'Speed Dating' for UWE academics

Issue date: 23 February 2010

University of the West of England The University of the West of England is bridging the gap between research in Health, Environment and Technology through a new collaboration programme funded by EPSRC.

'Bridging the gaps in Health, Environment and Technology (HEAT@UWE) research' is funded with a grant of £500,000 from EPSRC (Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council).

Human health and the environment are high up the political agenda both nationally and internationally, with difficult issues such as climate change, unsustainable use of resources and obesity presenting challenges for governments and communities. Academics at UWE engage in a range of research linked to these issues and in some areas technology can play a role in finding solutions. For example new sensing technologies can be used to create improved health outcomes.

UWE has successfully linked the health and environment strands of research through the new Institute for Sustainability Health and Environment (ISHE), established in 2008. HEAT@UWE will now bring experts from this Institute together with those researching in technological areas to create new collaborations.

Professor Katie Williams, who is leading the research, explains, “We are trying to create a multidisciplinary culture which will bridge the gaps between these research areas at UWE. Initially we will start with a series of meetings where researchers in different disciplines can meet each other – a sort of 'speed dating' for academics. This will be an opportunity to find out about different disciplines and different methodologies. From this we hope to develop some key 'clusters' where collaborations are likely to prove useful. We will then offer secondments between different disciplines, a seminar series and funds to develop ideas.

“Traditionally research in areas such as health and the environment has been carried out separately, using different methods and approaches, despite the fact that it is recognised there are complex links between these areas. What we hope to develop from all this is a more integrated approach to these difficult issues. There may be technological advances which could have a significant application in some of these the areas. For example we have academics who are looking at real time information for public transport – this is a technological application that is relevant to issues of the environment and climate change. Another area we could be expanding is the use of technology in monitoring health in the community – for example through hand held devices to monitor common conditions or even to measure alcohol levels. These ideas bring together UWE academics from separate disciplines, who are experts in their own fields.

“Another area we will be looking at is the area of 'ubiquitous computing' - that is computing technology which is used to give relevant information in locations in cities and public spaces - through collaborations between technology experts and urban designers.”

“Technology is developing rapidly but we need to bring the latest developments alongside some of the major issues we face to see where we can develop fruitful strands of research. Our intention through this research is to impact on society at all levels, by furthering academic understanding and influencing policy and practice.”

For further details see HEAT@UWE

For further information on the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council visit: ESPRC

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