Pee Power technology returns to Glastonbury Festival for fourth year

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Technology developed at UWE Bristol that converts urine into electricity is set to be showcased at Glastonbury Festival for a fourth year.

An installation of a large 40-person urinal will return to a prominent location near the Pyramid Stage to raise awareness of the system, which is being commercialised as announced last year and introduced to off-grid areas in the developing world.

The PEE POWER® system can turn organic matter such as urine into enough electricity to power lighting or charge mobile phones. At the same time, it sanitises urine and produces plant fertiliser as a natural by-product.

Energy produced at the event will power lighting in the urinal block at night, while a new feature ‘Pee to Play’ will see festival goers playing retro games on Game Boys powered by the system. Visitors can rate their PEE POWER experience via an electronic display and give survey feedback to academic staff available to explain how the technology works.

The PEE POWER urinals – among 5,500 toilets at the festival – have been a fixture at the event since 2015 and used by thousands of people each day. In previous years, they have powered information displays, and helped charge phones and provide urinal lighting.

Professor Ioannis Ieropoulos, Director of the Bristol BioEnergy Centre at Bristol Robotics Laboratory, said: “It’s a great pleasure to be welcomed back to this wonderful event for a fourth year and to be part of the festival’s environmentally-conscious sanitation campaign.

“There’s been much activity with our technology since our appearance in 2017, with the introduction of PEE POWER to schools in Uganda and Kenya supporting our aim to improve safety and sanitation in the world’s poorest communities including in refugee camps and slums. Our system is being refined and made more efficient, and for the first time we will be powering some of the applications directly, which means no batteries. We even hope to be generating surplus electricity, especially during the busiest times at the festival.

“As team of scientists, we’re hoping for greater interaction with the public this year and it’s the first time we’ll be recording public feedback on the system.”

Dr Xavier Walter, one of the main researchers in the team, added: “We hope our retro gaming exhibit will resonate with the audience and attract festivals goers to have a look at our technology and ask questions.”

Ahead of the festival, the microbial fuel cell technology will be demonstrated at a Family Day event at Heathrow Airport, where the system is being considered as part of a commitment from Heathrow and waterless urinal technology company WhiffAway to zero emissions and sustainability.

The team’s presence at Glastonbury is the result of a close collaboration with partners Oxfam, log cabin and garden building specialists Dunster House and WhiffAway in a collective effort to improve lives in refugee camps and areas of the world with no sanitation or electricity.

Chris Murphy, Owner and Managing Director of Dunster House, said: “It’s truly amazing what Ioannis Ieropoulos and his team have achieved over the past years. We feel proud and honoured to be part of this project every year since the earliest field trial back in 2015. From that single raised latrine placed outside the University, we are now providing a structure ready to accommodate up to 40 people. We’re glad to be back at Glastonbury 2019 collaborating in a life-changing project that can help people all around the world.”

James McLean, Group CEO of WhiffAway Group, said: “It’s an honour and a privilege to be combining our cutting edge technologies at this wonderful event. By putting our heads together we hope to continue making a difference to the wider community and help change the world for the better.”

The PEE POWER demonstration is the flagship research project of a formal partnership between Glastonbury Festival and UWE Bristol signed in 2017 focusing on sustainability projects including waste reduction and energy efficiency.

How PEE POWER® works

PEE POWER® is generated when microbial fuel cells (MFCs) work by employing live microbes which feed on urine (the fuel) for their own growth and maintenance. The MFC taps a portion of the biochemical energy used for microbial growth, and converts that directly into electricity or PEE POWER®. This green technology also cleans the urine so that the by product can be used as a crop fertiliser.

The Pee Power project is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

£7.7m investment for University print research centre

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The University of the West of England (UWE Bristol)’s Centre for Fine Print Research (CFPR) is to receive a £7.7m grant from Research England’s Expanding Excellence fund. This prestigious grant is awarded in recognition of the Centre’s internationally acclaimed practical research.

Universities and Science Minister Chris Skidmore, who made the announcement about the funding, said: “Pushing the boundaries of knowledge and conquering new innovations are what our universities are known for the world over. This programme led by UWE Bristol will give us a glimpse into the past using the technology of the future, with 3D printing to recreate historical artefacts.

“The Expanding Excellence in England Fund will support projects throughout England to master new and developing areas of research and industry.

