UWE Bristol signs open letter calling for clarity and transparency on the future UK Shared Prosperity Fund

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UWE Bristol, as part of the University Alliance (UA), has signed an open letter, alongside over 70 organisations from across the UK, calling for clarity and transparency on the future UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF) to avoid vital support disappearing when existing programmes end in 2023.

EU Structural Funds have been a key enabler of collaboration between universities and business, used to support and develop communities and regions; whether through programmes that have increased employment and skills, or through initiatives to drive forward research, innovation and enterprise.

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

EU Structural Funds play a vital role in helping us achieve our ambitious goals for helping businesses within the region.

As a university we have won £13m of EU Structural Funds since 2017, allowing us to leverage £14m of company investment in research and innovation. This in turn has enabled us to help countless SMEs within the region, creating hundreds of new jobs, products and services.

One of the beneficiaries of our funding is 299 Lighting. Talking at an event for companies who have been awarded grants from UWE Bristol, they explained “the funding allowed us to expand our business to the next level… setting up our own manufacturing in Bristol and grow our team and own the product range”. Talking at the same event, The Real Olive Company explained that funding “brought everything into focus and helped us push forward with projects and ideas.”

Without a timely replacement of the funds, we are putting at risk many of the projects and schemes that we run for businesses in the region, which will have a direct impact on the region’s economy, particularly during such times of economic uncertainty.”

University Alliance Chief Executive Vanessa Wilson said:

“EU structural funds have been a vital mechanism for universities to support businesses and communities – especially throughout the pandemic. Details of their replacement, the UKSPF, have been promised but not delivered, and time is running out as we approach the end of the Brexit transition period.

“University and business leaders want to work constructively and proactively with the Government now to address the current economic challenges and reduce inequalities between regions. Given the uncertainty ahead, it has never been more important to deliver the UKSPF, which will be a vehicle for the much-needed long-term planning and investment needed to level-up the nation.”

UWE Bristol is committed to supporting economic development in the region and full supports the need for clarity around these funds.

Follow this link to read the open letter from UA.

Follow this link to find out more about our funds.

Top Tips for Bid Writing for Innovation Funds

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Thanh Quan-Nicholls, our Digital Innovation Lead says that there has been a meteoric rise in the availability of grants for business innovation but they can be difficult to navigate.  She has spoken to many companies this year because we provided 121 support for companies looking to apply for grants to schemes such as the Digital Innovation Fund.  There are common themes that come up so, here are her top tips:

     1. Make sure you have an innovative idea

For lean disruptive start-ups, embedding innovation is natural, but for others, it requires a change in mindset or culture. Make sure you explore future technologies, new business models and innovative design.  With customer needs changing fast, it’s a great time to be looking at new ways to apply existing technologies, creating new services or products, and developing disruptive business ideas.  Innovation funding provided by the public sector is intended to widen knowledge, further capabilities and bring economic growth. 

     2. Explain your innovation

If you are close to your project, it can be hard to explain why your idea is novel. Get help to apply a critical eye to your application. To be credible, you should become an expert in your field. The bid will be reviewed by industry experts, so there is no shortcut to doing your research: identify competitors and similar products, know your market or sector, understand your technology and why you are breaking new ground. 

     3. Be positive

Remember that this is an exercise in persuasive writing to convince your audience of your great idea.  You want to excite them and get them to support your project.  For grant funding, this is not just about the end user or customer, the funder wants to know that you are delivering wider impacts. There is no room for doubt – be bold, be optimistic and describe your innovation idea in a way that excites your reader. 

     4. Demonstrate your capabilities

To demonstrate that you can deliver, get your financial information ready, have a team with the right skills, and show that you understand your route to market. Gaps here will seriously jeopardise your chances of being funded. Increase your chances of success by assessing your capabilities objectively and mitigate any weaknesses.

     5. Read the guidance & answer the questions

Some people fail to answer the specifics of the questions being asked.  Avoid this pitfall by reading the guidance closely.  Your application will be read and scored by reviewers who are working to an assessment criteria. Targeting your answer will ensure that you will maximise your score.

     6. Give yourself enough time

Quality applications benefit from time and effort. Remember to give yourself enough time to fine tune your bid. Get team members with differing strengths involved at different stages.  

If you don’t understand the jargon or processes, most funders will be happy to talk to you.  It might not be obvious, but funders want to give away their money!  They are keen to get applications that are innovative, exciting, impactful and deliverable.  

     7. Find the right fund for your project

There are many funds out there – nationally and locally.  

The chances of succeeding can vary depending on how many applications are submitted and how high the standards are across the board.  As a rule, there is more competition for national or larger funds than smaller, local funds.  Assess your chances wisely. There is no single list because these funds are short-lived and change constantly. You need to sign up to bulletins and newsletters, and be ready to take advantage of the next opportunity.  

