Professor Brian Hobbs, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research) at Glamorgan, looks at how we are enhancing our research base to drive innovation and business engagement.
At Glamorgan we focus on user-valued research and are committed to enhancing the links between research, teaching, consultancy and enterprise. Students expect to be taught by leading scholars who are at the forefront of developments in their subject areas, as well as being excellent teachers. Our research informs and underpins teaching at all levels.
The Sustainable Environment Research Centre (SERC) includes the internationally-recognised Hydrogen Research Group.
Our research framework is defined by six fields of research which engage with the future challenges facing society and which take advantage of particular research strengths. We take account of the key external drivers in a way that also enriches the research environment and continues to engage our staff and students in the research agenda. We are building on existing areas of internationally recognised and world-leading research and continue to develop holistic approaches by being distinctive in what we do and how we do it.
For example, the University addresses research related to the Digital Economy in its broadest sense and has a distinctive approach that is firmly embedded in creative industries and draws upon the expertise of researchers from the technology based disciplines. Researchers in this field have attracted funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council to create a pan-Wales network of key academic and non-academic partners around the theme of digital heritage in Wales.
“This project allowed us to gain valuable insight into audience attitudes and behaviours that we simply could not have gained any other way. I’m encouraged that much of it has already been put into practice and that we’ve been able to put something back into the wider academic community.”
BBC Wales partnered Glamorgan on a project investigating digital storytelling. The research resulted in recommendations which suggested new ways of capturing and disseminating digital stories. The project was launched to gain audience insights outside the scope of the BBC’s own in-house research, and give the academic community the benefit of unprecedented access to BBC archive material and internal data. Having disseminated the findings internally, some have already been put into working practice with the BBC. BBC Controller Matthew Postgate commented: “This project allowed us to gain valuable insight into audience attitudes and behaviours that we simply could not have gained any other way. I’m encouraged that much of it has already been put into practice and that we’ve been able to put something back into the wider academic community.”
Research in the area of Hypermedia has attracted significant Research Council funding. The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) supports the STELLAR project (Semantic Technologies Enhancing Links and Linked data for Archaeological Resources), in collaboration with co-investigators at York University and English Heritage. It builds on the outcomes and tools from the previous AHRC funded STAR project which extended semantic search techniques that were initially developed through the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) funded FACET project, a collaboration with the Science Museum. Hypermedia researchers have also conducted pioneering work in use of the Welsh language online, informing the Welsh Language Board’s IT strategy and studies of minority language use online. Human-computer interaction work includes the investigation of multi-agent systems for more realistic and responsive ship movement in marine navigation simulators, as well as interaction/experience design and studies of web user activity.
The field of Enterprise and Social Innovation brings together wide range of expertise from across the university and its work underpins research across the other fields. The Enterprise and Social Innovation field encompasses the work of the Business School’s Welsh Enterprise Institute which plays a major role in the development of the enterprise research agenda. The purpose of this field is to provide individuals, institutions, communities and governments with a dynamic, robust and wide-ranging knowledge base for shaping and participating in enterprise and economic development policy and practice. The field provides greater opportunities for individuals and organisations to better cope with, understand and meet the challenges of an increasingly complex and uncertain world. It will also continue to contribute to and inform policy and promote entrepreneurship as an alternative and viable career option.
The Culture and Society field consists of a diverse range of interdisciplinary research work that benefit from involving researchers from the arts, media and humanities. Areas of expertise include Drama and Performing Arts, Communication, Culture and Media Studies, Music and Sound, Film Studies, Design and the Humanities. Researchers in the field of Culture and Society are members of the pan Wales initiative WISERD (Wales Institute for Social and Economic Research Data and Methods).
Some of the work in this field takes “small nations” as its focus, using expertise and experience of Wales to make comparisons and forge links with other small nations in the UK and internationally. Essentially, the process of globalisation and its corollary, localisation, and the impact this has on media and culture in small nations that have prompted this initiative. Researchers have collaborated on funded research with the BBC, the Film Agency, including a major piece of work entitled Screening the Nation: Wales and Landmark Television with the BBC Trust and the Audience Council for Wales. Researchers within this field also have a contract with the University of Wales Press to produce nine volumes for the “Global Media and Small Nations” series.
Research in the field of Health and Wellbeing provides real life solutions to real life problems. For example, the Storybank project was developed by our Storyworks Team and Cardiff University’s Cancer Genetics Research Team and funded by the Cancer Charity, Tenovus. Researchers collected and produced digital stories from patients who volunteered to share their experiences about their journey through the Cancer Genetics Service for Wales and these were placed on a unique website designed to help people who are worried that they may be at risk of inheriting cancer.
The Storybank Project helps patients and their families deal with their experiences of cancer.
