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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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