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.

UWE Bristol secure new Knowledge Transfer Partnership with Reusaworld

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UWE Bristol Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) team have secured another KTP with Reusaworld and the Centre for Machine Vision. The new KTP means that UWE Bristol now has 11 live KTPs. The KTP which is based in Gloucester will see innovative changes to the world of second hand books.

This KTP will be with Reuseabook, a part of Reusaworld.

Reuseabook was founded in 2008 by Rob Hollier and Ami Hollier with the following mission: NEVER to allow a single book to go to landfill.

Strong believers in conscientious capitalism, they wanted to create an earth-friendly sustainable business model while helping others. After much hard work what emerged was the Reuseaworld group: an award-winning, ethical, environmentally-friendly and technology-savvy enterprise that uses the internet to sell second-hand books worldwide.

Working with the Centre for Machine Vision, the aim of the 30 month KTP is to develop innovative machine vision techniques and deep learning methodologies to test the viability of data outputs of a 3D Book Vision System and its application to the book grading process. Ultimately, increasing the speed and quality of inbound book sorting, in-house data management and book cataloguing.

The UWE Lead for the KTP is Professor Lyndon Smith and the Academic Supervisor is Dr Abdul Farooq, who are both part of the Centre for Machine Vision at UWE Bristol. The Centre for Machine Vision is part of the Bristol Robotics Laboratory (BRL). They solve real-world practical computer vision problems. Their  particular excellence lies in three-dimensional reconstruction and surface inspection.

Innovate UK scored the proposal very highly (4th out of 60 applications) so congratulations to all involved!

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.

Pee Power technology returns to Glastonbury Festival for fourth year

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Technology developed at UWE Bristol that converts urine into electricity is set to be showcased at Glastonbury Festival for a fourth year.

An installation of a large 40-person urinal will return to a prominent location near the Pyramid Stage to raise awareness of the system, which is being commercialised as announced last year and introduced to off-grid areas in the developing world.

The PEE POWER® system can turn organic matter such as urine into enough electricity to power lighting or charge mobile phones. At the same time, it sanitises urine and produces plant fertiliser as a natural by-product.

Energy produced at the event will power lighting in the urinal block at night, while a new feature ‘Pee to Play’ will see festival goers playing retro games on Game Boys powered by the system. Visitors can rate their PEE POWER experience via an electronic display and give survey feedback to academic staff available to explain how the technology works.

The PEE POWER urinals – among 5,500 toilets at the festival – have been a fixture at the event since 2015 and used by thousands of people each day. In previous years, they have powered information displays, and helped charge phones and provide urinal lighting.

Professor Ioannis Ieropoulos, Director of the Bristol BioEnergy Centre at Bristol Robotics Laboratory, said: “It’s a great pleasure to be welcomed back to this wonderful event for a fourth year and to be part of the festival’s environmentally-conscious sanitation campaign.

“There’s been much activity with our technology since our appearance in 2017, with the introduction of PEE POWER to schools in Uganda and Kenya supporting our aim to improve safety and sanitation in the world’s poorest communities including in refugee camps and slums. Our system is being refined and made more efficient, and for the first time we will be powering some of the applications directly, which means no batteries. We even hope to be generating surplus electricity, especially during the busiest times at the festival.

“As team of scientists, we’re hoping for greater interaction with the public this year and it’s the first time we’ll be recording public feedback on the system.”

Dr Xavier Walter, one of the main researchers in the team, added: “We hope our retro gaming exhibit will resonate with the audience and attract festivals goers to have a look at our technology and ask questions.”

Ahead of the festival, the microbial fuel cell technology will be demonstrated at a Family Day event at Heathrow Airport, where the system is being considered as part of a commitment from Heathrow and waterless urinal technology company WhiffAway to zero emissions and sustainability.

The team’s presence at Glastonbury is the result of a close collaboration with partners Oxfam, log cabin and garden building specialists Dunster House and WhiffAway in a collective effort to improve lives in refugee camps and areas of the world with no sanitation or electricity.

