UWE Bristol appoints Sarah White as new Knowledge Transfer Partnership Manager

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UWE Bristol have appointed Sarah White as the new Knowledge Transfer Partnership Manager (KTP) within the Research, Business and Innovation Team.

Sarah has lived and worked in Bristol for over 30 years. She brings a wealth of knowledge of delivering projects, most recently with the NHS and pharmaceutical companies to jointly deliver service improvement schemes in hospitals.

Sarah commented, “The opportunity to work in Knowledge Transfer came up at UWE and I jumped at it, as it represents the very best of collaborative and innovative working across the public and private sectors. It is exciting to have joined a dynamic and diverse team that deliver excellent results”

Tracey John, Director of Research Business and Innovation at UWE Bristol commented, “We are delighted to have Sarah on board with us to manage our KTP office. She has already made a huge impact on the team and has helped us to secure another KTP with Reusabook, bringing our number of KTP’s to 11. We have ambitious plans to double this number over the coming year and I look forward to seeing how Sarah and the RBI team can work with all our faculties and with businesses in the region to achieve this.”

The KTP scheme helps businesses in the UK to innovate and grow. It does this by linking them 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. Find out more here.

Sarah has replaced Clare Rowson who retired in March after 20+ years at UWE.

The startup using tech to deliver a personal message

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Taken and adapted from The Pitch. Author: Hannah Jolliffe

UWE Bristol Enterprise Zone residents, The Handwriting Company, are currently taking part in The Pitch, a competition to identify top start-ups:

Robert Van Den Burgh is co-founder of The Handwriting Company, a startup that helps organisations better engage with their customers through the power of the handwritten letter. But, while the name suggests a gang of people scribbling away, the reality couldn’t be further from the truth.

“We’ve created technology that can mimic handwriting. It can then be printed at scale on a good quality office printer or on robotics based in our facility. So instead of an organisation hiring 100 people to handwrite notes and pay a huge amount of money, we can fully automate the process.”

Do your research first

As with most innovators, the idea was born out of a realisation that a solution was needed to fix a broken system.

Van Den Burgh was on a marketing internship two and a half years ago when his manager got him involved in a handwritten marketing campaign.

“I was the fool who took three weeks writing out all the letters,” he laughs. “But it was one of the most successful marketing campaigns they’d ever run.”

This prompted Van Den Burgh to research the market. He found about 30 companies offering a similar service, but they all had people writing letters by hand. “I could see that the economics behind it didn’t make sense and it just wasn’t efficient enough to make it an effective tool.”

I could see that the economics behind it didn’t make sense

Van Den Burgh joined forces with Alex Robinson, an AI engineer with a background in computer science. The two founded Scribeless, which has since been renamed The Handwriting Company.

Together they began a huge research piece to see if they could use technology to optimise and automate the process of handwriting using AI, algorithms and robotics. It took time, but they developed a programme that could learn someone’s handwriting at a level that was indiscernible from human writing.

They then equipped robots with classic fountain pens and ink that can even mimic the physics of pen pressure and variation and deliver thousands of letters in hours.

Taking a punt at entering The Pitch

The pair reached the stage where they had a rough idea of the market needs, technology and where they wanted to take the business, when a friend recommended that they enter The Pitch.

The pair reached the stage where they had a rough idea of the market needs, technology and where they wanted to take the business, when a friend recommended that they enter The Pitch.

“It was about this time last year. I thought we didn’t really stand a chance because we were still a very new company, but we gave it a go. We were lucky enough to get to the semi-final and then the final!”

I thought we didn’t really stand a chance because we were still a very new company

For Van Den Burgh, the day at the boot camp helped them to better understand how to articulate what they offer.

“The format of pitching is very short and sharp and about getting your main points across. We spent a day discussing our concept with the boot camp coaches. They gave us feedback to really help us understand how to better articulate our story, the problem and how we could help solve that problem.”

Staying ahead of their own game

It’s been a busy year for the company since then. The model has moved on from robotics to Advanced Printing Technology, which can print a handwritten note indiscernible from human handwriting. It’s helped them create handwriting campaigns at scale.

The company’s client base includes banks, churches, charities and corporate gifting companies across the UK, US and Germany. They’ve also established their place within the greetings card space. Things are looking healthy, but one of the biggest hurdles they still need to overcome is funding.

It’s really hard to do everything on a shoestring budget

“Until now we’ve been fully self-funded. It’s been really hard to do everything on a shoestring budget. It’s part of being a startup, but it has been a strain on resources – only having 10% of the funds you need is difficult.”

This has led The Handwriting Company to raise investment, with the aim of building the team and scaling into the US.

