UWE Bristol Academic Spotlight: Jim Smith, Professor in Interactive Artificial Intelligence

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Knowledge Transfer Partnership

Working with Lyons Davidson to establish an automated legal advice helpline utilising complex Artificial Intelligence that can deliver suitable solutions to a wide-range of possible enquiries.

Research Interests

Jim Smith is Professor of Interactive Artificial Intelligence and Deputy Director of the Computer Science Research Centre at UWE Bristol.

His interests include computational intelligence, machine learning, and interactions between humans and intelligent systems. The quality and impact of his research on interactive and adaptive AI is evidenced by citation metrics, (over 13000 citations to his work as at 16/8/21) through awards like 2001 ACM-SIGEVO prize for papers ‘deemed to be seminal’, membership of various IEEE Technical Committees and Task Forces, membership of the EPSRC peer review college, and editorial boards of leading academic journals in relevant fields.

In 2018 he contributed an invited chapter on the role of AI within Confidentiality and Linked Data to the National Statistician’s Quality Review. More details can be found on his website.

Business/Sector Interests and a brief description of how your academic expertise could be practically applied for a business partner

Professor Smith has led numerous successful projects concerning the hybridisation of metaheuristic approaches with machine learning, and mathematical approaches funded by the EU, EPSRC, DSTL, other governmental agencies from the UK, US and Brazil, and commercial partners.

His experience in delivering successful projects in commercial environments, includes applying AI to areas such as adaptive vision-based production quality control, interactive design optimisation, characterising Video Conference Meetings, privacy preservation in published official statistics, modelling customer behaviours, and speech recognition.

Jim has led three KTPs to successful completion (one ‘good’, one ‘outstanding’ and one under review) and a fourth is already delivering value to company, associate and UWE’s research agenda.

For more information about Professor Smith’s work please click here

For further information about Knowledge Transfer Partnerships please click here

Data Science at UWE Bristol

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Dr Kamran Munir is an Associate Professor in Data Science, in the Department of Computer Science and Creative Technologies. Dr. Munir’s research projects are in the areas of Data Science, Big Data and Analytics, Artificial Intelligence and Virtual Reality.

Project

A Cloud-based Complaints Management and Decision Support System for Sustainable Farming in EgyptAgro Support Analytics

In partnership Fayoum University and with funding from the Newton Fund, British Council and Scientific and Technology Development Fund.

About

The project aims to resolve the problem of support and advice for farmers in the current manual system by developing a Complaint Management and Decision Support System (CMDSS). The proposed work focuses on research and development into the field of knowledge discovery, through information extraction (IE) and analytics techniques applied on historical Arabic textual complaints data.  The online system will be used to provide adequate and timely advice for farmers upon their enquires / complaints, and also to foresee near future development of circumstances by the experts. 

Concept

To make progress toward implementing a Decision Support System for Sustainable Farming in Egypt, to resolve the problem of both the lack of support and advice for farmers.

The application of knowledge discovery and analysis on agricultural data and farmers’ complaints, deployed on a Cloud platform, to provide farming stakeholders with timely and suitable support.

Traditional Query
Response Process

Agro Support Analytics System Perspective

Outcomes

Key contribution is the development of an automated complaint management and decision support strategy, on the basis of extensive research on requirement analysis tailored for Egypt. The solution is grounded on the application of knowledge discovery and analysis on agricultural data and farmers’ complaints, deployed on a Cloud platform, to provide farming stakeholders in Egypt with timely and suitable support. 

System Architecture

Research Centre Spotlight: Centre for Research in Biosciences (CRIB)

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Centre for Research in Biosciences (CRIB) conducts research within the Faculty of Health and Applied Sciences, with over 60 academics, 20-40 PhD students at any one time. CRIB has a thriving research community with extensive collaborations across UWE and with national and international partners. We have a vibrant virtual research seminar programme with speakers from all over the world.

CRIB has the following five broad research themes:

  1. Bioscience for Health
  2. Biosensing, Forensic and Analytical Sciences
  3. Bioscience for Sustainable Agriculture, Food and Water
  4. Environmental, Ecological and Conservation Sciences
  5. Interdisciplinary and education research

The following exciting projects showcase our work related to Sustainability and Climate Change.

CASE 1: SUSTAINABLE FOOD PRODUCTION

Our food systems are currently experiencing multiple threats and require new research and innovation to achieve biodiversity and net zero targets, as well as health and wellbeing and accessibility for all. Below are some examples of the exciting research and innovation taking place in CRIB to improve sustainable and healthy diets, reduce food waste and improve farmers’ livelihoods in the UK and internationally.

1.1 Making healthy and sustainable food accessible for all (Angelina Sanderson Bellamy)

Data collected during the UKRI-funded TGRAINS project has demonstrated the role that community-supported agriculture (CSA) vegetable box schemes have in improving both the health and sustainability of household diets. ‘CSA diets’, compared to control group diets, are higher in vegetables and legumes and lower in meats, sugar and saturated fats, with 28% lower CO2 emissions.

Our results also confirm previous results that show CSA households tend to have higher income than the UK national average, with higher socio-economic class. This shows that some in British society are willing and able to make dietary changes that are necessary to improve health, environmental outcomes, and reach the UK’s 2050 carbon emission targets, but that income and socio-economic status are a barrier to participation. 

