Programmes and Projects

The following projects are recruiting for DTA3 opportunities. You may apply for a maximum of 3 project opportunities per call.

Please select the relevant project to download the PDF detailing further project information.


Applied Biosciences for Health

A comparison of transcriptome signature of resistance exercise adaptations in young, older adults and athletes

Older age is known to be accompanied with a loss of skeletal muscle mass, strength and function which is known clinically as sarcopenia. Differences in gene expression between young and older men have been reported in a basal state, however insight has not been provided into the transcriptome profile between young athletes and older adults (both sedentary or athletes) in relation to exercise and resistance exercise training in order to understand age-related pre and post-training muscle transcriptome in relation to myofibre hypertrophy adaptation. This project aligns with the DTA Healthy Ageing programme.

This study could provide a novel insight into human muscle adaptations to diverse exercise modes by investigating the transcriptome to provide further insight into the molecular basis of sarcopenia and the impact of resistance exercise. Findings from this study could provide evidence for the development of clinical interventions to reduce sarcopenia and improve the health and quality of life of older people.

Coventry University

Comparison of transcriptome signature of resistance exercise

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Adaptive mRNA processing mechanisms in the heart

When drugs/chemicals are developed to treat a particular disease or for human use purposes they sometimes have side effects that cause damage to the heart. Occasionally these dangerous side effects are only recognised after the drug/chemical has been marketed and thousands of people have been treated or used it. This is a significant risk to human health and causes very high costs to the pharmaceutical and other industries when a potentially dangerous product is withdrawn from market.

Cancer is a major public health concern worldwide, and its incidence is projected to rise because of an increasing age of the population. Some drugs such as chemotherapy drugs are often associated with cardiotoxicity leading to heart failure. Despite the toxic effects of chemotherapy agents they are still used in the clinics because of unavailability of any superior therapy. Therefore, there is an immediate need for the development of novel screening strategies to reduce drug-related cardiotoxicity without compromising its therapeutic function. This project aligns with the DTA Healthy Ageing programme.

One area that has not been extensively investigated is the disruption to the process of alternative splicing by exogenous compounds. This disruption can modify gene expression and therefore the production of defective proteins and may be a possible cause of cardiotoxicity.

Current drug/chemical testing relies mainly on the use of animals and tissue taken from animals, and often the tests do not do well in predicting the effect on humans. Development of a high through put screen for cardiotoxicity would greatly reduce the use of animals and will improve the understanding of the human relevance of non-clinical findings.

Coventry University

Adaptive mRNA processing mechanisms

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Adverse physiological and psychological consequences and decision-making processes amongst older anabolic androgenic steroid (AAS) users

The use of anabolic-androgenic steroids carries (AAS) risks to physical and psychological wellbeing. Recent research indicates that approximately 15% of AAS users are older men (45 years and over), motivated by a desire to maintain or boost muscularity and sex drive and keep a youthful appearance. Although often aware of associated harms, they choose to use AAS to maintain testosterone levels. Little is known of this specific population of older users and the factors that influence the onset, continuation and escalation of use across the life course.

A mixed method approach will identify the triggers and levers which facilitate the decision-making continuum of use in this population. In-depth interviews current and former users (45 years and older) providing rich data illustrating decision-making processes, and will provide the basis for an online research tool. The tool will be widely disseminated to collect data on key factors and ‘tipping points’ in the user trajectory of use and decision making scenarios to identify intervention opportunities and strategies.

This innovative approach will provide a unique insight into the thought processes of this covert group of performance drug users, and will facilitate the development of credible public health and behaviour change strategies.

Liverpool John Moores University

Adverse physiological & psychological consequences & decision-making amongst AAS users

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Determination of the changes in the regulation of nitrergic signalling in the ageing bladder

The bladder is responsible for the storage and voiding of urine. With age, the bladder loses this function in many, leading to an inability to store urine and unpleasant symptoms such as the frequent need to go to the toilet and an uncontrollable leaking of urine. Ageing sees a rise in the number of bladder conditions observed and although not life-threatening, they cause significant discomfort, leading to anxiety, social isolation and loss of dignity. To date it is still
not clear why such age-related changes to the bladder occur, and therefore this study aims to explore the mechanisms by which bladder function is altered with age. Our study will focus on one key molecule, nitric oxide, which has a key role in relaxing the bladder muscle. Within our investigation we will explore how the production and activity of nitric oxide is altered with age.

