UWE Bristol spin out company poised to improve the diagnosis of bowel disorders

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We are delighted to announce that a UWE-based spin out company, Nidor Diagnostics Limited, has been established to develop a medical diagnostic device.

The device, named Inform ™, can detect the volatile organic compounds in patient samples, in order to diagnose and monitor a range of medical conditions. Founding institutional shareholders include UWE Bristol, the University of Liverpool, the University of Bristol and The Wellcome Trust.

Nidor Diagnostics Limited will offer a range of diagnostic products, the first of which would enable patients to receive a positive diagnosis of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Currently, the diagnosis of IBS and other related medical conditions can require many assessments, including blood and faeces testing, colonoscopy with biopsies, and radiology (X-ray) tests, and requires a lengthy process of elimination. Inform (IBS) ™ will help to speed up the diagnostic process for patients.

Professor Norman Ratcliffe’s and Ben Costello’s team in the Institute of BioSensing Technology have developed the core science over many years. The team have developed extremely sensitive, low cost semiconductor based technology and pattern recognition technology for fast evaluation of urine and stool for disease diagnoses.

Dr Taj S Mattu, CEO of Nidor said: “The Universities of the West of England and Liverpool have been instrumental in developing the core technology on which Nidor is based.  I am excited about realising the technology’s potential to improve the diagnosis of a number of diseases, not just IBS in the near future. Within the next six months, the company aims to raise seed investment and secure grant funding to develop its first diagnostic/prognostic test.”

Professor Martin Boddy, Pro Vice Chancellor for Research and Enterprise said “It’s good to see this big step towards getting real impact from UWE research. This research holds great potential for improving patient’s lives and also for creating jobs and spurring economic growth”.

Tracey John, Director of Research, Business and Innovation said “The formation of this spin-out company is the culmination of a wealth of research expertise to develop this ground-breaking science, in a strong collaborative partnership with University of Bristol and the University of Liverpool. It’s great to see that our intellectual property has helped secure a significant stake for UWE in Nidor Diagnostics Limited and also for the academics as founding shareholders”. 

UWE IP Commercialisation team (tech.transfer@uwe.ac.uk) can provide practical advice and support for protecting IP, such as filing patent applications for protecting University inventions, negotiating commercial licences, working with industry partners and setting up spin-out companies.  For more information please click here IP & KT Guide.

Launch Space residents Scribeless win Santander Universities Entrepreneurship Award

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On October 3rd, Launch Space residents Scribeless won the Santander Universities Entrepreneurship Award.

Scribeless helps companies better engage their customers through the power of the handwritten letter. They automate the process, using AI and Advanced Printing technology to create handwritten letters which are indiscernible from human-written in an affordable and efficient fashion for organisations.

Robert Van Den Bergh co-founder of Scribeless commented:

‘We are incredibly proud to win the competition and now can’t wait to help more companies utilise our handwritten solution. UWE and its start-up accelerator, Launch Space, have been critical in helping us grow over the last 18 months. There free accelerator has been game-changing for us.’

Located in the new £16m University Enterprise Zone on Frenchay Campus, Launch Space provides physical incubator space and enterprise support for graduate start-up businesses.

In just 18 months, Launch Space has supported over 50 businesses, with over £1.8 million funds raised by its residents and employment created for more than 90 people.

Mark Corderoy, Incubation Manager, University Enterprise Zone commented:

“This is an excellent result for Rob and Scribeless, and caps a very successful year for the team. They joined Launch Space with a prototype handwriting robot which they evolved into a market-leading AI-led ‘Software as a Service’ product! They have raised a significant funding round, and are now delivering revenues from both the UK and USA.”

Santander holds the Santander Universities Entrepreneurship Award every year, for universities with agreements with the bank in the UK. The competition is divided into two categories: undergraduate and postgraduate students, with three awards for each category.

The winners will not only receive a cash prize, but will have the opportunity to make use of the bank’s services to help them start up their proposed business.

Congratulations to Scribeless!

UWE Bristol are a partner university of Santander.

