University spin-out enables IBS diagnosis method

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Adapted from news article shared on the University of Liverpool website.

Nidor Diagnostics is working with its industrial partner to carry out final validation of a new diagnostic for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) before commercial launch.

Nidor is spin-out company between the University of Liverpool, UWE Bristol, the University of Bristol and The Wellcome Trust.

The company was established to develop a medical diagnostic device to improve the diagnosis of bowel disorders. The device, named Inform ™, can detect the volatile organic compounds in patient samples, in order to diagnose and monitor a range of medical conditions.

The company has recently agreed to partner with an accredited clinical laboratory, licensed to undertake trials for regulatory work. In addition, Nidor has received £75,500 funding from the Liverpool City Region Future Innovation Fund to build its first instruments to be trialled and validated by the laboratory. For the first time ever, Nidor Diagnostics will be able to positively diagnose IBS and help patients to get the correct treatment.

IBS has a huge impact on the lives of patients, bringing cramps, severe pain and unpredictable bowel habits. Despite being a common condition, there is currently no test to definitively diagnose the condition, with many doctors instead performing numerous tests to rule out other conditions. 

Over-investigation of symptoms related to IBS can also prove costly and potentially dangerous. Patients often perceive that an IBS diagnosis is only made when doctors don’t know what is wrong..

Previous studies from the University of Liverpool’s Professor Chris Probert, co-inventor of the new diagnostic technology, have repeatedly shown that the gas pattern from stool samples can be used to separate patients with IBS from those with healthy bowels as well as those with inflamed bowels.

Ben De Lacy Costello, Associate Professor of Biosensing and Diagnostics at UWE Bristol and UWE co-inventor of the technology said: “Myself and Professor Norman Ratcliffe had an interest in the changes in smell induced by disease processes and making sensor systems to detect these changes. Our long running collaboration the University of Liverpool gave this work a clinical focus and it is great to see commercial diagnostic tests being developed by Nidor on the back of this collaborative research effort”

Nidor is planning to be able to launch its first services in late 2021.

Read the original release here.

Research, Business and Innovation Director Tracey John named Higher Education Hero from University Alliance

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Director of Research, Business and Innovation (RBI) at UWE Bristol, Tracey John, has been named a ‘HE Leaders & Heroes’ from the University Alliance as part of their Inspiring Women of the Alliance, as part of their International Women’s Day celebrations.

University Alliance (UA) is the voice of professional and technical universities. They represent large to mid-sized universities working at the heart of their communities. Alliance Universities partner with industry and the professions to deliver the workforce of today and tomorrow through practical, skills-based learning and applied research.

For International Womens Day on Monday 8 March, they celebrated the Inspirational women of the Alliance – those women working in their member universities who have been nominated by their peers and colleagues for their inspirational leadership, outstanding contribution to their field, and work championing Equality, Diversity and Inclusion.

Tracey was nominated HE leaders and heroes category and was put forward for her energy, clarity and vision. The category represents the amazing women who are leading the way in Higher Education, forging a path and inspiring students and colleagues with their drive, passion and commitment to the sector.

Find out more here.  

A History of Knowledge Transfer Partnerships at UWE Bristol

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At UWE Bristol we have been running Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTP) for nearly 40 years.

The KTP scheme is a UK-wide programme helping businesses to improve competitiveness and productivity.

The above graphics show some statistics from our years delivering KTPs including total live project value across our faculties and project by sector.

Chris Simons, Senior Lecturer Computer Science and Creative Technologies at UWE Bristol, comments on his experience as a KTP Academic S

Find out more about a KTP with UWE Bristol here.

UWE Research into the impact of driverless vehicles – Capri Project

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For the past three years researchers from the Centre for Transport and Society, University of the West of England (UWE Bristol), have been involved in the Capri project, looking into the impact of autonomous vehicles. Dr Ian Shergold has given a summary of their recent findings in the post below:

Capri was a practical, evidence-led research project that has broadened the UK’s knowledge of the short, medium and long term impacts of connected and autonomous vehicles (CAV) and helped inform the future direction of CAV development and implementation.

Capri was an industry-led consortium comprising 17 partners, including UWE, partly funded by Innovate UK and the Centre for Connected & Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV).  Funding was awarded though a competition to sponsor projects that would deliver technical solutions for CAV that provide real-world benefits to users as well as identifying commercial benefits. It has paved the way for the use of CAV to move people around locations such as airports, hospitals, business parks, shopping and tourist centres.

