£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!

UWE Bristol Alumni wins prestigious award

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UWE Bristol alumnus Neha Chaudhry was announced as the winner of the Innovation Award for the South West Region at the Medilink Healthcare and Business Awards 2019 for her business Walk to Beat.

Consequently, Walk to Beat came second in the national Medilink Healthcare and Business Awards and was the only company from the South West region to be nominated for the Innovation award. 

Walk to Beat is a med-tech start-up that aims to develop smart assisted living products to empower the ageing population. Their first product is a Smart Walking Stick designed for Parkinson’s sufferers to help them overcome freezing and walking problems.

Freezing in Parkinson’s feels like your feet getting glued to the ground and not being able to walk any further, eventually leading to falls. Scientific research has shown that any type of rhythm can help the patients to get moving again.

The Smart Stick monitors walking patterns and gives a cue through the handle in the form rhythmic vibration when a person freezes. This prompts the user to come out of the freezing episode and keep walking. This results in reduced duration of the freezing episode and lower number of falls.

Neha, who completed her Undergraduate and Postgraduate degrees at UWE Bristol, is based within Launch Space, a graduate incubator within the Universities Enterprise Zone. The start-up also has support from the Health Tech Hub to progress the development.

A new version of the stick is now in development to further meet the needs of its users. Walk to Beat is currently looking for investment in order to mass produce the product. 

Congratulations to Neha! For more information on Walk to Beat please visit their website

Invest, Connect, Explore 2019

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On Wednesday 08 May, the University Enterprise Zone hosted their annual networking event: Invest, Connect, Explore (ICE) 2019.

ICE 2019 gave local businesses the chance to meet the ambitious businesses based in UWE Bristol’s University Enterprise Zone and hear about the support available to growing and innovative businesses across the region.

The event saw businesses from each hub share stories from inventors and business leaders about their cutting edge solutions to real-life health, technology and business challenges that society currently faces.

Over 100 delegates met with the diverse group of leading entrepreneurs from graduate start-ups to established SME businesses who are pushing boundaries and providing new ways to look at the world and businesses.

They were able to experience hands on the technology that is available within the University Enterprise Zone – experiencing robotic solutions to mobility, having fun with the latest motivational fitness technology and learning about how written mass marketing can be tailored and personal.

The University Enterprise Zone is an entrepreneurial community housing four hubs:

Launch Space: A graduate incubator that provides free desk space and business support for start-up businesses in the heart of our University Enterprise Zone.

Future Space: Future Space connects entrepreneurs and tech innovators with scientists, researchers and graduate talent – to spark collaboration, innovation and growth.

Bristol Robotics Laboratory: Bristol Robotics Laboratory (BRL) is the most comprehensive academic centre for multi-disciplinary robotics research in the UK.

Health Tech Hub: The Health Tech Hub helps businesses to develop and bring to market new technology solutions which promote health and wellbeing, particularly focusing on independent living and citizen-centric health

To find out more about The University Enterprise Zone please email UEZevents@uwe.ac.uk

Gestural musical gloves now available on pre-order

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Featured Researcher: Dr Tom Mitchell

Gestural musical gloves, technology originally developed at UWE Bristol by Dr Tom Mitchell, are now available for pre-order through a company called MI.MU. The gloves use motion capture and AI to enable wearers to create music with their movements.

The technology, which has been developed in partnership with Grammy Award-winning musician Imogen Heap, has already produced a small run of bespoke and handmade gloves for a select few musicians.

The product’s commercialisation now means that the gloves are half their original price and currently cost £2500 a pair. They have been designed according to the needs of musical artists and contain enhanced build quality and gesture control, improved electronics, and faster wireless communication.

In 2014, Ms Heap founded MI.MU, a partnership with UWE Bristol that also comprises fashion designer Rachel Freire, E-textiles designer Hannah Perner-Wilson, electronic engineer Sebastian Madgwick, scientist and musician Kelly Snook, musician and UX designer Chagall van den Berg, as well as Managing Director Adam Stark.

It was then made available to the public and saw the growth of a burgeoning community of performers making use of the gloves’ potential – from classical pianists, to film composers, beatboxers, and pop stars including Ariana Grande, who used the gloves on her 2015 ‘Honeymoon’ world tour.

Since 2014, Dr Mitchell and colleagues have refined the technology, streamlining designs with initial support from private investors and a range of academic and enterprise support including the EU Commission and Innovate UK.

Dr Mitchell said: “It’s exciting that we have managed to get to a point where the gloves will soon be available to all musicians. The gloves bring a new creative dimension to music performance, enabling musicians to create the movements that perform their music. I can’t wait to see what people will do with the technology.”

