UWE Bristol Researcher Exhibits at the re-launch of leading Craft Gallery

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Dr Tavs Jorgensen, who is an Associate Professor at UWE Bristol’s Centre for Print Research (CFPR), is among a group of leading artists that has been selected by renowned sculptor Peter Randall-Page for an exhibition to celebrate the relaunch of the one of the UK leading craft institutions, formally known as ‘The Devon Guild of Craftsmen’ but now rebranded as: Make South West.

Tavs’ work for the exhibition included new glass and ceramic pieces,  all outcomes of his interdisciplinary research at CFPR. The glass pieces are part of a new body of work that has been produced through the use of an innovative reconfigurable pin tooling concept, which was developed by Tavs as a part of his PhD. Pieces resulting from this research have been exhibited worldwide and have also been acquired by UK’s Craft Council for its permanent Collection.

T Jorgensen 2022

Alongside the glass pieces, Tavs is also exhibiting a series of porcelain vases, which is part of the outcome of Tavs’s current research with ceramic extrusion, funded by an AHRC Leadership Fellow Award. This research project is focussed on the use of 3D printing to create complex and innovative extrusion profiles (dies). Beyond the use in art and design, this approach has significant impact potential in a wide range of other sectors. More specifically, the research has the potential for use in industrial applications in construction, aerospace and energy and work is currently underway to explore this potential in collaboration with the National Composite Centre.  

T Jorgensen 2022

Tavs commented: “I am really honoured to be chosen for the show with amazing group of leading art and craft practitioners. I used to exhibit work quite regularly but over the last five years I have been so busy with more academic oriented work so my creative practice has been put somewhat on hold. However, this exhibition gave me the opportunity to create a new body of work and I firmly believe in the value that creative practice can have in research situations, not only as creative outputs that have relevance in its own right but also as a way to generate knowledge which can be of real benefit in unexpected fields and applications through interdisciplinary interactions.

The exhibition is running until 22 July 2022.

Scale Up 4 Growth Gloucestershire – more workshops announced for 2022

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The Scale Up 4 Growth Gloucestershire (S4GG) programme has to date provided grant funding and training to 60 businesses in the Gloucestershire region.

Delivered in partnership between UWE Bristol, Gloucestershire College, and NatWest, and funded by the European Regional Development Fund, Scale Up 4 Growth supports businesses in Gloucestershire to grow, expand and scale. The aim of the programme is to enable businesses to develop their potential, create job opportunities, get ready to scale up and overcome barriers to growth.

The latest workshops will focus on supporting businesses to navigate the adoption of new digital technologies and increase opportunities for growth.

According to the United Nations impact report, digital technologies have developed faster than any other innovation, with social media now connecting almost 50% of the entire global population.

Over the last few years, we have changed the way we work, interact, and do business forever. Digital technologies are becoming more widespread, and the government recognises digital technologies as key to the Nation’s future prosperity. From social media and e-commerce to Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and Cloud Computing, these technologies can change the way we live and work.

Businesses more than ever need to invest in digital solutions to improve performance, productivity, and flexibility. But this can be a difficult landscape to navigate – how do you make the right choices for your business? Do you have the skills you need in the team? And how do you keep your business and customer information safe in this new digital world?

The Scale Up 4 Growth team has recognised the increasing need for SMEs to become more digital savvy. From design thinking and digital adoption, to cyber security and funding, the “Digital Scale-up for Your Business” workshops will help business leaders wanting to understand new digital technologies, get hands on with design thinking methods, and consider the next steps for scaling.

“Such a wide-ranging and interesting day with a great mix of speakers; it was the ideal blend of practical hands-on information and out-of-the-box thinking.  I definitely felt that I left the workshop armed with the tools to take our business to the next level!”

 Previous Workshop Attendee.

It is a unique opportunity to get practical advice from leading experts in design thinking, digital transformation, and cyber security. The next workshop will take place at Gloucestershire College in July 2022.

