Knowledge Transfer Partnership with VQ Communications Graded Outstanding

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A Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) with VQ Communications has been graded Outstanding by Innovate UK.

The two year project aimed to embed knowledge of Machine Learning (ML) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) to determine how ML/AI can be applied to VQ Communications complex systems to reduce support costs, boost engineering productivity and enable deployment of larger networks at lower cost and higher levels of service.

Mike Horsley, VQ Communications CEO commented: “It is very pleasing to see the investment made and the hard work, expertise and tenacity that the UWE/VQ team placed into this KTP being recognized in this manner.

VQ continues to invest in the AI/ML technology developed during the KTP and we are getting extremely encouraging results. The team has expanded to include an additional software engineer and we continue to work with the UWE team via a professional services agreement.

Advanced technology is difficult; it requires expertise and managed risk-taking. The KTP program enabled VQ to master a new technology and we are very excited about how the resulting new products and services will help our customers solve the problems they face and, by doing so, will enable VQ to further extend its market leadership and demonstrate continuing growth”.

Lead academic Professor Jim Smith, Professor in Interactive Artificial Intelligence, commented: “The partnership has been a fantastic opportunity to develop AI-based solutions together with a company, and the area: (improving video communication tools) couldn’t have been more topical during the pandemic.”

Based in Chippenham, VQ Communications produces software that allows customers to deploy and manage large video conferencing (also known as “Unified Communications”) services. VQ has established a leading market position over the last 15 years and VQ’s current product generation works with Cisco’s Meeting Server products and is being used by customers world-wide to deliver enterprise wide conferencing. VQ is a Cisco Solution Partner with Cisco recommending and selling VQ’s product.

UWE Bristol and VQ communications plan to continue their relationship together and have recently signed contracts to develop their work on the technology further.

View the VQ Communications case study here.

The KTP scheme is a UK-wide programme helping businesses to improve competitiveness and productivity. With the help of graduate talent and access to UWE Bristol academic expertise, a KTP can help your business to transform and solve problems to achieve goals.

To find out more about KTPs please visit our website.

Book Launch: Roads, Runways and Resistance – from the Newbury Bypass to Extinction Rebellion

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Senior Lecturer in Transport and Planning, Steve Melia, has written a new book called Roads, Runways and Resistance – from the Newbury Bypass to Extinction Rebellion. It spans a 30-year story of the most controversial issues in transport, and the protest movements they spawned.  His research included 50 interviews with government ministers, advisors and protestors – many of whom, including ‘Swampy’, were speaking for the first time about the events they describe. It is a story of transport ministers undermined by their own Prime Ministers, protestors attacked or quietly supported by the police, and smartly-dressed protestors who found a way onto the roof of the Houses of Parliament.

The research project which led to the book was partly funded by UWE, although most of the interviews and writing were done in Steve’s own time.  It also produced two academic journal articles, which inform the book’s conclusions in a ‘light touch’ way.

The book will be launched virtually in a webinar on the 26 January 2021. The webinar will be introduced and chaired by Prof. Graham Parkhurst.  Steve will tell the story of the main events described in the book, and also reflect on the tensions between academic research, direct action and writing for the general public, before opening for questions and discussion.

Register a place here

More about the book can be found here or watch this short video:

Steve Melia is a Senior Lecturer in Transport and Planning in the Centre for Transport and Society. His research interests focussed on behaviour change (particularly in the context of climate change), changing transport policy and the interaction between transport and spatial planning.  He invented the term ‘filtered permeability’ and the concept of the ‘paradox of intensification’.  His PhD concerned the potential for carfree development in the UK.  He has advised UK Government departments, local authorities, political parties and the UK Climate Assembly in 2020. 

How my job at UWE helped me launch my new business

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The below post is a guest blog from one of our Launch Space incubation managers Kim Brookes. Kim has recently set up her own business, Perfino. Kim talks about how her job at UWE has helped to launch the business:

How my job at UWE helped me launch my new business 

For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Kim Brookes and I am one of two Incubation Managers at Launch Space, UWE’s graduate start up Incubator based in the University Enterprise Zone. 

I have been working at UWE for many years now giving advice and support to students and now graduates, alongside my other entrepreneurial endeavours. I love working with people who are brimming with ideas, energy and a can do attitude, and often feel I learn as much from them as they do from me. Starting a business is always a bit of a rollercoaster as nothing is certain and you learn as you go – there’s no such thing as failure in this world, just learning experiences, and an opportunity to grow as a person. 

So not so strange perhaps that after 3 years of ruminating on an idea that I thought had potential and which appealed to my obsession with fragrance, I have now launched my natural scent jewellery business, Perfino, and am currently crowd funding to help it grow. 

Perfino makes artisan jewellery that combines with wonderful natural scents to become your own personal diffuser. Studies show that 1/3 of us are intolerant to synthetic chemicals and that up to 60% of these chemicals can be absorbed into the bloodstream, making the wearing of commercial perfumes a bit of a gamble. So Perfino is offering an alternative way to smell great that is kind to the wearer and supports the sustainable production of natural essential oils around the world. 

