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3D printing to revolutionise surgery

By Enda Brady, Sky News correspondent

Transplant surgery in the UK could soon be transformed thanks to 3D printing that helps doctors practice operations in advance and spot any issues before they happen.

Each machine costs £250,000 but surgeons say the device could save them costly time in operating theatres and ultimately help speed up patient recovery.

"This is a very clever use of technology because it allows us to effectively create scale size replicas of the organ being transplanted and the abdomen that it's going into," consultant transplant surgeon Nicos Kessaris told Sky News.

"In a small number of cases there's a complexity, whether it's with the size of the organ being transplanted or with the vessels, so if there is a complexity this allows us to practise the operation in advance."

The replicas allow surgeons to practise before surgery
Image: The replicas allow surgeons to practise before surgery

Three-year-old Dexter Clark from Reading was one of the first patients to benefit after his father Brendan donated one of his kidneys, which turned out to be larger than average.

"It's just amazing that they were able to do this," said Dexter's mother Emily. "If they hadn't been able to perform the operation Dexter would have had to go on dialysis and wait until he got bigger."

Dexter had a 3D model of his abdomen made before surgery
Image: Dexter had a 3D model of his abdomen made before surgery

The 3D work is being pioneered in London by Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust and could eventually be rolled out nationwide.

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"If we can take one or two hours off each procedure, that's a serious saving in terms of theatre time," said Phil Reeves from Stratasys, the firm behind the technology.

"It would also be hugely beneficial for patients in terms of their recovery, so there's a huge economic argument there for the health service and the use of 3D printing."

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Sky and Netflix combine to create ‘ultimate’ package

Sky and Netflix have announced details of their partnership, creating what they say will be the UK's "biggest on demand TV service".

The deal, first announced earlier this year, will see subscribers to Sky Q – Sky's premium TV box – able to access an 'Ultimate On Demand' pack for £10 extra per month.

It will allow customers of Sky, the owner of Sky News, full access to the Netflix app through their single Sky subscription, rather than having to pay Netflix separately.

Existing Sky Q customers with Netflix would be able to "easily move their account to the new pack or sign in to the Netflix app on Sky Q using their existing Netflix account details," Sky said.

The combined service will see Sky original productions such as Patrick Melrose and US shows such as HBO's Game of Thrones alongside Netflix's content, which includes The Crown and Stranger Things, for the first time.

Tobias Menzies as Prince Philip in The Crown
Image: Tobias Menzies as Prince Philip in The Crown

Chief executive of Sky's UK and Ireland operation, Stephen van Rooyen, said: "We want Sky Q to be the number one destination for TV fans.

"Partnering with Netflix means we will have all the best TV in one great value pack, making it even easier for you to watch all of your favourite shows.

Chris Whiteley, Netflix director of business development for the UK and Ireland, added: "Innovation is at the core of Netflix.

"We are delighted to partner with Sky to offer fans a new and exciting way to access the best of entertainment from around the world."

Despite the gloom, Netflix did add 5.1 million households from April to June
Image: Netflix, like Sky, has millions of subscribers in the UK and Ireland

A cross-company approach to shared content is not new to Sky after it announced late last year that it had done a deal with BT to show each other's channels.

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The surging growth of streaming services is the core reason Sky is at the centre of an ongoing takeover battle involving 21st Century Fox and Comcast.

Traditional media companies are seeking to bolster their offerings to take on the financial might of the tech firms behind the streaming trends, including Amazon with its Prime service.

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Satellite net collects space junk for the first time

By Thomas Moore, science correspondent

Debris orbiting the Earth at more than 17000 mph has been snared by a prototype 'junk hunting' satellite for the first time.

The experimental RemoveDebris satellite first released the metal object and then fired a five metre wide net to capture it from a distance of six metres.

The weight of the net will drag the toaster-sized object into the atmosphere over the next few months, where it will burn up.

Image: The techno;logy was developed at the Surrey University Space Centre

The success of the test paves the way for routine missions to clean-up the thousands of redundant satellites currently in orbit.

A NASA graphical representation of space junk orbiting the earth 0:35
Video: NASA animation of orbital space junk

RemoveDebris was designed and built by a consortium led by Surrey Space Centre at the University of Surrey.

Professor Guglielmo Aglietti, director of the centre, told Sky News that he was "delighted" they had overcome the technical challenges involved.

