UWE Bristol celebrating world Micro, Small and Medium Enterprise Day 2022 

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UWE Bristol are proud to work with many Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) across the region. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) account for up to 90% of businesses, 60% to 70% of employment, and they account for half of global GDP, according to the United Nations.  

To celebrate World MSME Day 2022 we are sharing some recent work and projects with MSMEs.  

In this short video, we highlight three SMEs we worked with as part of our Scale Up 4 Growth Scheme. In partnership with NatWest and Foot Anstey, we gave SMEs access to grant funding and business support to help them scale up. In the below video we hear from The Bristol Loaf, Wiper and True and 299 Lighting about how the funding has helped transform their business.  

Spotlight on Bristol 24/7  

Bristol 24/7 are one of many MSMEs we are supporting through our Skills for Clean Growth programme and our Digital Skills programme.  Below is some feedback from Meg Houghton-Gilmour, Community and Memberships Manager.

Tell us a bit about what you are doing as an organisation to support sustainability goals in the region? 

At Bristol24/7 we’re really proud to be in the process of recruiting a dedicated climate and sustainability editor. We are the first local media organisation to do so as far as we know, and we’ve created this role to engage conversation, inspire people to take action, hold authorities and companies to account and report on the positive work already ongoing in Bristol.  

This is alongside our work to become more sustainable as an organisation. We are currently working with Action Net Zero to assess our carbon footprint, from which we will set goals to minimise our impact on the planet.  

We believe that working together is the best way to tackle the climate crisis. One of the defining values of our Better Business network is sustainability and we share ideas, opportunities and resources with our business members at our quarterly meetings.  

What steps have you taken to ensure you have a diverse workforce to drive forward these aims? 

Diversity and inclusion are at the heart of all of Bristol24/7s plans. We recognise there are considerable barriers to working in journalism and we are aiming to level the playing field at every opportunity. We are continuously improving our recruitment process to make it welcoming and accessible to all those who are interested in working with us. We have redesigned our work experience programme and we are working to introduce a career ladder so that those who have their first taste of journalism with us are invited back for longer placements and interviews for entry level positions.  

We work with the most underrepresented areas of Bristol to train new journalists in our community reporters programme. Our entire team take part in setting our goals and strategy for the year ahead and every voice is heard; we believe this allows for more robust decision making and creativity which are essential when tackling problems such as the climate crisis.  

What support have you received from UWE Bristol, and how has it contributed to these aims? 

We’re extremely grateful to UWE Bristol for their support. Over the last 12 months, our team have benefitted from Digital Skills support and training which has informed our membership strategy. We now also have a stronger marketing strategy which helps us capitalise on the support from our community and grow our membership – the result of which is that we can offer more work experience placements, train more community reporters and work with charity partners. 

More recently, members of our team have also taken part in the Skills for Clean Growth workshops. We already feel more confident in addressing our own carbon output, and we look forward to attending more workshops as we set our new goals, induct our climate editor and take the next steps on our sustainability journey.  

What successes have you seen as a result of the above work? 

In the last year we have seen a 30% growth in our membership, which has provided us with the resource to grow our team, including interns from UWE Bristol, and increase our social impact work. 

Workshops for MSMEs 

Are you a Gloucestershire business looking to scale?​ 

Digital Scale-Up for your Business

Hosted in the Advanced Digital Academy at Gloucestershire College in Cheltenham on Monday 11 & Tuesday 12 July 2022.  

Find out more and register

Growth through Innovation workshop 

5 & 6 July 2022, 09:00 – 16:30 

Business Cyber Centre, Chippenham 

A practical workshop to support your business in creating, communicating and funding innovation, free to SMEs in the Swindon & Wiltshire area. 

Find out more and register

Knowledge Transfer Partnerships  

The Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTP) scheme is a UK-wide programme helping businesses to improve competitiveness and productivity. We embed a recent graduate within your business and give you access to our academic expertise to help you transform your business.  

View some of our KTP case studies

Green Skills for Jobs and Entrepreneurship  

We recently supported more than 70 young people to complete the first stage of a transformational ‘first of its kind’ green skills training programme. 

The programme aimed to provide access to green jobs, training and business opportunities to Black, Asian and minoritised young people (aged 18-28), and recent graduates living in Bristol, South Gloucestershire, North Somerset, Bath and North East Somerset. 