This leads us to ask if similar outcomes can be achieved with food insecure households? What additional barriers do food insecure households face and how can we make fresh, locally grown vegetables accessible to everyone? We are also working with farm partners to test solidarity models, so that they can make vegetables available to all, regardless of income. We seek to generate impact by exploring whether food insecure households make dietary changes after joining a CSA and enabling a broader demographic to access the benefits of a ‘CSA diet’, thereby improving environmental and health impacts. 

The TGRAINS Accessible Veg project recently hosted visits from Jane Hutt, the Welsh minister of Social Justice, and Lesly Griffiths, the Welsh Minister of Rural Affairs and Environment regarding evidence related to achieving sustainable diets.

Dr Sanderson Bellamy was interviewed on Farming Today on BBC Radio 4

  1. 2 Reducing deforestation and improving livelihoods for Cacao producers in Africa (Joel Allainguillaume, Andy Wetten, Jackie Barnett, Richard Luxton)

Deforestation is a major issue in West Africa with a significant portion due to cocoa farming. To exacerbate the situation, the Cacao Swollen Shoot Virus (CSSV) threatens the livelihoods of cocoa farmers with up to 15% reduction in production leading to further deforestation as new areas for plantations are required. At UWE, we have been studying CSSV to help resolve its impact in West Africa, which produces nearly two-thirds of the world’s supply of cocoa.

Some of the most exciting research we have produced is the development of a biosensor that detects CSSV before any symptoms appear in affected plants1. In parallel with this work, we are also developing a traceability strategy for cacao products which will help strengthen supply chain mapping and prevent the sale of cacao grown illegally in protected forest areas2.

This work has been conducted in collaboration with a range of external partners and collaborators from European governmental institutes (CIRAD) and West African institutes (Cocoa Research Institute of Ghana, ICRAF) with internal partners from the Institute of Bio-Sensing Technology, with funding provided by the UK government (Innovate UK) and the cocoa industry (Mars Wrigley, European Cocoa Association (ECA), Cocoa Research UK).

1: https://uwe-repository.worktribe.com/output/7440964;

2: https://doi.org/10.1108/SCM-11-2020-0583

Photo: (a) Cocoa is one of the most valuable sources of income for smallholder farmers in West Africa.

Photo: b) The most damaging viral disease affecting the West African cacao crop is spread by mealybug scale insects.

  1. 3 Improving public health by reducing foodborne diseases and improving the sustainability of the food supply chain (Alexandros Stratakos)

The increasing global demand for food poses a serious challenge for humankind. International food trade is one of the most significant factors driving increases in foodborne diseases. Therefore, we urgently need to improve the safety and sustainability of food supply chains. Our research aims to develop cold plasma-based systems and strategies, which are able to rapidly and effectively eliminate risks to human health that can enter the food chain at any stage from the farm to its preparation for consumption.

Plasma is considered the 4th state of matter, with examples including the northern lights, lightening and solar winds. In the lab, we produce cold plasma by excitation of gas molecules using electrical discharges. Cold plasma is an environmentally friendly technology and our research shows that cold plasma eliminates pathogens on meat, vegetables, food contact surfaces and even skin. The use of cold plasma for decontamination of food processing, manufacturing and preparation areas can remove important microbiological and chemical contaminants, which will increase the shelf life of food, thereby reducing food waste, as well as improve safety. This can improve public health by reducing foodborne diseases and improving the sustainability of the food supply chain. 

Our growing research team works together with academic and industrial collaborators in the UK (e.g. Queen’s University Belfast, University of Central Lancashire, Ulster University) and internationally (e.g. Ireland, Germany, Greece, Spain) to translate this our research to real life applications that benefit industry, public bodies, authorities and consumers.

Photo: Cold atmospheric plasma treatment of food (UWE lab)

1.4 Using volatile sensing to reduce food waste in the supply chain (Barbara dos Santos Correia, Darren Reynolds and Robin Thorn)

Food waste is a huge global issue with serious implications for climate change – a third of all global food production is never consumed, contributing 8-10% of total man-made greenhouse gas emissions. The potato is the leading non-grain commodity in the global food system, but also the number one wasted food in UK households (WRAP).

To reduce waste, industry needs to embrace smarter and more sustainable production methods. The Future Leaders Fellowship “TuberSense – Early detection of potato diseases through volatile sensing to reduce food waste in the supply chain”, awarded and funded by UKRI to Dr Barbara dos Santos Correia and B-hive Innovations Ltd, aims to identify disruptive diseases and defects that affect potato production and storage across the UK and create innovative tools based on volatile sensing to prevent agri-food waste.

The Fellowship is further supported by Prof James A. Covington at the University of Warwick, Dr Robert Hancock (James Hutton Institute) and Dr David Nelson (Branston Ltd).


Photo: Volatile sensors (top of image) will be developed that detect the disease state of potatoes in the field, in the store and/or packaged for sale.

CASE 2: WATER AND MICROPLASTIC

2.1 Clean water for all (Darren Reynolds, Robin Thorn, Gillian Clayton, Bethany Fox )

Globally, almost 2 billion people do not have access to safely managed drinking water, and almost 1 million people per year die as a result of preventable diarrhoeal diseases contracted from the consumption of biologically contaminated waters (WHO & UNICEF, 2021).

For the past 10 years, UWE has designed, tested, developed and produced a community scale drinking water treatment platform in collaboration with Portsmouth Aviation. The system utilises electrochemically generated hypochlorous acid which has enhanced antimicrobial and anti-biofilm activity, compared to commonly used sodium hypochlorite (Clayton, Thorn and Reynolds, 2021). The system has been continuously running on UWE’s Frenchay Campus since November 2019 and has produced over 3 million litres of UK standard drinking water.


