UWE Researchers’ ‘Real Time’ Response to Covid-19

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Guest blog: Ben Mitchell, Research Impact Team

As a result of their expertise in Public Health, Emergency Medical Care, Knowledge Mobilisation, Maths and Computer Modelling, and other such related areas, a number of UWE researchers have been approached or volunteered in assisting with the country’s efforts to tackle Covid-19. A selection of these researchers can be found below. This is by no means an exhaustive list.

UWE Researchers and the Clinical Commissioning Groups

As part of UWE’s response to Covid-19, researchers from UWE have been working with the local Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG) to provide evidence to support rapid decision making. The CCG are the people charged with making healthcare decisions locally and they are currently grappling with things such as: what do we need to do? where do we need to pool our resources? what types of treatment are needed? how do we need to respond? The local CCG includes healthcare providers in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire.

Professor Nicki Walsh

Within the local CCG ‘cells’ have been established, acting as working groups purely in response to the impact that Covid-19 is having on current healthcare. Many issues have come up including: home monitoring of symptoms, impact on mental health and impact of healthcare workers’ absenteeism. These issues have come up as people look to manage problems most effectively and efficiently. The Research and Evidence Team at the CCG, along with Professor Nicki Walsh who works across UWE, the CCG and the Applied Research Collaborative (ARC-West) are working with the local commissioners to manage these requests. These important questions are then fed to the Applied Research Collaborative West team, who co-ordinate researchers from UWE and the University of Bristol, creating a rapid response team to retrieve and synthesise evidence, or provide other advice to support evaluation, healthcare modelling, statistics and economics.

The emphasis of this approach is the rapid turnaround system. Most requests are processed within 48 hours from the point of the CCG submitting a question, to the academic providing that support and reporting back to the CCG. Nicki is the overall co-ordinator at UWE for all this because of her work across the different partner organisations.

In place, there is now a good pool of UWE and UoB researchers ready to respond to calls for assistance as and when they come in. Nicki says the response from academics has been excellent and hugely encouraging:

“This service requires academics to work in such a different way. Because it’s quick and by necessity not as in depth as traditional evidence reviews. Traditionally things can often progress quite slowly, but it’s been a totally different response and things are getting turned around quickly”.

An example of the CCG requests came at the start of April, concerning the accuracy of self-monitoring heart rate, respiratory rate and oxygen saturation in patients with symptoms suggestive of COVID infection.  Other reviews that UWE researchers have been involved in include: the potential impact of COVID-19 on mental health outcomes and the implications for service solutions, Dr Faith Martin, and how to retain infection control amongst residents with dementia and a tendency to walk with purpose, Professor Rik Cheston.

Nicki explained in more detail how resources were best pooled:

“All academics involved have suggested what their skill set is so we have a really good idea who can do what. If it’s something incredibly specific like health economics for example, there may only be quite a small pool of people who can contribute to that. But for things like evidence synthesis most academics are able respond to these requests. The emphasis at the minute is ensuring that we’re able to provide good enough evidence to help with decision making in a rapid responsive way.”

Nicki also suggested how the work could benefit future collaborative research opportunities:

“I think it’s really innovative and supportive to our NHS colleagues. It also potentially creates further questions that could be researched later.”

The evidence syntheses are being regularly updated and are openly available here.

Professor Julie Mytton

Julie Mytton is a Professor of Child Health and a member of HAS’s Centre for Health and Clinical Research. She has specialised in public health research since 2006, with a particular interest in injuries and injury prevention. She is also a qualified medic.

Julie is one of many other UWE academics working with the Centre for Public Health and Wellbeing who are receiving calls for work from the CCG (via Nicki Walsh). She has also been in contact with University Hospitals Bristol NHS trust, and as a medic has joined their bank staff, providing clinical care support as and when needed.

Julie also noted that there is a Public Health Registrar, Alasdair Wood, based at UWE to offer further support.

Professor Jonathan Benger

Jonathan Benger, a Professor in Emergency Care and a Consultant in Emergency Medicine at the University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust, has been released from his current clinical and academic duties, at the request of the National Medical Director, to assist in leading the national response to Coronavirus in his role as interim Chief Medical Officer at NHS Digital.

Professor Jo Michell

Jo Michell is an Associate Professor in Economics. His current research interests include macroeconomics, money and banking and income distribution. As soon as the nationwide lockdown was announced, Jo co-wrote a paper for the journal Autonomy outlining how “in order to cope with the increasingly severe reduction in economic activity in the UK, guaranteeing the incomes of all those who are eligible for in-work or out-of-work benefits is rapidly becoming a necessary policy lever.