“Made possible through our record R&D spend delivered by our modern Industrial Strategy, the investment will support researchers to develop solutions and opportunities for UK researchers and businesses.”

The CFPR’s work looks into the artistic, historical and industrial significance of creative print practices, processes and technologies.

The investment will fund a range of research projects over the next three years and is set to create 19 new roles within the centre. The recruits will work closely with industry partners around three research themes: transformative technologies, reconstructing historic methods, and 3D-printing.

Talking about the funding, UWE Bristol Vice-Chancellor Professor Steve West said: “We are honoured to be one of the universities to receive this significant funding through Research England. Our Centre for Fine Print Research is going from strength to strength.

“Last year it was shortlisted for the Times Higher Award for its work with Burleigh Pottery to help the iconic company continue printing its traditional print patterns on pottery. This fund will now allow the Centre to work ever more closely with partners to tackle big challenges around printing.”

Celebrating its 21st birthday later this year, the Centre has established itself at the forefront of print technologies. With a focus on industrial development and new technologies, researchers at the Centre have established a number of high profile collaborations with artists, makers and industry partners.

Projects include developing uses of 3D printing, developing new types of printing inks, and collaborating with Sir Peter Blake to find fine art applications for emerging print techniques.

Professor Carinna Parraman, Director of the Centre for Fine Print Research, said: “We are thrilled to be awarded this funding and for the CFPR to now be formally recognised as a truly established and world-leading research centre. We are looking for artists, designers, scientists, technologists and leaders at a range of levels to join our group. The funding supports a range of posts including associate professors, researchers and technicians across our key areas, which includes fine art, print, product design, robotics, electronics, software, manufacturing, materials science and nanotechnology.”

With a focus on industrial development and new technologies, researchers at the Centre have established a number of high-profile collaborations with artists, makers and industry partners. A range of current and future partners have contributed to the funding application, including Burleigh Potteries, St Cuthbert’s Mill, Cranfield Colours, The National Gallery London, The Crafts Council, Denby Potteries, Glass Technology Services Ltd and Hewlett Packard.

Other contributors include John Purcell Paper, Imerys Group, Toshiba, Multiple Sclerosis Research, Courtney and Co., Ultimaker 3D, Pangolin, Wedgwood, National Trust, National Science and Media Museum Group, Bristol Legible City and Bristol City Council, RNIB, ColourCom, Create Education, Ken Stradling Collection, and Spike Print Studio Bristol.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Find the full list of nominations here

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

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

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

Launch Space graduate incubator recruiting now

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Have you graduated in the last three years in the UK and have a business idea you’d like to put into action?

Launch Space provides free desk space and business support for graduate-led, innovative and high-tech businesses at various stages on the start-up journey.

Launch Space is part of a wider entrepreneurial community based on our Frenchay Campus, housing the Future Space incubation facility and the Bristol Robotics Laboratory – making it a great environment for graduate start-ups to flourish.

In just 18 months, Launch Space has supported over 50 businesses, with over £1.8 million funds raised by its residents and employment created for more than 90 people.

Launch Space is now well established in the regional start-up community, and is recognised for its unique ability to connect start-ups with the support and collaboration of the wider university and business communities.

Find out more and apply today to grow your start-up business. Launch Space is supported by the ERDF.

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

Vice Chancellors Interdisciplinary Research Challenge Fund Selection Event

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On Monday 25 February, researchers came from across UWE Bristol to present their project ideas as part of the Vice Chancellors Interdisciplinary Research Challenge Fund. This diverse group covered a variety of areas, from the emerging markets in breast milk to reimagining dead celebrities in film, and AI training bots for healthcare professionals.

The Vice Chancellors Interdisciplinary Research Challenge Fund is an opportunity for UWE researchers to seek up to £25,000 funding to develop exciting new research projects with colleagues working in different fields from across this university.

The fund had 83 applications in January, of which 15 were invited to pitch their project for 5 minutes at the event, in the hope of being successful for the competitive Challenge Fund.

Attendees at the event were asked to help decide which projects they thought should be funded, with Research, Strategy and Implementation Group (RSIG) making the final decision.

11 of 15 projects were successful on the day. Information on the 11 successful projects can be found below.

The event was a great opportunity to gain an insight into the quality and breadth of research projects undertaken across UWE Bristol.

Thank you to all who submitted to the fund.