UWE Academics help in public trial of driverless pods

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As part of a research project involving UWE Bristol robotics, driverless pods helped transport members of the public around London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

The project aims to pave the way for the use of connected and autonomous vehicle (CAV) transport services at public transport hubs and around private estates, including tourist and shopping centres, hospitals, business parks and airports.

With Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park already a testbed for smart mobility activity, alongside a wide range of other innovation projects, an important element of this trial assessed people’s behaviours and attitudes towards driverless pods. With little existing research on how people interact with CAVs in public spaces, representatives from UWE Bristol and Loughborough University observed how people behaved when confronted by the pods, as well as surveying passengers who took a ride on them.

Conducting the trial in the park allowed the UWE Bristol team to speak to users of the park to explore how they felt about the pods being in the same space, and if that raised concerns. Talking to groups such as cyclists, e-scooter users and families provided feedback on how accepting the public might be of driverless vehicles in off-road spaces like the park, and in other locations such as shopping centres, hospitals or airports.

The trial at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park earlier this month was the first public appearance for the Capri pods, which picked up and dropped off passengers at a number of points on a circular route. The Capri pods will be at The Mall in South Gloucestershire in early 2020, returning to the park next year with a final trial that will extend their route and further test the on-demand technology.

Blog post adapted from UWE Bristol news article, which can be found here.

Conservation plan could help endangered primates in Africa

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A project co-led by the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol), Bristol Zoo and West African Primate Conservation Action is set to help protect nine species of primate found across Africa. A five-year plan that will be sent to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and which begins in 2020, sets out measures to protect the endangered Mangadrills.

Mangadrills include nine groups of African monkeys: seven within the genus Cercocebus, also known as mangabeys, and three within Mandrillus, including the mandrill and the two sub-species described as drills. These primates inhabit an area that stretches from Senegal and Gabon in West Africa, all the way to the Tana River Delta in Kenya. Yet despite the wide range of their habitats, they are among some of the world’s most threatened monkeys.

Dr David Fernandez, senior lecturer in conservation science at UWE Bristol who is co-leading the project, said: “These species are one of the least known primates, as there are very few people working on them. They are classed as ‘endangered’, except one ‘critically endangered’ and one ‘vulnerable’ by the IUCN. Although we know that in most cases their numbers are going down, for many we still don’t know exactly where the populations are or how many are left.”

The plan lists a set of actions that could help conserve these monkeys, which live in forest areas. Although the measures are still being finalised, one could be to protect the Bioko drill (Mandrillus leucophaeus poensis)species from hunters on Bioko Island, in Equatorial Guinea, by blocking off access routes to protected areas, which are used by hunters.

Said Dr Fernandez: “Most hunters enter the Caldera de Luba Scientific Reserve, a protected area in the South of Bioko where most Bioko drills live, using the only existing paved road. Setting up a checkpoint on it would help control poaching in that area and might constitute a plan that is achievable and could be highly effective.”

Another suggested action is to go into communities where primates raid sugar cane crops and are sometimes killed in retaliation. A solution, as set out in the plan, is to help communities to build appropriate fences to prevent this from happening.

As well as identifying what needs to happen to protect these animals, another goal of the action plan is to highlight the existence and plight of these animals.

One action is to set up ecotourism tours in locations like Bioko Island, where the primates have their habitats. Tourists would be able to spend the night in a tropical forest and go with local guides to view the monkeys up close.

Dr Grainne McCabe, head of Field Conservation and Science at Bristol Zoological Society, said: “This action plan is a genuine step forward in trying to save Mangadrill monkeys and we are really pleased to be working with the University of the West of England.

“Together we hope to promote awareness of these threatened species and encourage researchers, conservationists and governments to take the necessary actions to protect them.”

Launch Space Business Bunk to receive funding from Nationwide

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A start-up funded by our alumni, that grew out of Launch Space within the University Enterprise Zone has received investment from Nationwide Building Society:

Nationwide Building Society yesterday announced its latest venturing fund investment in Bunk, a digital lettings agency. Bunk uses the latest technology, including Open Banking, to help improve the rental market for both landlords and renters – something the Society, which both represents landlords, as a major buy to let lender, and tenants with over two million members who themselves rent their home, has campaigned on. 