Photo: Clean water for all; the community scale drinking water treatment platform is currently undergoing ongoing field trials at UWE Bristol.

Clayton, G.E., Thorn, R.M.S. and Reynolds, D.M. (2021) The efficacy of chlorine-based disinfectants against planktonic and biofilm bacteria for decentralised point-of-use drinking water. npj Clean Water. 4  (1), . doi:10.1038/s41545-021-00139-w.

WHO & UNICEF (2021) Progress on drinking water, sanitation and hygiene in households 2000-2020: Five years into the SDGs.

2.2 Unearthing the water crisis in the River Ganges (Bethany Fox, Darren Reynolds, Robin Thorn)

Since 2018, UWE Bristol has led an Indo-UK Water Quality project, Water Quality – TEST, involving many project partners including NGOs, industry and academic institutes in both the UK and India.

At its core this project has focused on the development and deployment of technologies for monitoring biological water quality and the provision of biologically-safe drinking water.  With other UK-India water quality projects, a large collaborative study was undertaken to monitor water pollution along >2,500 km of the Ganges River and its major tributaries.

This study was carried out over a three-week period in November 2019 by three teams of more than 30 international researchers from 10 institutions. Alongside the 80+ water quality parameters assessed at 81 locations along the river, microplastics in the water and river sediments were also assessed. This microplastics research was presented in the Green Zone at COP26 on the COP-Universities and UKRI stands.

Photo: The reality of the water crisis in the Gangetic basin; flushing of a street side-drain into the River Ganges, carrying plastic bottles and other waste directly into the river.
Picture taken November 2019.

2.3 Airborne microplastics: an unquantified risk (Stephanie Sargeant, Darren Reynolds)

Researchers at UWE Bristol have been investigating the potential health implications of airborne microplastics since 2018. Although significant work has been done to understand the presence of microplastics in the environment, much of this work has focused on the marine environment, which is now well established. However, there is a significant knowledge gap around airborne microplastics and their potential health implications remain largely unknown.

Initial work started with developing methods to recover, identify and characterise microplastic particles from routine air quality monitoring stations. This analysis technique allowed researchers to successfully sample airborne particles less than 10µm in size, characterise the polymer types and has the potential to be applied to other routine air quality monitoring filters.

Photo A: Air quality β-attenuation monitoring [BAM] filters. B: Sample of fishing rope. C: Single fibre of fishing rope under the Micro-RAMAN.

Following this work, researchers in the Biospheric Microplastics Research Cluster (BMRC), at UWE Bristol, are working to address critical gaps in the microplastic research landscape, notably the association between environmental exposure to microplastics through source, pathway, receptor relationships, and their potential to cause harm.

The BMRC brings together expertise from multiple disciplines across UWE Bristol, all of which play a crucial role in understanding the impact of microplastics on human and ecosystem health, expanding research excellence and enhancing teaching across the university landscape. Through understanding the human and ecosystem health implications of plastics, we believe there is an opportunity to contribute to their redesign, reuse and replacement throughout society.

CASE 3: CONSERVATION

3.1 Landscape level approaches to the conservation of bats in the UK (Emma Stone and Paul Lintott)

Dr Emma Stone and Dr Paul Lintott lead the very active Bat Conservation Research Lab in CRIB and work with a range of stakeholders to produce evidence based solutions for conservation management of bats. Bats (Chiroptera) make an important contribution to our biodiversity, accounting for one third of all UK mammals, and perform important ecosystem services such as insect pest control, pollination and seed dispersal.

Bats are reliant on healthy diverse habitats to survive, and historic declines mean that bats and their roosts are now legally protected in the UK. Urbanisation and development are one of the biggest threats to bats and their habitats and have detrimental impacts on bats through habitat loss, anthropogenic noise and artificial illumination. We are working in close collaboration with a range of partners across South West England to understand the impacts of such drivers on bats and provide evidence based conservation strategies to mitigate impacts and improve legislation.

Map of mean nightly bat activity recorded at acoustic study sites in North Somerset in 2020

With North Somerset Council and Natural England we are conducting applied research which aims to improve regulatory frameworks to deliver better conservation outcomes for bats. We are using an integrated approach combining acoustic surveys, GPS and radio-tracking of bats, ecological niche and landscape connectivity modelling to identify environmental factors that limit the distribution of threatened bat species (Rhinolophus hipposideros, and R. ferrumequinum). We create cutting edge landscape network maps from aerial photographs and synthetic aperture radar imagery which allow us to predict the impacts of development on bats at a county scale.

We run a country wide citizen science project “North Somerset Bat Survey” which collects long term bat acoustic and distribution data through public engagement. These data are then shared with North Somerset Council and used in the mapping processes to inform planning decisions at a county level.

Volunteers sign up to take part on our website where they book an ultrasonic bat detector and place it in nearby habitat to record bat calls for six nights. Volunteers upload bat acoustic data to the online British Trust for Ornithology Pipeline which uses a cutting-edge algorithm to automatically identify the bat species present. Between Sept and Oct 2021 we surveyed 83 1km squares and 26,508 identified recordings of which 10,391 were bat recordings comprising 14 species.

Experimental lighting study showing LED lights installed along a river in North Somerset to test impacts on riparian bats.