The learning never stops and I look forward to sharing my experiences with the start-ups in Launch Space as we all embark on a very similar journey, soaking up all the knowledge that surrounds us.

Find out more about Perfino here.

Graduated from any UK university in the last 5 years and got a business idea you’d like to put into action? Launch Space offers free desk space and business support for budding entreprenuers. Find out more via our website.


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.

Alumni wins UK Young Innovators Award from InnovateUK and the Princes Trust

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Product Design graduate and previous Launch Space resident Kieran Devlin has been awarded the UK Young Innovators Award from InnovateUK and the Princes Trust. The annual national awards scheme seeks out people with creative and ground-breaking business ideas. 

After graduating in 2019, Kieran entered UWE’s Launch Space Start-up Incubator where he began his business Revive Innovations. Building on his final year project, where he began investigating waste, the company are a sustainable design start-up creating innovative materials and products by recycling waste in unique ways. They are aiming to challenge consumer perceptions on recycled products and prove that they can be as beautiful and functional as ones made from virgin materials.

In September last year Revive won The Peoples Prize Award of the Blue Patch Sustainable Business Awards 2020 and achieved runners up in The Circular Economy Award.

Currently, the company is focusing on designing products using RE-CD, a recyclable composite made from old CDs. Kieran has also just released SLEEK-120, a range of bar stools made using RE-CD. 

Kieran commented on the win “I am incredibly proud to have been awarded with a UK Young Innovators Award from InnovateUK and the Princes Trust. The award has provided me with funding and tailored business support that is helping lead me towards my sustainable design ambitions.” 

Congratulations to Kieran on the award. To find out more or purchase Revive’s products visit their website 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.

UWE Bristol selected to deliver Small Business Leadership Programme – spaces available!

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UWE Bristol have been selected to deliver the Small Business Leadership Programme with the first cohort starting in January. Spaces are available but limited, so book now to avoid disappointment.

The Small Business Leadership Programme supports senior leaders to enhance their business’s resilience and recovery from the impact of COVID-19. It helps small and medium-sized businesses to develop their potential for future growth and productivity.

The fully-funded 10 week programme will be delivered online by small business and enterprise experts from world-leading business schools.

Participants will develop strategic leadership skills and the confidence to make informed decisions to boost business performance.

To join the Small Business Leadership Programme, individuals must meet the following criteria:

  • Your business must be a Small or Medium-sized Enterprise (SME) based in England
  • Your business needs to employ between 5 and 249 people and have been operational for at least one year
  • The participant should be a decision maker or member of the senior management team within the business with at least one person reporting directly to them
  • The participant must be able to commit to attending the full programme
  • A maximum of 2 individuals form any one organisation may attend

Our four cohorts will start on the following dates, with the full dates available on the registration page:

Cohort 1 – start date Monday 11 January 2021, 13.00 – 14.30
Cohort 2 – start date Tuesday 12 January 2021, 15.00 – 16.30
Cohort 3 – start date Monday 18 January 2021, 17.30 – 19.00
Cohort 4 – start date Tuesday 19 January 2021, 09.30 – 11.00

Small Business Minister Paul Scully said: “The strength of small businesses up and down the country will be vital as we begin to bounce back from coronavirus and re-build our economy. The Small Business Leadership Programme will help to equip small business leaders with the leadership and problem-solving skills they need to grow their firms in the wake of this pandemic.” 

Find out more here

Knowledge Transfer Partnership company Flexys signs multi-year deal with Bamboo

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One of our Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) companies, Flexys signs multi-year deal with personal loans provider, Bamboo.

Flexys provides modular, highly scalable and extensible debt management, collection and recovery solutions for the digital age. Their cloud-native solutions maximise operational efficiency, reduce the cost to collect and ensure that they deliver the best possible customer service while protecting your business from reputational and regulatory risk.

Flexys Solutions is based at the Future Space Innovation Hub, part of our University Enterprise Zone and employs over 20 people, most of whom are working from home for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic. Flexys has experienced a period of significant growth this year as lockdown fuels a surge in digital engagement and a move to cloud-native technology.

Bamboo are a direct lender who have built their business around helping people find an affordable loan that fits your credit situation.

Flexys CEO, Jon Hickman said “We are very proud to have secured this multi-year partnership with Bamboo. The economic consequences of the pandemic have put debt management in the spotlight and we have seen a surge in demand for our smart, cloud-native systems. Every new client helps us to expand our business and to promote Bristol as the ideal location for innovative technology businesses.”

Our KTP with Flexys aims to integrate Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning technology within debt resolution software, to enable more effective management of debt resolution and improvement of customer relationships and retention.

A KTP scheme is a UK-wide programme helping businesses to improve competitiveness and productivity. With the help of graduate talent and access to UWE Bristol academic expertise, a KTP can help your business to transform and solve problems to achieve goals.

To find out more about KTPs please visit our website.

