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.”

UWE Bristol Research Impact Retreats

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In January, the Research Impact team hosted a two day writing retreat for selected academics from UWE Bristol.

The retreat was the last one in a series of away days that have taken place since last June for the different faculties at UWE Bristol.

The two-day retreats allow academics to think about their research case studies away from campus enabling them the opportunity to fine tune and edit their work.

The impact team helps the academics to fine tune their work so that it is in a good position to submit for the Research Excellence Framework 2021.

All four retreats have been extremely well received, with glowing feedback from attendees:

Very many thanks for organising and initiating for us such a brilliant retreat.  It has made a huge difference to me – I would never have made this progress without it!”  Participant A

“The experience has been really excellent (and I know others have said the same). The structure, information, advice, hospitality and good humour that the RBI team provided was exceptional. As a result it was possible – in bite-sized chunks – to get tuned into the specifics of what was needed and then review and revise the case study material as well as getting critical feedback on it in near real-time.”  Participant B

I found the structure and flow of activities well-structured and relaxed, which is exactly what was needed to get us talking to each other and working on our case studies. Thank you for not ‘forcing’ us into unnecessary “workshop standard” activities, which usually involve flip-charts, felt-tip pens and post-it notes! This is an element I’m always dreading in mandatory workshops/seminars and not having it, is what made me feel more comfortable and got me concentrating on the task at hand.”  Participant C

Read some of UWE Bristol’s Research with Impact Case Studies 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.

Romancing the Gibbet: sites of extraordinary punishment in Georgian England

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As part of the Being Human Festival 2019, Professor Steve Poole is co-hosting an event on 14 November that explores ‘dark tourism’ sites of extraordinary public execution in Georgian Britain. Read all about it in his post below:

Steve Poole, University of the West of England, Bristol

“Ralph Hoyte and I first came up with the idea for Romancing the Gibbet in 2014 and pitched it to the first Being Human festival. Here’s the premise: Ralph is a poet concerned with embedding language in the landscape, a situated poetry working in tandem with the experience of Place. I’m a social historian interested in the representation of emotional trauma in the historic environment. What might we make if we worked together?

In 2014, Ralph was developing digital conversations between the Romantic poets Coleridge and the Wordsworths in the Quantock Hills above Nether Stowey in the later 18th century, and I was completing some research about the extraordinary and occasional practice of hanging criminals at remote rural crime scenes in the same period. In many cases, the executed body was then left to slowly decompose in an iron gibbet cage suspended high over the landscape.

Conventional histories assess the evidence surrounding events like these but struggle to represent their emotional and affective impact on the environment in which they were staged and in the consciousness of the people they targeted. We wondered whether a fusion of historical research and poetic response, cast as a situated performance piece close to an execution site could get us (and a local audience) closer to understanding the process as it was conceived by contemporaries – as a deep and indelible mark on the collective memory of a community.

So, augmented by a live soundscape created by the environmental artist Michael Fairfax, we staged two bespoke Being Human performances along these lines at Warminster, Wiltshire (where two men were hanged on a hill overlooking the town after murdering a farmer and his servant in 1813) and at Nether Stowey, Somerset (where a man was hanged for the murder of his wife in 1789). Built around lengthy balladic interpretations, these went down astonishingly well and attracted a brilliantly mixed audience of local history buffs, creative writing fans and curious local residents.

Our next objective was to make some more permanent immersive landscape interventions, adapting the performance pieces and making them more accessible. Ralph and I had both worked a lot with creative digital audio as an interpretation tool so we next threw that experience into building four geo-located ‘Romancing the Gibbet’ app downloads. We added two new poetry commissions: a fratricidal killing in the estuary at Avonmouth in 1741 and the murder of a labourer on a hill overlooking Chipping Camden in 1772. These immersive landscape trails are designed for use with smartphone and headphones in the environment they commemorate. They are not linear guides and they do not offer ‘information’. We see them as situated sound pieces triggered by past events.

At this year’s Being Human festival we’re promoting all this work – engaging audiences at community halls in each of the four locales, with historical discussion, sample performance pieces and specially laid out audio trail tasters.

Why have we stuck with this project for five years now? Partly because we are still learning how our understanding of the world, and what it is to be a human in it, is affected by a finely tuned balance between reason and emotion. Historians haven’t always found it easy to work with imaginative reconstruction, with empathy or with feeling. But here was an historical practice deliberately designed to traumatise, to emotionally scar and to change for generations the ways in which the landscape was read and understood. What’s more, eighteenth century people often used poetry themselves to record them, perhaps because rational explanation was never quite enough.

