Bristol Robotics Lab receives Phase II Grand Challenges Exploration Funding

Issue date: 20 December 2013


The Bristol Robotics Lab, a collaboration between UWE Bristol and the University of Bristol announced today that it will receive Phase II funding through Grand Challenges Explorations , an initiative created by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation that enables individuals worldwide to test bold ideas to address persistent health and development challenges. Principal Investigator Dr Ioannis Ieropoulos will continue to pursue an innovative global health research project, entitled 'Urine–tricity'

Dr Ieropoulos said, “This is the first time that we have received Phase II funding from the Gates Foundation and this exciting work will eventually transform lives in the developing world by providing low cost energy using this innovative technology approach. The BRL excels at finding solutions in a very wide range of challenging arenas.”

In November 2011, Dr Ieropoulos was awarded a Grand Challenges Explorations Phase I grant for the initial phase of “Urine-tricity”. Grand Challenges Explorations (GCE) Phase II grants recognises successful projects with further funding to test concepts from Phase I. These grants seek to engage individuals worldwide who can apply innovative approaches to some of the world's toughest and persistent global health and development challenges. GCE invests in early stage ideas that have the potential to help bring people out of poverty and realise their human potential.

Dr Ieropoulos's project is one of the Phase II Grand Challenges Explorations grant awardees announced today.

Dr Ieropoulos continued, “We have established that by passing urine through a series of microbial fuel cell stacks we are able to generate sufficient electricity to re-charge a mobile phone. In short, instead of using mains electricity to recharge a normal mobile phone, we use urine”. The next steps of this project are to find a way of collecting urine, at source, and to embed the technology into a latrine, toilet or urinal facility.

“Phase II of the project, which is about to begin, will last for two years and will see us take the technology out of the lab and into the Developing World. This is an extremely important step for a new technology, but it is one that will allow it to perform its benevolent function, which is to turn waste into useful energy. We are grateful to the Gates Foundation for their ongoing support with this prestigious Phase II award, and to our main sponsors the EPSRC who have also been funding our work.”

About Grand Challenges Explorations

Grand Challenges Explorations is a US$100 million initiative funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Launched in 2008, over 800 people in 50 countries have received Grand Challenges Explorations grants. The grant program is open to anyone from any discipline and from any organisation. The initiative uses an agile, accelerated grant-making process with short two-page online application and no preliminary data required. Initial grants of US$100,000 are awarded two times a year. Successful projects have the opportunity to receive a follow-on grant of up to US$1 million.

About Bristol Robotics Laboratory

Bristol Robotics Laboratory is the leading and largest academic centre for multi-disciplinary robotics research in the UK. It is a collaborative partnership between UWE Bristol and the University of Bristol, and home to a vibrant community of over 100 academics and industry practitioners, which lead current thinking in service robotics, intelligent autonomous systems and bio-engineering.

An internationally recognised Centre of Excellence in Robotics, BRL's state-of-the-art laboratory covers an area of over 3,000 square metres, and houses specialist workshops and wet labs, and two flying arenas with multiple 3D motion capture systems. It is a unique collaboration that harnesses the collective strengths of its university partners, and brings together the best expertise from industry and the academic community to spearhead Britain's efforts to be a world leader in modern advanced robotics.

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