Get in touch  

We are always keen to work with MSMEs so please do get in touch to discuss how we can support you and your business uwebusiness@ac.uk  

Inhale the Future, Exhale the Past: The Evolution of UK Air Pollution

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Written by Linda Pengelly (MSc Student for Environmental Management)

In the early to mid-1900s, the hangover from Britain’s Industrial Revolution of the previous two centuries (when emissions of sulphur dioxide (SO2) were at their peak) was still raging (Ritchie, 2017a). Between 1900-1920, Bronchitis attributed to atmospheric coal smoke was the second-leading cause of death in England and Wales (Widdicombe, 2020). Cold winters and gung-ho coal combustion combined to form the deadly spectre that is ‘Smog’ (a portmanteau of smoke and fog) and earned London the dubious nickname of the ‘Big Smoke’, even inspiring Monet to paint the city between 1899-1903 (Fuller, 2019).
With everything happening in the world right now (the pandemic, the cost-of-living crisis, the looming threat of war…) it’s easy to overlook the (invisible) elephant in the room: air pollution. No-one wants to think about the ultrafine particles (PM2.5 to use the technical term) having a party in their lungs when they’re walking down the street or curling up in front of the fire. But should we be concerned? Well, yes, actually. The biggest contributors to air pollution may have changed over the years, but the bottom line is this: respiratory diseases have consistently remained one of the top 5 causes of death in the UK in our lifetime (ONS, 2017; Ritchie and Roser, 2019).

The Houses of Parliament (Effect of Fog) by C Monet (Monet, 1903-4)

A series of London Smog incidents followed, most notably the ‘Great Smog’ between 5-9th December 1952, which Bell and Davis (2001) estimate led to the deaths of 12,000 people. The younger generations of the Great British public were given a lesson in history when Queen Elizabeth II was portrayed stubbornly navigating the Great Smog on foot to visit her grandmother in an episode of The Crown (2016), but it begs the question: are we destined to repeat it?

Not necessarily. Granted, today’s developing cities appear to be following in the UK’s footsteps by way of initial ‘dirty’ industrialisation, as shown in Delhi:

Source: Ritchie (2017b)

There is hope, however. To avoid repeating the mistakes of the past, Ritchie (2017a) maintains that as India and other developing countries increase their GDP per capita, they must aim to keep air pollution below London’s 19th century levels by developing in a ‘cleaner way’ than we did; i.e., by adopting renewable energy early. The Clean Air Act of 1956 partly tackled the issue of air pollution in the UK through the introduction of smoke control areas, but as Fuller (2019) argues, the most effective change came from the adoption of alternative fuels and heating systems.

An ‘An awareness that the burden from energy consumption on the wider society has been very high in the past and can get much worse may help concentrate minds a little more towards finding solutions, and not simply accepting that climate change is the price to pay for economic growth and development’

(Fouquet, 2011)

The 1950s-1970s saw high growth in car ownership, accompanied by an increase in emissions of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and PM2.5 (Newman and Kenworthy, 2011). Although car ownership has continued to rise, NOx and PM2.5 levels have decreased since the 1970s due to a combination of technological advances and further political progress.

Dieselgate protest in Berlin (BUND Bundesverband, 2017)

There have been a few bumps in the road, however. In 2015, the ‘Dieselgate’ scandal broke, in which Volkswagen and other car manufacturers were revealed to have programmed on-board computers to cheat emissions tests (Fuller, 2019). Following this, sales of diesel cars in the UK nosedived, yet, frustratingly, sales of new electric/hybrid cars remain low (Ritchie and Roser, 2021), mainly due to their high initial costs and lack of charging infrastructure (ONS, 2021):

Source: Ritchie and Roser (2021)

Looking at the overall picture of air quality in the UK, data shows that there has been a steady decline in emissions of most air pollutants since the 1970s, but ammonia (NH3) levels persist (Ritchie and Roser, 2022):

Source: Ritchie and Roser (2022)

The culprit? Agriculture. According to Defra (2020; 2018), approximately 88% of ammonia emissions in the UK can be attributed to agriculture, and with 71% of UK land classed as agricultural, the scale of the issue is clear. Defra’s 2018 Code of Good Agricultural Practice (COGAP) for reducing ammonia emissions attempted to address this but given that observance of the Code is voluntary rather than mandated, its potential effectiveness is questionable.