And finally, it’s important to recognise that receiving funding takes time and energy.  In most cases, companies are signing up to a reporting back process beyond the life of their project. But the recipe for success is about matching the right project with the right fund, taking time to prepare a strong application and avoid the common pitfalls.

Win or lose, there are intangible benefits of bid writing – businesses say that going through an application process helps them to clarify their own proposition.  And often companies who get funding once, go on to receive more. Many will use the same skills to attract further investment.

So, if you are thinking about delivering innovative projects, don’t miss out. Have a look at what support you can get – there is plenty out there!

Thanh Quan-Nicholls is lead for UWE Bristol’s Digital Innovation Fund. Round 2 is now open,  closing to applications on 18 November 2020.  For more information and to register for an application pack visit:  www.digitalinnovationfund.co.uk.

UWE Research into the impact of driverless vehicles – Capri Project

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For the past three years researchers from the Centre for Transport and Society, University of the West of England (UWE Bristol), have been involved in the Capri project, looking into the impact of autonomous vehicles. Dr Ian Shergold has given a summary of their recent findings in the post below:

Capri was a practical, evidence-led research project that has broadened the UK’s knowledge of the short, medium and long term impacts of connected and autonomous vehicles (CAV) and helped inform the future direction of CAV development and implementation.

Capri was an industry-led consortium comprising 17 partners, including UWE, partly funded by Innovate UK and the Centre for Connected & Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV).  Funding was awarded though a competition to sponsor projects that would deliver technical solutions for CAV that provide real-world benefits to users as well as identifying commercial benefits. It has paved the way for the use of CAV to move people around locations such as airports, hospitals, business parks, shopping and tourist centres.

Capri ran from 2017-2020, and built on successful earlier research studies and live trials of autonomous vehicles involving UWE and the Bristol Robotics Laboratory (BRL), namely the Venturer and Flourish projects.

The UWE team working on Capri was led by Graham Parkhurst, Professor of Sustainable Mobility and Director of the research Centre for Transport & Society (CTS) at the University of the West of England in Bristol. Over the last three years he has been joined by colleagues in CTS, in particular Dr Daniela Paddeu and Dr Ian Shergold to carry out a range of social and behavioural research on CAV.

Over the three years of the study four different kinds of research have been undertaken.

  • The project began for CTS with focus groups to find out what members of the public think about the possible benefits and difficulties presented by autonomous shuttle pods, leading up to a one-day ‘codesign workshop’.  This event brought together over sixty members of the public, alongside technical experts and academics, to explore how systems based on pods might look, how they would operate and where they might be deployed.
  • The CTS team also undertook surveys of public willingness to use automated shuttles amongst users of two of the types of facility in which the vehicles could be deployed; a university campus and an airport.
  • The centrepiece of the project were the live demonstration trials in Bristol and London, where pods were safely run in fully autonomous mode. In Bristol the team undertook two experiments which were amongst the first of their kind, exploring how passenger perceptions of trust and comfort were influenced by where they sat in the vehicle, how fast it went, and whether there was a safety steward on board or not.
  • In London the team undertook observations and surveys with members of the public, not only those experiencing the vehicle, but also people who were interacting with it as pedestrians and cyclists in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

Most people, throughout the research, showed good levels of trust in the technology, would be willing to use it, thought it could be useful to others as well, and depending on the circumstances, would be willing to pay to use it. We found people willing to share if services would remain convenient and safe.

There was also a wide range of social, environmental and practical concerns that need to be taken seriously, and to which the team do not yet have all the solutions.

However, the experiments showed that people became more favourable following an experience of actually riding in one of the shuttles. And this was particularly true for car drivers, who started off the most cautious of our participants, but became the most positive.

As to direction of face in the vehicle and how fast it went they found that trust in the system was slightly lower at a higher speed and when facing backwards to the direction of travel, so users are sensitive to the design of vehicle and the driving characteristics.

Interestingly though, people who travelled in a shuttle without a steward on board were just as trusting as those who travelled with one. This is an important finding as the whole point of an autonomous vehicle is that it doesn’t need onboard staff.

Although Capri has now finished, CTS and UWE research on autonomous vehicles continues through a project called MultiCAV, which is developing automated public transport vehicles for use on public roads. CTS are also part of a project called ‘Driverless Futures’ which is currently considering how the highway code would work if some road vehicles are driven by computer.

Over the course of the CAPRI project, over 650 members of the public contributed to the research. The team are grateful to them for their time and for sharing their views.

For anyone interested in finding out more about Capri and our work, please visit the online Capri ‘Virtual Museum‘ which has much more on the project and its results.