The workshop takes place over the course of two days and is delivered by the S4GG partnership, consisting of the University of the West of England, Natwest and Gloucestershire College. Speakers include Salus Cyber, SPARCK, and Together Digital.

The agenda combines theory and practice and includes engaging sessions on strategies to closing skills gaps, making the right digital choices, cyber security, and funding readiness.

Ideal for SMEs based in Gloucestershire of all sizes – early-stage start-ups to established companies. You might be, for example, a consultancy, a technical product business, a retailer, or a software business. What you have in common is an interest in adopting new digital technologies into your business.


About Scale Up for Growth Gloucestershire: The scheme supports small or medium businesses in the Gloucestershire LEP region (Tewkesbury, Cheltenham, Gloucester, Forest of Dean, Stroud and Cotswolds) that are looking to grow. Funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), it offers eligible businesses access to grants, training, and expert support to enable them to achieve their full potential. For more information visit www.scaleup4growth.co.uk

About European Regional Development Fund: Established by the European Union, the European Regional Development Fund helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects which will support innovation, businesses, create jobs and local community regenerations. For more information visit https://www.gov.uk/european-growth-funding

Applications open for Partnership PhD scheme

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UWE Bristol has recently announced another application round of its successful Partnership PhD programme.

A Partnership PhD bridges the gap between external organisations and university. It enables an organisation to gain access to cutting-edge real-world research that can help transform it.

The Partnership establishes a relationship between an organisation and UWE Bristol, based on a specific project that is mutually beneficial.

Organisations have the opportunity to choose a relevant research area and gain access to cutting-edge research. The researcher will work extensively with the organisation to provide a tailored piece of research.

In turn, the researcher will gain an opportunity to pursue their research in a real-world setting, developing transferable and interdisciplinary skills whilst gaining cross-sector experience.

Over the past two years, the Graduate School, part of the Research, Business and Innovation team at UWE Bristol, has been developing the Partnership PhD scheme. Through it, UWE’s investment in Post Graduate Research has been matched by over £1.5m from 40+ partner organisations.

Application deadline 1 July 2022 for Partnership PhD’s starting in 1 January 2023.

Email uwebusiness@uwe.ac.uk to find out more.

Please find below full Partnership PhD guidance, costings, useful information and the flyer for businesses:

See below for our slides for businesses:

Email uwebusiness@uwe.ac.uk to find out more.

Innovative ‘smart socks’ could help millions living with dementia

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Inventor driven to act by great-grandmother’s dementia

  • Milbotix’s ‘smart socks’ sense rising distress in those with dementia, autism and other conditions that affect communication, so their carers can intervene before things escalate
  • Current wrist-worn alternatives can stigmatise and cause more distress
  • Inventor Zeke wanted to help after seeing great-grandmother’s dementia journey
  • He volunteered in a care home and went back to university to research new tech ideas
  • ‘That’s what motivated me: to find her a technological solution that might support care staff and family carers’

‘Smart socks’ that track rising distress in the wearer could improve the wellbeing of millions of people with dementia, non-verbal autism and other conditions that affect communication.

Inventor Dr Zeke Steer quit his job and took a PhD at Bristol Robotics Laboratory so he could find a way to help people like his great grandmother, who became anxious and aggressive because of her dementia.

Milbotix’s smart socks track heart rate, sweat levels and motion to give insights on the wearer’s wellbeing – most importantly how anxious the person is feeling.

They look and feel like normal socks, do not need charging, are machine washable and provide a steady stream of data to carers, who can easily see their patient’s metrics on an app.

Current alternatives to Milbotix’s product are worn on wrist straps, which can stigmatise or even cause more stress.

The Milbotix Smart Socks

Dr Steer said: “The foot is actually a great place to collect data about stress, and socks are a familiar piece of clothing that people wear every day.

Our research shows that the socks can accurately recognise signs of stress – which could really help not just those with dementia and autism, but their carers too.

