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Cardiff Business School’s Postgraduate Teaching Centre is winner in Constructing Excellence awards

The £13.5m Postgraduate Teaching Centre at Cardiff Business School has won a national award at an event which celebrates the best of UK construction.

The teaching centre took first place in the health and safety category of the Constructing Excellence awards in London.

The judges noted that the team had achieved outstanding levels of health and safety, both among the workforce and with the general public. 

The project qualified for the national awards after winning in the same category in the Constructing Excellence in Wales awards earlier in 2015.

The centre hosts professionals receiving training and full-time students studying for Masters-level qualifications.

Initiatives put in place for construction included the creation of a health and safety app and public health screening sessions with local cancer charity Tenovus.

Issues such as an adjacent railway line and the confined space were overcome through a combination of sensitive planning and execution of the project, and regular dialogue with those involved.

Measures were taken to ensure the safety of pedestrians such as a gateman, secure site access and the introduction of safe pedestrian routes.

The centre features two major lecture theatres, a trading room allowing students to gain the skills required for life at the Stock Exchange, teaching and seminar rooms and a range of informal learning and teaching spaces.

The project was managed by the University’s Estates team with partners including principal contractor ISG, architect Boyes Rees, civil and structural engineers Bingham Hall and quantity surveyors Hills. Mechanical and electrical works were undertaken by Holloway Partnership.

Programme of events to celebrate UK-wide Festival of Social Sciences 

A programme of events aimed at showcasing and celebrating the role of social sciences in our social, economic and political lives will be hosted by the University this week (7-14 November).

Taking place as part of the UK-wide ESRC Festival of Social Sciences, the events will demonstrate how social science is shaping responses to some of the most pressing challenges facing the modern world.

Organised by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), academic institutions across the UK will use the week-long festival to showcase their social science research.

In Cardiff, the festival forms part of a long-standing 50-year relationship between the University and the ESRC, which has paved the way for ground-breaking research that has fed into policy-making in Wales, the UK and internationally.

The festival offers an important opportunity for the University to showcase its high-profile track record of social science, which includes several centres of excellence - including the Wales Institute of Social and Economic Research, Data & Methods (WISERD), the Centre for the Development and Evaluation of Complex Interventions for Public Health Improvement (DECIPHer), Public Policy Institute for Wales (PPiW), and the all-Wales ESRC Doctoral Training Centre.

The University is also in the process of establishing the world’s first Social Science Research Park (SPARK). This will see a major capital investment in facilities to support social science-led interdisciplinary research into innovative and effective solutions to pressing societal problems. SPARK will provide space and facilities for the co-location of external research collaborators alongside researchers from social sciences and other disciplines to promote creative new thinking and research.

The events included in the ESRC Festival of Social Science programme are:

  • ‘Sea Change: Visions of climate change’: an interactive exhibition using images and interviews to explore representations of sea-level change on the Severn Estuary (28 Oct-20 Nov)
  • A world of data: aimed at showing school students how to generate data and analyse and visualise it in a useful and meaningful way (10 Nov)
  • WISERD Data Portal Demonstration: showcasing how the WISERD Data Portal can be used by third sector organisations for Civil Society research (11 Nov)
  • DECIPHer SciSCREEN: The Perks of Being a Wallflower - a film screening of a coming-of-age story about a 15 year old male's struggle with mental health (13 Nov)

Further events taking place during the Festival week include:

  • CASCADE Looked after children and education research – the launch of new research on the educational aspirations of looked-after children in Wales (11 Nov)
  • WISERD Civil Society Seminar: Campaigning unions, Devolved government: reflections on state, unions and civil society (12 Nov)
  • Preventing Child Sexual Abuse: Lessons from research and the work of Stop it Now! Wales (12,13 Nov)
  • Community action research feedback session in Butetown, Riverside and Grangetown (13 Nov)

Professor Gill Bristow, Dean for Research, College of Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences said:  'The events planned in Cardiff as part of the ESRC Festival of Social Sciences represent a fantastic opportunity to find out more about social science research here in Cardiff, and the many and important ways this research impacts on our communities and society'.

A list of the events open to the public, and details of how to book can be found here.

University researcher picks up inaugural communication award for engaging the public with astrophysics

An early career researcher from the School of Physics and Astronomy has been recognised by world-leading company Elsevier for his creative and personal approach to communicating astrophysics research to the public.

Matthew Allen, a PhD student who is studying the evolution of galaxies, picked up the inaugural Researchers’ Choice Communication Award at an awards dinner in London (5 November), attended by 70 senior figures from government, academia and industry.