"The difficulty that we have is that you want to capture your piece of debris with the net, you want to envelop the piece of debris, then at the same time you want to draw a string so you actually capture the thing so it can't escape," he said.

"To synchronise all this, as you can imagine, is a bit challenging."

There are thought to be half a million objects larger than a tennis ball orbiting the planet at speeds high enough to destroy satellites and even the space station.

Tracking of the space net as it closes in on the target debris
Image: Tracking of the space net as it closes in on the target debris

Only the largest pieces, mainly defunct satellites and rocket parts, can be tracked by radar.

But even objects as small as a bolt can punch a hole in the honeycomb walls of satellites and their fragile wings of solar panels.

The nightmare scenario is a collision between two satellites in ever more crowded low Earth orbit. The resulting cloud of fragments could start a chain reaction of further collisions, wiping out large numbers of satellites.

The International Space Station could be damaged by debris
Image: The International Space Station could be damaged by debris

Ingo Retat of Airbus, which was part of the project, said: "We spent six years testing in parabolic flights, in special drop towers and also thermal vacuum chambers.

"Our small team of engineers and technicians have done an amazing job moving us one step closer to clearing up low Earth orbit."

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In the coming months RemoveDebris will test navigation systems and special scanners for analysing space junk. It will also fire a harpoon at a target and then reel it in, and deploy a drag sail that could be used to pull objects out of orbit.

The mission was co-funded by the European Union.

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UK inventors win prize for stroke survivor device

By Alexander J Martin, technology reporter

A "revolutionary device" which would help rehabilitate stroke survivors has been declared the winner of a government-supported competition.

It was selected from a shortlist of 10 "garden shed inventions" which could seriously transform people's lives in the competition which was sponsored by innovation foundation Nesta.

Inventor's Prize shortlists the UK's 10 best inventions

Inventor's Prize shortlists the UK's 10 best inventions

A 3D printable prosthetic arm and a "Kindle for blind people" are among the inventions selected by the National Inventor Prize

The winning invention, Neuroball, is a device developed by UK-based company Neurofenix, and it allows people who have suffered a stroke to engage in rehabilitation exercises.

Inspired by relatives of the firm's co-founders who suffered strokes, Neurofenix aims to improve the life of stroke survivors who may not receive enough support after they leave hospital.

By connecting to an online platform, the device enables patients to improve dexterity in their hand and arm in competitive and collaborative training.

The team behind the device have been announced as the winners of the Inventors Prize, launched as part of the government's industrial strategy last year.

They will be given £50,000 to help get their product to market, where it could be used to help the 1.2 million stroke survivors in the UK – with 100,000 more occurring every year.

"We are so excited to be selected as the winners of the Inventor Prize, from the nine other brilliant and inspiring entrepreneurs," said the Neurofenix team.

Urologic's NuCatheter device won second place in the prize
Image: Urologic's NuCatheter device won second prize in the competition

The competition was launched to find "Britain's grassroots and garden shed inventors" and the £15,000 prize for second-place went to Cambridge-based Urologic for their NuCath catheter device.

In the UK over 500,000 serious urinary tract infections per year are contracted as a result of indwelling catheters, and these account for up to 40% of all hospital-acquired infections – with an annual mortality rate of over 2,000.

The estimated cost to the NHS of treating these infections is around £2bn annually.

The third prize of £5,000 was awarded to Edward Rogers for developing the Canute, essentially a "Kindle for blind people", which Bristol Braille have been working on in collaboration with the blind community, including Steph Sergeant, for five years.

The Canute machine designed by Bristol Braille. Pic: Bristol Braille Technology CIC
Image: The Canute 'kindle for Braille' machine scooped the third prize

The business secretary Greg Clark congratulated the three winning inventors, saying: "Britain's makers, innovators and entrepreneurs are a huge asset to our country, adding billions to the UK economy and supporting hundreds of thousands of jobs."

"And the Inventor Prize has uncovered the fact that there are hundreds of people like this, in every corner of our country," added Mr Clark.

"While we wish to encourage every inventor out there, today we're excited to see The Inventor Prize award going to Neurofenix, as we believe this invention has the potential to truly impact society and we cannot wait to see the product enter the market."

Nesta's head of international development, Constance Agyeman, said: "We've certainly witnessed our 10 shortlisted finalists going on incredible journeys as they turn their dreams into reality."

The competitors have received "financial support and professional mentoring helping them develop their prototypes, source invaluable partners and suppliers and [to] create business plans", said Ms Agyeman.