For heritage interpretation, making sense of emotional currents and their relationship to the conventional archive, material culture and the natural world seems to me absolutely vital. And working collaboratively with creative industries partners like Ralph has changed the way I think as an historian.

Creative and even-handed co-production between artists and academics can provoke audiences to think differently about the past and to ‘remember’ or ‘know’ things in different ways. Collective memories, tied to Place, may reveal themselves in evidence-based research, but they may also emerge in myths, fictions and folklore. Poetry works with the spectral traces of a half remembered, part imaginary past and is quite at home in it.  But it is no less ‘authentic’ for all that.”

Watch a short film of Ralph and Steve discussing the project here. To book tickets for the event please see here.

Research undertaken at UWE Bristol could reduce the need for precautionary antibiotics when it comes to Urinary tract infections

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Adapted from news article which originally appeared on the UWE Bristol Website.

Researchers at UWE Bristol are supporting the North Bristol NHS Trust to develop a device that can diagnose urinary tract infections (UTI) in a few minutes.  The project, funded by the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR), could avoid instances when doctors prescribe antibiotics as a precautionary measure while waiting for test results.

The device, which will be about the size of a domestic toaster, is to be developed within the University’s Institute of Bio-sensing Technology. It will work using a cartridge that contains antibodies to common UTI bacteria, and a protein indicating when an infection is present. A small volume of the patient’s urine sample is poured into the cartridge, which is then placed in the new detection device, after which a diagnosis can be made quickly.

Professor Richard Luxton, who is co-Founder and Director of the Institute of Bio-sensing Technology at UWE Bristol said: “As well as speeding up the diagnostic process, this device is aimed at minimizing inappropriate prescription of antibiotics and hence supporting the aim of reducing antimicrobial resistance.

“Currently it can take up to three days to get a result for a urine sample sent to a microbiology laboratory. If the patient has ongoing symptoms, the GP will sometimes prescribe antibiotics before the result is back. This could be harmful to the patient, and also to the community at large.”

Professor Marcus Drake, Consultant Urologist from North Bristol NHS Trust and project Principle Investigator, said that as well as being slow, such methods are sometimes unreliable. “The new device will detect the infecting bacteria directly, giving a reliable indicator of the UTI. Current dipstick type tests measure chemicals in the urine that suggest bacteria may be present, but these are not sensitive and may miss an infection,” he said.

The development of the diagnostic device is in its early stages and the project duration is scheduled for three years to develop a prototype, and do a preliminary test with real urine specimens. Over a following three-year period, researchers will then further develop the diagnostic system to bring it in line with regulations, with a plan for the device to then be used in clinical trials.

Following this, the researchers hope to make it available to the NHS for use in GP surgeries for patients with suspected UTI.

Read the full story here.

UWE Bristol Researcher awarded grant to understand effectiveness of chemotherapy for cancer patients

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Senior Lecturer in Biomedical Sciences Dr Alex Greenhough has been awarded a grant of almost £25,000 from Bowel Cancer UK to understand why some patients with rectal cancer don’t respond well to certain treatments and look for new ways to improve its chance of success.

Alex will be studying proteins that are found in bowel cancer cells to find out if they affect how patients respond to chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

In collaboration with Adam Chambers and Professor Ann Williams from the University of Bristol, they hope to discover how subtle differences in these proteins might help them to which patients will respond best to this type of treatment.

Knowing which patients are likely to respond well to chemotherapy and radiotherapy means this treatment can be offered to those who would most benefit from it. Most importantly, patients will be spared from the side effects of a treatment that simply won’t work for them.

This award is part of Bowel Cancer UK’s investment of over £1.3 million pounds to support research with the greatest benefits for those at risk and affected by the disease.

Bowel cancer is the second biggest cancer killer in the UK, however it shouldn’t be because it is treatable and curable especially if diagnosed early.

Alex said: “We are incredibly grateful for this funding from Bowel Cancer UK, which will give us a fantastic opportunity to make important progress towards better understanding patient responses to chemoradiotherapy and ultimately improve clinical outcomes.”

Dr Lisa Wilde, Director of Research and External Affairs at Bowel Cancer UK, said: “We are delighted to invest in Dr Greenhough’s research. This important work will support our commitment to invest in high quality, innovative and creative solutions to help lead a step change in the number of people surviving bowel cancer.”

For more information visit bowelcanceruk.org.uk/research.

