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Plates in a Greek Taverna, hearts, vinyl records… once they’re broken, that’s usually that! But not in the world of R&D. Here, the end of one thing often signifies the beginning of another.

The most recent of our accidental inventions, smart dust was discovered this side of the millennium by a chemistry graduate student at the University of California, San Diego. It’s already being lauded as one of the most significant breakthroughs of the 21st century.

As part of her doctoral project, Jamie Link was working on a silicon chip when BANG! – it suddenly shattered into myriad tiny pieces. ‘Game Over’ most of us would probably have said, but blessed with an open and enquiring mind, Link simply shifted her scientific gaze. What she soon discovered was that her newly created smart dust retained the properties of the original chip and could still function as programmable sensors.

Give the silicon particles a target to aim at and they’ll not only seek it out, but join together and change colour when they find it. As for the target – and here’s the exciting bit – it could be anything from deadly tumour cells in the body to toxic chemicals carried in the air or water.

We like to think of Jumpstart’s Technical Analysts as smart dust. And not just because they’re clever cookies. On any given day, you’ll find them scouring the country for eligible R&D activity and turning it into cold hard cash or tax benefits for clients, keeping companies’ balance sheets and the UK economy healthy.

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