“We’re just about to close our investment round, with a mixture of angels and investment capitalists, so we’d like that to fund five or six new people across sales, tech and marketing to allow us to keep innovating and build a more scalable model.”

It’s important for Van Den Burgh to get more competitive and to “out-innovate” their own technology. His key objectives are to make sure they can deliver quickly and at an affordable rate. At the moment, it takes a couple of days for the software to mimic handwriting, but the aim for the near future is to get this working in real-time.

Original post can be viewed here

UWE Bristol secure new Knowledge Transfer Partnership with Reusaworld

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UWE Bristol Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) team have secured another KTP with Reusaworld and the Centre for Machine Vision. The new KTP means that UWE Bristol now has 11 live KTPs. The KTP which is based in Gloucester will see innovative changes to the world of second hand books.

This KTP will be with Reuseabook, a part of Reusaworld.

Reuseabook was founded in 2008 by Rob Hollier and Ami Hollier with the following mission: NEVER to allow a single book to go to landfill.

Strong believers in conscientious capitalism, they wanted to create an earth-friendly sustainable business model while helping others. After much hard work what emerged was the Reuseaworld group: an award-winning, ethical, environmentally-friendly and technology-savvy enterprise that uses the internet to sell second-hand books worldwide.

Working with the Centre for Machine Vision, the aim of the 30 month KTP is to develop innovative machine vision techniques and deep learning methodologies to test the viability of data outputs of a 3D Book Vision System and its application to the book grading process. Ultimately, increasing the speed and quality of inbound book sorting, in-house data management and book cataloguing.

The UWE Lead for the KTP is Professor Lyndon Smith and the Academic Supervisor is Dr Abdul Farooq, who are both part of the Centre for Machine Vision at UWE Bristol. The Centre for Machine Vision is part of the Bristol Robotics Laboratory (BRL). They solve real-world practical computer vision problems. Their  particular excellence lies in three-dimensional reconstruction and surface inspection.

Innovate UK scored the proposal very highly (4th out of 60 applications) so congratulations to all involved!

Pee Power technology returns to Glastonbury Festival for fourth year

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Technology developed at UWE Bristol that converts urine into electricity is set to be showcased at Glastonbury Festival for a fourth year.

An installation of a large 40-person urinal will return to a prominent location near the Pyramid Stage to raise awareness of the system, which is being commercialised as announced last year and introduced to off-grid areas in the developing world.

The PEE POWER® system can turn organic matter such as urine into enough electricity to power lighting or charge mobile phones. At the same time, it sanitises urine and produces plant fertiliser as a natural by-product.

Energy produced at the event will power lighting in the urinal block at night, while a new feature ‘Pee to Play’ will see festival goers playing retro games on Game Boys powered by the system. Visitors can rate their PEE POWER experience via an electronic display and give survey feedback to academic staff available to explain how the technology works.

The PEE POWER urinals – among 5,500 toilets at the festival – have been a fixture at the event since 2015 and used by thousands of people each day. In previous years, they have powered information displays, and helped charge phones and provide urinal lighting.

Professor Ioannis Ieropoulos, Director of the Bristol BioEnergy Centre at Bristol Robotics Laboratory, said: “It’s a great pleasure to be welcomed back to this wonderful event for a fourth year and to be part of the festival’s environmentally-conscious sanitation campaign.

“There’s been much activity with our technology since our appearance in 2017, with the introduction of PEE POWER to schools in Uganda and Kenya supporting our aim to improve safety and sanitation in the world’s poorest communities including in refugee camps and slums. Our system is being refined and made more efficient, and for the first time we will be powering some of the applications directly, which means no batteries. We even hope to be generating surplus electricity, especially during the busiest times at the festival.

“As team of scientists, we’re hoping for greater interaction with the public this year and it’s the first time we’ll be recording public feedback on the system.”

Dr Xavier Walter, one of the main researchers in the team, added: “We hope our retro gaming exhibit will resonate with the audience and attract festivals goers to have a look at our technology and ask questions.”

Ahead of the festival, the microbial fuel cell technology will be demonstrated at a Family Day event at Heathrow Airport, where the system is being considered as part of a commitment from Heathrow and waterless urinal technology company WhiffAway to zero emissions and sustainability.

The team’s presence at Glastonbury is the result of a close collaboration with partners Oxfam, log cabin and garden building specialists Dunster House and WhiffAway in a collective effort to improve lives in refugee camps and areas of the world with no sanitation or electricity.