The investment is the latest deal from the £50 million Venturing Fund set up just over a year ago to create partnerships enabling the Society and start-ups to share knowledge and expertise. As part of the fund, Nationwide is making strategic investments in and partnering with early stage start-ups exploring innovative products and services that could provide real benefits for the Society’s members in the future.

Around half of all landlords choose to run their rental businesses on their own. In a market where regulations change frequently, landlords often need support in ensuring they comply with the rules. Bunk can automatically list a landlord’s property on reputable sites, verify tenants as well as providing peace of mind to tenants by verifying the landlord proof of ownership.

The service allows landlords to list a property within minutes, which can then be viewed by potential tenants on their website and app as well as on major portals such as Rightmove and Zoopla. Bunk can make a landlord’s life easier by processing tenants’ references and completing the tenancy set up within the site. Once the properties are listed, landlords can view them on a dashboard, which also notifies them when a deposit and rent has been paid, saving the need to review their current account statements. Bunk also allows tenants and landlords to correspond within the site, so enquiries such as expressing an interest in renting a property and maintenance requests will go directly to them, providing transparency giving landlords and tenants peace of mind.

To ensure landlords are up to date with their responsibilities and able to comply with the latest regulation, Bunk offers prompts and smart insight. For example, landlords are unable to take more than five weeks’ rent as a deposit and the system will not progress if they try to take more than this. In addition, Bunk also offers support and advice for those who have become accidental landlords. Bunk have also partnered with Experian, so tenants who make regular rent payments on time will see this reflected in their credit file, something which starts to redress the balance between renters and homeowners, who’s regular mortgage payments already make up part of the credit file.

Tony Prestedge, Deputy Chief Executive at Nationwide Building Society, said: “Nationwide is one of the biggest Buy-to-Let lenders in the UK and we have long campaigned to improve standards within the rental sector for both tenants and landlords. Bunk is combining the latest digital technology backed up with human service to not only offer a seamless digital experience but also reduce friction in the rental market between tenants and landlords. Many landlords choose to manage their portfolio on their own, the service that Bunk offers could support them, ensuring they’re on top of their obligations and providing a better service to their tenants. They are a natural fit for our Venturing Fund investment, which seeks to fund start-ups that are focussed on making people’s lives easier through smart insights and fair practice.”

Tom Woollard, CEO at Bunk, said: “We want to build something the rental market has never seen before. Landlords are facing reduced margins coupled with increased regulation and there has never been a better time to make their lives easier through the use of technology. Bunk is there to make the process less stressful and more enjoyable for both renters and landlords. Bunk’s mission is to make renting work for everyone and we’re thrilled to have a partner like Nationwide backing our vision.” 

Mark Corderoy, Incubation Manager at Launch Space, said “Bunk is a great example of a business that has thrived through the support provided by UWE’s Launch Space incubator. During their time in Launch Space, Bunk grew from a team of 3 graduates to 11 staff, got through to the finals of Pitch@Palace, and successfully developed and executed their current funding round.”

Launch Space’s role is to provide support, guidance and experience for companies like Bunk as they embark on their entrepreneurial journeys. They provide free desk space and business support for graduate start-up businesses in the heart of the UWE Bristol University Enterprise Zone.

To find out more about Bunk visit their website.

People taking fewer flights for environmental reasons want leadership to ‘come out of closet’, researchers find

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People who are flying less often for environmental reasons want more visible leadership from environmental organisations and green employers to overcome expectations that ‘flying is normal’. That is the conclusion of a study investigating the views of flying ‘reducers’ conducted by two researchers at the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol).

The study found the ‘reducers’ were driven to act by strong ethical reasons, particularly concern about climate change. But they told researchers that they faced barriers in reducing their flights including social factors, such as ridicule from people around them and tension within families, including partners. Most of the respondents found it relatively easy to reduce their flying, but some mentioned high costs of international rail travel, and difficulties with booking, ticketing and making connections.

