SENSORS and imaging systems are everywhere, from everyday mobile phones to our deep and often hostile oceans and it is in this sector that CENSIS – the Innovation Centre for Sensor and Imaging Systems – in Glasgow, brings together academia and industry.

Its goal, says CEO Ian Reid, is ultimately to promote economic activity in Scotland through “technology-inspired innovation” in the home-grown industrial base.

READ MORE: Scotland continues its tradition as a nation of innovation

To do that Censis draws on research and expertise in Scotland’s higher education system, connecting them with industries that can range from environmental protection, to the defence and medical sectors and technology, such as our mobiles.

“Your mobile phone for instance has 12 sensors which work out where you are, which way up the phone is when you’re putting it to your ear, so it can deactivate the keyboard so you’re not dialling with your cheek,” says Reid.

READ MORE: Scottish sensor technology development paying dividends for NHS

“Users don’t care about that – they don’t even think about it.

“We think of emerging technologies we work on, particularly sensors where we work to a certain extent as the unsung heroes of many of the tech products that people see and use every day.

“There’s a wide range of projects as you’d expect.

“We have a great set of technologies to choose from and a lot of industry sectors in Scotland which have interesting challenges.”

One of those challenges, illustrated above, is in the marine environment where bio-inspired, dolphin-like sonar and hydrophones are used at tidal wind turbine sites to detect collisions and near misses involving marine wildlife.

“We have examples in the medical related sector, where we tend to focus on medical devices, possibly sensing the environment,” says Reid.

“In the built and natural environment, we’re working with Sepa on a number of projects for monitoring-type activities, and we’ve worked with housing associations to help them monitor housing stock for temperature and humidity.

“That has a dual role – it’s part of just managing the housing stock but it’s also a mechanism that provides the possibility to understand when some of the housing stock is degrading.

“Possibly there’s the flip side of a common problem where perhaps somebody who’s experiencing fuel poverty has decided to block up the ventilation system to stop it getting any colder. This leads to condensation, which is one of the biggest impacts on existing social housing stock.

“There’s a huge range of examples – all Scottish companies, most involving Scottish universities and all of them bringing in some way other value to Scotland.

“We try to bring the entire supply chain together when appropriate so that innovations can be shared up and down the supply chain.”

Censis is currently involved in more than 100 projects with around six months left to the end of its first funding phase.

“The total value for those 107 projects, including the university element and the industrial element, is nearly £15 million worth of activity.

“Although these are projections the [gross value added] GVA figure – impact on the economy – is over £100m.

“We’re pretty pleased at how that’s going.”

The innovation centres are all based at a hub university, Glasgow in the case of Censis, but Reid stresses that they are industry led and his board members mostly have an industrial background.

Scotland’s eight centres often collaborate on projects - an example being the five-year exhibition #Idea 59 at the Glasgow Science Centre.

“Say somebody has an oil and gas problem, but then they realise that part of the solution is a sensor element, we work with them,” says Reid.

Looking to the future, he says Censis is having talks with funders about its second phase, and he’s keen to see it grow: “We’re looking to build a phase two that will deliver a bigger set of portfolio projects, more value, more industry contribution and very much taking that theme forward.

“We’ll be working closely with the Data Lab on that cyber-physical world where we’re doing the measurements, people are doing clever stuff with the data and coming back and saying, ‘now can you make measure this’.

“And we’re looking maybe to sharpen the focus on some of the end sector we deal with, such as supply companies, building sensor systems and sub-systems

“Big values accrue when end users, oil companies, car manufacturers etc start to become engaged using sensor tech in a different way.

“We are looking to help the demand side understand more about the ‘art of the possible’.