UWE Alumni and Launch Space Residents achieve TV commercial success with animated advert

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Two MA Animation alumni, Hend Youssef Esmat and Lamiaa Diab, who set up their own animation business and are now based in Launch Space, have had their work used in an MG car TV advert.

Originally from Cairo, the duo graduated from UWE in 2018 before moving into Launch Space in February. Hend and Lamiaa’s MA graduation film “Flipped” is currently being shown on the Festival Circuit and has been screened at over 30 festivals worldwide including Anima (Brussels), Pictoplasma (Berlin), ITFS(Stuttgart), NYICFF (NYC), LIAF (London). It won Best Short Animation at the Overcome Film Festival as well as being nominated for a Lotte Reiniger Award.

The directing duo specialise in stylised design and animation services for businesses, charities and broadcasters.

In July, the pair were approached by Limegreen Tangerine to work on a TV project for MG cars. Hend commented on the experience “It was quite rewarding to be trusted to create the designs and animation for such a big project. We found the brief very exciting and challenging, as we have never applied our design and animation style in a commercial context before. Also mixing our 2D style with the 3D animation of the car is something we had to experiment with and had to make different tests until we reached a final look which fit both styles together.” You can view the advert here.

Lamiaa commented on their experience in of Launch Space so far “We are extremely grateful to have been offered the opportunity to come back to Bristol after graduation, and to be provided with guidance and support to develop our business and grow our networks.”

You can keep up to date with Hend and Lamiaa’s work here and follow them on Twitter here.

Located in the new £16m University Enterprise Zone on Frenchay Campus, Launch Space provides physical incubator space and enterprise support for graduate start-up businesses.

Launch Space will receive up to £2,000,000 of funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) Growth Programme 2014-2020. The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) is the programme’s Managing Authority. Established by the European Union, the ERDF helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects that support innovation, businesses, job creation and local community regeneration.

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 Bristol spin out company poised to improve the diagnosis of bowel disorders

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We are delighted to announce that a UWE-based spin out company, Nidor Diagnostics Limited, has been established to develop a medical diagnostic device.

The device, named Inform ™, can detect the volatile organic compounds in patient samples, in order to diagnose and monitor a range of medical conditions. Founding institutional shareholders include UWE Bristol, the University of Liverpool, the University of Bristol and The Wellcome Trust.

Nidor Diagnostics Limited will offer a range of diagnostic products, the first of which would enable patients to receive a positive diagnosis of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Currently, the diagnosis of IBS and other related medical conditions can require many assessments, including blood and faeces testing, colonoscopy with biopsies, and radiology (X-ray) tests, and requires a lengthy process of elimination. Inform (IBS) ™ will help to speed up the diagnostic process for patients.

Professor Norman Ratcliffe’s and Ben Costello’s team in the Institute of BioSensing Technology have developed the core science over many years. The team have developed extremely sensitive, low cost semiconductor based technology and pattern recognition technology for fast evaluation of urine and stool for disease diagnoses.

Dr Taj S Mattu, CEO of Nidor said: “The Universities of the West of England and Liverpool have been instrumental in developing the core technology on which Nidor is based.  I am excited about realising the technology’s potential to improve the diagnosis of a number of diseases, not just IBS in the near future. Within the next six months, the company aims to raise seed investment and secure grant funding to develop its first diagnostic/prognostic test.”

Professor Martin Boddy, Pro Vice Chancellor for Research and Enterprise said “It’s good to see this big step towards getting real impact from UWE research. This research holds great potential for improving patient’s lives and also for creating jobs and spurring economic growth”.

Tracey John, Director of Research, Business and Innovation said “The formation of this spin-out company is the culmination of a wealth of research expertise to develop this ground-breaking science, in a strong collaborative partnership with University of Bristol and the University of Liverpool. It’s great to see that our intellectual property has helped secure a significant stake for UWE in Nidor Diagnostics Limited and also for the academics as founding shareholders”. 

UWE IP Commercialisation team (tech.transfer@uwe.ac.uk) can provide practical advice and support for protecting IP, such as filing patent applications for protecting University inventions, negotiating commercial licences, working with industry partners and setting up spin-out companies.  For more information please click here IP & KT Guide.

Launch Space residents Scribeless win Santander Universities Entrepreneurship Award

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On October 3rd, Launch Space residents Scribeless won the Santander Universities Entrepreneurship Award.

Scribeless helps companies better engage their customers through the power of the handwritten letter. They automate the process, using AI and Advanced Printing technology to create handwritten letters which are indiscernible from human-written in an affordable and efficient fashion for organisations.

Robert Van Den Bergh co-founder of Scribeless commented:

‘We are incredibly proud to win the competition and now can’t wait to help more companies utilise our handwritten solution. UWE and its start-up accelerator, Launch Space, have been critical in helping us grow over the last 18 months. There free accelerator has been game-changing for us.’

Located in the new £16m University Enterprise Zone on Frenchay Campus, Launch Space provides physical incubator space and enterprise support for graduate start-up businesses.