But what about closer to home? According to Carrington (2021), the oh-so-hygge solid fuel burners in 8% of UK lounges account for, shockingly, 38% of PM2.5 emissions (26% more than road traffic, to put it into perspective). Although there are already smoke control areas in the UK, and the implementation of the 2019 Clean Air Strategy will ‘outlaw the sale of the most polluting fuels’ and ‘ensure that only the cleanest stoves are available for sale by 2022’ (Defra, 2019, p.59-60), the post-pandemic surge in energy prices and overall cost of living will likely mean that many homes continue to light up.
Compounding this problem is the long lifespan of solid fuel burners, meaning few people will ever buy a new, ‘cleaner’ one (Fuller 2019).

Source: Phelps (2019)

The top sources of air pollution may have changed over time, but the common denominator is human activity. Will we look back on the past with fog-tinted glasses, and allow history to repeat itself, or will we learn from our mistakes? It is down to every one of us to play a role in fighting the threat of air pollution, but crucially, the UK government must empower us to do so. We may hold the matches, but technological innovation and strong policies are the (seasoned) kindling we need to light the fire in our bellies.

(Adapted from Love Clean Air, 2014)


Bell, M.L. & Davis, D.L. (2001) Reassessment of the Lethal London Fog of 1952: Novel Indicators of Acute and Chronic Consequences of Acute Exposure to Air Pollution. Environmental Health Perspectives [online]. 109 (3), pp. 389-394. [Accessed 30 March 2022].

BUND Bundesverband (2017) Protest vor dem Dieselgate-Untersuchungsausschuss in Berlin [photograph]. In: Flickr [online]. Available from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/110742978@N08/33323423825 [Accessed 30 March 2022].

Carrington, D. (2021) Wood burning at home now biggest cause of UK particle pollution. The Guardian [online]. 16 February. Available from: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/feb/16/home-wood-burning-biggest-cause-particle-pollution-fires [Accessed 30 March 2022].

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (2020) Agriculture in the United Kingdom 2020 [online]. London: Defra. Available from: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1056618/AUK2020_22feb22.pdf [Accessed 30 March 2022].

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (2019) Clean Air Strategy 2019 [online]. London: Defra. Available from: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/770715/clean-air-strategy-2019.pdf [Accessed 30 March 2022].

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (2018) Code of Good Agricultural Practice (COGAP) for Reducing Ammonia Emissions [online]. London: Defra. Available from: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/729646/code-good-agricultural-practice-ammonia.pdf [Accessed 30 March 2022].

Farrow, A. (2018) London Smog, 1952 [photograph]. In: Flickr [online]. Available from: https://www.flickr.com/photos/116071498@N08/32506838248 [Accessed 30 March 2022].

Fouquet, R. (2011) Long run trends in energy-related external costs. Ecological Economics [online] 70 (12), pp. 2380-2389. [Accessed 30 March 2022].

Fuller, G. (2018) The invisible killer: the rising global threat of air pollution – and how we can fight back. London: Melville House.

Love Clean Air (2014) History of Air Quality. Available from: https://lovecleanair.org/about-air-quality/history-of-air-quality/#.YkS6pSjMK5d [Accessed 30 March 2022].

Monet, C. (c. 1903-4) The Houses of Parliament (Effect of Fog) [oil on canvas]. At: New York: The Met [online]. Available from: https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/110001576 [Accessed 30 March 2022].

Office for National Statistics (2021) Over half of younger drivers likely to switch to electric in next decade. Available from: https://www.ons.gov.uk/economy/environmentalaccounts/articles/overhalfofyoungerdriverslikelytoswitchtoelectricinnextdecade/2021-10-25 [Accessed 30 March 2022].

Office for National Statistics (2017) Causes of death over 100 years. Available from:  https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/deaths/articles/causesofdeathover100years/2017-09-18 [Accessed 30 March 2022].

Newman, P., and Kenworthy, J. (2011). Peak Car Use: Understanding the Demise of Automobile Dependence. World Transport, Policy & Practice [online]. 17 (2), pp. 1-42. [Accessed 30 March 2022].