Chris Murphy, Owner and Managing Director of Dunster House, said: “It’s truly amazing what Ioannis Ieropoulos and his team have achieved over the past years. We feel proud and honoured to be part of this project every year since the earliest field trial back in 2015. From that single raised latrine placed outside the University, we are now providing a structure ready to accommodate up to 40 people. We’re glad to be back at Glastonbury 2019 collaborating in a life-changing project that can help people all around the world.”

James McLean, Group CEO of WhiffAway Group, said: “It’s an honour and a privilege to be combining our cutting edge technologies at this wonderful event. By putting our heads together we hope to continue making a difference to the wider community and help change the world for the better.”

The PEE POWER demonstration is the flagship research project of a formal partnership between Glastonbury Festival and UWE Bristol signed in 2017 focusing on sustainability projects including waste reduction and energy efficiency.

How PEE POWER® works

PEE POWER® is generated when microbial fuel cells (MFCs) work by employing live microbes which feed on urine (the fuel) for their own growth and maintenance. The MFC taps a portion of the biochemical energy used for microbial growth, and converts that directly into electricity or PEE POWER®. This green technology also cleans the urine so that the by product can be used as a crop fertiliser.

The Pee Power project is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Scale Up 4 Growth Initiative wins national award

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Scale Up 4 Growth (S4G) has won best External Knowledge Exchange (KE) Initiative of the Year at the PraxisAuril KE Awards 2019.

The KE Awards, organised by PraxisAuril – the UK’s world-leading professional association for Knowledge Exchange (KE) practitioners – and sponsored by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), celebrate the contribution of KE professionals in enabling and facilitating the societal and economic impact of research.

S4G is an innovative, £2.7m programme, designed by the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol)’s Research, Business and Innovation (RBI) team and funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). The programme is delivered by the unique S4G Partnership of UWE Bristol (lead), NatWest’s Entrepreneur Accelerator and Corporate and Commercial Banking Teams, and Foot Anstey LLP

The S4G team beat the University of Manchester for their Manchester Law and Technology Initiative (MLaTI) and the University of Kent for their Employability Points Scheme to claim the prize.

Tracey John, Director of Research Business and Innovation (RBI) at UWE Bristol said:

“We are extremely proud of the S4G programme, the valued Partnership we have created with NatWest and Foot Anstey, and our impact on the West of England’s scaling businesses in the regional economy.”

Nathan Peacey, Partner at Foot Anstey commented:

“It’s fantastic to see Scale Up 4 Growth recognised as a standout example of university and business working in partnership. We have a huge amount to gain by working with exciting growth businesses and we have been delighted to support them on this journey through sharing our expertise and experience. This collaboration is another great example of how businesses are successfully working together to raise the South West’s profile as being at the forefront of tech and innovation and build the regional economy.”

Matt Hatcher, NatWest Director of Corporate and Commercial Coverage, South West, said:

“As a bank we’re hugely committed to supporting the growth of entrepreneurism in the region and helping more start-up and scale-up businesses achieve success. Collaboration and innovation is key, which is why we are delighted with the success of the S4G scheme. It is making a real impact and along with our Entrepreneur Accelerator Hub in Bristol, helping support the rich vein of talent we have in the West of England achieve national and international success.”

The S4G team collecting their award

Olly Reid, Scale Acceleration Manager at NatWest, added:

Through our accelerator programme we’re working with hundreds of exciting start-up and scale-up businesses from across the region in multiple sectors. The cross-team collaboration involved with working with the team at UWE and our corporate and commercial team at NatWest has allowed us to develop a real exciting programme that is crucially expanding the network of opportunities available to local businesses. This is where the success of the S4G programme lies and why we hope more local entrepreneurs will benefit in the years ahead.”