To do this we will use established methods alongside a new method capable of detecting age-related changes at an earlier stage than current methods allow. Our findings will provide novel insight into the age-related changes in the role of nitic oxide in bladder function, which in turn can direct the focus on new targets for drug development.

University of Brighton

Nitrergic in the ageing bladder

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Developing an in Vitro Tissue-Engineered Skeletal Muscle Model to Study Ageing and Associated Conditions

Skeletal muscle (and its interactions with tendon and bone) is important for maintaining body posture and locomotion by transmission of force and movement during muscular contraction. Reductions in muscle mass and function (sarcopenia) are a major clinical problem in old age, underpinning age-related conditions and compromising balance and increasing the risk of falls and fragility fractures. As a result of the rapid expansion in the elderly population our healthcare system is under increasing pressure to cope with the burden of the significant increase of age related conditions. To better understand the mechanisms underlying this loss of muscle mass and function, and to address the health consequences of ageing, research has been conducted in cell and animal model systems.

However, progress towards off-setting age associated muscle loss and developing a cure for muscle diseases has been slow because of the absence of physiologically relevant models of skeletal muscle. This project will directly address this issue.

Nottingham Trent University

Vitro tissue engineered skeletal muscle model to study ageing

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Development of novel therapeutic approaches for the treatment of Leishmaniasis and related neglected tropical diseases.

Neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) are a large and diverse group of diseases that disproportionately affect the health and livelihood of the poor in the developing world and typically lack attention and funding for research.

The project proposed will develop novel therapies for the treatment of parasite-transmitted NTDs, and Leishmaniasis in particular.

University of Greenwich

Novel approaches for treatment of neglected Leishmaniasis & tropical diseases

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Development of palatable, effective health interventions that work: from design to policy

Background: Being overweight and obese represents a large and serious life-long health threat. Obesity at adolescence is considered a major health problem, as these individuals are prone to remain obese throughout adulthood with associated and increased health risks (e.g. cardiac disease).

Solution: We have developed a novel lifestyle intervention (HOME-HIT), which may benefit this population. Obese adolescents fail to (adhere to) exercise performance due to physical and psychosocial barriers of joining exercise and sports clubs. HOME-HIT bypasses this limitation by performing exercise at the individual’s homes or local community venues and does not require specialised equipment.

Plan: We will first validate HOME-HIT in this population. In co-production with obese adolescents, we add behaviour change support to ensure that a healthy lifestyle is implemented to achieve sustainable, long-term benefits. Subsequently, we will recruit 100 obese adolescents who perform 3-months HOME- HIT or traditional training. We then examine whether HOME-HIT leads to superior health effects compared to traditional training. Participants will be re-evaluated 6-months after the intervention to examine if HOME-HIT leads to better adherence to a healthy lifestyle.

Future. After this project, we aim to introduce HOME-HIT in clinical practice. The extensive experience in this work maximises success rates to introduce HOME-HIT in the community for obese adolescents, to improve lifelong health and well-being.

Liverpool John Moores University

Development of palatable heath intervention from design to policy

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Engaging children and families in physical activity: novel intervention and practical applications

Physical activity is an important health behaviour that is associated with reduced risks of all-cause mortality, non-communicable diseases and improved wellbeing. Despite this, most children and their families are not active enough to benefit health and spend too much time being sedentary. Researchers have tried to increase physical activity levels through school-based projects, with varying levels of success. Despite this, we know that most children are quite active during school, but are less active outside school, especially on weekends when they spend a lot of their time with their families. Our previous research has explored children’s out of school physical activity and sedentary behaviours and emphasised the important role of the family and environment on such behaviours. This research programme will co-develop with families and evaluate a family based intervention to increase levels of physical activity across the life-course (to include children, parents and grandparents) and reduce sedentary behaviours. We will also examine other factors associated with physical activity, including physical, psychological and sociological health measures to examine changes associated with the project. Phase 1 will be a formative mixed-methods design to create an out-of-school physical activity intervention then in phase 2 the intervention will be completed and evaluated.