Phelps, S. (2019) Opinion: Wood burning stoves are deadly, not trendy. The Bristol Cable [online]. 1 February. Available from: https://thebristolcable.org/2019/02/opinion-wood-burning-stoves-are-deadly-not-trendy/ [Accessed 30 March 2022].

Ritchie, H. (2017a) What the history of London’s air pollution can tell us about the future of today’s growing megacities. Available from: https://ourworldindata.org/london-air-pollution [Accessed 30 March 2022].

Ritchie, H. (2017b) Air Pollution, London vs. Delhi, 1700 to 2016. Available from: https://ourworldindata.org/grapher/air-pollution-london-vs-delhi [Accessed 30 March 2022].

Ritchie, H., and Roser, M. (2022) Emissions of air pollutants, United Kingdom, 1970 to 2016. Available from: https://ourworldindata.org/grapher/emissions-of-air-pollutants?time=1970..2016&country=~GBR [Accessed 30 March 2022].

Ritchie, H., and Roser, M. (2021) New passenger vehicles by type, United Kingdom. Available from: https://ourworldindata.org/transport [Accessed 30 March 2022].

Ritchie, H., and Roser, M. (2019) Number of deaths by cause, United Kingdom, 2019. Available from: https://ourworldindata.org/grapher/annual-number-of-deaths-by-cause?country=~GBR [Accessed 30 March 2022].

The Crown (2016) Series 1, Episode 4, Act of God [online]. Netflix, 4 November. Available from: http://www.netflix.com/gb [Accessed 30 March 2022].

Widdicombe, J.H. (2020) A Brief History of Bronchitis in England and Wales. Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Diseases [online]. 7 (4), pp. 303-314. [Accessed 30 March 2022].

UWE Bristol-led study explores natural alternative to antibiotics in fight against Salmonella in pig farming

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Salmonella causes more than 93 million cases of salmonellosis, resulting in 155,000 deaths annually worldwide. Many severe cases are associated with the production and consumption of pork: salmonella is found in the pig gut and is often multidrug-resistant. The bacteria can be transmitted through the pigs’ oral−fecal route at the farm, the slaughterhouse, and the food processing plant, where it can survive and cross-contaminate equipment or the final food products, leading to human infections.

Salmonella is conventionally dealt with by using antibiotics. However, antimicrobial resistance is on the rise, and it is widely associated with the intensive use of antibiotics in pig farming. This has led to an increased interest in alternatives to antibiotics in the fight against bacterial pathogens.

Dr Alexandros Stratakos, Senior Lecturer in Sustainable Agri-Food Production at UWE Bristol, has led a study on alternatives to antibiotics in pig farming. Alexandros in collaboration with UWE Bristol colleagues Professor Olena Doran and Dr Sotirios Oikonomou, and Dr Dimitrios Lamprou from Queen’s University, Belfast, developed novel nanostructures for the targeted delivery of geraniol, a natural antivirulence compound, in the pig gut.

Geraniol is the primary component of citronella oil but can also be found in many other plant essential oils.

The study has shown that geraniol at specific concentrations inhibits Salmonella colonisation in the pig gut, which can potentially reduce the requirement for antibiotics in pig farming.

For this study, geraniol was also encapsulated in liposomal (spherical fat-like) formulations, which acted as carriers to protect the agent from degradation and increase its effectiveness against the pathogen.

This approach could lead to reduced Salmonella transmission to food, ultimately leading to an increase in the safety of the food supply chain.

The full publication can be accessed on the website of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

Community STEM Club connects local community, engineering students, and industry professionals

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The Old Library Community STEM Club has become a well-established weekly event in Eastville since it was first launched in September 2021: every Thursday after school, children and their parents or carers make their way to the Old Library Community Hub to take part in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) based activities, and to play and socialise.

The Old Library is a community led and run project, based in the former Eastville Library, which was closed down in March 2016 after council budget cuts. It now serves as a hire space for workshops and activities, including a community café, workshops, crafts, quiz nights, music, book clubs, a repair café, and the weekly STEM Club.

The Club was co-developed with the team behind UWE Bristol’s DETI Inspire, a programme designed to connect children from all backgrounds with real-life, diverse engineering role models to widen participation and aspirations for STEM careers.