Imogen Heap, who uses the gloves as part of her performances, said: “So happy that we are finally able to extend the incredible superhuman feeling of having music in our hands out to a wider audience. You just have to remember to open your eyes during a performance, as it becomes so second nature!”
Adam Stark, Managing Director of MI.MU, said: “We are hugely proud to release the MI-MU gloves to musicians everywhere, and we can’t wait to see what they do with them.

“They are the result of years of research and development into new ways to compose and perform music. We believe they will enable musicians to discover new forms of expression, leading to new ideas, new performances and, ultimately, new forms of music.”

Featured researcher Dr Tom Mitchell

Tom is a Lecturer in computer music in the department of Computer Science and Creative Technologies at UWE Bristol.

Email: Tom.Mitchell@uwe.ac.uk

Phone: +4411732 83349

Universities Minister Chris Skidmore attends the official launch of the Foundry Technology Affinity Space at UWE Bristol

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Chris Skidmore MP, Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, attended the official launch of the Foundry Technology Affinity Space at the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol).

The Minister, who is also MP for Kingswood, met a number of university and digital industry representatives during the visit, including Professor Jane Harrington, UWE Bristol Deputy Vice-Chancellor; co-chairs of the Institute of Coding Jacqueline de Rojas, President of techUK and Professor Bernie Morley, Deputy Vice-Chancellor of the University of Bath; and Dr Rachid Hourizi, Director of the Institute of Coding. The purpose of the visit was to hear more about this new facility, which is funded by the Institute of Coding and will equip students with vital digital skills and ensure they are ready for the workplace. This is a key part of the objectives of the Institute of Coding, a £40million project funded by the Office for Students and led by the University of Bath.

Developed through a research-led design process led by UWE Bristol Associate Professor Andy King, the industry-themed Foundry at UWE Bristol is intended as an ‘other space’ on campus, where students can build their professional identity through working with industry partners on paid projects that fit around their studies. Aside from being home to UWE Bristol’s Enterprise Studios, the Foundry will also be a digital event space, hosting a high-profile calendar of technology outreach and engagement events across cybersecurity, computer science, creative technologies and STEM subjects designed to widen participation around coding and digital skills.

Science and Innovation Minister Chris Skidmore said: “As we rely more on new technologies and cyber threats become more sophisticated, the Foundry Technology Affinity Space will provide the vital skills needed to meet the opportunities and address the challenges of the future. The impressive state-of-the-art facility with its cutting edge technology will introduce a range of innovative new courses for students, enabling them to go on and compete successfully in the global digital economy.

“This builds on our commitment to tackle this issue, and this government is funding projects to design out many forms of cyber threats to online and digitally enabled products and services through our modern Industrial Strategy.”

Professor Harrington said: “We were delighted to welcome Minister Skidmore to this fantastic new facility on our Frenchay campus alongside the Institute of Coding. The Foundry is a major investment that will connect our students with globally-renowned industry partners, and will give them invaluable insight into what digital skills and innovation the future workforce will need. Deep and meaningful collaboration with industry and the world of professional practice will hugely benefit our students not just during their degrees, but in their futures as they progress into the digital industry. I look forward to seeing what our students will create in this innovative new space.”

Dr Hourizi said: “The Institute of Coding is pleased to launch and support a new Foundry Technology Affinity Space, which will serve as a gateway for students to gain critical on-the-job experience through paid work with industry without disrupting their academic studies. With employers crying out for new candidates who are workplace-ready, and students seeking valuable experiences to bolster their CVs, this new facility will enable thousands of young people to begin the first step in their career.”

The Institute of Coding is a national consortium announced by the Prime Minister in January 2018 and UWE Bristol is a full member. To help fund its contribution to the Institute of Coding, UWE Bristol was awarded £1 million from a £20 million funding pot allocated by the Office for Students (formerly known as the Higher Education Funding Council for England -HEFCE) to improve the way universities train people for digital careers.

Knowledge Transfer Partnership with Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust shortlisted for prestigious KTP award

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A Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) between UWE Bristol ‘s Centre for Sustainable Planning and Environments and Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust (GWT) has been shortlisted for Best Knowledge Transfer Partnership Award at the KTP Best of the Best Awards 2019.

The KTP aimed to formalise GWT’s role in advising Local Authorities and companies on the impact of development on nature conservation.
The project established a new Benchmark for green infrastructure (GI) offering consistent technical information on key features, and a quality rating to incentivise and reward developers for high quality GI.

The KTP Associate Dr Gemma Jerome, supported by Dr Danni Sinnett, Associate Professor in Green Infrastructure, collated evidence and expertise from researchers, planners, developers, built environment and nature conservation to create standards, technical guidance, implementation framework and award criteria. The “Building with Nature” (BwN) benchmark was piloted with frontrunner developments, including Gloucester Motorway Services and housing schemes, and with Local Authority policies, and launched in November 2017.