Our recent work involves conducting field experiments to understand the impacts of artificial lighting on bats along waterways. By installing temporary streetlights in a controlled experiment we were able to show that all night LED lights reduce the ability of bats to forage along rivers, which can have significant effects on bat populations, especially those that rely on aquatic insects along waterways for feeding. Future work will build on our findings to develop strategies to mitigate impacts of lighting and developments on bats. Watch this space!

3.2 Conservation of gorillas in Equatorial Guinea (David Fernández)

Since 2018, Dr David Fernández has worked with Dr Gráinne McCabe, from the Bristol Zoological Society (BZS), and with researchers from the Equatoguinean Institute for Forestry Development, to run a joint conservation programme focused on the Critically Endangered Western Lowland Gorilla and other large mammals in Monte Alén National Park, Equatorial Guinea.

Although Monte Alén has been identified as a priority area for wildlife conservation in Central Africa, hunting, income inequality and limited institutional capacity threaten the protection of this unique ecosystem.

Since its inception, the project has raised over $117,000 from National Geographic, the Arcus Foundation, and the Elephant Crisis Fund.

In 2020, we deployed an array of camera-traps and acoustic sensors for the long-term monitoring of large mammals and hunting in the Park. While this work was disrupted due to COVID-19, we have already found evidence that despite hunting being widespread, the gorillas remain in the area and the population is still reproducing, and are currently analysing acoustic data to quantify hunting and determine spatio-temporal factors affecting this activity. We are also working with local communities to mitigate crop-foraging, which threatens human-wildlife co-existence and has led to at least 19 retaliatory killings of Critically Endangered forest elephants since 2019. As such, in January 2022 we will initiate a study to test the efficacy of different humane strategies to mitigate elephant crop-foraging and hence reduce farmers’ economic and crop losses.

Recently the programme team has expanded with the addition of Drs Aimee Oxley and Edward Wright (BZS), and Mr Juan Cruz Ondo Nze Avomo, Field Manager. Over the next five years, we plan to expand our work to understand the socioeconomic drivers of natural resource use, implement alternative livelihood projects with local communities, and continue developing national capacity for biodiversity monitoring and evidence-based wildlife conservation.

3.3 Developing environmental DNA (eDNA) technologies (Mark Steer, Stephanie Sargeant, Angeliki Savvantoglou, Buffy Smith)

Photo: What lies beneath? eDNA can help to uncover the secrets of life underwater by identifying the DNA left behind by animals living in rivers, lakes and sea.

The eDNA partnership at UWE works with a range of partners to develop environmental DNA survey techniques which extract and identify the DNA left behind by animals in their environment. Our projects have encompassed creating methods to survey both the European Eel and the invasive parasite which may be an important factor in the eels’ dramatic population declines (partnership with Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust). Our aquatic work now extends to collaborations with Bristol Zoological Gardens, the Hellenic Centre for Marine Research and Archipelagos Institute of Marine Conservation, carrying out surveys for critically endangered fish and bivalves in the Mediterranean Basin. We are also at the early stages of a collaboration to create an eDNA method to search for Europe’s rarest fish, the Asprete, in the mountain streams of Romania.

Environmental DNA, however, is not solely recovered from water. Pioneering work carried out by PhD students Angeliki Savvantoglou and Buffy Smith has shown that mammal DNA can be recovered from the intestinal tracts of dung flies.

We have successfully demonstrated the use of the method to map the occurrence of bears in Greece and assess the impact of habitat fragmentation on lemurs in Madagascar, work which will help to inform habitat protection and restoration plans in both countries. This work is carried out in collaboration with in-country partners Callisto and Sadabe.

Our latest venture is really exciting – extracting DNA directly from the air, a project we’re carrying out with in partnership with the WrEN project. It’s a little early to report on our results, but the initial findings are promising.

The development of these survey techniques provides a highly sensitive and non-invasive method which will allow us to carry out species surveys rapidly and accurately, which is especially useful for species which are hard to spot or identify in the field. eDNA provides a powerful complementary technique for assessing the distribution of species across many different habitats.

3.4 Assessing the involvement and risk of bacteria to oak and other broadleaf tree hosts (Carrie Brady)

Dr Brady is a bacterial taxonomist in CRIB, working in collaboration with Forest Research on a multimillion pound BBSRC-funded grant to limit the spread of pathogenic bacteria that are damaging and causing the death of many native British oak trees. Native oak species are currently under threat from Acute Oak Decline (AOD), a serious disease affecting mature trees that has spread throughout the south east and midlands of Britain. A polymicrobial complex has been identified as the cause of the bleeding lesions typical of the decline with two bacterial species, Brenneria goodwinii and Gibbsiella quercinecans, responsible for the necrosis of the inner bark. We isolated, identified and classified these two new bacterial species just over a decade ago. The research into AOD at UWE centres around the classification, identification and detection of bacteria associated with the decline.

Photo: Mature Quercus robur (pedunculate oak) displaying symptoms of acute oak decline with several bleeds visible on the trunk.

Since joining UWE Bristol in 2011, we have described two novel genera and 11 novel species of bacteria isolated from oak displaying symptoms of AOD. We also develop molecular screening methods to detect the most commonly isolated bacteria from diseased tissue, examine possible synergistic relationships between the bacteria and try to determine routes of infection from possible reservoirs such as rhizosphere soil.