It gets further support from Industry professionals via the STEM Ambassador Hub, and UWE Bristol Engineering students, who regularly support and run activities.

A club for the whole community

The sessions vary every week: children have built balloon- and sail powered cars, electric circuits, bike pump powered paper rockets, water filtration systems, and they even designed their own city, using recycled materials. They also had the opportunity to build and programme their own robots using Lego Mindstorms, and they digitally re-designed Bristol in Minecraft sessions led by the  DETI Inspire Team at UWE Bristol.

The Club is aimed to be as accessible as possible, which is why it is run on a free, drop-in basis. There are also healthy snacks on offer alongside the activities, and the grown-ups can relax with a cup of tea or coffee, or choose to get involved in the activities themselves.

What’s next?

For the upcoming sessions the children will be building model boats which will be raced at the Bristol Harbour Festival on Saturday 16 July. Boat building is taking place on 16 of June and 7 July and supported by the My Future My Choice programme and Industry volunteers.

Lego Mindstorms will be making a comeback on 23 and 30 of June: instructed by UWE Engineering students, the children will learn how to build and programme Lego robots.

There are also plans for wind turbine building, though the exact dates are still to be confirmed.

The last STEM Club session of this term is planned for Thursday 14 July, and then the Club will pause for the summer holidays, with a return planned in September, for the start of the new school year.

For updates check the Old Library Facebook page or email hello@theoldlibrary.org.uk should you have any questions.

Scale Up 4 Growth Gloucestershire – more workshops announced for 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Previous Workshop Attendee.

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

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

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

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

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

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

UWE Bristol academic leads new study exploring equitable outcomes for babies born out of hospital

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Adapted from this blog from the South West Academic Health Science Network.

Around 0.5% of all UK births happen out of hospital unexpectedly, whether at home, in a public place, or in a car or ambulance while the mother is on the way to hospital, without the presence of a qualified midwife or obstetrician.[1] 

These births, known as Birth Before Arrivals (BBA), are often associated with unfavourable outcomes for the newborn, including hypothermia.   

As part of its new Perinatal Health Equity Programme, the South West Academic Health Science Network (South West AHSN) have launched a new project focused on BBAs, to understand which women are most at risk of giving birth before arriving at hospital and investigate the neonatal temperature management advice given to callers who ring 999 for the ambulance service about a BBA. 

The project is being led by Dr Laura Goodwin, Senior Research Fellow in Emergency Care at University of West of England and part of the Research in Emergency Care, Avon Collaborative Hub (REACH). Dr Goodwin is an experienced researcher, with a background in both prehospital care and inequalities in maternal and perinatal outcomes.  

Below, South West AHSN Maternal and Neonatal Programme Manager, Sally Hedge, interviews Dr Goodwin, as the project begins, to understand more.   

Sally Hedge (SH): Hi Laura, can you tell me more about births of babies before arrival at hospital? How is it different to a home birth? 

Laura Goodwin (LG): Home births are usually planned by the parents-to-be, and support will be in place in advance.  

In contrast, BBAs are, by their nature, unexpected, and often the mother, father or another bystander is talked through the birth process by a 999 call-handler, with paramedics arriving either just before, or sometimes after, the baby has arrived. It is estimated that 3,700 BBAs are attended by the UK ambulance service each year.[2] 

In my previous research [3], 1,582 individual births were identified as BBA between February 2017 – February 2020 in the region serviced by the South Western Ambulance Service NHS Foundation Trust (SWASFT). This region covers the entire South West, from Bath and Gloucestershire, south to Wiltshire, and west to Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. This is approximately 530 babies born before arrival at hospital per year, on average.  

SH: Why are BBAs an issue? Are there increased risks involved?  

LG: Yes – and one of the primary risks, for the baby, is hypothermia. This occurs when the baby’s temperature drops below 36.5°C.  Newborns lose body heat quickly; for every minute that a newborn is exposed, their temperature can drop by approximately 0.1°C – 0.3°C. [4] This isn’t usually an issue in a hospital setting or homebirth, as the environment will be controlled (i.e. by putting the heating on, preparing warm blankets etc.). However, in a BBA, the birth is usually unexpected and people often don’t have time to make these preparations. BBAs can also occur in the car or outside, where it isn’t possible to create any kind of warm environment for the baby to be born into. The risk of hypothermia for babies born before arrival at hospital is recognised by the Joint Royal Colleges Ambulance Liaison Committee, and noted in their guidance to paramedics [5] for that situation.  