Dr Steer was working as a software engineer in the defence industry when his great-grandmother, Kath, began showing the ill effects of dementia.

Once gentle and with a passion for jazz music, Kath became agitated and aggressive, and eventually accused Dr Steer’s grandmother of stealing from her.

Dr Steer decided to investigate how wearable technologies and artificial intelligence could help with his great-grandmother’s symptoms. He studied for a PhD at Bristol Robotics Laboratory, which is jointly run by UWE Bristol and the University of Bristol.

Dr Zeke Steer

During the research, he volunteered at a dementia care home operated by the St Monica Trust. Garden House Care Home Manager, Fran Ashby said: “Zeke’s passion was clear from his first day with us and he worked closely with staff, relatives and residents to better understand the effects and treatment of dementia.

We were really impressed at the potential of his assisted technology to predict impending agitation and help alert staff to intervene before it can escalate into distressed behaviours. Using modern assistive technology examples like smart socks can help enable people living with dementia to retain their dignity and have better quality outcomes for their day-to-day life.

While volunteering Dr Steer hit upon the idea of Milbotix, which he launched as a business in February 2020.

I came to see that my great grandmother wasn’t an isolated episode, and that distressed behaviours are very common,” he explained.

Milbotix are currently looking to work with innovative social care organisations to refine and evaluate the smart socks.

Charity Alzheimer’s Society says there will be 1.6 million people with dementia in the UK by 2040, with one person developing dementia every three minutes. Dementia is thought to cost the UK £34.7 billion a year.

Meanwhile, according to the Government autism affects 1% of the UK population, or some 700,000 people, 15-30% of whom are non-verbal part or all of the time.

Dr Steer is now growing the business: testing the socks with people living with mid to late-stage dementia and developing the tech before bringing the product to market next year. Milbotix will begin a funding round later this year.

Milbotix is currently a team of three, including Jacqui Arnold, who has been working with people living with dementia for 40 years.

The Milbotix Team

She said: “These socks could make such a difference. Having that early indicator of someone’s stress levels rising could provide the early intervention they need to reduce their distress – be that touch, music, pain relief or simply having someone there with them.

Milbotix will be supported by Alzheimer’s Society through their Accelerator Programme, which is helping fund the smart socks’ development, providing innovation support and helping test what it described as a “brilliant product”.

Natasha Howard-Murray, Senior Innovator at Alzheimer’s Society, said: “Some people with dementia may present behaviours such as aggression, irritability and resistance to care.

“This innovative wearable tech is a fantastic, accessible way for staff to better monitor residents’ distress and agitation.”


Free Digital Skills workshops for SMEs

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UWE Bristol are offering free & comprehensive Digital Marketing support for SMEs based in the West of England.  

The support is part of Workforce for the Future, a free service that will help SMEs to identify and address their skills needs, by upskilling and retraining employees, or supporting them to source and bring in new staff to drive their business forwards. 

What Support is Available? 

As part of our diverse offer, we will show you how to harness the power of digital with in-depth 1:1 support with expert advisors. We can help you with:

  • Introduction to Digital Marketing  
  • Digital Marketing Strategy Workshop   
  • Follow up & review sessions with consultants to develop your strategy  
  • SEO  
  • Social media, analytics and advertising    

Across the programme, your business and your employees will be able to access a bespoke combination of support via the below strands: 

  • Leadership & strategy 
  • People, Culture & Organisation 
  • Customer Insight & Interaction 
  • Process Operations & Data 
  • Technology & Security 

You will work with UWE Bristol to define an action plan of learning based on your specific needs. All courses are delivered as part of Workforce for the Future.  

How do I access the support?

To access the support and courses your organisation must be registered with Workforce for the Future Program.  Please contact us to register at: digitalworkforce@uwe.ac.uk  or register your interest via this form.