The KTP has had a transformational impact on GWT. It has triggered a complete turnaround in its approach to the built environment and the quality of its engagement with planners and developers. The Trust has morphed from being largely reactive to proactively engaging with the development community.

Additionally, BwN has been used in developments in Scotland, Cornwall, Devon, London and Hampshire, far beyond GWT’s own geographical area and the new BwN subsidiary company is currently working with 6 local authorities to develop GI planning policies.

This new national benchmark is now set to be the go-to framework for measuring the quality of natural environment planning in the UK. The success of the project is down to the partnership teamwork; with company partner, University, and associate negotiating together the challenges inherent in creating a product to be attractive to a highly competitive and commercially-focused market.

Only two other KTPs have been shortlisted for the Best KTP Partnership award. The awards will be announced on 2 May in London. Good luck to all involved.

Find the full list of nominations here

KTP is a government support scheme helping businesses grow through academic research specific to their needs.

The 3-way partnership between a company, university and Associate enables collaboration on a strategically important project help improve competitiveness, productivity and performance.
For more information on KTP’s please see here

The KTP aimed to formalise GWT’s role in advising Local Authorities and companies on the impact of development on nature conservation.

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.

Launch Space graduate incubator recruiting now

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Have you graduated in the last three years in the UK 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 part of a wider entrepreneurial community based on our Frenchay Campus, housing the Future Space incubation facility and the Bristol Robotics Laboratory – making it a great environment for graduate start-ups to flourish.

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.

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. Launch Space is supported by the ERDF.

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

Facial recognition technology aims to detect emotional state in pigs

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Featured researcher: Professor Melvyn Smith

State-of-the-art facial recognition technology is being used in an attempt to detect different emotional states in pigs.

Machine vision experts at the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) have teamed up with animal behaviourists from Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) in Edinburgh for the study, which it is hoped will lead to a tool that can monitor individual animals’ faces and alert farmers to any health and welfare problems.

Pigs are highly expressive and SRUC research has previously shown they can signal their intentions to other pigs using different facial expressions. There is also evidence of different expressions when they are in pain or under stress.

At SRUC’s Pig Research Centre in Midlothian, scientists are capturing 3D and 2D facial images of the breeding sow population under various, typical commercial situations that are likely to result in different emotional states. For example, sows can experience lameness and could show different facial expressions relating to pain before and after being given pain relief. Detecting positive emotional state is more novel but sows are highly food motivated and appear calm and content when satiated. They hope this mood could be reflected in sows facial expressions.

Images are then processed at UWE Bristol’s Centre for Machine Vision, where various state-of-the-art machine learning techniques are being developed to automatically identify different emotions conveyed by particular facial expressions. After validating these techniques, the team will develop the technology for on-farm use with commercial partners where individual sows in large herds will be monitored continuously.

Professor Melvyn Smith from UWE Bristol’s Centre for Machine Vision, part of the Bristol Robotics Laboratory, said: “Machine vision technology offers the potential to realise a low-cost, non-intrusive and practical means to biometrically identify individual animals on the farm. Our work has already demonstrated a 97% accuracy at facial recognition in pigs. Our next step will be, for the first time, to explore the potential for using machine vision to automatically recognise facial expressions that are linked with core emotion states, such as happiness or distress, in the identified pigs.”

Dr Emma Baxter from SRUC said: “Early identification of pig health issues gives farmers the potential to improve animal wellbeing by tackling any problems quickly and implementing tailored treatment for individuals. This will reduce production costs by preventing impact of health issues on performance.

“By focussing on the pig’s face, we hope to deliver a truly animal-centric welfare assessment technique, where the animal can “tell” us how it feels about its own individual experiences and environment. This allows insight into both short-term emotional reactions and long-term individual ‘moods’ of animals under our care.”

The study, which is being funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), is also being supported by industry stakeholders JSR Genetics Ltd and Garth Pig Practice as well as precision livestock specialists Agsenze.

Featured researcher: Professor Melvyn Smith

Melvyn L. Smith is Professor of Machine Vision and Director of the Centre for Machine Vision (CMV) at UWE Bristol. He is also a Chartered Engineer and an active member of the IET.  

Email: Melvyn.Smith@uwe.ac.uk Phone: +4411732 86358

Notes and links for editors:
https://bbsrc.ukri.org/research/

Relevant papers:

Hansen, M.F., Smith, M.L., Smith, L.N., Salter, M.G., Baxter, E.M., Farish, M. and Grieve, B., 2018. Towards on-farm pig face recognition using convolutional neural networks. Computers in Industry, 98, pp.145-152.
https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0166361517304992

Camerlink, I., Coulange, E., Farish, M., Baxter, E.M. and Turner, S.P., 2018. Facial expression as a potential measure of both intent and emotion. Scientific reports, 8(1), p.17602.
https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-018-35905-3