Chris Murphy, Owner and Managing Director of Dunster House, said: “It’s truly amazing what Ioannis Ieropoulos and his team have achieved over the past years. We feel proud and honoured to be part of this project every year since the earliest field trial back in 2015. From that single raised latrine placed outside the University, we are now providing a structure ready to accommodate up to 40 people. We’re glad to be back at Glastonbury 2019 collaborating in a life-changing project that can help people all around the world.”

James McLean, Group CEO of WhiffAway Group, said: “It’s an honour and a privilege to be combining our cutting edge technologies at this wonderful event. By putting our heads together we hope to continue making a difference to the wider community and help change the world for the better.”

The PEE POWER demonstration is the flagship research project of a formal partnership between Glastonbury Festival and UWE Bristol signed in 2017 focusing on sustainability projects including waste reduction and energy efficiency.

How PEE POWER® works

PEE POWER® is generated when microbial fuel cells (MFCs) work by employing live microbes which feed on urine (the fuel) for their own growth and maintenance. The MFC taps a portion of the biochemical energy used for microbial growth, and converts that directly into electricity or PEE POWER®. This green technology also cleans the urine so that the by product can be used as a crop fertiliser.

The Pee Power project is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

New Start-up visa for international students to develop businesses of the future

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​The government’s new Start-up visa has been launched which allows international graduates to apply for a two-year visa to remain in the UK and develop a start-up business.

As part of UWE Bristol’s ambition to support innovation and enterprise, we are now inviting applications from UWE Bristol international graduates who have a high-tech, high-growth business idea to apply for a Start-up visa and benefit from using the free desk space and business support available from Launch Space.

Set in the heart of the University’s Enterprise Zone, Launch Space has supported over 50 businesses who have raised funds of £1.8 million and employing more than 90 people.

With connections in the regional start up, academic, and business communities, it’s a great place to kick off a start-up.

Students coming to the end of their studies apply to Launch Space which assesses the business proposal and viability.

Approved start-ups are then supported by the Immigration Team to make a visa application.

The specific support for students is

  • 12 month free incubation space
  • Business support from experienced business advisors
  • Connections into the University community of academics and students, and the wider regional business community

After their first year of support people they will then have a further 12 months to develop their business further.

The University can put forward a maximum of 20 students per year although all business ideas are scrutinised in the Launch Space application process so not every applicant is accepted.

You can find out more about the opportunities available to international graduates by applying for a Start-up visa on the UWE Bristol website.

You can also contact the Immigration Advice Team, email immigrationadvice@uwe.ac.uk or visit the immigration hub in 2P4, Frenchay campus Monday to Thursday 10:30-12:00 / 14:00-15:30 and Friday 10:30-12:00.

Scale Up 4 Growth Initiative wins national award

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Scale Up 4 Growth (S4G) has won best External Knowledge Exchange (KE) Initiative of the Year at the PraxisAuril KE Awards 2019.

The KE Awards, organised by PraxisAuril – the UK’s world-leading professional association for Knowledge Exchange (KE) practitioners – and sponsored by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), celebrate the contribution of KE professionals in enabling and facilitating the societal and economic impact of research.

S4G is an innovative, £2.7m programme, designed by the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol)’s Research, Business and Innovation (RBI) team and funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). The programme is delivered by the unique S4G Partnership of UWE Bristol (lead), NatWest’s Entrepreneur Accelerator and Corporate and Commercial Banking Teams, and Foot Anstey LLP

The S4G team beat the University of Manchester for their Manchester Law and Technology Initiative (MLaTI) and the University of Kent for their Employability Points Scheme to claim the prize.

Tracey John, Director of Research Business and Innovation (RBI) at UWE Bristol said:

“We are extremely proud of the S4G programme, the valued Partnership we have created with NatWest and Foot Anstey, and our impact on the West of England’s scaling businesses in the regional economy.”

Nathan Peacey, Partner at Foot Anstey commented:

“It’s fantastic to see Scale Up 4 Growth recognised as a standout example of university and business working in partnership. We have a huge amount to gain by working with exciting growth businesses and we have been delighted to support them on this journey through sharing our expertise and experience. This collaboration is another great example of how businesses are successfully working together to raise the South West’s profile as being at the forefront of tech and innovation and build the regional economy.”

Matt Hatcher, NatWest Director of Corporate and Commercial Coverage, South West, said:

“As a bank we’re hugely committed to supporting the growth of entrepreneurism in the region and helping more start-up and scale-up businesses achieve success. Collaboration and innovation is key, which is why we are delighted with the success of the S4G scheme. It is making a real impact and along with our Entrepreneur Accelerator Hub in Bristol, helping support the rich vein of talent we have in the West of England achieve national and international success.”