UWE Bristol is delivering Workforce for the Future on behalf of the West of England Combined Authority. If it is determined that your development needs do not fit with the digital enhancement opportunities available at UWE Bristol, you will be referred to the West of England Combined Authority Growth Hub, who will refer you to a more suitable partner. 

UWE Bristol Expanding Research Excellence Scheme

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In May 2021, UWE Bristol launched the first ever Expanding Research Excellence (ERE) scheme, aimed at supporting and developing interdisciplinary, challenge-led research across the University.

The scheme is designed to bring together research clusters of individuals from across disciplines to respond to challenges aligned with major research themes.

In early November, four successful clusters were announced:

  • Healthy Waters
  • Data Research Access and Governance Network (DRAGoN)
  • Biospheric Microplastics
  • Cyber Security and Cyber Crime

Find out more about each cluster below:

Healthy Waters

Co-led by Professor Darren Reynolds, Professor Chad Staddon, Dr Tavs Jorgensen and Professor Wendy Phillips

People and ecosystems require both an adequate quantity of water as well as an adequate quality of water if key development objectives such as health, food security and water security are to be realised. Actions to protect water quality should be embedded in the larger concepts of sustainability, resilience and appropriate technology. There is an urgent need to explore and develop scientific, technological and societal responses to deteriorating water quality at all scales from cellular to global, but especially at the biophysical and community scales.

The Healthy Waters Research Cluster centres on three core themes, with integrated cross-disciplinary management, each drawing upon a wider sphere of scientific, societal and technological knowledge:

  • Science
  • Society
  • Design & Technology

Data Research Access and Governance Network (DRAGoN)

Led by Professor Felix Ritchie

Data Research, Access & Governance Network (DRAGoN) is a multi-disciplinary research group aiming to bring together researchers and practitioners from academia, think-tanks, industry and government. DRAGoN recognised that effective data use and governance requires contributions from many different professions: ethicists, statisticians, computer scientists, psychologists, economists, management scientists. Their aim is to create an environment for discourse which can bring differing perspectives together for the wider benefit.

Data access, management and governance is a highly applied topic; decisions being made every day affect our lives, our business, our government, often in ways which are obscure or known only to specialists in that area. They see the application of theory to practice as essential to the ethos of the group. They also reflect on practice: decisions about data use are often highly political, based on psychological or institutional factors. Working with practitioners helps inform our research with operational insights, as well as allowing us to challenge accepted viewpoints.

Cyber Security and Cyber Crime Cluster (CSC3)

Co-led by Dr Phil Legg and Professor Nic Ryder

From a cyber crime perspective, there are two classes of attack: cyber-dependent crime (criminal behaviour that is reliant on technology and its use in society, such as ransomware attacks and cryptocurrency money laundering) and cyber-enabled crimes (traditional crimes that have now become more widespread due to technology, such as cyber bullying and online fraud). Such cyber-attacks may originate from “script kiddies” and insider threats, through to sophisticated and professional operations by organised crime groups and enemy nation states.

The Cyber Security and Cyber Crime Cluster (CSC3) will conduct novel multi-disciplinary research relating to both the conduct of, and the mitigation of cyber attacks. As a broad and ever-evolving research domain, this will involve a number of related areas, including understanding the motivations and precursors of criminality, the technical means that enable criminality to be conducted, and appropriate mitigation and best practice to uphold security and defence.

Biospheric Microplastics Research Cluster (BMRC)

Co-led by Dr Ben Williams and Dr Stephanie Sargeant

Microplastic pollution is a considerable emerging health and ecological crisis on a global scale. The BMRC, building on microplastic research across UWE Bristol, aims to address critical gaps in the microplastics 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, 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, there is an opportunity to contribute to their redesign, reuse and replacement throughout society. The research ambitions of the BMRC closely align with the UWE Bristol 2030 Strategy and at an organisational level UWE Bristol has pledged its support to the UK Plastic Pact.