UWE Bristol spin out company poised to improve the diagnosis of bowel disorders

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We are delighted to announce that a UWE-based spin out company, Nidor Diagnostics Limited, has been established to develop a medical diagnostic device.

The device, named Inform ™, can detect the volatile organic compounds in patient samples, in order to diagnose and monitor a range of medical conditions. Founding institutional shareholders include UWE Bristol, the University of Liverpool, the University of Bristol and The Wellcome Trust.

Nidor Diagnostics Limited will offer a range of diagnostic products, the first of which would enable patients to receive a positive diagnosis of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Currently, the diagnosis of IBS and other related medical conditions can require many assessments, including blood and faeces testing, colonoscopy with biopsies, and radiology (X-ray) tests, and requires a lengthy process of elimination. Inform (IBS) ™ will help to speed up the diagnostic process for patients.

Professor Norman Ratcliffe’s and Ben Costello’s team in the Institute of BioSensing Technology have developed the core science over many years. The team have developed extremely sensitive, low cost semiconductor based technology and pattern recognition technology for fast evaluation of urine and stool for disease diagnoses.

Dr Taj S Mattu, CEO of Nidor said: “The Universities of the West of England and Liverpool have been instrumental in developing the core technology on which Nidor is based.  I am excited about realising the technology’s potential to improve the diagnosis of a number of diseases, not just IBS in the near future. Within the next six months, the company aims to raise seed investment and secure grant funding to develop its first diagnostic/prognostic test.”

Professor Martin Boddy, Pro Vice Chancellor for Research and Enterprise said “It’s good to see this big step towards getting real impact from UWE research. This research holds great potential for improving patient’s lives and also for creating jobs and spurring economic growth”.

Tracey John, Director of Research, Business and Innovation said “The formation of this spin-out company is the culmination of a wealth of research expertise to develop this ground-breaking science, in a strong collaborative partnership with University of Bristol and the University of Liverpool. It’s great to see that our intellectual property has helped secure a significant stake for UWE in Nidor Diagnostics Limited and also for the academics as founding shareholders”. 

UWE IP Commercialisation team (tech.transfer@uwe.ac.uk) can provide practical advice and support for protecting IP, such as filing patent applications for protecting University inventions, negotiating commercial licences, working with industry partners and setting up spin-out companies.  For more information please click here IP & KT Guide.

UWE Academics help in public trial of driverless pods

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As part of a research project involving UWE Bristol robotics, driverless pods helped transport members of the public around London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

The project aims to pave the way for the use of connected and autonomous vehicle (CAV) transport services at public transport hubs and around private estates, including tourist and shopping centres, hospitals, business parks and airports.

With Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park already a testbed for smart mobility activity, alongside a wide range of other innovation projects, an important element of this trial assessed people’s behaviours and attitudes towards driverless pods. With little existing research on how people interact with CAVs in public spaces, representatives from UWE Bristol and Loughborough University observed how people behaved when confronted by the pods, as well as surveying passengers who took a ride on them.

Conducting the trial in the park allowed the UWE Bristol team to speak to users of the park to explore how they felt about the pods being in the same space, and if that raised concerns. Talking to groups such as cyclists, e-scooter users and families provided feedback on how accepting the public might be of driverless vehicles in off-road spaces like the park, and in other locations such as shopping centres, hospitals or airports.

The trial at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park earlier this month was the first public appearance for the Capri pods, which picked up and dropped off passengers at a number of points on a circular route. The Capri pods will be at The Mall in South Gloucestershire in early 2020, returning to the park next year with a final trial that will extend their route and further test the on-demand technology.

Blog post adapted from UWE Bristol news article, which can be found here.

UWE academics help on conservation plan which could help endangered primates in Africa

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A project co-led by the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol), Bristol Zoo and West African Primate Conservation Action is set to help protect nine species of primate found across Africa. A five-year plan that will be sent to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and which begins in 2020, sets out measures to protect the endangered Mangadrills.

Mangadrills include nine groups of African monkeys: seven within the genus Cercocebus, also known as mangabeys, and three within Mandrillus, including the mandrill and the two sub-species described as drills. These primates inhabit an area that stretches from Senegal and Gabon in West Africa, all the way to the Tana River Delta in Kenya. Yet despite the wide range of their habitats, they are among some of the world’s most threatened monkeys.

Dr David Fernandez, senior lecturer in conservation science at UWE Bristol who is co-leading the project, said: “These species are one of the least known primates, as there are very few people working on them. They are classed as ‘endangered’, except one ‘critically endangered’ and one ‘vulnerable’ by the IUCN. Although we know that in most cases their numbers are going down, for many we still don’t know exactly where the populations are or how many are left.”