Successful projects:

Using Big Data in Critical Care across all Ages to Improve Clinical Outcome

Researchers: Lyvonne Tume and Elias Pimenidis
This feasibility study will use AI techniques to analyse data from patients in intensive care, focusing on sedation, nutrition and ventilation, to improve treatment.

High Performance Bio-inspired topologically optimized and efficient composite structures

Researchers: Mohammad Fotouhi and David Attwood
By investigating and recreating materials found in the natural world, including shells and Mayfly wings, this project will demonstrate qualities which could solve design problems in aerospace and automotives.

Virtual Maggie: technological opportunities and ethical dilemmas in the development of simulated performers for feature films and television

Researchers: Dominic Lees, Marcus Keppel-Palmer and Thomas Bashford-Rogers
The research team will explore technological advances in visual effects (VFX) which can bring back to life a deceased actor to cast them in a new production, researchers will consider challenges this raises creatively, technologically, ethically and legally.

Printing the Muses. Reimaging digital musical instruments through printing

Researchers: Benedict Gaster and Carinna Parramen
This project will re-imagine musical interfaces through printing tactile surfaces in collaboration with practitioners, to be shared as an open resource on the Internet of Musical Things (IoMT).

Drinking water and airborne microplastics; an unquantified health risk

Researchers: Ben Williams, Stephanie Sargeant, Lisa Mol, Tim Cox, Darren Reynolds, Enda Hayes, Gillian Clayton and Kathryn Lamb-Riddell
As one of the larger research teams that pitched for funding, this project will develop a standardised methodology for collecting and evaluating microplastics in drinking water and the air, in order to develop policy around ‘safe’ limits.

From Utility to Social Entity Exploring emotive interaction between AI training bots and health care professionals

Researchers: Rik Lander, Cristina Costa, Jun Hong, Luke Rudge and Gary Christopher
Experimenting with two versions of an AI training bot, this project aimed at healthcare professionals, will look to see how emotions triggered by user interactions with a ‘relatable’ entity enhance learning.

Human Centred Design, AI & Legal Services

Researchers: Dagmar Steffens, Jo Hare and Paul Matthews
By exploring the opportunities that LegalTech software can offer Bristol’s legal sector, this research aims to create a demonstrator to see how companies can integrate next generation services into their business models.

Nurture Commodified: Women as Workers & Women as Carers

Researchers: Sally Dowling, Michal Nahman and Susan Newman
Focusing on the trade between Bangalore and Australia, this study into commercial and non-commercial breastmilk provision aims to understand the impact on the women involved.

An investigation into the effects of cognitively demanding tasks on eye saccade patterns in the context of the early detection of neurodegenerative disease

Researchers: Wenhao Zhang, Lili Tao, Melvyn Smith, Myra Conway and Nancy Zook
With the intention of aiding early diagnosis which could prevent or reduce the impact of dementia with the help of machine vision and learning, the researchers are aiming to develop and test an eye imaging system to track eye movement patterns.

Waste = Resource Bioelectrochemical filters for clean electricity and resource recovery as fertiliser

Researchers: Iwona Gajda, Jiseon You, Tosin Obata, Robin Thorn and Neil Willey
This research project will take urine and transform it through the use of a microbial fuel cell into catholyte, a liquid which could potentially be used as an herbicide/fertiliser in hydroponics.

Immersive inquiry for architectural site analysis of acoustic ecology

Researchers: Luke Reed and Merate Barakat    
By using virtual reality to prototype a system, this project will help architects to understand the acoustic considerations of a site when in the early stages of design.  

Professional Development Awards

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UWE Bristol Professional Development Awards (PDA) offers you the opportunity to build your own degree using previous qualifications and experience, as well as new learning. With a focus on work-based learning, the flexible structure allows you to tailor your course to match your professional development.

About the awards

The Professional Development Awards are based on credit accumulation and transfer. You can build credit through a UWE Bristol Work-based Learning module, accredited learning and taught modules to gain a UWE Bristol qualification with the title of Professional Development Awards.

Previous learning and credits gained from other academic institutions that have already been awarded (if they can be mapped against the programme learning outcomes) can also be used within the award. You can also import UWE Bristol credit to count towards your target award.

The PDA is flexible, self-directed learning through which you can negotiate your own programme of study, according to your individual learning requirements and professional goals. Our learners come from different professional backgrounds, with a majority of them in particular from the health and social care fields.

Find out more about how to build your own qualification.