Matthew was commended for the creativity, personality and empathy in his approach to translating science into engaging content. His weekly video series on YouTube, posted under the guise of ‘UKAstroNut’, explains a wide-range of scientific topics at a basic level that anyone can engage with, and regularly attracts thousands of viewers.

Some of his work can be viewed here.

As early career researchers face a variety of pressures when they embark on a career in academia, the award helps to recognise the vital importance of communication skills that not only enhance career development, but also fulfil the obligation of engaging the public with science.

Congratulating the Award winners, Ron Mobed, CEO of Elsevier, said: “Investing in young researchers is essential to securing the future of scientific discovery. These awards aim to motivate and support researchers early in their careers to deliver ground-breaking research.  We’re delighted to celebrate their achievements and, through raising their visibility, help them to engage the wider public in the great work they do to advance science and society.”

Gareth Davies, Director General for Knowledge and Innovation, Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, UK, who gave a keynote speech at the event, said: “All the winners should be very proud of their achievements. The UK research base is one of our country’s great success stories and punches well above its weight, so to be at the front of this field is no mean feat. I wish them every success for the future.”

On receiving the award, Matthew said: “I feel so honoured to have been given this award. It’s great that the outreach I and many other researchers do, alongside our normal research, is recognised. The award will motivate me to continue doing outreach and hopefully begin a career after my PhD in science communication.”

Matthew was nominated for the award by the research community, who voted for him through Mendeley’s social media network channels. An expert panel of judges then selected Matthew from a shortlist of nominees.

Cardiff Catalysis Institute picks up global award for developing a pioneering new catalyst to manufacture vinyl chloride

University researchers have been recognised by the Institute of Chemical Engineers (IChemE) for the development of a novel gold catalyst.

The Cardiff Catalysis Institute (CCI), along with leading chemicals company Johnson Matthey, were given the Innovative Product of the Year Award at the IChemE’s Global Awards ceremony in Birmingham (5 November).

The award recognised the design and commercialisation of a new, non-polluting gold catalyst for the manufacture of vinyl chloride – a major monomer used in the production of plastic.

Research undertaken by the CCI has shown that gold nanoparticles are the best catalysts in the reaction used to produce vinyl chloride, and provide a much cleaner, more sustainable alternative to the commercial catalyst, mercuric chloride, that is currently used.

Over 20 million tonnes of vinyl chloride monomer are manufactured each year, primarily using the mercuric chloride catalyst. Not only is the supply of mercury limited, it is also globally recognised that mercury is seriously harmful to human health and the environment.

Gold offers a cleaner, safer and more sustainable alternative.

As a result of the work of the CCI, Johnson Matthey has built a factory in Shanghai to manufacture large amounts of the gold catalyst that is now being used in full production of vinyl chloride monomer.

On receiving the award, Professor Graham Hutchings, Director of the Cardiff Catalysis Institute, said: “I’m absolutely delighted that our work on developing this pioneering new catalyst has been recognised by the Institute of Chemical Engineers.

“It is testament to the hard work of everyone at the Cardiff Catalysis Institute that we’ve been recognised amongst a list of esteemed professionals from academia and industry.

“Together with Johnson Matthey, we have developed and commercialised a catalyst that we believe will have a significant impact on our health, environment and general wellbeing.”      

The IChemE Awards celebrate excellence, innovation and achievement in the chemical and process industries.  Established in 1994, the Awards attract interest from all over the world.

New report offers insight into Living Wage in Wales

A new report from Cardiff Business School offers a progress check on the Living Wage in Wales campaign, highlighting the need to develop greater geographic and sector representation for continued success.

The report, prepared by Professor Edmund Heery, Dr Deborah Hann and Dr David Nash, was funded by the School and supported by Citizens Cymru-Wales, the Welsh arm of Citizens UK. It has been released to coincide with Living Wage Week (2 November – 6 November 2015).

The Living Wage campaign reached Wales in 2012 but the report highlights how it has already recorded significant success.

Currently there are more than 50 Welsh organisations, which directly employ in excess of 15,000 staff, have been accredited as Living Wage employers. This is 2.9% of the total number of accredited employers across the UK. Major Welsh institutions with accreditation include the Welsh Assembly, Cardiff University, Cardiff Bus and Caerphilly County Borough Council.

