Warrington have always enjoyed a rich heritage of innovation and discovery, and over the years the region has spawned some interesting inventions, inventors or technological firsts. For example: did you know that the first version of polyethylene was discovered by accident in 1933 by Eric Fawcett and Reginald Gibson at the Imperial Chemical Industries (ICI) works in Northwich, England? When they applied extremely high pressure to a mixture of ethylene and benzaldehyde they produced a white, waxy material. Because of the accidental nature of the discovery, it wasn’t until 1935 that another ICI chemist, Michael Perrin, developed this into something reproducible on a commercial scale. Would it have taken them so long had they had access to Thornton Science’s Park’s Innovation to Commercialisation (I2C) programme?

Another local first was the invention and development of a precursor of the hydraulic ram, the pulsation engine, which was invented by John Whitehurst in Oulton Park. In 1772, Whitehurst, who was from Cheshire, invented a manually-controlled ‘pulsation engine’ and installed it at Oulton, Cheshire, to raise water to a height of 4.9 metres. At the Jodrell Bank Observatory, the telescope made the first observation of an extragalactic radio source, the Andromeda nebula (M31), in 1950. The observatory was established in 1945 by Sir Bernard Lovell, a radio astronomer at the University of Manchester. It was originally the Jodrell Bank Experimental Station and later the Nuffield Radio Astronomy Laboratories but is currently part of the Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics at the University of Manchester. The main telescope, the Lovell Telescope, is the third largest steerable radio telescope in the world. It is now world renowned for its pivotal role in astrological research and has shed light on meteors, quasars, pulsars, masers and gravitational lenses. It was also heavily involved with the tracking of space probes at the beginning of the Space Age.

John Harrison (1693–1776), the inventor of the marine chronometer, was a long-time inhabitant of Warrington.  The marine chronometer was accurate enough to be used as a portable timepiece at sea and could determine longitude by celestial navigation. In the 18th century, this was a major forward leap in maritime technology. Another Warrington local, Arthur Aikin FLS, FGS (1773-1854) was a chemist, mineralogist, scientific writer and a founding member of the Chemical Society, while Warrington born Peter Litherland (1756–1805) was a watchmaker and the inventor of the lever watch.

If the Innovation to Commercialisation (I2C) programme had been available in their day, how many of these inventors, pioneers and innovators would have made use of access to the initiative?  Based at Thornton Science Park in Cheshire, I2C is available to any SME registered or trading in Cheshire and Warrington. Applicants must have a turnover of less than €50 million and employ fewer than 250 employees. If you are an SME and meet the criteria to take part in I2C, please visit our website and complete the application form at www1.chester.ac.uk/i2c

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