SH: The South West AHSN is interested in helping to close the gaps in inequalities in the health and wellbeing of mothers and families. Can you give more detail on why BBA is potentially a health equity issue, Laura? 

LG: The literature suggests there are some contributing risk factors for BBA, including ethnic group, age, parity (meaning the number of previous births a mother has had), antenatal care, etc. Some of these risk factors are the same things that increase the risk of poor outcomes for babies in general. So we think it is important to try to understand which women are most at risk of BBA, which babies are most likely to be cold on arrival, and how this interacts with outcomes such as mortality, length of hospital stay, and the need for special care/interventions.  

Previous reports around inequalities in maternal and perinatal outcomes suggest increased risk of poor outcomes for women who do not engage with, or who have had little engagement with, maternity services. This includes concealed or teenage pregnancies, as well as women from migrant or minority ethnic backgrounds, who might not speak English well and therefore not fully understand instructions from 999 call handlers. We will be looking at all the demographic data to establish whether these hypotheses are correct, and whether there are more groups that are also at risk. 

SH: What is the project aiming to achieve, other than investigating the demographics of BBAs? 

LG: We know that often the most vulnerable women are those who do not engage with services until the time of the emergency call, so a change to the way that the emergency episode is managed is therefore more likely to have direct impact than carrying out a public health campaign. We will be investigating (and potentially improving on) the advice given to women regarding neonatal temperature management during 999 calls relating to BBA. 

The Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch produced a report in Feb 2022 [6] which looked at the advice being given by call handlers during pre-hospital births. Some of the information that was being given to those on a 999 call around a labouring mother was conflicting and potentially poor or problematic, but the scope of the report was not around ensuring that good advice was given. Instead it called for investigations to be done on this. Happily, we were planning this already! 

We also want to investigate ways to support better temperature management of babies in the prehospital setting, and will be using the data from this report to feed into a funding bid to look at that in the future. 

SH: Tell me about how the project will be carried out.  

LG: Phase A is a data-gathering exercise, looking at the number of BBAs in Somerset, Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, and the proportion of those babies who are below the lower temperature limit (36.5°C) on admission. We want to look at the babies’ outcomes, (i.e. need for special care, length of hospital stay, interventions/treatment needed, and mortality). We’re also going to be examining the demographic information around the mothers/parents of these babies (i.e. ethnicity/migrant status of parents, age of mother, geographical location, deprivation index, and more) in order to understand more about potential risk factors for BBA and/or poor outcomes. 

We are delighted that all seven local NHS trusts have signed up to participate in this research.  

Phase B will look at transcripts from real-life 999 calls regarding BBA and analyse the advice that is given around managing the baby’s temperature. 

Phase C will discuss the findings of Phase B with focus groups comprising NHS staff in relevant disciplines and members of the public who have experience of prehospital birth, either as the mother or the person who called 999. We will be looking for volunteers for these groups in early summer 2022. 

SH: What’s the timescale you’re working with, Laura? 

LG: Phase A and Phase B are now up and running. We will start recruiting for Phase C in May or June 2022, with our report due to be published in November 2022.  

SH: The South West AHSN has been involved from the beginning, providing funding and project management, and facilitating links with local NHS Trusts and other key individuals and organisations. How are you finding working with us so far?  

LG: It’s been great! There is a lot of involvement and great support in finding the right people. I’ve noticed more volunteers and enthusiasm than previous work. Being part of the wider Maternal and Neonatal Safety Improvement Programme community is also really helpful. 

SH: What impact are you hoping your research will have?  

LG: Primarily, we want to improve outcomes for babies born unexpectedly outside of a hospital setting. This work is focused on the babies, but it’s also the case that better outcomes for them lead to better outcomes for their parents too. Our route to doing this is by improving the call handlers’ scripts, or algorithms, for prehospital delivery situations, to enable good temperature management advice to be given.  

We are also hoping to do future work to support paramedics and ambulance staff to manage temperature of newborns more effectively. We have already had brilliant engagement from SWASFT and other ambulance services in taking this forward. 