The successful clusters were each awarded some money to help them develop their projects over the next 12 to 18 months. Cluster leads are interested to hear from UWE Bristol academics who may have research interests or expertise that may be relevant to their cluster, so please do reach out to the appropriate leads.

Springboard Projects

In November 2021, five Springboard projects were awarded smaller pots of money to help them progress their ideas further. The five smaller projects are:

  • ‘Designing urban environments for human health: from the microbiome to the metropolis’ – Dr Abby Tabor
  • ‘The UWE Appearance Accepting University Initiative’ – Dr Amy Slater
  • ‘Sustainable, healthy and accessible food Systems’ – Dr Angelina Sanderson Bellamy
  • ‘The prevention of sexual abuse’ – Professor Kieran McCartan
  • ‘Creative Resilience Cluster’ – Dr Tarek Virani

The Springboard leads would also be interested to hear from UWE Bristol academics with research interests or expertise relevant to their Springboard, so do reach out as appropriate.

The ERE Clusters and Springboards are part of UWE Bristol’s commitment to support research and achieve its ambitious targets for 2030. Find out more in our Research Strategy.

To find out more please contact research@uwe.ac.uk

UWE Bristol’s Launch Space open for applications

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UWE Bristol’s Launch Space Incubator is open again for applications from aspiring entrepreneurs and early-stage businesses.

Based within the University Enterprise Zone (UEZ), Launch Space is home to high-tech, innovative start-ups with a strong focus on research and development. Applications are now open for the free business support, incubation, and acceleration services we provide for graduate entrepreneurs and early-stage businesses.

The Launch Space incubator and accelerator could be the place for you if:

  • you have a business idea you’d like to put into action
  • you’re a recent graduate, or in the early stages of developing your idea
  • you need support to validate and develop your business further

With access to communal networking areas, use of professional meeting rooms, and on-site hot-desks, you can get ready to launch your business.

Our new Launch Space programme will kick off with an exciting Induction Day onsite in May. Meet your peers, say hi to our Innovation team, and get your first glimpse of the science and tech community in our University Enterprise Zone.

A weekly programme of pitch events, boardroom advisor sessions and coaching sessions will kick start your start-up journey and help bring your idea to life.

If you’re a graduate entrepreneur, you may also be able to benefit from grants of up to £4,000 to support your new business.

Find out more and apply here.

What our current Launch Space cohort has to say

Launch Space is home to existing graduate-led businesses at various stages on the start-up journey, so you’ll be working alongside others who have a common goal of making their vision a success. We spoke to some of our current members about why they joined Launch Space and what they’ve enjoyed the most.

Jamie Taylor, Greener Greens

Why did you join Launch Space?

The Launch Space program is renowned for supporting early-stage innovation, so I felt this was the natural place for me to be. I would advise future cohorts to embrace the opportunity, attend all the available sessions and utilise the experience of the Launch Space staff and community.

The support from Mark and Aimee exceeded my expectations and I cannot recommend the program enough.

Hazel & Amber, Peequal

What have you enjoyed most about Launch Space?

We’ve enjoyed meeting fellow entrepreneurs who are facing similar challenges. Be up for learning from others and their experiences! You can learn something from everyone.

Being able to bring your questions, challenges and successes to the group has been so encouraging.

Andy & Guy, Target Student

What advice would you give others looking to join Launch Space?

It has been brilliant getting non-biased advice from other founders who are either facing, or have faced, similar challenges. Equally, having access to Aimee & Mark has been incredibly valuable for us and we have learned lots from our time with them.

Commit as much as you possibly can. The more you invest in the programme, the more you will get out.

Find out more about Launch Space and apply here.

Knowledge Transfer Partnership Case Study: Flexys

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The Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTP) scheme is a UK-wide programme helping businesses to improve competitiveness and productivity. A recent graduate is placed within an organisation to help solve a business problem, with access to our academic expertise.