Our research has recently expanded into screening bleeding cankers of other broadleaf hosts such as lime, beech, elm and birch to determine if the AOD bacteria are present on hosts other than oak. Preliminary results from field trips in Gloucestershire and Wiltshire indicate a novel Brenneria species may be involved in necrosis of lime with symptoms of bleeding cankers along with the AOD-associated bacteria. This opens several exciting avenues of future research with the possibility of another polymicrobial disease on a broadleaf host, similar to the complex responsible for AOD.

Photo: Bleeding symptoms on mature Tilia x europaea (common lime).
Photo: Removing bleeding outer bark using chisel and mallet.

Photo: Necrotic lesion on inner bark beneath bleeding outer bark of Tilia hybrid.

CASE 4: CARBON CAPTURE VIA REWILDING

4.1 Carbon capture via rewilding (Pete Maxfield; Sam Bonnett; Adrian Crew; Mark Steer)

Landscape-scale ecosystem restoration, or ‘Rewilding’, is being deployed globally to enhance biodiversity and contribute to climate change mitigation by increasing carbon storage and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Soils play a key role in long-term global carbon storage with twice as much carbon stored in soil compared to the atmosphere and three times more compared to vegetation. There is considerable commercial interest in the development of carbon credit schemes which allow individuals and companies to invest in projects around the world in order to balance carbon footprints, but these need rigorous monitoring to ensure that they deliver the expected benefits. Researchers in CRIB are leading the development of methods for evaluation and validation of carbon storage in rewilded ecosystems.

A key barrier to implementing programmes to increase soil organic carbon (SOC) at large scale is that SOC cannot be easily measured and monitored over the short-term. Current valuation and validation standards for rewilding and/or carbon offsetting projects are dependent on estimated values that may or may not be validated for specific ecosystems and so there is a requirement for empirical evaluation of the spatial and temporal variation of soil carbon and GHG flux within rewilded ecosystems for future method developments. This is particularly important for small and mid-sized rewilding projects (< 500 acres) which make up the majority of rewilding projects in England but receive very little academic interest.

Photo: Measuring greenhouse gas emissions in real time at Honeygar

We are using state of the art in-field and laboratory techniques to measure the impact of ecosystem restoration on soil carbon dynamics at a number of important rewilding sites including Honeygar, the Somerset Wildlife Trust’s £3m peatland restoration initiative in the internationally important Somerset Levels and Moors landscape, and the community-led rewilding project, Wild Woodbury, which extends 170 hectares across the south Dorset landscape.

We are also working with the Wild Carbon Fund to develop an over-arching framework for monitoring carbon storage and sequestration on rewilding sites which will provide landowners with a robust carbon monitoring framework.

Our work in Somerset is supporting the government’s Lowland Peatland Taskforce in developing its long-term strategic goals for managing carbon stocks in the UK’s lowland peatlands.

Image: Engaging with local communities with vitally important to develop understanding for how changing the land use in agricultural systems can provide both environmental and economic benefits.

UWE Bristol Academic Spotlight: Alexandros Stratakos, Senior Lecturer in Sustainable Agri-Food Production

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Alexandros is a Senior Lecturer and Wallscourt Fellow in Sustainable Agri-Food Production at UWE Bristol. He is working on the development of new strategies to ensure the safety, quality and sustainability of the food supply chain, with the overall aim of translating experimental results to real life applications to benefit industry, public bodies, consumers and to make a positive contribution to the economy and quality of life. He has been involved in national and international research projects (EU) and has been awarded funding from various sources, including industry.

Alexandros also delivers teaching related to food, microbiology and commercialisation of scientific discoveries (Scientific Frontiers and Enterprise module) at UWE Bristol.


Specific areas of interest include:

  • Development of Cold Atmospheric Plasma Technology for Agri-Food Applications.
  • Development of novel interventions (e.g. physical, biological) that control foodborne pathogens during all phases of the food production chain.
  • Development of novel food and feed additives with antimicrobial and anti-virulence properties.
  • Microbiological food quality – focusing on plant and meat based products.
A brief description of how his academic expertise can be practically applied for a business partner 

Most of Alexandros’ research has been collaborative with industry. He has provided consultancy and research that has led to the commercialisation of products (e.g. food and feed additives) as well as the adoption of alternative food processing and food safety practises in industrial food production environments.

He can offer consultancy as well as research support to help food producers and farmers in new product development, developing tailored practises/interventions to improve food safety and reduce food waste and help them assess how current and emerging technologies can work for them.


Example of the research work in Alexandros’ lab  – Development of cold plasma technology as a novel food processing method to increase food safety and reduce food waste

For more information about Alexandros’ work please click here

UWE Bristol announce fully funded short courses in partnership with West of England Institute of Technology

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UWE Bristol, in partnership with the West of England Institute of Technology is delivering four exciting skills development short courses as part of the new fully funded Certificate of Future Technologies.

UWE Bristol will be providing the following courses, fully funded as part of the Certificate of Future Technologies:

  • Fundamentals of Digital Twin (2 days) – starts 23 November 2021
  • Fundamentals of Industry 4.0 (2 days) – starts 7 December 2021
  • Introduction to Robotics (1 day) – starts 10 February 2022
  • Leadership for Sustainability and Social Value (2 days) – starts January 2022 (exact dates TBC)

The new Certificate of Future Technologies is a modular course designed by employers and educational institutions working in partnership to help businesses access high-quality, short, modular, technical training modules to upskill and reskill staff to better address their business needs.

The modular offer is ‘pick and mix’ to meet individual and industry need; and job role. The courses are designed by employers and educational institutions working in partnership to help businesses access high-quality, short, modular, technical training modules to upskill and reskill staff to better address their business needs and embrace the digitisation of the workplace.