The report finds that the Living Wage campaign in Wales has:

·         gathered pace, with a quarter of Welsh Living Wage employers being accredited since March 2015;

·         reached most parts of Wales, with accredited employers in 17 different local authorities;

·         strong representation across all of the main sectors of the Welsh economy;

·         a large concentration of accredited employers in the private sector, traditionally the main repository of low-wage employment.

There is also room for further development and the report provides examples of activity in the rest of the UK which may help to propel the Living Wage in Wales campaign to greater success.

The report highlights that while there is representation for Living Wage employers in 17 local authorities, there is a high level of accredited employers concentrated in Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan. Equally, while major public sector organisations such as the Welsh Assembly have become accredited employers there is limited penetration generally within the Welsh public sector. There remains a dearth of Living Wage employers in low wage industries with no representation in the agriculture and hospitality sectors in Wales and very few in the retail and care sectors.

Wales follows an established UK pattern with pockets of concentration in urban and economic hubs and better representation in sectors with relatively few low-paid jobs. The report argues that lessons from outside of Wales should be considered and absorbed in to the Welsh campaign. Outside of Wales professional service organisations such as law firms, software houses, accounting, advertising and public relations agencies have a considerable number of Living Wage employers. This is one area ripe for development while ensuring a better geographic spread is also a key recommendation made by the report.

Discussing the report, Professor Edmund Heery, said: “The Living Wage in Wales campaign has, in a short amount of time, signed up major organisations and become a part of the political and social debate. This report, released in Living Wage Weeks, is a progress check on the campaign and I hope will become a benchmark against which we can compare later achievements.

“For now, we should celebrate the spread of Living Wage accredited employers across all parts of Wales and in multiple employment sectors. Going forwards the campaign should commit to diffusing the representation of Living Wage employers across Wales while increasing the commitment from the public sector. Capitalising on the current support within the private sector by developing the professional services representation, already successful outside of Wales, could also be significant.”

Welsh expertise helping transform medical practice in southern Africa

Senior doctors, hospital managers and academics in Namibia say a Cardiff University project will save lives and have major benefits to the population across the country and beyond.

The Phoenix Project is using Welsh expertise in collaboration with the University of Namibia (UNAM) to provide the country's first specialist anaesthesia training.

Namibia has just a handful of specialist anaesthetists so surgery and critical care often rely on medical officers who have had little anaesthesia training.

Six anaesthetists from south Wales, led by Professor Judith Hall from the School of Medicine, have been training students and doctors in anaesthesia and critical care skills in desert-like conditions in Oshakati in the north of the country near the Angolan border.

Namibia training with dummies
Judith Hall at Hospital in Namibia

The training is part of the University’s ambitious Phoenix Project, which has teamed up with Welsh Government and the University of Namibia (UNAM) for a raft of activities involving education, health and science.

They include honing the maths skills of scientists, boosting teaching practices and supporting software development.

Dr Josphina Augustinus, who runs Oshakati hospital in the north, said the project was "meaningful" and "wonderful" for Namibia and she would like it to continue and expand.

Currently, patients often have operations cancelled because of the lack of anaesthetists.

"This has a great impact on the institution itself, Intermediate Hospital Oshakati, and also to the community because since people are well acquainted with anaesthesia and well trained, they will save lives," said Dr Augustinus.

"When patients are operated upon in theatre, they will be in good hands because they will be in the hands of professionals who have been taken through anaesthesia."

The aim is also for those learning about anaesthesia to pass their new skills on to colleagues.

Namibian mothers

Dr Daylight Manyere, Principal Medical Officer in Rehoboth south of the capital Windhoek, said: "It will make a big difference. It will be a very great relief for us.

"When it's not your area of speciality, there may be things you are not very comfortable with, so having a resident anaesthetist with you and imparting knowledge to the Medical Officers - and in terms of critical care where it's needed - will make a real difference."

Intensive courses have been carried out in Windhoek, Rundu and Oshakati, ahead of a Masters course in anaesthesia which is due to start next year.

The project is run hand in hand with UNAM, whose senior staff believe the project will eventually have benefits across southern Africa.

Professor Kenneth Matengu, UNAM's Director of External and International Relations, said: "I hope that through this intervention when we have our system complete, we can serve other neighbouring countries such as Angola, Botswana and Zambia."

Nambia practical training

There are also plans to use University expertise to provide more comprehensive training for midwives.

Grace Thomas, the University’s Professional Head of Midwifery and Lead Midwife for Education, has been visiting Namibia with colleague Sarah Davies to find out the midwives’ training needs.

