Prof Vince F. Fusco is Director of Research for Secure Communications at the Centre for Secure Information Technology (CSIT)
Prof Vince F. Fusco is Director of Research for Secure Communications at the Centre for Secure Information Technology (CSIT)
Vince Fusco straddles the worlds of business and academia. An international expert in high frequency electronic engineering he is also a co-founder of a successful university spin-out company.

As suppliers of sophisticated types of high performance devices to the UK space industry and the European Space Agency, Vince's research teams are also working hard to have their pioneering work adopted in emerging new technologies back on earth.

EPSRC is playing a vital role in this effort by providing funding through a platform grant aimed at exploiting the considerable know how of the School's high frequency electronic circuits cluster.

One of the largest groups of its kind in Europe, it is based at the School's Institute of Electronics, Communications and Information Technology (ECIT). The institute is housed in a specially-designed 4,000m2 building, located off-campus, in the Northern Ireland Science Park.

Here, research staff are concentrating their efforts on developing component and systems designs for specific frequency ranges in the electromagnetic spectrum.

Leading that effort is Vince, an international expert in the field, who says the frequencies chosen for research make best use of the resources at his disposal. Another important reason is that they are ideally suited for wirelessly transferring very large amounts of data in very short times. This is an area, he believes, that is ripe for commercial exploitation.

"We picked the area of millimetre wave systems because in this frequency range the enabling technology becomes increasingly complex and the infrastructure you need to model, make and measure anything you design become very sophisticated. Those challenges seemed a good match for the expertise we have developed in recent years working on space and other programmes," says Vince.

"Millimetre wave systems are now being used to stream very high definition pictures from Blu-ray video recorders to large screen televisions, wirelessly. Other applications, though at slightly higher frequencies, include radar cruise control systems for cars and network management systems for future mobile phone networks.

"As our research programmes evolve, the technology evolves with them. The complexity and cost of producing chips is phenomenal so to keep costs down, and to keep fully abreast of the latest technical advances, it is vital to partner with the companies that actually fabricate the integrated circuits you're designing."

To date, the group has built very successful relationships with Infineon Technologies in Austria and OMMIC, a Paris-based semiconductor foundry. Those links were further strengthened recently when Vince co-founded a university spin-out company, Lamhroe, to which the French company has now subcontracted the design of high frequency circuits used in a range of millimeter wave wireless applications. Lamhroe is also developing its own products, in a number of cases based on research conducted initially under EPSRC programmes. These include microwave-based security perimeter fencing soon to be tested at Singapore's Changi airport.

"In other work funded initially by EPSRC, our team is developing a new type of flat, self-aligning antenna that could replace bulky present-generation satellite dishes. Potential uses include the delivery of satellite broadband and television to anyone, anywhere on the planet.

"Research is also underway on a new form of secure wireless system that will focus data transmission so precisely on a targeted recipient it that will allow unencrypted data to be sent securely.

"Our work is not just about designing system architectures or components. It's also about creating systems and how they fit together.

"We are always trying to maximise what we can squeeze out of the technology we're working with. That can mean creating ways of packing chips more densely or synthesising new, highly efficient materials for which we have developed practical and theoretical applications."