This idea was picked up by John McDonnell (the then Shadow Chancellor), and it’s possible it may have played a role in influencing Rishi Sunak’s (the Chancellor) subsequent announcements. A follow up letter by Jo and 97 other economists was penned to The Times, and published on Monday 23rd March, “insisting that the government goes significantly further in its economic response to the Covid-19 crisis.”

Professor Matthew Jones

Matthew Jones is Associate Professor in Public Health. His research specialises in the contribution that third sector and civil society initiatives make towards promoting public health and wellbeing. Mat and other colleagues in the Centre for Public Health and Wellbeing (CPHWB) have authored a report entitled Apart but not Alone: Neighbour Support and the Covid-10 Lockdown.

Carried out in Bristol and the West Country between 6th-12th April 2020, over 500 respondents reported back on neighbourhood initiatives during lockdown restrictions. A whole range have sprung up in recent weeks: social media support groups, food and medication collections, telephone calls, Zoom chats, leafleting. Interestingly, many neighbourhood groups were already in place before formal local/national efforts had been mobilised.

Of those who responded, the overwhelming majority felt that neighbours were supporting each other well. Mat Jones et.al did note however contrasting answers from those based in areas of high social disadvantage, with an emphasis on such neighbours supporting people with financial difficulties, those with disabilities or mobility issues, and people without easy access to outdoor spaces.

Perhaps most noteworthy were the gender in-balance responses (80% female): “an important issue is whether the practical and emotional work of supporting neighbours is falling disproportionately on women.”

Professor Sue Durbin

Sue Durbin is Professor in Human Resource Management and is a member of the Centre for Employment Studies Research in FBL. Sue has researched and written on gender and employment, specialising in women who work in male dominated industries. She is a co-founder, along with Airbus, the Royal Air Force and the Royal Aeronautical Society, of the alta mentoring scheme, a bespoke industry-wide mentoring programme designed for women/by women. Mentors and mentees can connect to this mentoring platform online or in person.

It is within the context of Covid-19 that alta can be seen to play a crucial role, with existing and new members utilising its online tool. Indeed, the value of online mentoring has never been so important, as Sue explains:

“It may become a time for mentors and mentees to take stock of where they are in their careers and where they would like to go.

Mentors can therefore best be utilised via the alta platform, at a safe distance but offering comfort and advice to women who may be feeling especially isolated, vulnerable or lacking confidence if their roles have been furloughed. Or they may simply want to reach out and turn the current situation into a more positive one.

“During the current pandemic, the restrictions on movement and new ways of working remotely have resulted in a physical disconnect from family, friends and colleagues. For those who already have an established mentoring relationship, this can be a crucial source of support, facilitating an opportunity for both mentor and mentee to discuss concerns and keep connected during this unprecedented time.”

Grants 4 Growth: Receive funding for research collaboration projects with UWE Bristol

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The Grants 4 Growth programme (G4G) is an initiative which helps to fund projects worth up to £10,000 for businesses looking to collaborate with UWE Bristol researchers and access research facilities. It is a joint application process between the business and the academic staff at UWE Bristol.

The funding is available explicitly for projects that will help lead to deeper university-business collaboration, as it is sourced from the Government’s Industrial Strategy. Follow on projects could include Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTPs) and InnovateUK collaborative R&D calls.

Andy Ben-Dyke from LuJam Cyber talks about his experience with the scheme below:

The UWE project was a major milestone for LuJam Cyber. From a LuJam perspective, the work clearly identified issues with our approach to protecting small to medium sized business and helped us to pivot our solution to significantly better protect our customers. This has helped us stay in business and, in fact, thrive.  I cannot overstate how important this was for our company.

The UWE work was carried out in a timely and professional manner, and it was a pleasure to work with the team.  The approach taken throughout the project was innovative and far exceeded what we could have achieved in-house.  We’d strongly recommend this type of collaboration to other companies

This is an open call, therefore applications can be made to this funding all year round. However the decision making panel will review applications 4 times a year, so it is advisable to be aware of those timescales when liaising with the business you hope to work with. Completed applications should be sent 2 weeks before the decision panel meet.

