Future Space Resident 500 More receive Covid-19 Grant

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Future Space resident, 500 More Ltd has won a grant to work with Oxford Brookes University on an Artificial Intelligence (AI) development that monitors how you walk after having Covid-19.

How you walk (or gait) is an indicator of recovery from diseases such as Covid-19. The funding will enable the joint team to develop an app to analyse walking, allowing doctors to track how patients recover. The project utilises state of the art AI to objectively measure walking quality, a key health indicator.

500 More has been selected as one of a number of innovative start-up businesses to receive funding from Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency, to fast-track the development of innovations born out of the coronavirus crisis, while supporting the UK’s next generation of cutting-edge start-ups.

Greg Smart, CEO 500 More Digital said: “The DataGait project will help patients who are recovering from Covid-19 by giving them simple walking tasks to perform at home, allowing clinicians to track their recovery safely and remotely.

“This is a great example of our mission to drive purposeful digital innovation. Innovate UK funding will allow us to get this product in the hands of patients and doctors more quickly.”

Read the full story here.

Future Space is part of the University Enterprise Zone. They connect entrepreneurs and tech innovators with scientists, researchers and graduate talent – to spark collaboration, innovation and growth. Find out more here.

UWE Researchers’ ‘Real Time’ Response to Covid-19

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Guest blog: Ben Mitchell, Research Impact Team

As a result of their expertise in Public Health, Emergency Medical Care, Knowledge Mobilisation, Maths and Computer Modelling, and other such related areas, a number of UWE researchers have been approached or volunteered in assisting with the country’s efforts to tackle Covid-19. A selection of these researchers can be found below. This is by no means an exhaustive list.

UWE Researchers and the Clinical Commissioning Groups

As part of UWE’s response to Covid-19, researchers from UWE have been working with the local Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCG) to provide evidence to support rapid decision making. The CCG are the people charged with making healthcare decisions locally and they are currently grappling with things such as: what do we need to do? where do we need to pool our resources? what types of treatment are needed? how do we need to respond? The local CCG includes healthcare providers in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire.

Professor Nicki Walsh

Within the local CCG ‘cells’ have been established, acting as working groups purely in response to the impact that Covid-19 is having on current healthcare. Many issues have come up including: home monitoring of symptoms, impact on mental health and impact of healthcare workers’ absenteeism. These issues have come up as people look to manage problems most effectively and efficiently. The Research and Evidence Team at the CCG, along with Professor Nicki Walsh who works across UWE, the CCG and the Applied Research Collaborative (ARC-West) are working with the local commissioners to manage these requests. These important questions are then fed to the Applied Research Collaborative West team, who co-ordinate researchers from UWE and the University of Bristol, creating a rapid response team to retrieve and synthesise evidence, or provide other advice to support evaluation, healthcare modelling, statistics and economics.

The emphasis of this approach is the rapid turnaround system. Most requests are processed within 48 hours from the point of the CCG submitting a question, to the academic providing that support and reporting back to the CCG. Nicki is the overall co-ordinator at UWE for all this because of her work across the different partner organisations.

In place, there is now a good pool of UWE and UoB researchers ready to respond to calls for assistance as and when they come in. Nicki says the response from academics has been excellent and hugely encouraging:

“This service requires academics to work in such a different way. Because it’s quick and by necessity not as in depth as traditional evidence reviews. Traditionally things can often progress quite slowly, but it’s been a totally different response and things are getting turned around quickly”.

An example of the CCG requests came at the start of April, concerning the accuracy of self-monitoring heart rate, respiratory rate and oxygen saturation in patients with symptoms suggestive of COVID infection.  Other reviews that UWE researchers have been involved in include: the potential impact of COVID-19 on mental health outcomes and the implications for service solutions, Dr Faith Martin, and how to retain infection control amongst residents with dementia and a tendency to walk with purpose, Professor Rik Cheston.