The brand-new course will offer a blend of classroom and remote online study, and will vary in length from 50 to 70 hours – giving more adults greater flexibility in how and when they learn, so they can fit it around their lives.

These courses are being delivered in response to the growing demand for Digital Skills in the region and to support those whose progression, development or employment has been affected by the pandemic.

Eligibility criteria

The Certificate of Future Technologies is open to all individuals who meet the following criteria:

  • aged 19+
  • currently in work
  • whose employer is based within the West of England

Find about the Institute of Technology courses

Our Courses

Fundamentals of Digital Twin (2 days)

Starts 23 November

This introductory course will introduce you to the concepts and processes of digital twinning and ways this can benefit your organisation. 

Originating from the aerospace sector, digital twinning is now utilised across a wide range of sectors and industry to help reduce risks, improve business efficiencies, accelerate time to market, support staff, and engage with customers.

A digital twin acts as a digital representation that functions as a shadow (or twin) of a physical object or process and enables an organisation to explore different scenarios outside of their daily operations. Examples of ways digital twinning has been utilised across industries include:

  • remotely monitor and control equipment and systems and monitor system performance
  • implement simulation models to test and predict new processes and layouts and to explore process changes under different what-if scenarios
  • allow partners/customers to experiment with new configurations of your product/service
  • develop and train your workforce through digital work instructions to replace procedure manuals to allow employees to access step-by-step instructions while completing tasks in real time. 

While digital twin technology is utilised in large-scale processes, it also provides an accessible mechanism to make smaller incremental improvements and innovations within your organisation.

Who is this for?

This course is aimed at business leaders; technical leaders and strategic decisionmakers within the organisation interested in learning more around digital twin technology and its business potential.

Fundamentals of Industry 4.0 (2 days)

Starts 7 December  

This course provides an insight into how new technologies are creating the emergence of Industry 4.0. 

Participants will gain an understanding into the technologies and challenges of industry 4.0. in addition, the impact of industry 4.0 on business, security, education, and environment will be explained. 

The key technologies of industry 4.0 such as autonomous robotics, additive manufacturing, Internet of Things, simulation, the cloud, and systems integration will be explained. 

An introduction to the smart factory will also be explained in terms of flexibility and the reconfigurability. In addition, the steps to implement a smart factory will be explained.

Who is this for?

This course is aimed at individuals wanting to improve knowledge in industry 4.0 and smart manufacturing.

Introduction to Robotics (1 day)

Starts 10 February

This practical workshop will allow participants to learn through a hands-on approach to gain an insight into different hardware options and operating systems for industrial robotics. 

Based in our Bristol Robotics Laboratory, will get an overview of the robotics sector, through using three industrial robotic arms, with experience technicians onsite to answer questions and provide demonstrations.

Who is this for?

This course is aimed at individuals wanting to improve knowledge in robotics

And factory floor personnel who might have input into acquisition of robots and automation.

Leadership for Sustainability and Social Value (2 days)

Starts January 2022 (exact dates TBC)

This course is designed to help organisations develop the capability and knowledge needed to create a vision and build sustainability and social value into their strategy. 

Who is this for?

This course is aimed at business leaders and senior managers with business decision making responsibilities 

Find about the Institute of Technology courses and book your place.

Future Space Business produces technology to help tackle sustainability and climate change issues

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Future Space is part of UWE Bristol’s University Enterprise Zone. They aim to drive the University’s ambitions to prepare students with entrepreneurial skills, spark collaboration between UWE researchers, innovators and entrepreneurs and commercialise the latest research.

Professor Steve West, UWE Bristol Vice-Chancellor and President, said:

“This is the latest venture that sets us apart as a technology-based university focused on generating opportunities for business growth and collaboration.

There is no doubt in my mind that fostering an entrepreneurial atmosphere on our campus is a win for our students and our research community, as we know that by collaborating and nurturing business we create a climate of innovation that has a ripple effect.”

Future Space is part of one of four University Enterprise Zones in the UK. The West of England University Enterprise Zone provides facilities and services to companies specialising in robotics, biosciences, medical technologies and other high tech sectors. 

Albotherm is a member of Future Space and they are focusing on developing technology that provides a solution to address climate change.

Here’s their story:

Albotherm was founded by a team of scientists turned entrepreneurs in 2020 with a vision to bring our planet one step closer to carbon neutral and ensure future food security with their passive cooling technology.

Air conditioning alone currently accounts for 20% of electricity usage from buildings and this is expected to triple by 2050 due to rising global temperatures. Using fossil fuel derived energy for air conditioning traps us in a ‘Catch 22’ as we are further warming our planet, creating even more demand for cooling.

At Albotherm we are developing coatings based on novel polymer chemistry that reversibly transition from transparent to white, passively cooling the structure they coat by reflecting solar radiation in hot weather. We can control the trigger temperature this transition occurs at, between 18 ℃ and 45 ℃ to create optimal conditions in a range of climates. Our technology works without electrical input, cutting down carbon emissions associated with air conditioning and removing our reliance on fossil fuels.

Our first product is a glass coating aimed at the Greenhouse Horticulture market. Greenhouses are designed to extend our growing seasons by increasing growing temperatures during colder months, hence the term “The Greenhouse effect”, however they are consequently prone to overheating in the Summer months.