If you’d like to find out more or would like help to be paired up with an academic, get in touch today Grants4Growth@uwe.ac.uk

UWE Bristol Women in Research Mentoring Scheme

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The Women in Research Mentoring Scheme (WRMS) has been successfully running at UWE Bristol for 6 years. The scheme matches female researchers to a mentor (male or female) in order to provide mentees with encouragement, support from experienced colleagues to fulfil their research aspirations.

WRMS is available to all women in academic and research roles, employed by UWE, who wish to develop their research careers.

In the longer term, this scheme helps to achieve the strategic aim of increasing the number of women in senior research roles across UWE Bristol.

From 2013 to February 2019, over 300 members of staff have participated in the scheme. Currently the scheme has a 94% satisfaction rate and 88% would recommend the scheme to others.

Dr Laura Fogg-Rogers is the academic co-chair of the scheme, and commented: “I have progressed from being a mentee in the WRMS scheme, to being a mentor, and finally now taking on the Co-Chair role. Meeting with such a supportive community of UWE women academics has really inspired me to further my own research career, and I am keen to support other women to do the same”. 

Feedback from mentees has been positive:

As a new researcher, it has been inspiring and supportive to be part of this scheme. Meeting other women in the same position has given me the impetus to prioritise my personal research profile”

“I was paired up very well and so was able to find out lots about local groups in an overlapping area of interest, but I also received support and advice”

Pam Fitzsimmons co-chair of WRMS commented: “We are really pleased with the results of the scheme to date and look forward to helping more female researchers in the future”

Find out more about the scheme here.

UWE Researchers test driverless pods at The Mall Cribbs Causeway

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Adapted from this UWE Bristol news article.

Researchers from the Centre for Transport and Society and the Bristol Robotics Laboratory (BRL) at UWE Bristol are currently partners on the Capri Project, the first UK project to trial driverless pods on public roads.

From 20th – 25th January, the driverless pods were at The Mall, Cribbs Causeway transporting members of the public, enabling them to experience connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs) and understand how they might operate in the future.

Capri is a consortium comprising 17 partners, including lead organisation AECOM, South Gloucestershire Council and UWE Bristol. The Capri trial is the first in the UK without this level of supervision, inviting members of the public to turn up and travel alone in the autonomous pod.

The research used in this trial will help reduce potential barriers limiting the uptake of commercially ready autonomous vehicle services. This also includes overcoming technical challenges, raising public awareness and ensuring sustainable integration into the wider transport systems. This pilot will support the local and UK economy by helping regional and national businesses become more competitive in a growing international market.

Read the full article here.

Knowledge Transfer Partnerships: B-hive Innovations Associate Spotlight

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Photo: (L-R) Dr Robin Thorn (UWE), Barbara Dos Santos Correia (UWE), Mark Wilcox (Branston Ltd), Vee Gururajan (B-hive Innovations)

Based in Lincoln, our Knowledge Transfer Partnership with B-hive Innovations is our longest distance project. Despite this the project, which is now halfway through its two years, continues to move from strength to strength led by our KTP Associate Barbara dos Santos Correia.

This ground breaking KTP is investigating gases emitted by fresh produce and aims to develop a marketable solution for early detection of internal defects, which will ultimately improve crop utilisation and reduce food waste. We caught up with Barbara to find out how she has found the experience so far.

How long have you been a KTP Associate?

I started in January 2019.

What attracted you to the KTP role?

I was fascinated by the project and the option to work in industry with all the academic support. Having access to a £4,000 personal development budget is also great.

How is the partnership between UWE and the company working?

It’s working very well, and I think that’s down to the constant and open communication across the team. The benefits of this knowledge transfer are clear, both between B-hive Innovations and UWE and the knowledge and experience I am gaining.

What are the current challenges of your role?

I’d say the main challenge is translating complex academic knowledge into an industrial solution. But my supervisors Dr Robin Thorn and Professor Darren Reynolds at UWE and Vee Gururajan and Claudia Celemin Pardo at the company are really supportive and we tackle the challenges together.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

No two days are the same! It’s really motivating to know that every day I am leading a project that will potentially solve a real and significant industrial problem.

What do you think about the support available from UWE and the Company?

The support I have from UWE and B-hive Innovations is incredible and so much better than I was expecting in my first industrial experience. UWE offers a wide range of expertise and facilities and B-hive Innovations provides the invaluable personnel and confidential information. I feel like the partnership really represents a competitive advantage within the industry.