Nicki explained in more detail how resources were best pooled:

“All academics involved have suggested what their skill set is so we have a really good idea who can do what. If it’s something incredibly specific like health economics for example, there may only be quite a small pool of people who can contribute to that. But for things like evidence synthesis most academics are able respond to these requests. The emphasis at the minute is ensuring that we’re able to provide good enough evidence to help with decision making in a rapid responsive way.”

Nicki also suggested how the work could benefit future collaborative research opportunities:

“I think it’s really innovative and supportive to our NHS colleagues. It also potentially creates further questions that could be researched later.”

The evidence syntheses are being regularly updated and are openly available here.

Professor Julie Mytton

Julie Mytton is a Professor of Child Health and a member of HAS’s Centre for Health and Clinical Research. She has specialised in public health research since 2006, with a particular interest in injuries and injury prevention. She is also a qualified medic.

Julie is one of many other UWE academics working with the Centre for Public Health and Wellbeing who are receiving calls for work from the CCG (via Nicki Walsh). She has also been in contact with University Hospitals Bristol NHS trust, and as a medic has joined their bank staff, providing clinical care support as and when needed.

Julie also noted that there is a Public Health Registrar, Alasdair Wood, based at UWE to offer further support.

Professor Jonathan Benger

Jonathan Benger, a Professor in Emergency Care and a Consultant in Emergency Medicine at the University Hospitals Bristol NHS Foundation Trust, has been released from his current clinical and academic duties, at the request of the National Medical Director, to assist in leading the national response to Coronavirus in his role as interim Chief Medical Officer at NHS Digital.

Professor Jo Michell

Jo Michell is an Associate Professor in Economics. His current research interests include macroeconomics, money and banking and income distribution. As soon as the nationwide lockdown was announced, Jo co-wrote a paper for the journal Autonomy outlining how “in order to cope with the increasingly severe reduction in economic activity in the UK, guaranteeing the incomes of all those who are eligible for in-work or out-of-work benefits is rapidly becoming a necessary policy lever.

This idea was picked up by John McDonnell (the then Shadow Chancellor), and it’s possible it may have played a role in influencing Rishi Sunak’s (the Chancellor) subsequent announcements. A follow up letter by Jo and 97 other economists was penned to The Times, and published on Monday 23rd March, “insisting that the government goes significantly further in its economic response to the Covid-19 crisis.”

Professor Matthew Jones

Matthew Jones is Associate Professor in Public Health. His research specialises in the contribution that third sector and civil society initiatives make towards promoting public health and wellbeing. Mat and other colleagues in the Centre for Public Health and Wellbeing (CPHWB) have authored a report entitled Apart but not Alone: Neighbour Support and the Covid-10 Lockdown.

Carried out in Bristol and the West Country between 6th-12th April 2020, over 500 respondents reported back on neighbourhood initiatives during lockdown restrictions. A whole range have sprung up in recent weeks: social media support groups, food and medication collections, telephone calls, Zoom chats, leafleting. Interestingly, many neighbourhood groups were already in place before formal local/national efforts had been mobilised.

Of those who responded, the overwhelming majority felt that neighbours were supporting each other well. Mat Jones et.al did note however contrasting answers from those based in areas of high social disadvantage, with an emphasis on such neighbours supporting people with financial difficulties, those with disabilities or mobility issues, and people without easy access to outdoor spaces.

Perhaps most noteworthy were the gender in-balance responses (80% female): “an important issue is whether the practical and emotional work of supporting neighbours is falling disproportionately on women.”

Professor Sue Durbin

Sue Durbin is Professor in Human Resource Management and is a member of the Centre for Employment Studies Research in FBL. Sue has researched and written on gender and employment, specialising in women who work in male dominated industries. She is a co-founder, along with Airbus, the Royal Air Force and the Royal Aeronautical Society, of the alta mentoring scheme, a bespoke industry-wide mentoring programme designed for women/by women. Mentors and mentees can connect to this mentoring platform online or in person.

It is within the context of Covid-19 that alta can be seen to play a crucial role, with existing and new members utilising its online tool. Indeed, the value of online mentoring has never been so important, as Sue explains:

“It may become a time for mentors and mentees to take stock of where they are in their careers and where they would like to go.