Currently, greenhouses are painted with chalk based white paints each summer. This is a labour intensive process and also means light levels are reduced even on cooler summer days. Unlike these solutions, our coatings only turn white to shade crops when they risk being damaged by heat. This protects crops while maximising light levels in cooler days, boosting yields in an industry that has historically struggled with razor thin margins.

In the future, we plan to develop products for commercial buildings to reduce carbon emissions associated with air conditioning. At the moment air conditioning accounts for 20% of electricity usage from buildings and 10% of total global electricity usage. By applying our technology to windows and roofs, we can significantly reduce energy usage from these buildings to protect against the impacts of climate change.

Furthermore, another key benefit of our technology is the ease with which it can be retro-fitted. More than half of current global building stock will remain standing in 2050. On top of that, two thirds of UK homes do not meet energy efficiency standards. Is it essential that we improve the sustainability of the buildings we currently have and retrofitting is the only way to do that. As our technology is applied as a coating, it can be easily sprayed onto existing and new buildings.

To get in touch with Albotherm please click here

UWE Bristol Academic Spotlight: Professor in Unconventional Computing, Andrew Adamatzky

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Andrew Adamatzky is a Professor in Unconventional Computing in the Department of Computer Science and Director of the Unconventional Computing Laboratory at UWE Bristol. 

Professor Adamatzky founded the Unconventional Computing Laboratory in 2001 as a response to an urgent need to develop computers for the next century. They employ complex dynamics in physical, chemical and biological media to design novel computational techniques, architectures and working prototypes of non-linear media based computers.

Read more about the Unconvetional Computing Laboratory in our Blog.

Andrew’s research is focused on reaction-diffusion computing, cellular automata, physarum computing, massive parallel computation, applied mathematics, collective intelligence and robotics, bionics, computational psychology, non-linear science, novel hardware, and future and emergent computation. His research interests are in unconventional computing – developing of novel computing paradigms, architectures, implementations and prototypes of alternative computing devices made of living, physical and chemical systems.

Examples of unconventional computers he has developed include excitable chemical medium computers, slime mould computer, computers from plants and fungi.

In 2019 Andrew led the team of researchers from the  Centre of Unconventional Computing in the development of 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.

This revolutionary new type of intelligent building is made with green construction materials and capable of adaptively reacting to changes in light, temperature and air pollutants. The work was in collaboration with partners from Denmark (Centre for Information Technology and Architecture), Italy (MOGU) and the Netherlands (Utrecht University).

Read more about this work here

Business Interests:

  • Living architectures
  • Nanocomputers
  • Biosensors

Academic expertise:

1. Development of biosensors based on living fungi and slime moulds
2. Development of adaptive materials (to be used in construction industry and fashion industry) capable for sensing and computing
3. Development of nanocomputers based on cytoskeleton

For further information about Professor Adamatzky’s work click here

UWE’s Faculty of Engineering and Technology’s short courses addressing Sustainability and Climate Change

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An Introduction to Zero Carbon Buildings

Our Autumn run has begun with over 900 participants signed up for this very popular MOOC (Massive Open Online Course). This free online course is for professionals of the built environment who wish to raise their awareness of zero carbon design and construction. It sets out the process of building development in a zero carbon context, raising awareness of the technical, social and economic challenges that need to be overcome in transitioning to zero carbon.

For further details and to make an enquiry about the next course please click here

Air Quality CPD

Based on updated Local Air Quality Management Guidance, UWE’s Air Quality Management Resource Centre (AQMRC) offers a suite of five online courses which can be taken all together or as individual days:

Delivered as self-learning (materials access only) or blended learning (materials + live session), each topic provides you with a set of interactive web-based materials to work through. The courses will be of interest to students, practitioners and policy makers involved in air quality management in Environmental health/protection; Public health; Transport; Land-use planning.

  • Dates: Access to online materials: 20 Sept to 17 Dec 2021 / Live sessions: 1 to 5 November 2021, 09:30-12:30
  • Fees (per topic): £180 Early Bird / £215 / £182 UWE Alumni/Student / £95 materials only

Sustainable Development in Practice courses

Sustainable Development in Practice courses

Our portfolio of short courses that focus on the urgent challenges faced by organisations, communities and government in effecting sustainable change in individual behaviour, business practice and wider society. Students who complete all four modules can achieve a postgraduate qualification in Sustainable Development Practice.

University Enterprise Zone Spotlight: Robotics Innovation Facility

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The Robotics Innovation Facility (RIFBristol) is one of five areas that make up UWE Bristol’s University Enterprise Zone. The below spotlight explains its purpose:

Located beside the UEZ café, which forms a central meeting place for the building’s companies, entrepreneurs and academics, is one of the most exciting parts of the University. Identifiable by the array of industrial robot arms and other cutting-edge hardware, visible through its window onto the café – the Robotics Innovation Facility (RIFBristol) is a high tech, inspiring and truly creative space. 

As UWE Bristol’s specialist industry-facing unit within the Bristol Robotics Laboratory (BRL) – a collaborative partnership between the city-region’s two universities and the UK’s most comprehensive academic centre for multi-disciplinary robotics research – RIFBristol provides training, research and consultancy services to a range of private and public sector clients.

Recognised as a Digital Innovation Hub by the European Union, it has been successfully delivering robotics workshops, prototyping and validating new products, demonstrating how automation can improve manufacturing processes, and supervising student-industry collaborations, since 2013.

“Our engineers help clients to trial various technical solutions, identifying the best options for their requirements,” says Farid Dailami, Director of RIFBristol and Associate Professor for Knowledge Exchange in Manufacturing.