Capri ran from 2017-2020, and built on successful earlier research studies and live trials of autonomous vehicles involving UWE and the Bristol Robotics Laboratory (BRL), namely the Venturer and Flourish projects.

The UWE team working on Capri was led by Graham Parkhurst, Professor of Sustainable Mobility and Director of the research Centre for Transport & Society (CTS) at the University of the West of England in Bristol. Over the last three years he has been joined by colleagues in CTS, in particular Dr Daniela Paddeu and Dr Ian Shergold to carry out a range of social and behavioural research on CAV.

Over the three years of the study four different kinds of research have been undertaken.

  • The project began for CTS with focus groups to find out what members of the public think about the possible benefits and difficulties presented by autonomous shuttle pods, leading up to a one-day ‘codesign workshop’.  This event brought together over sixty members of the public, alongside technical experts and academics, to explore how systems based on pods might look, how they would operate and where they might be deployed.
  • The CTS team also undertook surveys of public willingness to use automated shuttles amongst users of two of the types of facility in which the vehicles could be deployed; a university campus and an airport.
  • The centrepiece of the project were the live demonstration trials in Bristol and London, where pods were safely run in fully autonomous mode. In Bristol the team undertook two experiments which were amongst the first of their kind, exploring how passenger perceptions of trust and comfort were influenced by where they sat in the vehicle, how fast it went, and whether there was a safety steward on board or not.
  • In London the team undertook observations and surveys with members of the public, not only those experiencing the vehicle, but also people who were interacting with it as pedestrians and cyclists in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

Most people, throughout the research, showed good levels of trust in the technology, would be willing to use it, thought it could be useful to others as well, and depending on the circumstances, would be willing to pay to use it. We found people willing to share if services would remain convenient and safe.

There was also a wide range of social, environmental and practical concerns that need to be taken seriously, and to which the team do not yet have all the solutions.

However, the experiments showed that people became more favourable following an experience of actually riding in one of the shuttles. And this was particularly true for car drivers, who started off the most cautious of our participants, but became the most positive.

As to direction of face in the vehicle and how fast it went they found that trust in the system was slightly lower at a higher speed and when facing backwards to the direction of travel, so users are sensitive to the design of vehicle and the driving characteristics.

Interestingly though, people who travelled in a shuttle without a steward on board were just as trusting as those who travelled with one. This is an important finding as the whole point of an autonomous vehicle is that it doesn’t need onboard staff.

Although Capri has now finished, CTS and UWE research on autonomous vehicles continues through a project called MultiCAV, which is developing automated public transport vehicles for use on public roads. CTS are also part of a project called ‘Driverless Futures’ which is currently considering how the highway code would work if some road vehicles are driven by computer.

Over the course of the CAPRI project, over 650 members of the public contributed to the research. The team are grateful to them for their time and for sharing their views.

For anyone interested in finding out more about Capri and our work, please visit the online Capri ‘Virtual Museum‘ which has much more on the project and its results.

UWE Bristol Living Architecture Project selected to be showcased on EU Innovation Radar Website

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An innovation developed through the EU funded “Living Architecture” Project, has been selected by the EU as something to be showcased on their Innovation Radar website. The project is between UWE Bristol; University of Newcastle Upon Tyne; the Spanish National Research Council; LIQUIFER Systems Group; Expolora SRL and the University of Trento, Italy. The recognition of the project on this website helps to demonstrate the work UWE have been doing to a global audience and may lead to new opportunities.

Living Architecture is conceived as a next-generation selectively-programmable bioreactor technology and integral component of human dwelling, capable of extracting valuable resources from waste water and air, generation of oxygen and production of proteins and fiber by manipulating consortia performance. The project’s final demonstrator is a modular bioreactor-wall, which is based on the operational principles of UWE’s microbial fuel cell technology and synthetic ‘consortia’ of microbes. Its operational principles are grounded in distributed sensing, decentralised autonomous information processing, high-degree of fault-tolerance and distributed actuation and reconfiguration.

Project lead for UWE Bristol Yannis Ieropoulos commented:  “We are really excited that our project has been selected to be showcased by the European Commission’s Innovation Radar. This is testament to the scientific excellence of this collective effort, which empirically demonstrates the positive impact that any building can have on our environment and the real value it can add to society.”

Details of the team’s innovation are now available here.

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