Other activities on the trip have included the University’s Matt Smith supporting e-learning at UNAM, where Professor Gordon Cumming from the School of Modern Languages delivered UNAM's first Panopto lecture using the lecture capture software.

The Phoenix Project is a mutually beneficial collaboration between Cardiff University and UNAM.

Staff from Cardiff University’s three Colleges are directly involved, as are professional services staff in areas such as Libraries and Human Resources.

The project covers three broad areas: women, children and infectious diseases; science; and communication.

It is one of Cardiff University’s flagship engagement projects, otherwise known as the Transforming Communities programme, which work with communities in Cardiff, Wales and beyond in areas including health, education and wellbeing.

Cardiff University scooped four prizes – including University of the Year – at last night’s Business and Education Partnerships Awards

The University’s work to develop clinical wet wipes with GAMA Healthcare took the Research and Development Award.

Cardiff’s venture with IQE to develop the Compound Semiconductor Centre won the Partnership Award.

And the New Product Award went to Direct Healthcare Services with the Welsh Wound Innovation Centre, a subsidiary company of Cardiff University, for developing a mattress which helps prevent heel pressure ulcers.

“A great year for Cardiff University, ranked second in the UK for the impact of its research,” said the judges, who also recognized Cardiff’s contribution to the Welsh economy. A recent independent report found Cardiff University contributes £2.7bn annually to the UK economy, generating more than £6 for every £1 it spends.

Professor Hywel Thomas, Pro Vice-Chancellor, Research, Innovation and Engagement, said: “We are proud to receive these awards. They are not only testament to the talent of our researchers. They also show how our strategic approach to innovation and engagement is bringing social and economic benefits to Wales and beyond. We are creating a culture that powers invention, application and production. Driven by entrepreneurial students, our new £300m innovation campus will help turn research questions into ‘real world’ answers, transforming our work and driving economic growth.”

The Awards, run by Insider Media, celebrate collaboration between companies, universities and colleges. The event, held at the city’s Marriott Hotel, attracted hundreds of representatives from industry and academia.

Insider editor Douglas Friedli, compère for the evening, praised the "brilliant ways that companies, universities and colleges work together in Wales.”

"Universities and their students alone generated about £4.6bn of output in Wales in the year to 2014. Add in the colleges too, and you have a large and growing part of the economy. That economic impact is magnified when universities and colleges work with companies to create great products, boost productivity and develop the skills of the future."

University-led research could help predict areas susceptible to devastating landslides

The likelihood of an area experiencing a potentially devastating landslide could be influenced by its previous exposure to earthquakes many decades earlier.

This is according to new research led by researchers from the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences showing that areas which have experienced strong earthquakes in the past were more likely to produce landslides when a second earthquake hit later on.

Researchers speculate that this is because damage can reside in the side of mountains after an initial earthquake, and that the consequences of this damage may only be felt when a second earthquake hits.

These new insights could have important implications for disaster management and prevention by helping researchers better predict areas that may be susceptible to future landslides.

The consequences of the landslides that occurred after  two large earthquakes hit Nepal earlier this year, killing more than 9,000 people and inflicting wide-spread damage, serves to show how valuable a prediction tool would be.

Predictive models that are currently used to assess the likelihood of landslides do not consider historical occurrences of previous earthquakes, and instead focus on the strength of the earthquake and the characteristics of the particular area, including the make-up of rock and the steepness of slopes.

“This could potentially be a significant gap in our understanding of the factors that lead to landsliding,” said Dr Robert Parker, lead author of the paper, from Cardiff University’ School of Earth and Environmental Sciences.

After the Nepal earthquakes, a program called ShakeSlide, developed by Dr Parker, was used to predict areas affected by landslides and assist in post-disaster efforts. These new findings may lead to improved predictions, through models that consider the legacy of past earthquakes.

To reach their conclusions, the research team analysed data from two individual earthquakes that occurred in close-proximity to each other, in 1929 and 1968, on the South Island of New Zealand.

Their results suggested that hillslopes in regions that experienced strong ground motions in the 1929 earthquake were more likely to fail during the 1968 earthquake than would be expected on the basis of the standard factors alone.

“Our results suggest that areas that experienced strong shaking in the first earthquake were more likely to produce landslides in the second earthquake than would be expected based on the strength of shaking and hillslope characteristics alone,” said Dr Parker.

Dr Parker and his team have speculated that the increased likelihood of occurrence may be down to the fact that damage persists in the landscape after an initial earthquake, making it sufficiently weaker and thus more prone to a landslide if another earthquake hits in the future.

