Future Space resident, Mass Spec Analytical, Receives Innovate UK Funding for Plasma Ion Source Research

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Future Space resident Mass Spec Analytical, announced today that it has received additional funding from Innovate UK to pursue its Plasma Ion Source Development work.

Mass Spec Analytical (MSA) received the award through the Analysis for Innovators Competition where the aim is to help companies overcome intractable product, manufacturing or process performance problems through advanced measurement and analytical technologies.

Mass Spec Analytical specialises in the development of versatile direct-analysis ion sources for substance identification using mass spectrometry.

MSA was awarded a further grant under the COVID-19: Continuity Grants initiative to provide additional support to the project, ensuring that the challenges presented by the current pandemic and lock down of key facilities would have as little impact as possible.

Lance Hiley, MSA Managing Director commented: “The Analysis for Innovators (A4I) programme has provided our business with access to experts and equipment in laboratories recognised worldwide for analysis and measurement”

“That is invaluable to a company like ours developing innovative products. Our project had just got underway when the Covid-19 Lockdown was announced, and our plans delayed. The Covid-19 Continuity Grant has provided us with additional funds to develop workarounds with our Innovate measurement partner and implement alternative approaches to the workplan. The structure of the grant also ensures that the additional funds will pay for a legacy in our business in the years to come.”

Read the full story here.

Future Space is part of the University Enterprise Zone. They connect entrepreneurs and tech innovators with scientists, researchers and graduate talent – to spark collaboration, innovation and growth. Find out more here.

UWE Bristol secure Management Knowledge Transfer Partnership with Harris Evolution

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UWE Bristol Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) team have secured a new KTP with Harris Evolution, increasing the KTP portfolio to 13 live projects. The project will see Harris Evolution work with the UWE Bristol Business School (BBS).

The application, led by Ellen Parkes from UWE Bristol, was funded under Innovate UKs Management Knowledge Transfer Partnership (MKTP) scheme, which was announced in 2019 following a £25m pledge in funding over the next three years from BEIS (Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy).

Based in Kingswood, Bristol, Harris Evolution is a commercial refurbishment company, specialising in quick turnaround projects carried out whilst the buildings are still in occupation. Harris’ work is targeted within three main sectors; Education, Healthcare and Hotel/Leisure.

The 24-month KTP project aims to implement transformational innovation through an Advanced Services approach to contract development and development of leadership capacity and will be led by Dr Kyle Alves , Dr Mel Smith and Professor Gareth Edwards (BBS). Through the collaboration with UWE, Harris will move from a standardised service offer to implementing outcome-based service contracts, tailored around individual customer value.

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.

Find out more about KTP’s at UWE Bristol here .

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.

Knowledge Transfer Partnerships: Craven Dunnill Jackfield Associate Spotlight

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

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

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

What attracted you to the KTP role?

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

How is the partnership between UWE and the company working?

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

What are the current challenges of your role?

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

What do you enjoy most about your job?

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

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

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

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

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 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.