The plan lists a set of actions that could help conserve these monkeys, which live in forest areas. Although the measures are still being finalised, one could be to protect the Bioko drill (Mandrillus leucophaeus poensis)species from hunters on Bioko Island, in Equatorial Guinea, by blocking off access routes to protected areas, which are used by hunters.

Said Dr Fernandez: “Most hunters enter the Caldera de Luba Scientific Reserve, a protected area in the South of Bioko where most Bioko drills live, using the only existing paved road. Setting up a checkpoint on it would help control poaching in that area and might constitute a plan that is achievable and could be highly effective.”

Another suggested action is to go into communities where primates raid sugar cane crops and are sometimes killed in retaliation. A solution, as set out in the plan, is to help communities to build appropriate fences to prevent this from happening.

As well as identifying what needs to happen to protect these animals, another goal of the action plan is to highlight the existence and plight of these animals.

One action is to set up ecotourism tours in locations like Bioko Island, where the primates have their habitats. Tourists would be able to spend the night in a tropical forest and go with local guides to view the monkeys up close.

Dr Grainne McCabe, head of Field Conservation and Science at Bristol Zoological Society, said: “This action plan is a genuine step forward in trying to save Mangadrill monkeys and we are really pleased to be working with the University of the West of England.

“Together we hope to promote awareness of these threatened species and encourage researchers, conservationists and governments to take the necessary actions to protect them.”

Blog originally appeared on the UWE Bristol website.

World-first ‘smart’ fungal building to be developed by UWE academics

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A revolutionary new type of intelligent building made with green construction materials and capable of adaptively reacting to changes in light, temperature and air pollutants is being developed by UWE Bristol academics in collaboration with partners from Denmark (Centre for Information Technology and Architecture), Italy (MOGU) and the Netherlands (Utrecht University).

Researchers from the UWE Bristol’s Centre of Unconventional Computing will lead the construction of a smart home for the future using fungi, a carbon free material, as part of a £2.5 million project funded by the European Commission.

Using a novel bio-electric system developed by scientists, living fungi grown inside the building’s framework structure will act as a sensor detecting changes in light, pollutants and temperature, and computers will analyse the information. When particular changes are recognised, the system will have the potential to respond adaptively by controlling connected devices such as lights and heaters.

UWE Bristol computer scientists will work with European experts in architecture, biophysics and mycology on the project, which has been heralded as a potential breakthrough for the building industry due to its eco-friendly credentials. By using fungi as an integrated structural and computational substrate, buildings would have low production and running costs, embedded artificial intelligence, and could be returned to nature when no longer in use.

The three-year FUNGAR (Fungal Architectures) project will mark the first time intelligent biological substances have been used as construction materials. It will see living organisms and computing function integrated into designing and building.

Professor Andrew Adamatzky, Director of the Centre of Unconventional Computing, said: “Our overarching goal is to design and bio-manufacture a sensing and computing building with fungi. This is a radically new approach as it proposes to use a real living organism in the material structure, which is also tuned to perform computation.

“If successful, the building as a whole will be able to recognise lighting levels, chemicals in the environment, the presence of people, and will respond to touch. Acting as a massively-parallel computer, the building will control devices depending on the environmental conditions. For example, a warning light could be lit if high levels of air pollution were detected or inhabitants could be warned about high or low temperatures. It’s our vision for an alternative version of a smart home.

“This type of building would be ecologically-friendly as it will be made from natural materials, and will be lightweight, waterproof and recyclable when it reaches the end of its life.”

Professor Adamatzky discovered fungi could be used as a type of functional computer following a studyat UWE Bristol three years ago. He found that the organism reacts to external stimuli such changes in lighting conditions and temperature with spikes of electrical activity.

Fungi is already used as a building material in Europe but the existing approach involves growing the organism to the shape of bricks or blocks, before drying it out to harden. However, fungi have never before been used in live form in self-growing construction. For the FUNGAR project, the fungi will be combined with nanoparticles and polymers to make mycelium-based electronics. This material will then be grown inside the building’s triaxial woven structure. The full-scale fungal building will be constructed in Denmark and Italy, with a smaller scale version being created at UWE Bristol’s Frenchay campus.

The academic partners in the project are the Centre for Information Technology and Architecture in Denmark and Utrecht Universityin Holland. The industry partner is MOGU, a mycelium-based technologies company based in Italy. Originally appeared on the UWE website.