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"We now hope all our entrants have been given the confidence and expertise they need to turn their ideas into real products and that they too continue their journeys."

"But we are especially excited to support our three overall winners in getting their products into the hands of consumers," she added.

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EU scraps Ireland lawsuit in Apple ‘state aid’ case

The EU is no longer planning to sue Ireland over its failure to recover €14.3bn (£12.7bn) in back taxes and interest from Apple after the company handed over the money.

However, a continuing legal row may mean Irish coffers never see a cent of the windfall.

The European Commission ruled, in 2016, that Apple owed the sum after finding Dublin guilty of providing illegal state aid to the company in the form of tax incentives.

Then, last year, EU officials launched a lawsuit against Ireland citing delays in the country recovering the back taxes demanded.

They confirmed that case was to be dropped after Ireland's finance ministry confirmed the tech firm had paid up.

However, finance minister Paschal Donohoe confirmed the cash – enough to fund the country's health budget for a year – would be held in a protected account pending the conclusion of an appeal by Apple and the Irish government against the original state aid ruling.

Irish Finance Minister, Paschal Donohoe with a copy of Ireland's 2018 budget
Image: Paschal Donohoe will not get to spend the windfall if Ireland and Apple win their appeal in the disputed tax case

He said: "While the government fundamentally disagrees with the commission's analysis in the Apple State Aid decision and is seeking an annulment of that decision in the European Courts, as committed members of the European Union, we have always confirmed that we would recover the alleged state aid.

"We have demonstrated this with the recovery of the alleged state aid which will be held in the Escrow Fund pending the outcome of the appeal process before the European courts.

"This is the largest State Aid recovery at €14.3bn and one of the largest funds of its kind to be established.

"It has taken time to establish the infrastructure and legal framework around the Escrow Fund but this was essential to protect the interests of all parties to the agreement."

The department, which denies any suggestion of selective tax treatment, admitted it could take several years for the appeals process to be completed.

Margrethe Vestager is the European Commissioner for Competition
Image: Margrethe Vestager, the European commissioner for competition, led the EU's case

It believes the ruling risks damaging overseas investment in the country.

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The commission found Apple paid an effective corporate tax rate of just 0.005% on its European profits in 2014 through a sweetheart deal with the Irish authorities.

A commission spokesperson said of the planned lawsuit on Tuesday: "In light of the full payment by Apple of the illegal State aid it had received from Ireland, Commissioner (Margrethe) Vestager will be proposing to the College of Commissioners the withdrawal of this court action."

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Chronological timeline, Twitter to bring back

Twitter is making changes to allow users to switch back to a chronological timeline, two years after replacing it with an algorithm-generated feed of the "best" tweets.

The company's decision in 2016 to alter how tweets were presented on users' home pages came in for much criticism from those who wanted to see tweets in real-time.

Kayvon Beykpour, Twitter's product lead, says the company is now making it easier for people to control their timelines and will be testing changes "in the coming weeks".

2/ We’ve learned that when showing the best Tweets first, people find Twitter more relevant and useful. However, we've heard feedback from people who at times prefer to see the most recent Tweets.

— Twitter Support (@TwitterSupport) September 17, 2018

Twitter's "show the best tweets first" setting has been updated – now, when switched to off, users will see tweets from people they follow in reverse chronological order.

Before the changes, users would also see "in case you missed it" and "recommended" tweets, even with the setting turned to off.

We’re working on making it easier for people to control their Twitter timeline, including providing an easy switch to see the most recent tweets 👇🏼 https://t.co/hoWb0JYlXv

— Kayvon Beykpour (@kayvz) September 18, 2018

4/ So, we’re working on providing you with an easily accessible way to switch between a timeline of Tweets that are most relevant for you and a timeline of the latest Tweets. You’ll see us test this in the coming weeks.

— Twitter Support (@TwitterSupport) September 17, 2018

The next step is to replace the setting with a new "easier-to-access" switch allowing users to choose to see tweets listed in chronological order, rather than by the algorithms Twitter thinks will help you find the content you're most interested in.

"Our plan is to eventually replace this setting when the easier-to-access switch described above is available," the company said.

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Twitter continued: "We'll keep you updated and are listening to your feedback – let us know what you think!"

Users were quick to do just that. @Popyfm said: "If you're working on new ways to give me more control over my timeline, where do i disable likes so they don't show up on the timeline? This isn't Facebook."

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