New book by Robin Hambleton on Cities and Communities Beyond COVID-19

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Robin Hambleton, Emeritus Professor of City Leadership, Centre for Sustainable Planning and Environments in FET, has written an international book on Cities and communities beyond COVID-19. How local leadership can change our future for the better. 

Published by Bristol University Press on 16 October 2020 this forward-looking analysis, which builds on his previous book, Leading the Inclusive City, includes a detailed discussion of the Bristol One City ApproachMarvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol, contributes a Foreword to the book.

Robin at the Learning City Exhibition at Hamilton House

Robin argues that modern urban strategies need to address four major challenges at once: the COVID-19 health emergency, a very sharp economic downturn arising from the pandemic, the climate emergency, and deep-seated social, economic and racial inequality. 

Robin comments: ‘Thanks to remarkable fast-tracking by Bristol University Press this book has been published in less than three months from submission of the manuscript.  I hope readers find that it is up to date and highly relevant to the pressing issues the country now faces’.

More information can be found here.

Bristol Robotics Laboratory and Future Space trials Robot Tours

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Future Space, in partnership with the Bristol Robotics Laboratory (BRL), recently trialled an innovative new approach to providing tours of its facility, enabling people to view its workshop, laboratory and networking spaces from the comfort of their own homes and offices.

Using their personal IT devices to remotely control the movements of a self-driving, two-wheeled videoconferencing robot, potential new Future Space members were given the freedom to explore the unique, state-of-the-art space, while also being able to communicate with staff through a live video link.

Developed by Double Robotics Inc, this exciting technology helps people to feel more connected to colleagues, friends or patients, by having a physical presence, even if they are unable to attend an event or meeting in person. The robot is involved in several UWE Bristol research projects currently underway at BRL.

“We start by co-designing and trialling the technology in our purpose-built Assisted Living Studio,” says Professor Praminda Caleb-Solly, BRL’s Assistive Robotics and Intelligent Health Technologies lead. “We develop, test and implement various assistive robots and heterogeneous sensor systems in this realistic environment before taking them into real-world settings. The next stage, as we are doing with the Double telepresence robot, is evaluating its use in health and social care settings. We are particularly interested in how it can allow nurses, social workers and doctors to remotely interact with patients and are exploring this as part of our partnership with North Bristol Trust.”

Read the full story.

Free online Innovation & Bid writing course, open to SMEs

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  • Dates: 13  October, 20 October and 27 October 2020, plus 3 hours of bid writing support
  • Delivered online. Free to SMEs in the region

Apply for the course

In times of crisis, delivering innovation becomes crucial for businesses looking to pivot, adapt and grow.  You may already have a great idea that needs developing.  Or, you need to adapt your business in these changing times to be more competitive, disrupt or respond to new markets.  While it’s hard out there, it is also a time of opportunity.  There are many funds and investment opportunities available to SMEs – but writing winning bids is a complex skill. 

That’s where UWE Bristol can help you. This free course brings together experts in innovation models, project management, bid writing and funders to give you the insights and skills needed to apply for innovation funding.  

At the end of the course, you will receive bespoke support to work on your current bids and to help you articulate your pitch to funders.

UWE is committed to ensuring that our funding is accessible and open to all.  This course is designed to be relevant for SMEs or non-for-profit who are bidding for innovation funding.  If you have never bid for funding or find the bidding process difficult to understand, this course helps you to understand what funders mean by innovation and gives you practical skills to develop your own innovative ideas and turn these ideas into successful bids

Discover more about the free course here.

Apply for the course

This course is part of the Digital Innovation Fund which provides between £10K to £40K for 35% of project costs to support innovative SMEs in the West of England. 

Deadlines for applications: 10 November 2020   

Visit the Digital Innovation Fund website.

The Digital Innovation Fund is now live: UWE Bristol announces a second round for its £1m Covid-19 Recovery Fund

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Following on from a successful first round, UWE Bristol has launched the second round of funding for its Digital Innovation Fund, a £1m Covid-19 recovery fund open to SMEs in the West of England. 

The programme is supporting Research and Development projects in a range of industries and will be creating more innovation opportunities with this second round. 

The scheme, funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), offers eligible businesses innovation grants from £10,000 to £40,000 to fund 35% of project costs.

Grants are open to businesses in any sector that want to innovate and address new challenges that have arisen from Covid-19. Applicants must be small or medium sized enterprises (SMEs) and based in Bristol, Bath & North East Somerset, North Somerset or South Gloucestershire.

Deadlines for applications: 10 November 2020

Apply now:  www.digitalinnovationfund.co.uk 

Director of Research, Business and Innovation at UWE Bristol, Tracey John commented: “We were delighted to receive so many strong applications in round one and were impressed with the calibre of these. It was great to see how businesses are continuing to innovate during such challenging times. We are excited to go live with a second round, supporting the research and development ambitions of even more businesses across the West of England. 