Mentors can therefore best be utilised via the alta platform, at a safe distance but offering comfort and advice to women who may be feeling especially isolated, vulnerable or lacking confidence if their roles have been furloughed. Or they may simply want to reach out and turn the current situation into a more positive one.

“During the current pandemic, the restrictions on movement and new ways of working remotely have resulted in a physical disconnect from family, friends and colleagues. For those who already have an established mentoring relationship, this can be a crucial source of support, facilitating an opportunity for both mentor and mentee to discuss concerns and keep connected during this unprecedented time.”

UWE Bristol Research Impact Retreats

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In January, the Research Impact team hosted a two day writing retreat for selected academics from UWE Bristol.

The retreat was the last one in a series of away days that have taken place since last June for the different faculties at UWE Bristol.

The two-day retreats allow academics to think about their research case studies away from campus enabling them the opportunity to fine tune and edit their work.

The impact team helps the academics to fine tune their work so that it is in a good position to submit for the Research Excellence Framework 2021.

All four retreats have been extremely well received, with glowing feedback from attendees:

Very many thanks for organising and initiating for us such a brilliant retreat.  It has made a huge difference to me – I would never have made this progress without it!”  Participant A

“The experience has been really excellent (and I know others have said the same). The structure, information, advice, hospitality and good humour that the RBI team provided was exceptional. As a result it was possible – in bite-sized chunks – to get tuned into the specifics of what was needed and then review and revise the case study material as well as getting critical feedback on it in near real-time.”  Participant B

I found the structure and flow of activities well-structured and relaxed, which is exactly what was needed to get us talking to each other and working on our case studies. Thank you for not ‘forcing’ us into unnecessary “workshop standard” activities, which usually involve flip-charts, felt-tip pens and post-it notes! This is an element I’m always dreading in mandatory workshops/seminars and not having it, is what made me feel more comfortable and got me concentrating on the task at hand.”  Participant C

Read some of UWE Bristol’s Research with Impact Case Studies here

Knowledge Transfer Partnerships: Agsenze Associate Spotlight

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(L-R) April Coombes (UWE), Professor Melvyn Smith (UWE), Dr Gytis Bernotas (UWE), Dr Mark Hansen (UWE), Geraint Jones (Innovate UK), James Theobald (Agsenze) pictured at the Agri-EPI Centre in Shepton Mallet.

Since April 2019, UWE have been collaborating on a Knowledge Transfer Partnership with Agsenze, a company focused on developing smart technology within agriculture. The two-year project intends to realise the functionality of a system for improved dairy herd management using novel animal monitoring technology.

We spoke to Gytis Bernotas, who obtained his BEng and PhD from UWE, and is now leading the project as the KTP Associate.

How long have you been a KTP Associate?

I started in April 2019, so almost a year.

What attracted you to the KTP role?

I was drawn to a KTP because of the opportunity to work with a company and university. It’s a very rewarding setup because you experience state-of-the-art research being immediately realised in real-world scenarios, rather than be hidden in the desk drawer.

How is the partnership between UWE and the company working?

The partnership is working very well. We are circulating the best thoughts and ideas from experts in academia and people from the business world. The company is benefitting from the expertise and novelty, while the university receives publicity and recognition with academic journal publications.

What are the current challenges of your role?

The biggest challenge is time! I’m working for a start-up company trying to establish itself in a market niche in a timely manner.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I really enjoy the problem solving, but most importantly I really believe in the product and how it will revolutionise cattle welfare and, hopefully, other livestock in the future.

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

I get great support from the company, my academic supervisors and the UWE KTP Team. The KTP Team are always on hand to provide advice and project support. My supervisors provide opportunities and support to research different ideas that have potential for Agsenze’s business model, such as the developing tool positioning or its hardware alterations.

UWE Bristol Women in Research Mentoring Scheme

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The Women in Research Mentoring Scheme (WRMS) has been successfully running at UWE Bristol for 6 years. The scheme matches female researchers to a mentor (male or female) in order to provide mentees with encouragement, support from experienced colleagues to fulfil their research aspirations.