The below case study is from our KTP with Flexys Solutions:

About Flexys Solutions

Flexys provides innovative debt management software for companies who offer credit, e.g. financial services and utilities providers. It is based in Bristol and was formed in 2016 by a team of experienced debt management solution specialists looking to dramatically improve on the status quo in the industry.

The challenge the KTP set out to address

There is a need from utility companies and finance providers to obtain sophisticated insights into their customer’s individual needs and also to predict when early intervention may be beneficial. The objective of the project was to integrate Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) technology within Flexys’ software, to enable more effective management of debt resolution and improvement of customer relationships and retention. The ability to more accurately collect relevant data, predict trends and customer behaviours will provide much better tools for the management of repayment plans, thus leading to a high percentage of debt resolution, but also to an improvement in long term customer retention.

UWE Bristol is one of the UK’s leaders in ML / AI. Working in partnership ensured that an appropriate solution was developed that is practical and effective but cognisant of acceptable practices and regulatory boundaries. Currently, this technology is not used commercially in this particular industry; the KTP model offered the opportunity to accelerate its integration into Flexys’ systems, enabling systems to reach the market sooner.

The Solution

Solving this challenge involved creating an innovative machine learning solution, in a collaborative effort drawing upon the expertise from UWE Bristol and domain knowledge from Flexys. Gaining in depth knowledge of the available data was key, along with finding a creative way of using machine learning to extract the information and predictions that were needed.

The Flexys Platform

What changed as a result of the KTP?

Impact and Benefits:

Flexys:

Flexys have benefitted from the expertise provided by the KTP to develop their AI/ML solution. Knowledge and skills have been transferred to Flexys’ R&D team to continue developing and maintaining the product. 

The Knowledge Base:

Dr Mehmet Aydin is Senior Lecturer in Computer Science and has long-standing experience in solving real-world problems using AI, machine learning and soft computing methods. Dr Jim Smith is a Professor of Artificial Intelligence and Deputy Director of UWE Bristol’s Computer Science Research Centre. His interests include computational intelligence, machine learning, and interactions between humans and intelligent systems.

The KTP resulted in new research opportunities for the Knowledge Base, including a paper which has been submitted to one of the top journals in AI. It has deepened their experience and understanding of commercial applications of machine learning within the financial technology industry, guiding direction for future research efforts.

The Associate

Hannah Dockings holds a BSc Mathematics from the University of Exeter. Machine learning is her primary interest, sitting at the intersection of maths, statistics and computer science. From working with UWE Bristol, Hannah has developed the confidence and ability for both herself and the company to continue researching new AI/ML methods in future. At the same time, she has gained industry and project management experience that would have been hard to get so early in her career without the KTP scheme.

KTP Associate Hannah winning a Sparkie award at the Tech Spark awards

The Results

Flexys expect this work to develop into a significant revenue stream for the company. It has had a significant impact on Flexys’ sales and marketing effort by establishing them as an innovative and forward-thinking company above competitors.

What the partners have to say:

Jon Hickman, CEO, Flexys Solutions Ltd

“The KTP work Hannah and the team have done has been of great value to Flexys enabling us to position ourselves as innovators in the field of Debt Management technology. This is especially impressive given the corporate giants we compete against. In addition, it has significantly contributed to the sales and marketing effort. We’re proud of the head start we have made in data, analytics and machine learning and we see this developing into a significant revenue stream for the company in the form of DSaaS – Data Science as a Service”

Dr Mehmet Aydin, Senior Lecturer in Computer Science, UWE Bristol

“This project has facilitated a very productive process to implement the recent research results and find out the strengths and weaknesses. It was a privilege to work with Flexys and the associate in this project. On the basis of the results produced by the associate, a fresher idea has emerged to model very dynamic customer behaviours and adapt to seasonal changes.” 

This partnership received financial support from the Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTP) programme. 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.

Download the full case study below:

Find out more about Knowledge Transfer Partnerships at UWE Bristol.