The S4G team collecting their award

Olly Reid, Scale Acceleration Manager at NatWest, added:

Through our accelerator programme we’re working with hundreds of exciting start-up and scale-up businesses from across the region in multiple sectors. The cross-team collaboration involved with working with the team at UWE and our corporate and commercial team at NatWest has allowed us to develop a real exciting programme that is crucially expanding the network of opportunities available to local businesses. This is where the success of the S4G programme lies and why we hope more local entrepreneurs will benefit in the years ahead.”

S4G is a 3-year, free programme of support for businesses in the West of England (WoE) that are looking to grow, expand and scale. It includes:

  • Two-day ‘business growth’ workshops, delivered across the WoE by leading Bristol Business School academics and industry experts from the S4G Partnership
  • Grants of £10k–40k for projects that help businesses address barriers to growth

S4G is an excellent example of an External KE Initiative that brings together the very best in university-business partnership working, sharing knowledge and expertise from academia and industry with growing businesses, to benefit the regional economy.

Since its launch in November 2018, over 300 businesses have registered to be part of the S4G network and benefit from the programme.

S4G is the latest in a series of projects led by UWE Bristol to support innovative high growth businesses in the West of England. These projects have supported 100’s of businesses across the region and created over 1,000 new jobs. NatWest’s Entrepreneur Accelerator Programme has supported nearly 900 businesses from the South West since it opened in Bristol in 2015. Applications are now open for its latest intake.

Congratulations to the Scale Up 4 Growth team. You can find out more about S4G here

£7.7m investment for University print research centre

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The University of the West of England (UWE Bristol)’s Centre for Fine Print Research (CFPR) is to receive a £7.7m grant from Research England’s Expanding Excellence fund. This prestigious grant is awarded in recognition of the Centre’s internationally acclaimed practical research.

Universities and Science Minister Chris Skidmore, who made the announcement about the funding, said: “Pushing the boundaries of knowledge and conquering new innovations are what our universities are known for the world over. This programme led by UWE Bristol will give us a glimpse into the past using the technology of the future, with 3D printing to recreate historical artefacts.

“The Expanding Excellence in England Fund will support projects throughout England to master new and developing areas of research and industry.

“Made possible through our record R&D spend delivered by our modern Industrial Strategy, the investment will support researchers to develop solutions and opportunities for UK researchers and businesses.”

The CFPR’s work looks into the artistic, historical and industrial significance of creative print practices, processes and technologies.

The investment will fund a range of research projects over the next three years and is set to create 19 new roles within the centre. The recruits will work closely with industry partners around three research themes: transformative technologies, reconstructing historic methods, and 3D-printing.

Talking about the funding, UWE Bristol Vice-Chancellor Professor Steve West said: “We are honoured to be one of the universities to receive this significant funding through Research England. Our Centre for Fine Print Research is going from strength to strength.

“Last year it was shortlisted for the Times Higher Award for its work with Burleigh Pottery to help the iconic company continue printing its traditional print patterns on pottery. This fund will now allow the Centre to work ever more closely with partners to tackle big challenges around printing.”

Celebrating its 21st birthday later this year, the Centre has established itself at the forefront of print technologies. With a focus on industrial development and new technologies, researchers at the Centre have established a number of high profile collaborations with artists, makers and industry partners.

Projects include developing uses of 3D printing, developing new types of printing inks, and collaborating with Sir Peter Blake to find fine art applications for emerging print techniques.

Professor Carinna Parraman, Director of the Centre for Fine Print Research, said: “We are thrilled to be awarded this funding and for the CFPR to now be formally recognised as a truly established and world-leading research centre. We are looking for artists, designers, scientists, technologists and leaders at a range of levels to join our group. The funding supports a range of posts including associate professors, researchers and technicians across our key areas, which includes fine art, print, product design, robotics, electronics, software, manufacturing, materials science and nanotechnology.”

With a focus on industrial development and new technologies, researchers at the Centre have established a number of high-profile collaborations with artists, makers and industry partners. A range of current and future partners have contributed to the funding application, including Burleigh Potteries, St Cuthbert’s Mill, Cranfield Colours, The National Gallery London, The Crafts Council, Denby Potteries, Glass Technology Services Ltd and Hewlett Packard.

Other contributors include John Purcell Paper, Imerys Group, Toshiba, Multiple Sclerosis Research, Courtney and Co., Ultimaker 3D, Pangolin, Wedgwood, National Trust, National Science and Media Museum Group, Bristol Legible City and Bristol City Council, RNIB, ColourCom, Create Education, Ken Stradling Collection, and Spike Print Studio Bristol.