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

Mark Corderoy, Incubation Manager, University Enterprise Zone commented:

“This is an excellent result for Rob and Scribeless, and caps a very successful year for the team. They joined Launch Space with a prototype handwriting robot which they evolved into a market-leading AI-led ‘Software as a Service’ product! They have raised a significant funding round, and are now delivering revenues from both the UK and USA.”

Santander holds the Santander Universities Entrepreneurship Award every year, for universities with agreements with the bank in the UK. The competition is divided into two categories: undergraduate and postgraduate students, with three awards for each category.

The winners will not only receive a cash prize, but will have the opportunity to make use of the bank’s services to help them start up their proposed business.

Congratulations to Scribeless!

UWE Bristol are a partner university of Santander.

Launch Space will receive up to £2,000,000 of funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) Growth Programme 2014-2020. The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) is the programme’s Managing Authority. Established by the European Union, the ERDF helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects that support innovation, businesses, job creation and local community regeneration.

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.

Launch Space Business Bunk to receive funding from Nationwide

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A start-up funded by our alumni, that grew out of Launch Space within the University Enterprise Zone has received investment from Nationwide Building Society:

Nationwide Building Society yesterday announced its latest venturing fund investment in Bunk, a digital lettings agency. Bunk uses the latest technology, including Open Banking, to help improve the rental market for both landlords and renters – something the Society, which both represents landlords, as a major buy to let lender, and tenants with over two million members who themselves rent their home, has campaigned on. 

The investment is the latest deal from the £50 million Venturing Fund set up just over a year ago to create partnerships enabling the Society and start-ups to share knowledge and expertise. As part of the fund, Nationwide is making strategic investments in and partnering with early stage start-ups exploring innovative products and services that could provide real benefits for the Society’s members in the future.

Around half of all landlords choose to run their rental businesses on their own. In a market where regulations change frequently, landlords often need support in ensuring they comply with the rules. Bunk can automatically list a landlord’s property on reputable sites, verify tenants as well as providing peace of mind to tenants by verifying the landlord proof of ownership.

The service allows landlords to list a property within minutes, which can then be viewed by potential tenants on their website and app as well as on major portals such as Rightmove and Zoopla. Bunk can make a landlord’s life easier by processing tenants’ references and completing the tenancy set up within the site. Once the properties are listed, landlords can view them on a dashboard, which also notifies them when a deposit and rent has been paid, saving the need to review their current account statements. Bunk also allows tenants and landlords to correspond within the site, so enquiries such as expressing an interest in renting a property and maintenance requests will go directly to them, providing transparency giving landlords and tenants peace of mind.

To ensure landlords are up to date with their responsibilities and able to comply with the latest regulation, Bunk offers prompts and smart insight. For example, landlords are unable to take more than five weeks’ rent as a deposit and the system will not progress if they try to take more than this. In addition, Bunk also offers support and advice for those who have become accidental landlords. Bunk have also partnered with Experian, so tenants who make regular rent payments on time will see this reflected in their credit file, something which starts to redress the balance between renters and homeowners, who’s regular mortgage payments already make up part of the credit file.

Tony Prestedge, Deputy Chief Executive at Nationwide Building Society, said: “Nationwide is one of the biggest Buy-to-Let lenders in the UK and we have long campaigned to improve standards within the rental sector for both tenants and landlords. Bunk is combining the latest digital technology backed up with human service to not only offer a seamless digital experience but also reduce friction in the rental market between tenants and landlords. Many landlords choose to manage their portfolio on their own, the service that Bunk offers could support them, ensuring they’re on top of their obligations and providing a better service to their tenants. They are a natural fit for our Venturing Fund investment, which seeks to fund start-ups that are focussed on making people’s lives easier through smart insights and fair practice.”

Tom Woollard, CEO at Bunk, said: “We want to build something the rental market has never seen before. Landlords are facing reduced margins coupled with increased regulation and there has never been a better time to make their lives easier through the use of technology. Bunk is there to make the process less stressful and more enjoyable for both renters and landlords. Bunk’s mission is to make renting work for everyone and we’re thrilled to have a partner like Nationwide backing our vision.” 

Mark Corderoy, Incubation Manager at Launch Space, said “Bunk is a great example of a business that has thrived through the support provided by UWE’s Launch Space incubator. During their time in Launch Space, Bunk grew from a team of 3 graduates to 11 staff, got through to the finals of Pitch@Palace, and successfully developed and executed their current funding round.”

Launch Space’s role is to provide support, guidance and experience for companies like Bunk as they embark on their entrepreneurial journeys. They provide free desk space and business support for graduate start-up businesses in the heart of the UWE Bristol University Enterprise Zone.

To find out more about Bunk visit their website.

Launch Space will receive up to £2,000,000 of funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) Growth Programme 2014-2020. The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) is the programme’s Managing Authority. Established by the European Union, the ERDF helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects that support innovation, businesses, job creation and local community regeneration.