Lifelong Loan Entitlement scheme: SME Workshop

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  • Friday 25 March 2022
  • 10:00 – 12:00 GMT
  • Watershed, BS1

You are invited to a consultation workshop to explore future plans for the government to fund training and up-skilling of potential staff, as part of the levelling-up agenda.

The outcome of the workshop will be to inform a pilot run by UWE Bristol on the Lifelong Loan Entitlement scheme, influencing the terms and conditions which the government will put on the scheme in time for the nation-wide launch in 2025.

Topics for exploration:

  • Lifelong Loan entitlement – a government scheme that enables individuals to access University short courses, funded through the Student Loan Company.
  • Higher/Degree Apprenticeships – a mentoring system and funding mechanism for employees on certain professions, where they complete a degree part-time and obtain a separate professional qualification such as chartership.
  • Skills Bootcamps – short intense training courses aimed at giving potential employees the basic skills they need to join the labour market.
  • Education delivery methods – exploring the different types of education delivery and the opportunities and barriers that they may pose to employers. This includes day-release, block-release, evening classes, blended, hybrid and on-line.
  • Recruitment of people from low participation neighbourhoods and low participation demographics.
  • Green & Zero Carbon skills – the pilot for the Lifelong Loan Entitlement short courses will be on the subject of Zero Carbon buildings and sustainable development. So there will also be an opportunity to discuss the content of these, although this is not the main focus of the workshop.

Catering is provided and each participant will receive a sustainable gift for their time.

Knowledge Transfer Partnership Case Study: Lyons Davidson

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The Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTP) scheme is a UK-wide programme helping businesses to improve competitiveness and productivity. A recent graduate is placed within an organisation to help solve a business problem, with access to our academic expertise.

The below case study is from our KTP with Lyons Davidson:

About Lyons Davidson

Lyons Davidson is a national law firm providing legal services to businesses and individuals. It has been operating across the UK for over 40 years with offices in Cardiff, Leeds, Edinburgh, and headquarters in Bristol.

Lyons Davidson is a responsible business with certification for the quality of its approach to its impact on the environment, the security of its systems and the investment it makes in its people.

Innovation, along with client experience, has been fundamental to Lyons Davidson’s success. An emphasis in delivering this cost-effectively is leading the company to seek digital solutions whilst offering various online tools to maintain its competitive edge and expand its business.

Lyons Davidson logo

The challenge the KTP set out to address

Reforms on costs recovery in the personal injury market will consolidate the number of providers and increase business opportunities and new client acquisition for the remaining providers. This means the volume of personal injury claims for the remaining providers will increase putting further pressure on their relevant teams. More than 50% of Lyons Davidson’s business resides in personal injury claims and remaining in the business requires a lean and effective processes.

The current legal advice helpline is operated via graduate employees and qualified staff and providing this service on a 24-7 basis adds to the overall cost of the service. The business was also looking for a solution to improve the customer journey where calls could be triaged but a call back needed to be arranged as the relevant advisor was not available.

The aim is to integrate an intelligent system built on Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning within the existing call handling system to support claimants and provide information relevant to their enquiry/claim which can then lead to further action.

Implementation of a technologically advanced helpline will deliver the level of service that Lyons Davidson is recognised for, increasing client satisfaction and company reputation.

Why was the KTP the right mechanism to achieve this?

The KTP structure provided the most appropriate model for achieving the project goal, enabling Lyons Davidson to maximise the potential of the Legal Advice system and transform the business. It allowed Lyons Davidson to grow its expertise in AI/ML and innovative service delivery using knowledge based on cutting edge research from a leading University AI research group, which would have been difficult to obtain via consultancy.

There was no off-the-shelf option that the company could consider as current AI/ML advice services are typically offering primary advice and information on subject areas where there is less risk tied to potential incorrect information. What was created through this KTP was bespoke and highly refined.

Had Lyons Davidson considered recruiting an AI practitioner directly, it may have been more challenging to find someone with the precise skill sets required as practitioner skill sets vary greatly. Academic involvement in the project removed any risk associated with potentially recruiting the wrong skill set.