S4G is a 3-year, free programme of support for businesses in the West of England (WoE) that are looking to grow, expand and scale. It includes:

  • Two-day ‘business growth’ workshops, delivered across the WoE by leading Bristol Business School academics and industry experts from the S4G Partnership
  • Grants of £10k–40k for projects that help businesses address barriers to growth

S4G is an excellent example of an External KE Initiative that brings together the very best in university-business partnership working, sharing knowledge and expertise from academia and industry with growing businesses, to benefit the regional economy.

Since its launch in November 2018, over 300 businesses have registered to be part of the S4G network and benefit from the programme.

S4G is the latest in a series of projects led by UWE Bristol to support innovative high growth businesses in the West of England. These projects have supported 100’s of businesses across the region and created over 1,000 new jobs. NatWest’s Entrepreneur Accelerator Programme has supported nearly 900 businesses from the South West since it opened in Bristol in 2015. Applications are now open for its latest intake.

Congratulations to the Scale Up 4 Growth team. You can find out more about S4G here

£7.7m investment for University print research centre

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The University of the West of England (UWE Bristol)’s Centre for Fine Print Research (CFPR) is to receive a £7.7m grant from Research England’s Expanding Excellence fund. This prestigious grant is awarded in recognition of the Centre’s internationally acclaimed practical research.

Universities and Science Minister Chris Skidmore, who made the announcement about the funding, said: “Pushing the boundaries of knowledge and conquering new innovations are what our universities are known for the world over. This programme led by UWE Bristol will give us a glimpse into the past using the technology of the future, with 3D printing to recreate historical artefacts.

“The Expanding Excellence in England Fund will support projects throughout England to master new and developing areas of research and industry.

“Made possible through our record R&D spend delivered by our modern Industrial Strategy, the investment will support researchers to develop solutions and opportunities for UK researchers and businesses.”

The CFPR’s work looks into the artistic, historical and industrial significance of creative print practices, processes and technologies.

The investment will fund a range of research projects over the next three years and is set to create 19 new roles within the centre. The recruits will work closely with industry partners around three research themes: transformative technologies, reconstructing historic methods, and 3D-printing.

Talking about the funding, UWE Bristol Vice-Chancellor Professor Steve West said: “We are honoured to be one of the universities to receive this significant funding through Research England. Our Centre for Fine Print Research is going from strength to strength.

“Last year it was shortlisted for the Times Higher Award for its work with Burleigh Pottery to help the iconic company continue printing its traditional print patterns on pottery. This fund will now allow the Centre to work ever more closely with partners to tackle big challenges around printing.”

Celebrating its 21st birthday later this year, the Centre has established itself at the forefront of print technologies. With a focus on industrial development and new technologies, researchers at the Centre have established a number of high profile collaborations with artists, makers and industry partners.

Projects include developing uses of 3D printing, developing new types of printing inks, and collaborating with Sir Peter Blake to find fine art applications for emerging print techniques.

Professor Carinna Parraman, Director of the Centre for Fine Print Research, said: “We are thrilled to be awarded this funding and for the CFPR to now be formally recognised as a truly established and world-leading research centre. We are looking for artists, designers, scientists, technologists and leaders at a range of levels to join our group. The funding supports a range of posts including associate professors, researchers and technicians across our key areas, which includes fine art, print, product design, robotics, electronics, software, manufacturing, materials science and nanotechnology.”

With a focus on industrial development and new technologies, researchers at the Centre have established a number of high-profile collaborations with artists, makers and industry partners. A range of current and future partners have contributed to the funding application, including Burleigh Potteries, St Cuthbert’s Mill, Cranfield Colours, The National Gallery London, The Crafts Council, Denby Potteries, Glass Technology Services Ltd and Hewlett Packard.

Other contributors include John Purcell Paper, Imerys Group, Toshiba, Multiple Sclerosis Research, Courtney and Co., Ultimaker 3D, Pangolin, Wedgwood, National Trust, National Science and Media Museum Group, Bristol Legible City and Bristol City Council, RNIB, ColourCom, Create Education, Ken Stradling Collection, and Spike Print Studio Bristol.