Build your own qualification

You play an active part in designing your course content, enabling you to create a programme of study which is relevant to your current work role and future career aspirations.

The Professional Development Awards programme enables you to create a bespoke course where you can build credit to gain an award from a 60-credit certificate (both undergraduate and postgraduate), Certificate of Higher Education, Foundation Degree and other undergraduate and postgraduate qualifications.

See the PDA qualifications available for a full breakdown of the awards.

Benefits for employers

The Professional Development Awards programme can be used to develop a highly skilled workforce which will help to keep your business ahead of the competition.

We will work with your organisation to identify learning needs of your employees and shape a bespoke programme of learning to suit your business ambitions.

For more information and to find out how to apply please see the website.

Scale Up For Growth (S4G): Scale up support for your business

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Scale Up For Growth (S4G) is a new programme offering grant funding and workshops to businesses in the West of England with ambitions to grow, expand and scale. £800,000 of funding is available with grants from £10,000 to £40,000 for businesses in the West of England that are looking to expand and scale. They can be used to fund 37.5% of growth projects or initiatives for businesses.

Deadline for grant applications: Midday, Thursday 7 March 2019

The grant scheme is open to businesses in any sector that want to grow and scale up their business. Applicants must be small or medium sized enterprises and based in Bristol, Bath & North East Somerset, North Somerset or South Gloucestershire.   

Businesses can also register to attend Business Growth Workshops – further information can be found on our website.   

The S4G programme is delivered by UWE Bristol, NatWest and Foot Anstey. S4G offers eligible businesses access to grants, training and expert support to help achieve their full potential, create jobs and overcome barriers to growth.

Register today www.scaleup4growth.co.uk

Plants grown from seeds that orbited earth to go on show at national event

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Tomato and rocket plants grown at the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) from seeds that were taken into space in a rocket and orbited the earth, are to feature as part of a research event in London in January 2018 that will bring together leading experts on radiation.

The event in Westminster from 15-17 January 2018, will display findings from a national consortium involved in the UK-wide £5.6m Radioactivity and The Environment (RATE) project. Its aim is to determine how best to safeguard human health from releases of radioactivity from nuclear power plants or nuclear waste repositories.

UWE Bristol is part of the TREE consortium, which won the THE Research Project of the year award in 2016, and will display the plants grown from the seeds as part of its exhibit.

The rocket seeds were sent up with astronauts in a Soyuz space rocket as part of a collaboration between the European Space Agency and the Royal Horticultural Society. They were kept in the International Space Station where British astronaut Tim Peake monitored them for six months. During that time, the seeds were exposed to radiation from cosmic rays that exist in space.

After they were returned to earth in June 2016, UWE Bristol PhD student Nicol Caplin from the Faculty of Health and Applied Sciences conducted experiments on the rocket seeds. The objective is to determine the effects of radiation on plant development and whether the seeds ‘remember’ their time orbiting earth and therefore change their growth in response to stressful conditions.

After planting the rocket seeds in early 2017, the University also acquired some tomato seeds in November 2017 that had been taken up to space by the Canadian Space Agency.

Findings from the UWE Bristol tests on both sets of seeds are expected to be revealed in spring 2018.

Professor Neil Willey, who is overseeing the project, said, “The dose of radiation the seeds were exposed to in space is eqivalent to the levels found in some parts of the Chernobyl exclusion zone. As part of our overall research on how radiation affects plants, we wanted to test the seeds in a controlled environment.”

Professor Willey, who is one of the world’s leading experts on the effects of radiation on plants, is one of many researchers involved in the RATE project. “The building of a new generation of nuclear power stations, and the fact that the UK does not have a permanent nuclear waste repository led to this project,” said Professor Willey.

RATE involves three consortia, each examining different parts of the environment such as rocks, sediments and wildlife, which could be affected by increased radiation levels. UWE Bristol researchers are focusing their work on plant species, and have grown plants in the laboratory after applying the same levels of radiation as in Chernobyl. “The problem with a lot of data from Chernobyl is that scientists take individual plant samples and make measurements, but they have no idea what happens to them over several generations under controlled conditions. So we have applied Chernobyl levels of radiation over multiple generations of plants and followed what has happened,” said Professor Willey.

Based on their research, Professor Willey said he and colleagues believe that current reference levels of radiation stipulated by the regulator, in other words the amount of exposure there needs to be before the environmental regulator has to start investigating, do not need to be modified.