 If you would like to find out more about the Birth Before Arrival project, including becoming involved, please contact Dr Laura Goodwin (laura.goodwin@uwe.ac.uk).  

The South West AHSN’s Perinatal Health Equity Programme has been set up to identify and spread innovative practice that can help to close gaps in perinatal health and care in South West England.  Learn more about our Perinatal Health Equity Programme on our webpage.  

The Birth Before Arrival project builds on previous work by the South West AHSN’s Maternal and Neonatal Safety Improvement Programme. Place of birth and thermoregulation are also elements of PERIPrem (Perinatal Excellence to Reduce Injury in Premature Birth), a bundle of 11 interventions designed to reduce brain injury and death caused in premature birth. The South West AHSN and West of England Academic Health Science Network are driving adoption of PERIPrem throughout the South West.  


[1] Loughney A, Collis R, Dastgir S. Birth before arrival at delivery suite: Associations and consequences. British Journal of Midwifery. 2006;14(4):204-208. 

[2] Office for National Statistics Dataset: Vital statistics in the UK: births, deaths and marriages, 2020 https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/populationandmigration/populationestimates/datasets/vitalstatisticspopulationandhealthreferencetables. Accessed 20 October 2020

[3] Goodwin L, Voss S, McClelland G, Beach E, Bedson A, Black S, Deave T, Miller N, Taylor H, Benger J.  Temperature measurement of babies born in the pre-hospital setting: analysis of ambulance service data and qualitative interviews with paramedics. Manuscript submitted for publication.  

[4] Adamsons K, Towell ME. Thermal homeostasis in the fetus and newborn. The Journal of the American Society of Anesthesiologists. 1965;26(4):531-548. 

[5] Joint Royal Colleges Ambulance Liaison Committee, Association of Ambulance Chief Executives. JRCALC Clinical Guidelines 2019. Somerset: Class Professional Publishing; 2019. 

[6] Maternity pre-arrival instructions by 999 call handlers, Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch, 2022. https://hsib-kqcco125-media.s3.amazonaws.com/assets/documents/hsib-report-maternity-pre-arrival-instructions-by-999-call-handlers.pdf 

Applications open for Partnership PhD scheme

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

See below for our slides for businesses:

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

Innovative ‘smart socks’ could help millions living with dementia

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Inventor driven to act by great-grandmother’s dementia

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Milbotix Smart Socks

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

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

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

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

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

Dr Zeke Steer

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Milbotix Team

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

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

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

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

UWE Bristol Apprenticeships: Meet the Academic

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In this Meet the Academic, we caught up with Nick Smith, Associate Head of Department, Geography and Environmental Management to talk about his experiences of apprenticeships.

Nick teaches on our Town Planning Degree Apprenticeship:

Thinking about your engagement with apprentices, what are the main benefits you can see for someone thinking about becoming a Higher or Degree apprentice?

Pursuing an apprenticeship provides a great opportunity for combining work and study together. Apprentices follow a programme of study that responds to the expectations for becoming professional planners, with the individual components of the programme collectively delivering the knowledge, skills and behaviours that employers are looking for.

Our town planning apprenticeship has been structured to offer flexibility to our learners, with two specific entry points providing an opportunity for past experience and qualifications to be properly recognised

What role do you think Higher and Degree apprenticeships have towards widening access and participation within Higher Education, and the benefits for the local economy?

There is a national shortage of planners at the moment and the need for planners has never been greater with planning being expected to respond, and deliver, against wide ranging contemporary challenges. The biggest of these is obviously the climate emergency.

The Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) is keen to increase the supply of planners but also to increase the appeal of the profession to the widest population possible.

The RTPI has a clear strategy for diversifying its membership and the apprenticeship scheme offers a real opportunity for delivering this. Already we have seen apprentices step forward and join the programme who might not have been able to do so if they were having to pay themselves.

What do you see as the role of apprenticeships in UWE Bristol and beyond in the future?

I hope that apprenticeship provision can continue to grow as it provides multiple benefits to both apprentices and our existing body of students. Having apprentices in-class alongside other learners provides a real opportunity for delivering the university’s ambitions for practice based learning.

It also provides some effective avenues for staff to become better engaged with practice and to hear about experiences from the front line.

Find out more about Apprenticeships at UWE Bristol.

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