YORKSHIRE AND HUMBER TO BE CENTRE OF NEW ELECTRONIC TAGGING INDUSTRY

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Yorkshire and Humber is set to become the centre of Europes electronic tagging industry with the establishment of the UKs leading centre in the region.

The DTI is encouraging the establishment of a network of specialist Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology centres to be set up around the country. The national co-ordinating centre will be created and sponsored by Yorkshire Forward.

The DTI have invited AIM UK, the independent industry association representing RFID, bar coding and other automatic identification technologies to lead the initiative, develop the overall strategic plan for the development of the centres and determine the centralised services and deliverables that will be provided by the lead centre.

This will initially be housed at the AIM headquarters in Halifax, West Yorkshire and will offer the regions electronics companies early wins in a potentially huge global market. It will offer advice to companies on next generation technology for real time data tracking.

Plans are also progressing for the establishment of the European Centre of Excellence for AIDC which will also be sponsored by Yorkshire Forward and AIM and ultimately house the National RFID Centre.
RFID tagging is being introduced by retailers, healthcare authorities and logistics companies to keep track of products and movements and reduce costs.

Gunstones Bakeries, part of Hull-based Northern Foods, for example, saved itself 25m a year with a one minute processing saved on a single complete production line by using RFID and barcodes and by introducing faster data capture, greater accuracy and introduction of more automation.

Main applications for RFID include supply chain logistics; track and traceability; security, ticketing and access control; lifetime item identification; transient carrier labeling; animal and specimen identification; airline baggage handling. It is part of the digital revolution providing a vital platform for identifying and managing items and capturing data.

The global annual market for RFID systems was approximately $1bn in 2002 with Europe accounting for around 40% of the market and the UK around 25% of the European figure. However plans by Wal-Mart, owners of Leeds-based Asda, Metro AG and Target along with the US Department of Defense are likely to drive the market growth to more than 30% annually.

DTIs Electronics Unit said: "RFID is the single fastest vendor application sector we have identified by our Innovation and Growth Team. These technologies represent a main chance for UK suppliers and to the whole business community who will use it. We are delighted to see Yorkshire Forward seize and support this key initiative, drawing on the expertise and in collaboration with the automatic identification industry association AIM UK."

Jim Farmery, Yorkshire Forward's Head of Technology Infrastructure said the decision to locate the lead centre in Yorkshire and Humber was a great boost for the regions fast-growing digital industries cluster. It employs nearly 80,000 people, generating nearly 3bn for the regional economy.
"The need for accurate and timely information in digital form, is now at the very heart of business efficiency and competitiveness. The connectivity provided by wired and mobile communications, local and wide area networks, and of course the internet, is providing an unprecedented degree of freedom and flexibility in serving the needs for capturing, transferring and managing information. Add to this the advantage of being able to identify and handle physical items, and the potential for process and product development is dramatically extended. We are obviously delighted that the DTI have agreed that this 'lead' centre will be located in our region and believe it will offer great add-value opportunities to many of our businesses."

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