Knowledge Transfer Partnerships: ExtraCare Associate Spotlight

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[Photo L-R: Dr Geraint Jones (Innovate UK), Alex Sleat (UWE Bristol), Shirley Hall (ExtraCare), Professor Praminda Caleb-Solly (UWE Bristol) attending the quarterly review meeting at Bristol Robotics Lab]

UWE Bristol has been working on a Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) with ExtraCare Charitable Trust. Based in Coventry, with a village in Stoke Gifford, ExtraCare runs retirement villages and housing developments and currently has almost 4,000 homes available for older people.

This KTP aims to develop expertise in smart living technologies, such as intelligent sensing and socially assistive robots. The project aims to explore what technologies are capable of improving service provision, increasing productivity, generating revenue and upskilling staff. We spoke with Alex Sleat who has been leading the project as the KTP Associate:

What attracted you to the KTP role?

I’ve been a researcher in academia for some time, so it was interesting for me to get to see lab research being utilised in the outside environment. The KTP partnership between UWE and ExtraCare is a great opportunity for this.

How is the partnership between UWE and Extracare working?

The partnership is going well, there’s a good level of communication between the two partners, and a lot of additional activity towards finding opportunities for future collaboration.

What are the current challenges of your role?

The main reoccurring challenge is finding technology that fits into people’s lifestyles, trying to figure out how technology will work for an individual and then conducting research around their busy schedules and in their own homes. Getting people to try new technology is always tricky, so it’s important that explanations are simple and the technology is bespoke enough to prove beneficial.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

Sometimes it’s obvious to see the positive effects of new technologies. Often technology that might have been overlooked, because it’s not directly designed for a purpose, has a huge impact and allows people to improve their day-to-day lives, wellbeing, health and independence. I spend a lot of time inside the retirement village, so have enjoyed getting to know the residents and watching the community grow.

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

Both UWE and ExtraCare have made me feel part of the group, and support and guidance from both sides has been tremendous when I’ve needed it.

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

Romancing the Gibbet: sites of extraordinary punishment in Georgian England

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

Steve Poole, University of the West of England, Bristol

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read the full story here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

UWE Academics help in public trial of driverless pods

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blog originally appeared on the UWE Bristol website.

UWE research finds people taking fewer flights for environmental reasons but want leadership to provide stronger guidance

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People who are flying less often for environmental reasons want more visible leadership from environmental organisations and green employers to overcome expectations that ‘flying is normal’. That is the conclusion of a study investigating the views of flying ‘reducers’ conducted by two researchers at the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol).

The study found the ‘reducers’ were driven to act by strong ethical reasons, particularly concern about climate change. But they told researchers that they faced barriers in reducing their flights including social factors, such as ridicule from people around them and tension within families, including partners. Most of the respondents found it relatively easy to reduce their flying, but some mentioned high costs of international rail travel, and difficulties with booking, ticketing and making connections.

The two-year project surveyed members, supporters and staff of 80 organisations involved in environmental campaigning or sustainable development based in the UK. The study was conducted before the recent upsurge in awareness about aviation and climate change, and the ‘flight shaming‘ movement, which has reduced flying in Sweden. In total 153 people completed the online survey, with in-depth interviews conducted with 13 of them.

The study was conducted between 2016 and 2018 as part of Paul Purnell’s MSc in Sustainable Development in Practice at UWE Bristol. Paul works as a management consultant, specialising in general and environmental management systems for small engineering companies. The project was supervised by Dr Steve Melia, a Senior Lecturer in Transport and Planning, who has written and lectured about aviation and climate change.

Dr Melia said: “Several people in this study said they avoided talking about flying, to avoid conflict or embarrassing other people. Others described some difficult conversations with people around them.”

The study concluded that a ‘vanguard’ of flying ‘reducers’ could help to boost alternatives, such as ferry connections and long-distance sleeper trains, which have been eroded in recent years. This will require more leadership from environmental organisations and other organisations with a commitment to sustainability, the researchers found.

The full research paper, published in World Transport Policy and Practice, is available here. Originally appeared on the UWE website here.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

UWE developed 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. Originally appeared on the UWE website.