Knowledge Transfer Partnership graded ‘Outstanding’

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A Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) between UWE Bristol and Viper Innovations has been graded as “Outstanding” by Innovate UK.

Viper Innovations Ltd is an established provider of industry-leading products for integrity monitoring of electrical cabling in subsea oil and gas production.

At the start of the 18 month KTP, Viper’s business was in subsea oil and gas, but it recognised its technology had potential for other sectors. A new opportunity in rail highlighted the need for different models of engagement to drive forward technical innovation in new sectors. The original aim was to use UWE’s co-creative innovation expertise to establish an integrated user-led product innovation process, speeding up time to market and de-risking technical developments. Kim Mahoney, the Associate, brought outstanding marketing skills and experience and her proactive approach was a key element in the success of the project.

Overall, the KTP realised some significant achievements over a relatively short period, enabling an innovative SME to accelerate development of its CableGuardian product in collaboration with a large national operator, Network Rail, and many other partners. It has provided a clear route to grow Viper’s business through an effective diversification strategy. For the academics, it provided opportunities for research publications and extremely useful practitioner contacts. The Associate gained invaluable experience in both industry and academic fields, undertook a range of professional training and is taking up a new role in industry as well as a part-time Lecturer position at UWE.

“We would like to thank our Academic Partners at UWE for their invaluable contribution and dedication to this project. The KTP has proven to be an excellent vehicle for transferring and embedding a level of knowledge and understanding to the business which would likely have not taken place without it. Consequently, Viper Innovations has taken a step change in its approach to product development, which ultimately ensures alignment to our clients’ needs, reduces our cost and time to market and provides a level of clarity in understanding of new market opportunity and how best to communicate the benefits of each product to each user.”

Max Nodder, Business Development Director at Viper Innovations

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.

Congratulations to all involved.

To find out more about KTP’s please visit our website.

UWE Bristol’s Scale up 4 Growth initiative nominated for prestigious award

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The Scale up 4 Growth project launched by UWE Bristol ‘s Research, Business and Innovation team has been nominated for a KE Award in the External KE Initiative of the Year category.

Scale up 4 Growth (S4G) is a 3 year, free programme that helps SMEs that are looking to grow, expand and scale.

The ERDF funded project is delivered by the unique S4G Partnership of UWE Bristol (lead), NatWest and Foot Anstey LLP and includes:

  • Two-day ‘business growth’ workshops, delivered across the WoE by leading Bristol Business School academics and industry experts from the S4G Partnership
  • Grants of £10k–40k for projects that help businesses address barriers to growth

S4G is an excellent example of an external KE initiative that brings together the very best in university-business partnership working, sharing knowledge and expertise from academia and industry with growing businesses, to benefit the regional economy.

The programme is designed explicitly around the ‘five key gaps’ that prevent businesses from scaling up, identified by the ScaleUp Institute’s pioneering research: Skills; Finance; Markets; Infrastructure; and Leadership. This evidence-based foundation has helped create an extremely successful programme that, in 6 months since its launch, has consistently demonstrated its ability to directly address the challenges faced by growing businesses.

Partnering with NatWest and Foot Anstey LLP has enabled UWE Bristol to provide a high-quality programme for aspiring scalers who do not have the time, network or financial resource to access equivalent support.

Since its launch in November 2018, over 300 businesses have registered to be part of the S4G network and benefit from the programme; this number is only set to grow.

The KE Awards are a new initiative organised by PraxisAuril, the UK’s world-leading professional association for Knowledge Exchange (KE) practitioners, to celebrate the contribution of KE professionals in enabling and facilitating the societal and economic impact of research. 

Sponsored by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), a new body creating the best possible environment for research and innovation to flourish, the KE Awards will recognise and celebrate the people behind the best KE achievements.

Winners will be announced at the PraxisAuril conference on the evening of Thursday 13 June 2019.

Congratulations to the team on the nomination and good luck for the awards!