WRMS is available to all women in academic and research roles, employed by UWE, who wish to develop their research careers.

In the longer term, this scheme helps to achieve the strategic aim of increasing the number of women in senior research roles across UWE Bristol.

From 2013 to February 2019, over 300 members of staff have participated in the scheme. Currently the scheme has a 94% satisfaction rate and 88% would recommend the scheme to others.

Dr Laura Fogg-Rogers is the academic co-chair of the scheme, and commented: “I have progressed from being a mentee in the WRMS scheme, to being a mentor, and finally now taking on the Co-Chair role. Meeting with such a supportive community of UWE women academics has really inspired me to further my own research career, and I am keen to support other women to do the same”. 

Feedback from mentees has been positive:

As a new researcher, it has been inspiring and supportive to be part of this scheme. Meeting other women in the same position has given me the impetus to prioritise my personal research profile”

“I was paired up very well and so was able to find out lots about local groups in an overlapping area of interest, but I also received support and advice”

Pam Fitzsimmons co-chair of WRMS commented: “We are really pleased with the results of the scheme to date and look forward to helping more female researchers in the future”

Find out more about the scheme here.

What is a Knowledge Transfer Partnership?

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Knowledge Transfer Partnerships have been helping UK businesses innovate and grow for over 40 years and are one of a range of funding initiatives made available through Innovate UK (the UK government’s Innovation Agency).  

Linking businesses with an academic or research organisation and a graduate, a KTP enables a business to bring in new skills and the latest academic thinking to deliver a specific, strategic innovation project through a knowledge-based partnership.

The academic or research organisation partner will help to recruit a suitable graduate, known as an Associate. They will act as the employer of the graduate, who then works at the company for the duration of the project.

A short video explaining Knowledge Transfer Partnerships and the benefits they could have for your business

The scheme can last between 12 and 36 months, depending on what the project is and the needs of the business.

All of the knowledge gained during this time is embedded in the business, providing a valuable base to build on long after the project has finished. (A very high percentage of Associates are retained as employees, demonstrating the value they bring to the business).

Knowledge Transfer Partnerships can benefit businesses of any size and in any sector looking to address a core strategic challenge.

For more information or to view case studies please visit the Government webpages on KTPs.

Knowledge Transfer Partnership news:

Management KTP (MKTP) – Innovate UK have announced there is additional funding available for Management KTPs. The focus is to increase management skills and embed management strategies into your business. For more information visit our website or contact us on KTP@uwe.ac.uk

KTN have launched a new website, where you can discover more about KTP and potential associate vacancies as well as access the latest information on the Management KTPs

Women Researchers Mentoring Scheme (WRMS)

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The Women Researchers Mentoring Scheme (WRMS) aims to promote and facilitate professional development for women researchers working at UWE Bristol, helping them reach senior research roles.

Applications for the 2020/21 scheme are now open and will close on Wednesday 15 January 2020 at 5pm.

The scheme is open to all women in academic and research roles, employed by UWE, who wish to develop their careers.

The benefits of being involved in the scheme by becoming a mentor or mentee could assist your development and progression. The scheme will entail a nominated woman researcher being matched to a mentor, who can be a woman or man. Training will be provided to all new participants. The application deadline is Wednesday 15 January 2020.

How to apply
Applications are now invited for both mentors and mentees. For access to the online application system, please email the Scheme Co-ordinator, Fiona Watt

Outcomes will be notified to applicants by early March 2020.

A half-day workshop will be run which is compulsory for mentees and highly encouraged for mentors as part of the scheme. This is a vital opportunity for all those participating in the scheme to network with each other, learn about the importance of women progressing in research roles and the support available, and share experiences and ideas.

In your application, please select whether you would like to apply for the afternoon session on Tuesday 3 March 2020 or the morning session on Thursday 12 March 2020.

Further details of the workshops will be notified to applicants who are matched for mentoring relationships running in 2020-21.

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.

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.