“They can advise on capital purchases, support the deployment and integration of hardware, undertake research and proof-of-concept work, and deliver training.”

One of the unique strengths of RIFBristol is what it describes as its ‘brand agnostic’ approach. As part of BRL and UWE Bristol, it is not tied to a particular hardware manufacturer or supplier. It is, therefore, under no pressure to favour a particular brand or model and its advice is always honest, unbiased and wholly tailored to its customers’ needs.

This also means that its dedicated workspace in the UEZ is equipped with an impressive range of manufacturing equipment. ABB, KUKA and Universal robot arms sit alongside conveyers, sensors, cameras and laser measuring systems, all of which can be used to address clients’ research, CPD and product development challenges.  

“Our expertise is as diverse as our hardware”, says Dailami. “Our staff have knowledge of industrial robotics, cobotics, mechanical and electronics engineering, mechatronics, smart manufacturing, 3D printing and simulation. This diversity is our strength. We can help with robotics, but we can also bring knowledge and experience of related disciplines into play”

Alongside its private consultancy projects, RIFBristol leads several publicly funded research and business support programmes. The EU-funded TERRINet initiative, for example, enables researchers at all levels, from undergraduates, to PhD candidates and industry-based professionals, to access robotics infrastructure located across Europe. 

Since 2018, RIFBristol has also delivered the ERDF-funded SABRE Programme. This £1m project has enabled small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) from across the West of England to explore the benefits of robotics and automation.

From start-ups, micro-enterprises and sole traders, to larger and more established companies, its free and subsidised services have helped businesses to get the most from these important technologies.

“RIFBristol and the SABRE Programme played a vital role in the completion of our initial prototype. It enabled the company to undertake pilot studies with leading OEMs – and to safeguard the development of this exciting technology in the UK, securing 3 existing, and creating 4 new, jobs in the West of England.”

Dr Evangelos Zympeloudis, CEO, iCOMAT Ltd | www.icomat.co.uk


For more information about RIFBristol visit its website. The University Enterprise Zone is also made up of the Health Tech HubFuture SpaceLaunch Space and the Bristol Robotics Laboratory Hardware Incubator.

University Enterprise Zone Spotlight: Future Space

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Future Space is one of four areas that make up UWE Bristol’s University Enterprise Zone. The below spotlight explains a bit about them:

Who we are

Future Space is an innovation centre, based on UWE Bristol‘s Frenchay campus, within the University Enterprise Zone. The centre offers a range of office space, laboratories, workshops, and coworking facilities designed specifically for high-tech, science-based entrepreneurs and innovators. Future Space is managed by Oxford Innovation, the UK’s largest operator of innovation centres, and manages a growing network of over 25 innovation centres in the UK.

A former head chef, a PhD in cancer genetics, and one of the region’s top 75 innovators; just some of the eclectic accolades of our Future Space Team. With a wealth of experience in business, and managing lab and workspace, we’re on hand to help entrepreneurs grow their businesses.

What we offer to business

There are many reasons why Future Space is a fantastic location for growing science and technology businesses: Purpose built laboratories; Customisable workshops; and a range of flexible offices and shared spaces. A distinct advantage is the positioning of the centre – on UWE Bristol campus and co-located with the Health Tech Hub and Bristol Robotics Laboratory.

We also have an onsite Innovation team to oversee all the business needs of our community and provide practical business support for our tech and life science residents. As well as running peer networks and 1:1 support, the team organises free expert advice for resident businesses, connects companies with the University, and designs and develops a varied support programme of workshops and Q&As.

An event held in the Hub Space of the University Enterprise Zone

How we work with UWE

Our Innovation team works closely with UWE Bristol to drive collaboration opportunities. If you are a small company in the early stages of development, it can be difficult to find the capacity to carry out all aspects of running the business as well as giving focus to building your product and services. The knowledge and expertise you have in-house is also likely to be limited. Universities can play a key role in helping SMEs grow, with access to skills training, student and graduate resource, academic expertise, and an abundance of practical advice.

Businesses based at Future Space have benefitted from more than 200 engagements with UWE Bristol, from the use of specialist equipment at the university, to funded business assist support through programmes such as the Health Technology Accelerator Programme and SABRE. This support has enabled companies to build new products and services, as well as giving access to valuable knowledge and technical expertise that is needed in the early stages of development.

You can read more in our recent article.

What’s new for 2021/2022

Student and graduate engagement with SMEs are a core focus in the centre, with residents offered fully funded UWE Bristol internships, as well as regular chances to pitch project briefs to degree and masters level students. This year we launched our new internship programme aimed at post-graduate students, as well as undergraduate students – more than 40 interns have been employed in the Future Space community over the years, and these internships bring in vital skills and talent to resident businesses. We will be developing this programme further in 2021/22.

This year, our team also got involved in UWE Bristol’s Digital Innovation Fund, delivering innovation training as part of the ‘Innovation & Bid-writing’ course, delivered to SMEs in the region. This was a great opportunity for SMEs and our Future Space community, and we are committed to working closely on future programmes.

Our strong affiliation with UWE Bristol brings a huge amount of opportunities for resident businesses, from student and graduate engagement, to innovation support, and funding opportunities. The impact of all of this work is seen in the great successes of our community, and you can read about some of these in our cases studies and blogs. We’re excited to see what’s next.

For further information about Future Space please contact info@futurespacebristol.co.uk