Telling Stories, Understanding Real Life Genetics is a free website that has been developed to support health professional education in genetics. Initially funded by the Wellcome Trust, real stories have been gathered from across the UK from individuals with, at risk of, or caring for someone with a condition that has a genetic component. Through these stories, the site aims to enable practitioners to see the impact that genetic conditions can have on the lives of individuals and families and in turn encourage them to learn more about genetics as it relates to everyday practice. Each story is available to read online or print off and video clips are available for some stories. Additional information and activities are provided for each story to support their use within teaching and learning.
The Wellcome Trust has also funded two further projects in the field of Health and Wellbeing. 'The National DNA Database on Trial: Avoiding the Usual Suspects’ is a project that focusing on young people aged 16–19 who have been convicted of a criminal offence and whose details are already on the National DNA database. These young people worked together to put the National DNA Database on trial. The project enabled these young people to acquire an understanding about genetic issues that make personal sense to them and which are located within their own particular environments.
The Wellcome Trust has also funded a two year project entitled 'The GAMY Project. Genetic Literacy and Family History: A Study of Young People in the South Wales Valleys’ explores the influences on young people’s attitudes to genetics, particularly in relation to cancer genetics and cardiac genetics.
Multidisciplinary research in the Health and Wellbeing field is being used to improve the detection and monitoring cerebral haemorrhages by using Magnetic Induction Tomography (MIT). MIT is an imaging technique that uses the eddy current effect to image the electromagnetic properties of an object. Researchers are using MIT to pioneer the development of a device that can be used to image blood within the brain, in order to detect and classify cerebral stroke, and to allow doctors to monitor potential side effects produced by modern 'clot-busting’ drug treatments. The device has been developed at Glamorgan over a number of years in collaboration with the Universities of Swansea, Manchester and Philips Research Laboratories, and the project has been the recipient of three Engineering and Physical Science Research Council (EPSRC) grants in excess of £1m .
'The Storybank Project’ was developed by our Storyworks Team and Cardiff University’s Cancer Genetics Research Team and funded by the Cancer Charity, Tenovus. Researchers collected and produced digital stories from patients who volunteered to share their experiences about their journey through the Cancer Genetics Service for Wales.
The Sustainable Environment Research Centre is the cornerstone of research in the Energy and the Environment Field of Research. SERC is interdisciplinary. Its group members have expertise in biochemistry, chemistry, physics, mechanical and control engineering, renewable energies, chemical engineering, business and communicating science. Team members have experience in operating laboratory scale, pilot scale and full-scale biological process plants, and have participated in a number of large national and international collaborative projects, both Research Council and EU funded. SERC is also a member of the pan-Wales Low Carbon Research Institute (LCRI).
The Wastewater Treatment Research Group focuses particularly on anaerobic digestion, including on-line monitoring and control. The Hydrogen Research Group is recognised nationally and internationally. SERC undertakes national and world-leading research into waste treatment and the sustainable production of energy from waste and grown biomass.
Over 100 papers have been published in refereed journals and the team holds a number of patents in the area of biological process monitoring. With a UK 2008 RAE submission rated as “Internationally Excellent”, SERC undertakes world-leading research in sustainable energy which includes extensive research and expertise in biogas processes, renewable hydrogen production biohydrogen production processes, hydrogen energy systems, hydrogen refuelling processes and infrastructure development, gas clean up and separation processes, hydrogen economics and life cycle analysis. SERC’s established work and expertise in the hydrogen technology area has been fundamental in the UK Government’s award of Low Carbon Economic Area status to Wales, focussing on hydrogen energy technology. SERC was recently awarded £6.3M for a new project, CymruH2Wales, building on the University’s expertise and previous investment in the field of hydrogen energy to develop new processes, products and services.
This Security and Resilience Field of Research brings a coherence to diverse research areas, providing a multidisciplinary platform for research and enterprise activities in the broad themes of disaster management, security and resilience. The field facilitates collaborative activity between industry, government, NGOs, the emergency services and other universities to enhance capability to support communities in need. This is a new area for the University but researchers have already established themselves as leading the way in this field. For example, researchers are developing new, rapid methods for the detection of drugs and other compounds of forensic interest in biological matrices, in particular samples of hair. The team, headed by Dr Antony Berry, has been successful over the last few years in developing methods for the detection of a range of drugs, alcohol and their metabolites in hair using novel extraction and complex analytical procedures.
The unit is also engaged with researchers in the Sustainable Environment Research Centre in the Energy and Environment field where similar methods are being developed to analyse environmental pollutants such as agrochemicals in environmental matrices such as water, soil and in sewage.
The close relationship between the front line of medical knowledge and the University’s research crosses international boundaries. Professor Kevin Davies, who commands the British Army’s “Welsh Medics” as a full colonel and is the Queen’s Honorary Nurse, is one of the university’s leading experts in disaster and resilience planning. Most recently, elite US Army medics joined their British counterparts from 203 (Welsh) Field Hospital in the University’s clinical simulation facilities, sharing the latest advances in front line emergency medicine while learning from the latest research into safe prescribing at Glamorgan. As part of the exchange, Glamorgan is facilitating multinational medical teams working together, sharing knowledge that can also save lives in disaster zones and NHS trauma units.