The London event for goverment, regulators and industry is organised by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).

Helping India to help itself with water management and reforestation

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Dr Mark Everard is driven by a desire to shape the direction of development and influence world views about sustainability, given his love of nature. This drive has taken him all over the world and most recently to India, where he is working on two projects. One involves reforestation in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, the other pertains to water management in the north-west state of Rajasthan. “I think, globally, people have forgotten the importance of nature and my work is to help re-invent an ecologically based economy,” says the environmentalist, who is Associate Professor of Ecosystem Services at the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol).

Tamil Nadu

One element of Everard’s work in India is in partnership with The Converging World (TCW), a charity that helps regions in India work towards low-carbon energy production and development. One of the charity’s activities is to install wind turbines before recycling a proportion of operating surpluses into reforestation across the country.

Nadukuppam_forest
The beginnings of a forest at Nadukuppam

Reforestation, the natural or intentional restocking of existing forests and woodlands, provides multiple benefits. First there is the positive impact on people and nature, including hydrological buffering (helping with flood reduction and water resource regenerations), biodiversity enhancement, microclimate, and production of food and medicinal resources. A 40 year-old restored forest at Pitchandikulam demonstrates this. Tended from initial plantings on degraded farmland, it now hosts a diversity of wildlife, medicinal plants and a cold microclimate.

Then there are the carbon and climate benefits. By analysing data on carbon storage in the region’s typical forests, Everard and colleagues have demonstrated that an area of forest restored by incremental investments throughout the operational life of a wind turbine can sequester 3,000 times more carbon dioxide than that averted by the wind turbine.

Along with partners, Everard is involved in an ongoing reforestation programme around Nadukuppam village.  The planting of young trees began two years ago, and the involvement and empowerment of local people has played a vital role in its progress. The academic has now contributed to two scientific papers about the scheme.

Rajasthan

In India’s largest state, Everard is involved in a different environmental issue: water management. Rajasthan is a desert state and is today experiencing rapidly depleting groundwater levels and increasing geological contamination of the water, as mechanised pumping of deep groundwater becomes more common.

The region contains many traditional water management methods attuned to local geography, rainfall and culture. Unfortunately, a lot of this traditional water wisdom is lost today, according to the academic. “When the water levels decline, traditional water extraction techniques may cease to work, so interest in communal efforts to replenish it are displaced by competitive pumping of receding water,” he explains.

The environmentalist therefore looks at success factors in cases where people have reversed the cycle of degradation.  He collaborates with NGOs working with local people to restore traditional water harvesting solutions, as well as more modern innovations that complement local hydrology, geography and cultural perspectives. Such solutions can help intercept infrequent and increasingly erratic monsoon rains, enabling them to percolate into groundwater insulated from the region’s high evaporation rate and available for year-round access. In partnership with Wells for India and to highlight these effective methods, Everard is shortly publishing a guide in Hindi and English documenting over 30 ‘water wise’ water harvesting techniques in the region.

For example, monsoon run-off can be harvested using a ‘Johad’ (semi-circular mound of earth) that is adapted to drainage lines on sloping land with a permeable surface. The water is detained and able to recharge soil moisture and shallow groundwater, accessible year-round using open wells. Other solutions are adapted to where the land is sloped or flat, permeable or impermeable.

Mark_Kesar_village
Meeting with villagers in Rajasthan

Using this evidence, Everard communicates with highly placed officials in the Rajasthan government to remind them of such water resource recharge practices that have kept communities in the region viable over centuries. The academic says that authorities are beginning to recognise the need to rebuild ecosystem vitality from the bottom up.  “The Additional Chief Conservator of Forests in the Government of Rajasthan has recognised that the work we have published at UWE Bristol contains jigsaw pieces useful in converting high-level aspirations into practical reality.” Everard has already published three papers on this topic with three more in the pipeline.

 

 

How I4G helped an education company open up the world of particles

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The Innovation4Growth (I4G) funding offers grants to businesses in the West of England wishing to develop an innovative project. The current I4G round of funding is offering £1 million for SMEs in the region.

Interactive Scientific is a previous recipient of I4G funding. The education company’s CEO Becky Sage explains how the grant helped it develop the Nano Simbox digital platform.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=leyMMS0d4C4]

For more info: http://www.innovation4growth.co.uk/. The deadline for applications is 12th July 2017.