The two-year project surveyed members, supporters and staff of 80 organisations involved in environmental campaigning or sustainable development based in the UK. The study was conducted before the recent upsurge in awareness about aviation and climate change, and the ‘flight shaming‘ movement, which has reduced flying in Sweden. In total 153 people completed the online survey, with in-depth interviews conducted with 13 of them.

The study was conducted between 2016 and 2018 as part of Paul Purnell’s MSc in Sustainable Development in Practice at UWE Bristol. Paul works as a management consultant, specialising in general and environmental management systems for small engineering companies. The project was supervised by Dr Steve Melia, a Senior Lecturer in Transport and Planning, who has written and lectured about aviation and climate change.

Dr Melia said: “Several people in this study said they avoided talking about flying, to avoid conflict or embarrassing other people. Others described some difficult conversations with people around them.”

The study concluded that a ‘vanguard’ of flying ‘reducers’ could help to boost alternatives, such as ferry connections and long-distance sleeper trains, which have been eroded in recent years. This will require more leadership from environmental organisations and other organisations with a commitment to sustainability, the researchers found.

The full research paper, published in World Transport Policy and Practice, is available here.

World-first ‘smart’ fungal building to be created in £2.5m living architecture project

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A revolutionary new type of intelligent building made with green construction materials and capable of adaptively reacting to changes in light, temperature and air pollutants is being developed by UWE Bristol academics in collaboration with partners from Denmark (Centre for Information Technology and Architecture), Italy (MOGU) and the Netherlands (Utrecht University).

Researchers from the UWE Bristol’s Centre of Unconventional Computing will lead the construction of a smart home for the future using fungi, a carbon free material, as part of a £2.5 million project funded by the European Commission.

Using a novel bio-electric system developed by scientists, living fungi grown inside the building’s framework structure will act as a sensor detecting changes in light, pollutants and temperature, and computers will analyse the information. When particular changes are recognised, the system will have the potential to respond adaptively by controlling connected devices such as lights and heaters.

UWE Bristol computer scientists will work with European experts in architecture, biophysics and mycology on the project, which has been heralded as a potential breakthrough for the building industry due to its eco-friendly credentials. By using fungi as an integrated structural and computational substrate, buildings would have low production and running costs, embedded artificial intelligence, and could be returned to nature when no longer in use.

The three-year FUNGAR (Fungal Architectures) project will mark the first time intelligent biological substances have been used as construction materials. It will see living organisms and computing function integrated into designing and building.

Professor Andrew Adamatzky, Director of the Centre of Unconventional Computing, said: “Our overarching goal is to design and bio-manufacture a sensing and computing building with fungi. This is a radically new approach as it proposes to use a real living organism in the material structure, which is also tuned to perform computation.

“If successful, the building as a whole will be able to recognise lighting levels, chemicals in the environment, the presence of people, and will respond to touch. Acting as a massively-parallel computer, the building will control devices depending on the environmental conditions. For example, a warning light could be lit if high levels of air pollution were detected or inhabitants could be warned about high or low temperatures. It’s our vision for an alternative version of a smart home.

“This type of building would be ecologically-friendly as it will be made from natural materials, and will be lightweight, waterproof and recyclable when it reaches the end of its life.”

Professor Adamatzky discovered fungi could be used as a type of functional computer following a studyat UWE Bristol three years ago. He found that the organism reacts to external stimuli such changes in lighting conditions and temperature with spikes of electrical activity.

Fungi is already used as a building material in Europe but the existing approach involves growing the organism to the shape of bricks or blocks, before drying it out to harden. However, fungi have never before been used in live form in self-growing construction. For the FUNGAR project, the fungi will be combined with nanoparticles and polymers to make mycelium-based electronics. This material will then be grown inside the building’s triaxial woven structure. The full-scale fungal building will be constructed in Denmark and Italy, with a smaller scale version being created at UWE Bristol’s Frenchay campus.

The academic partners in the project are the Centre for Information Technology and Architecture in Denmark and Utrecht Universityin Holland. The industry partner is MOGU, a mycelium-based technologies company based in Italy.