UWE Bristol’s Centre for Machine Vision receive funding to create augmented reality picking aid for farm workers

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UWE Bristol’s Centre for Machine Vision team and other members of a consortium has been awarded Innovate UK funding to develop a low cost, augmented reality picking aid that will display information about berry maturity through the use of machine learning and spectral imaging cameras. 

The consortium includes AR developers Opposable Games; environment, food and science research organisation NIAB EMR and leading industry grower-owned co-operative, Berry Gardens Growers Limited, alongside the Centre for Machine Vision which is part of the Bristol Robotics Laboratory.

The concept and commercial opportunity was identified by Richard Harnden, Director of Research at Berry Gardens Growers Ltd who has wanted to improve the consistency of the eating quality of the co-operative’s premium berry lines, which includes a sweet eating dessert blackberry, for several years.

“It is very hard for pickers, especially new pickers, to really understand the correct stage of ripeness in the blackberry before picking it”, he said.  “Pick it too early and, although the berry will be black in colour, it won’t have accumulated enough sugars and so it will still taste acidic. Pick it too late, and the berry will be too soft to withstand the supply chain and will leak juice in the punnet.” 

He continued, “There is a small correct window for picking the fruit that delivers an exquisite combination of sweetness and flavour, which can be done by eye but it takes time for pickers to achieve the correct level of perception. The proposed picking aid, using novel technology, will deliver a maturity indicator, which will guide new and experienced pickers alike to quickly make the right decision every time.”      

Bo Li, a machine vision specialist in the Centre for Machine Vision at Bristol Robotics Laboratory at UWE Bristol, who devised the project, said: “By developing a low cost multispectral camera for detecting the real time ripeness of fruit, we can enhance the efficiency of picking, reduce the requirement for pickers to be experienced, and shorten the training time required. This step forward will improve the consistency of fruit quality and customer satisfaction.”

In an industry already experiencing difficulties in accessing experienced staff, the impact of Covid-19 is putting additional strains on farms and farm workers. Restrictions on labour movement, new safety measures, and risk mitigation procedures being required, mean that the horticultural and agricultural industries must look to novel solutions to train new workers and meet existing and future labour requirements. Global demand for high quality and healthy food such as soft fruit is increasing. To meet this demand farms are looking to technological solutions that enable increasing the quality, yields, and productivity whilst reducing environmental impacts. This project will contribute towards the UK government’s Transforming Food Production objectives, part of the Industry Strategy Challenge Fund.

The Innovate UK funded project will commence in September 2020, with the development of a prototype device building on the experience of the consortium, then moving on to field trials.  Members of Berry Garden Growers Ltd will trial the harvesting aid on their farms as the project progresses.

The Centre for Machine Vision is part of the Bristol Robotics Laboratory (BRL). We solve real-world practical computer vision problems. Their particular excellence lies in three-dimensional reconstruction and surface inspection. They are recognised as one of only three UK centres with expertise in Photometric Stereo (PS). They have pioneered PS in industry, medicine and defence/security. Their laboratory supports REF (Research Excellence Framework) level research activities and research-led teaching in machine vision. Find out more here.

UWE Bristol signs open letter calling for clarity and transparency on the future UK Shared Prosperity Fund

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UWE Bristol, as part of the University Alliance (UA), has signed an open letter, alongside over 70 organisations from across the UK, calling for clarity and transparency on the future UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF) to avoid vital support disappearing when existing programmes end in 2023.

EU Structural Funds have been a key enabler of collaboration between universities and business, used to support and develop communities and regions; whether through programmes that have increased employment and skills, or through initiatives to drive forward research, innovation and enterprise.

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

EU Structural Funds play a vital role in helping us achieve our ambitious goals for helping businesses within the region.

As a university we have won £13m of EU Structural Funds since 2017, allowing us to leverage £14m of company investment in research and innovation. This in turn has enabled us to help countless SMEs within the region, creating hundreds of new jobs, products and services.

One of the beneficiaries of our funding is 299 Lighting. Talking at an event for companies who have been awarded grants from UWE Bristol, they explained “the funding allowed us to expand our business to the next level… setting up our own manufacturing in Bristol and grow our team and own the product range”. Talking at the same event, The Real Olive Company explained that funding “brought everything into focus and helped us push forward with projects and ideas.”

Without a timely replacement of the funds, we are putting at risk many of the projects and schemes that we run for businesses in the region, which will have a direct impact on the region’s economy, particularly during such times of economic uncertainty.”

University Alliance Chief Executive Vanessa Wilson said:

“EU structural funds have been a vital mechanism for universities to support businesses and communities – especially throughout the pandemic. Details of their replacement, the UKSPF, have been promised but not delivered, and time is running out as we approach the end of the Brexit transition period.

“University and business leaders want to work constructively and proactively with the Government now to address the current economic challenges and reduce inequalities between regions. Given the uncertainty ahead, it has never been more important to deliver the UKSPF, which will be a vehicle for the much-needed long-term planning and investment needed to level-up the nation.”

UWE Bristol is committed to supporting economic development in the region and full supports the need for clarity around these funds.

Follow this link to read the open letter from UA.

Follow this link to find out more about our funds.