To find out more about the Knowledge Transfer Partnership opportunities at UWE, visit our website


Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTPs) are funded by UKRI through Innovate UK with the support of co-funders, including the Scottish Funding Council, Welsh Government, Invest Northern Ireland, Defra and BEIS. Innovate UK manages the KTP programme and facilitates its delivery through a range of partners including the Knowledge Transfer Network (KTN), Knowledge Bases and Businesses. Each partner plays a specific role in the support and delivery of the programme. 

 

UK first as Bristol & Bath region creates programme to increase investment into successful start-up community

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Launching today (14/01/2020), UWE Bristol will partner with TechSPARK to deliver a pioneering programme to help catalyse investment into  fast-growing startups in Bristol, Bath and the West of England. The programme is the first of its kind in the UK and will launch activities to increase the flow of money into the area and showcase the region as a leading start-up hub.

The Investment Activator Programme (IAP) will begin as a 2 year pilot bringing together 8 public and private sector organisations who recognise the impact of working collaboratively to strengthen the ecosystem and jointly deliver activity. 

In the last few years Bristol has seen a dramatic rise in the level of investment into the city’s businesses and in 2019 outperformed the likes of Dublin, Zurich, Amsterdam, Oxford and Brussels. However there’s still a long way to go before the regions can compete with more traditional investment hubs like London where over $8.2bn raised this year versus $418m locally.

Investment Activator Briony Phillips said “According to the UKBAA, we have the third largest community of angel investors (early stage) in the UK, behind London and the South East. And yet 85% of the angel investment from our region goes into the golden triangle of London, Cambridge and Oxford.” 

“Little do they know that Graphcore and Ovo Energy are Bristol-grown unicorns, and Ultrahaptics, Blu Wireless, Immersive Labs and Open Bionics are just a few examples of real power-hitters when it comes to raising investment and making their mark on the global tech scene. The Investment Activator programme will add some much-needed capacity to help solve this challenge.”

The programme will build on some of the work done by TechSPARK and Engine Shed by expanding on the successful Silicon Gorge pitch competition which has worked with over 250 companies pitching for over £150 million between them, and the Quarterly Investment Briefing (QIB) events, which has  brought together over 300 investors to network, share knowledge and learn about potential investment opportunities.

The IAP has three areas of delivery – Events / Content and Community / Data and Connections – with the core objectives being:

  • To accelerate and catalyse the investment ecosystem 
  • To make investment support more accessible for founders
  • To build the network of investors and founders or leaders locally

The programme will deliver over 30 targeted investment events, articles and tools to support founders raising money. It will offer a relationship management programme to build connections with investors across the UK and showcase the opportunities in the West on a national stage.  

Tracey John, Director of Business and Innovation at UWE Bristol says: “We are really excited to be supporting the new Investment Activator Programme. The start-up ecosystem in the West of England needs initiatives that bring startups and early stage companies together with investors; investors who not only provide access to funds, but also offer real business experience that is invaluable to any early stage growth company. We have over 85 high tech businesses in the University Enterprise Zone at our Frenchay Campus and are excited to see the IAP support their growth.”

Other specialist partners for the programme include Delaware (enterprise software), Engine Shed (economic development), Rocketmakers (Venturetech), Sanderson (talent), Smith & Williamson (accounting), TLT (legal) & the West of England Combined Authority (Business Support). 

UWE Bristol awards grants to local businesses as part of Scale up 4 Growth Initiative

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Scale Up 4 Growth (S4G) is a free programme of support, being delivered by UWE Bristol, NatWest and Foot Anstey, for businesses in the West of England that are looking to grow, expand and scale. As part of this ERDF funded programme, 27 successful businesses have been awarded grants ranging between £10k and £40k to help their businesses grow.

Since launching last year nearly 350 businesses have registered for S4G support, which also includes fully funded workshops and 1-to-1 expertise. The companies who applied for S4G grant funding were rigorously assessed through a competitive process. The 27 selected businesses received grants totalling £800,000.

The successful businesses have come from a big range of sectors and areas including digital, data, health tech, waste, recycling, media, microelectronics, b2b, social enterprise, as well food and drink businesses. The list ranges from an award-winning, independent, artisan bakery and café, to a company who have developed the world’s first chemical-free pool filter

Find out more about the Scale Up 4 Growth programme and hear from some of the businesses that were successful in receiving grants

See the website for the list of all successful businesses.

Programme Director, Tracey John commented:

“Scale Up 4 Growth is the in region to support the businesses that need some help to grow. It’s been great to work with the successful businesses that have got some exciting growth plans but just need that extra little bit of support that the University can give. Working with NatWest and Foot Anstey as partners on this programme has been fantastic and they have been hugely supportive throughout.”