Dr Parker continued: “Strong shaking in a past earthquake may actually cause mountains to be more hazardous, in terms of landslides, in a future earthquake many years or decades later. You could think of it as mountains remembering past earthquakes, which affects how they respond to future earthquakes.”

Dr Parker and his team are now investigating whether this ‘memory effect’ is seen in other areas, and have begun investigating the earthquakes that occurred in Nepal.

The new study has been published in the journal Earth Surface Dynamics.

Digital Innovation Fund to grow use of digital technology in public services
A new fund that will explore how digital technology can help innovate public services in Wales will be announced today (Nov 3) by the Welsh Government.

The £250,000 Digital Innovation Fund will be delivered by Nesta and Cardiff University’s ‘Y Lab’ - an initiative launched in July to devise and test new solutions to major public service challenges in Wales.

The fund, which will open to applicants later this month, will support public service organisations wishing to use digital technology to trial smarter and more efficient ways of working. The funded projects will inform future areas of focus for the Welsh Government and Y Lab.

Examples of projects that could be funded include those that use public data to better target services, or that streamline systems and processes to reduce costs and make services more accessible. 

Support provided through the fund will also include access to business advice, events, workshops and mentoring. The fund will also be used to support the establishment of a new Digital Innovators Network, run by Y Lab, which will bring together public and private sector digital leaders to share best practice.

More information about the fund and the Digital Innovators Network can be found here.

Speaking ahead of the launch of the fund, the Welsh Government's Minister for Public Services, Leighton Andrews AM said:  “We recognise that digital has transformed the way people live their lives and we want public services to use digital approaches to transform the way they interact with citizens.  The Digital Innovation Fund will support the Welsh public service to build the capability to deliver digital services and find new solutions to the challenges faced by the public sector. I am delighted to be working in partnership with Nesta and Cardiff University’s Y Lab to enable much-needed innovation in this area.”

Professor Rick Delbridge, Dean of Research, Innovation and Enterprise at Cardiff, said: "Cardiff University has a proud track record of working with and bringing together innovation practitioners in the public and private sectors to help improve public service delivery in Wales. Today's funding announcement will see the next phase in this work.

"The Digital Innovation Fund will be an important mechanism through which Welsh public services can boost their capacity to take advantage of technology, trial new approaches and tap into new opportunities and approaches.

"Through Y Lab, we'll be working to develop collaborative links across the public sector and to connect these with blue chip companies and third sector organisations to tackle the big issues that have an impact on the prosperity and wellbeing of the whole nation."

Simon Brindle, Y Lab Director, Nesta, said: "The Digital Innovation Fund creates an exciting opportunity for Welsh public services to learn from cutting edge digital developments in the public and private sectors.  The fund will support the acceleration of learning and development of digital public services in Wales, helping to identify ways to reduce costs and improve outcomes.”

New £6M scanner to detect disease inside the brain

A giant £6M MRI scanner with superior power to detect disease inside the human brain has arrived at the University.

The MRI scanner is referred to as a ‘7T’ system, as the magnet inside is 7 Tesla (Tesla = unit of magnetic field strength). It will help researchers at Cardiff University Brain Research Imaging Centre (CUBRIC) study a range of neurodegenerative and psychiatric disorders including dementia, schizophrenia and depression.

The 7T weighs in at 40 tonnes and is the third of its kind in the UK.

Supplied by Siemens Healthcare, it will aid the early detection of disease and the development and monitoring of new therapies.

Professor Derek Jones, Director of CUBRIC, said: “The arrival of the 7T scanner is the next big step in the evolution of CUBRIC. It will enhance our capability for high quality research, helping us understand mechanisms of disorders such as dementia, autism and learning disabilities. Working with NHS Wales and industry helps us bring advanced technology closer to patients.”

The secret of 7T scanning technology lies in the strength of its giant magnet, which helps create more finely detailed images of the human brain, and can reduce scanning times for patients. The 7T magnet is around 7 times stronger than magnets used to pick up cars in junk yards, producing very high resolution images.

MRI – or Magnetic Resonance Imaging – is a technique that shows internal body structures. It can distinguish soft tissues, and is often used to image the brain, muscles, and heart. A non-invasive technique, it is now the most used imaging method in neuroscience.

The delivery of the new scanner marks another milestone in the completion of the new CUBRIC research facility on the Cardiff Innovation Campus at Maindy Road. It is due to open in Spring 2016.