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Cognitive radio is a promising technology for fulfilling the spectrum and service requirements of future wireless communication systems. Real experimentation is a key factor for driving research forward. However, the experimentation testbeds available today are cumbersome to use, require detailed platform knowledge, and often lack high level design methods and tools. In this paper we propose a novel cognitive radio design technique, based on a high-level model which is implementation independent, supports design-time correctness checks, and clearly defines the underlying execution semantics. A radio designed using this technique can be synthesised to various real radio platforms automatically; detailed knowledge of the target platform is not required. The proposed technique therefore simplifies cognitive radio design and implementation significantly, allowing researchers to validate ideas in experiments without extensive engineering effort. One example target platform is proposed, comprising software and reconfigurable hardware. The design technique is demonstrated for this platform through the development of two realistic cognitive radio applications.