Director Commercial Banking at NatWest, Matt Hatcher commented:

“NatWest has thoroughly enjoyed working with UWE and Foot Anstey on the S4G programme, helping SMEs get access to quality coaching, knowledge and funding to support their ambitious growth plans”.

Partner at Foot Anstey, Nathan Peacey commented:

“Foot Anstey have found the S4G programme both inspiring and rewarding”

The successful businesses met for the first time at a celebration event held at UWE Bristol’s University Enterprise Zone on Wednesday 23 October. The breakfast event gave the businesses the opportunity to meet other successful businesses and share what the money means to them.

The Scale Up 4 Growth team continue to work with the successful businesses. To find out more about potentially funding opportunities and how we could help your business sign up to the Research, Business and Innovation newsletter from UWE Bristol or email uwebusiness@uwe.ac.uk

To find out more about S4G please visit the website.

Notes to Editors:

Scale Up 4 Growth will receive up to £1,200,000 of funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) Growth Programme 2014-2020. The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) is the programme’s Managing Authority. Established by the European Union, the ERDF helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects that support innovation, businesses, job creation and local community regeneration.

Women Researchers Mentoring Scheme (WRMS)

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The Women Researchers Mentoring Scheme (WRMS) aims to promote and facilitate professional development for women researchers working at UWE Bristol, helping them reach senior research roles.

Applications for the 2020/21 scheme are now open and will close on Wednesday 15 January 2020 at 5pm.

The scheme is open to all women in academic and research roles, employed by UWE, who wish to develop their careers.

The benefits of being involved in the scheme by becoming a mentor or mentee could assist your development and progression. The scheme will entail a nominated woman researcher being matched to a mentor, who can be a woman or man. Training will be provided to all new participants. The application deadline is Wednesday 15 January 2020.

How to apply
Applications are now invited for both mentors and mentees. For access to the online application system, please email the Scheme Co-ordinator, Fiona Watt

Outcomes will be notified to applicants by early March 2020.

A half-day workshop will be run which is compulsory for mentees and highly encouraged for mentors as part of the scheme. This is a vital opportunity for all those participating in the scheme to network with each other, learn about the importance of women progressing in research roles and the support available, and share experiences and ideas.

In your application, please select whether you would like to apply for the afternoon session on Tuesday 3 March 2020 or the morning session on Thursday 12 March 2020.

Further details of the workshops will be notified to applicants who are matched for mentoring relationships running in 2020-21.

Knowledge Transfer Partnerships: Craven Dunnill Jackfield Associate Spotlight

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[Photo (L-R): David Huson (UWE), Richard Lamb (Innovate UK), Jed Leonard-Hammerman (UWE), Dr Russ Bromley (Knowledge Transfer Network]

UWE Bristol are currently working on a twenty-seven month Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) with Craven Dunnill Jackfield. Founded in 1872, Craven Dunnill Jackfield (CDJ) has since produced ceramic wall and floor tiles in the oldest surviving purpose-built tile factory in the world, based in Ironbridge.

The KTP will introduce a range of 3D digital fabrication technologies to innovate the design and modelling process for specialist ceramic tile production and architectural restorations. We spoke to Jed Leonard-Hammerman, who is the KTP Associate leading the project:

What attracted you to the KTP role?

Lots of things, but mostly the opportunity to work with a university whilst gaining paid experience with a company.

How is the partnership between UWE and the company working?

Really well! We meet monthly to discuss progress and I spend most of my time at the Company but visit UWE about once a month to use the facilities and catch up with my Supervisor. It’s great working alongside and learning from the experts at both UWE and Craven Dunnill Jackfield.

What are the current challenges of your role?

Implementing ideas that have never been tested is quite daunting but also really exciting!

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I love managing the project, having the freedom to direct it and plan how my time is spent as well as the budget. I get to visit a lot of trade shows and exhibitions and enjoy speaking to industry representatives about applying their technology to the ceramics industry.

What do you think about the support available from UWE and the Company?

It’s great! My project is split into three elements (3D printing and CAD/ceramics/finance and project management) and I get all the support I need from my Academic Supervisor, the team at CDJ and the KTP Team at UWE. I’ve also had a lot of extra support from the Centre for Fine Print Research at UWE, particularly Walter Guy who has given up his time to show me how to use technical equipment. 

To find out more about the Knowledge Transfer Partnership opportunities at UWE, visit our website