The scheme remains open to SMEs in the region that are undertaking a digital innovation or research and development project. We are offering a sliding scale of grants, from £10k to £40k, so there will be a funding option for a range of businesses – from start-ups and micro enterprises, to more established organisations. Once again, the application process is straightforward and UWE Bristol staff are available to provide hands-on support through a series of confidential 1:1 drop-in sessions. This unique support is available to any business eligible to apply. 

UWE Bristol has given over £2.5m of grants to thriving businesses in the West of England, creating over 150 new jobs and over 100 new products and services. 

In a time of unprecedented change, UWE Bristol is proud of the role it can play to help transform businesses in the region during the pandemic and beyond.”


Notes to editors 

European Regional Development Fund:

The project will receive up to £1,900,000 of funding from the England European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020.  The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government is the Managing Authority for European Regional Development Fund.

Established by the European Union, the European Regional Development Fund helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community regenerations.  For more information visit here.

West of England region: All organisations with a presence in Bristol, Bath, BANES and South Gloucestershire.

UWE Bristol Living Architecture Project selected to be showcased on EU Innovation Radar Website

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An innovation developed through the EU funded “Living Architecture” Project, has been selected by the EU as something to be showcased on their Innovation Radar website. The project is between UWE Bristol; University of Newcastle Upon Tyne; the Spanish National Research Council; LIQUIFER Systems Group; Expolora SRL and the University of Trento, Italy. The recognition of the project on this website helps to demonstrate the work UWE have been doing to a global audience and may lead to new opportunities.

Living Architecture is conceived as a next-generation selectively-programmable bioreactor technology and integral component of human dwelling, capable of extracting valuable resources from waste water and air, generation of oxygen and production of proteins and fiber by manipulating consortia performance. The project’s final demonstrator is a modular bioreactor-wall, which is based on the operational principles of UWE’s microbial fuel cell technology and synthetic ‘consortia’ of microbes. Its operational principles are grounded in distributed sensing, decentralised autonomous information processing, high-degree of fault-tolerance and distributed actuation and reconfiguration.

Project lead for UWE Bristol Yannis Ieropoulos commented:  “We are really excited that our project has been selected to be showcased by the European Commission’s Innovation Radar. This is testament to the scientific excellence of this collective effort, which empirically demonstrates the positive impact that any building can have on our environment and the real value it can add to society.”

Details of the team’s innovation are now available here.

Launch Space graduate incubator recruiting now

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Have you graduated from a UK University in the last five years and have a business idea you’d like to put into action?

Launch Space provides free desk space and business support for graduate-led, innovative and high-tech businesses at various stages on the start-up journey. Launch Space is offering their business support package virtually, whilst the desk space is made safe for working.

Launch Space is part of a wider entrepreneurial community based on our Frenchay Campus in our University Enterprise Zone, housing the Future Space flexible workspace; the Bristol Robotics Laboratory and the Health Tech Hub – making it a great environment for graduate start-ups to flourish.

Since opening in 2017, Launch Space has supported over 100 businesses, with over £4.2 million funds raised by its residents and employment created for more than 120 people.

Launch Space is now well established in the regional start-up community, and is recognised for its unique ability to connect start-ups with the support and collaboration of the wider university and business communities.

Find out more and apply today to grow your start-up business.

If you have any questions, please get in touch via email: launchspace@uwe.ac.uk or call +44 (0)117 3286168.

Future Space Resident 500 More receive Covid-19 Grant

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Future Space resident, 500 More Ltd has won a grant to work with Oxford Brookes University on an Artificial Intelligence (AI) development that monitors how you walk after having Covid-19.

How you walk (or gait) is an indicator of recovery from diseases such as Covid-19. The funding will enable the joint team to develop an app to analyse walking, allowing doctors to track how patients recover. The project utilises state of the art AI to objectively measure walking quality, a key health indicator.

500 More has been selected as one of a number of innovative start-up businesses to receive funding from Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency, to fast-track the development of innovations born out of the coronavirus crisis, while supporting the UK’s next generation of cutting-edge start-ups.

Greg Smart, CEO 500 More Digital said: “The DataGait project will help patients who are recovering from Covid-19 by giving them simple walking tasks to perform at home, allowing clinicians to track their recovery safely and remotely.

“This is a great example of our mission to drive purposeful digital innovation. Innovate UK funding will allow us to get this product in the hands of patients and doctors more quickly.”

Read the full story here.

Future Space is part of the University Enterprise Zone. They connect entrepreneurs and tech innovators with scientists, researchers and graduate talent – to spark collaboration, innovation and growth. Find out more here.