UWE Bristol shortlisted for three Times Higher Awards 2019

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The University has been shortlisted in recognition of our outstanding achievements over the last 12 months in three categories: Outstanding Entrepreneurial University award; Business School of the Year; and Outstanding Strategic Planning Team of the Year.

Widely regarded as the ‘Oscars of higher education’, this year’s awards will see the biggest celebration yet of UK universities, recognising outstanding work across a wide-range of HE activity.

Our innovative approach to enterprise has been recognised by making the shortlist of the Outstanding Entrepreneurial University award.

UWE Bristol has enterprise and entrepreneurship at its heart which assessors recognised as a huge contribution to our award of TEF Gold.

Our submission highlighted the leadership culture across the institution, creating an enterprising and ‘can-do’ attitude amongst students and staff. Through the Enterprise 2020 strategic programme, the University has embedded enterprise in over 300 programmes across all faculties – from Aerospace and Animation, to Law, Nursing and Wildlife Ecology.

The submission also highlights our state-of-the-art facilities that bring enterprise alive including the University Enterprise Zone. Home to budding entrepreneurs and generating hundreds of jobs, the UEZ has contributed over £50m to the local economy.

The Bristol Business School has also made it onto the shortlist for Business School of the Year for the third year running. We hope to go one better this year, building a submission around impactful research, engagement with business and innovation in entrepreneurship.

The final award the University has been shortlisted for is Outstanding Strategic Planning Team of the Year.

Our submission centres on how our strategic approach has seen the University achieve its highest ever student satisfaction ratings.

Programme Leader for UWE Bristol’s BA(Hons) Business and Management programme Paul Bennett and Lecturer Mubarak Mohamud are presented with the award of Most Significant Positive Impact in the NSS award 2018 by Deputy Vice-Chancellor Jane Harrington and Chair of UWE Bristol Governors Sonia Mills

Focussing on our taskforce approach that shares best practice with programmes and areas requiring support, this has led to quickly resolving issues of performance and identify trends across the University. This culture of institutional performance has led to our highest ratings in the National Student Survey (NSS) and Postgraduate Taught Experience Survey (PTSE), placing the University in the top 10 of higher education institutions for student satisfaction in the country.

You can read the full stories of each submission on the THE awards 2019 website.

UWE Bristol appoints Sarah White as new Knowledge Transfer Partnership Manager

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UWE Bristol have appointed Sarah White as the new Knowledge Transfer Partnership Manager (KTP) within the Research, Business and Innovation Team.

Sarah has lived and worked in Bristol for over 30 years. She brings a wealth of knowledge of delivering projects, most recently with the NHS and pharmaceutical companies to jointly deliver service improvement schemes in hospitals.

Sarah commented, “The opportunity to work in Knowledge Transfer came up at UWE and I jumped at it, as it represents the very best of collaborative and innovative working across the public and private sectors. It is exciting to have joined a dynamic and diverse team that deliver excellent results”

Tracey John, Director of Research Business and Innovation at UWE Bristol commented, “We are delighted to have Sarah on board with us to manage our KTP office. She has already made a huge impact on the team and has helped us to secure another KTP with Reusabook, bringing our number of KTP’s to 11. We have ambitious plans to double this number over the coming year and I look forward to seeing how Sarah and the RBI team can work with all our faculties and with businesses in the region to achieve this.”

The KTP scheme helps businesses in the UK to innovate and grow. It does this by linking them with an academic or research organisation and a graduate.

A KTP enables a business to bring in new skills and the latest academic thinking to deliver a specific, strategic innovation project through a knowledge-based partnership. Find out more here.

Sarah has replaced Clare Rowson who retired in March after 20+ years at UWE.

KTP Case Study: Viper Innovations

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This partnership received financial support from the Knowledge Transfer Partnerships programme (KTP).  KTP aims to help businesses to improve their competitiveness and productivity through the better use of knowledge, technology and skills that reside within the UK knowledge base.  This successful Knowledge Transfer Partnership project, funded by UK Research and Innovation through Innovate UK, is part of the government’s Industrial Strategy.