The solution

Through initial research and implementation of currently available dialog management solutions and expertise in conversational AI from UWE, together with the KTP associate it was possible to identify gaps in currently available systems which centred on current natural language processing challenges and challenges with scalability.

This lead to the development of a user led tasked orientated dialog management system based on a novel extension of Behaviour trees, more commonly associated with games development, where conversation knowledge is separate from the underlying system and a simpler, more visual interface for design, development and debugging.

What changed as a result of the KTP?

Impact and Benefits

For Lyons Davidson:
  • Cost savings and efficiencies through automation to parts of the client journey in relation to their legal claim life cycle.
  • Automation of client interactions has allowed staff to focus on the more specific and complex tasks whilst also ensuring that client satisfaction has improved as they are able to get immediate responses to requests.
  • Has allowed for the capacity and focus to look into future development areas which otherwise would never have been possible and to provide new solutions to business partners.
For UWE Bristol:
  • Further experience in dialogue management and Natural Language Processing (NLP) and enhancement of experience in working and collaborating within industry in developing and researching new ideas and solutions and identifying how these can be implemented to tackle industrial problems.
  • Provided valuable opportunities to develop and explore expertise in considering and embedding the principles of ethical research in complex areas dealing with highly sensitive data.
  • Identified of a number of topics for further research which have fed into current and future course curation as well as research projects for undergraduates, MSc Data Science and MRes projects.  
For the KTP Associate:
  • Through exposure between both a research knowledge base and business setting the associate has developed leadership skills required to co-ordinate different institutions in bringing an innovative solution to market as well as a developing a greater knowledge of how the insurance claims and legal service industries operate.
  • The associate has since been employed by Lyons Davidson to continue developing the project further as well as taking control and exploring future development across other areas of the business using AI/ML. 

Quantifiable benefits

  • 16,500 customers currently using messaging service as part of their claims process and will be exposed to automated information and manage actionable tasks independently.
  • The development will extend the benefit that customers will obtain in accessing claims information out of hours. Currently 22% of customers access their portal out of normal office hours
  • It is estimated that 5-10% of customer messages will be answered through the dialog management system, directly saving case handler time. This is in addition to the adviser time to be saved when applied to provide advice and call filtering for helpline calls.

What the partners have to say

Mark Savill, Managing Director, Lyons Davidson:

We have enjoyed working with UWE Bristol to build an innovative solution that has benefited our customers, our people and our business. The Knowledge Transfer has been very effective and collaborative, and has helped us overcome technical problems to develop a product that maximises the impact of the use of AI and ML within an area of our business. The experience has also helped change the way our development teams work and communicate and the way we approach problem solving. The whole process has been supportive and helpful and delivered a great platform for us to build on.

Professor Jim Smith, UWE Bristol:

“Knowledge Transfer Partnerships provide a win-win scenario for the three main legs of the project – university, company and associate. As an academic, the opportunity to test new ideas and develop co-designed research agendas that reflect real-world needs is invaluable.

Dr Mehmet Aydin, UWE Bristol:

It is always a privilege to collaborate with industry to implement the research results and realise them in the real life. This project helped build a good collaboration with the company and developed an automatic chatbot development tool, which facilitates a transferable knowledge across many industries. The results produced by the associate were excellently helpful to demonstrate the proof of concept and further develop into industrial solutions.

KTP Associate Chris Tapply, UWE Bristol/Lyons Davidson:

“Being given the opportunity to undertake this KTP I have been able to enter into a field of work which can be difficult to enter as an undergraduate. This has given me the chance to develop my skills and interests with huge support and guidance all whilst developing an innovative solution to a business objective as well as providing further research opportunities for UWE Bristol. “

This partnership received financial support from the Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTP) programme. 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.

Download the full case study below:

Find out more about Knowledge Transfer Partnerships at UWE Bristol.

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