Liverpool John Moores University

Engaging children & families in physical activity, novel intervention

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Epigenetic and subcellular mechanisms in a novel mouse model relevant to ageing and Alzheimer’s disease

Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is the main form of dementia, and memory decline is its primary symptom. Despite substantial progress in understanding many aspects of the disease, no treatment or clinical trial to date has achieved significant retardation of memory decline in AD patients. Recently, a protein called REST was found to be present at high levels in the brain of healthy elderly individuals but not in the brain of AD patients. The first supervisor of this project has previously generated a genetically modified mouse model lacking REST in the brain. This project aims to a) take the next steps towards unravelling some of the mechanisms involved in the role of REST in AD, by the use of brain tissue from this mouse model, and b) to use computational approaches for designing chemicals aiming to enhance REST function, as potential pharmaceuticals for the treatment of AD.

University of Central Lancashire

Epigenetics & subcellular mechanisms in mouse model relevant to ageing & Alzheimer's

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Hypoxia in neurodegenerative diseases: Targets for new therapeutic strategies

This project aims to mimic brain tissue by growing a mixed and interactive cell population that can be induced to recreate the molecular events that lead to neurodegeneration. The model will then be used to assess new drugs that are activated in response to a low oxygen environment, known as hypoxia. These drugs will be able to identify specific cell populations within brain tissue where mitochondria, the cell’s powerhouse, has malfunctioned either as a consequence of hypoxia or as a contributor to the process. The response of the tissue will be monitored in real-time using high throughput molecular approaches that produce a full profile of changes that have occurred in genes and proteins. The data from these studies will be analysed using sophisticated mathematical approaches to assess the importance and impact of the prodrug on cellular health. Together, the project will provide new information on how these new drugs can monitor and potentially treat neurodegenerative diseases.

Nottingham Trent University

Hypoxia in neurodegenerative diseases

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Identification of the molecular mechanisms of longevity in synergistic long-lived mutants of insulin signalling and Klotho

Over the past decades, life expectancy has increased and more people live beyond 90 years than ever before. At the same time, the incidence of a number of chronic diseases such as metabolic disease, diabetes, chronic kidney disease and of cancer has increased. This poses challenges to modern societies to promote and ensure healthy, independent and active life as long as possible.

This project will aim at furthering our understanding of the molecular changes that occur at cellular level when we age. We will use a genetically tractable C. elegans, which has been well established as a model organism for ageing studies. Importantly many of the cell signalling pathways known to be involved in ageing, such as insulin signalling and Klotho proteins, are evolutionarily conserved from C. elegans to humans. Specifically we will use genetic mutants in components of the insulin and Klotho signalling pathways to identify the molecular changes which occur when these genes are altered. The results of this project are expected to provide novel insights into the ageing process at molecular and cellular level and potentially to identify novel therapeutic targets.

University of Huddersfield

Molecular mechanisms of longevity in mutants of insulin signalling

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Incontinence; an age-old problem?

The bladder’s main role is to store urine, however, as we get older its ability to do this effectively is reduced leading to a host of distressing symptoms such as incontinence. This is a huge problem as our society is demographically ageing but sadly, there is very little research into how bladder function changes with age or why bladder disorders are more common. Previous research has shown that the cells lining the inner surface of the bladder release chemicals that can increase or decrease nerve firing. We know that this release is changed with age, but we still do not understand why. This proposed project will investigate what causes the change and what effect that has on nerve firing from the bladder. By doing this, we may be able to identify new ways to treat bladder disorders or even prevent bladder conditions from occurring in the first place.

University of Central Lancashire

Incontinence an old-problem?

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Medicinal Electrosynthesis: A New Approach to Drug Design

360,000 new cases of cancer are diagnosed in UK every year. One third of them are found in patients over the age of 75. By 2020, because of an increasing life expectancy, nearly two million people aged 65 and over will be living with cancer. Among the different cancers, melanoma, the most aggressive form of skin cancer, is rapidly increasing. Although early- stage melanomas are efficiently treated by surgery, many will recur over time, and treatments for late-stage metastatic or recurrent disease very often require very expensive targeted and/or immunological-based therapies that show improved but limited efficacy. For centuries, most anticancer drugs have been based on purely organic scaffolds. Despite the enormous potential of drugs containing metals, this field remains underestimated.

Our approach is unique and differs from the others by the fact that we focused our efforts on embedding a metallic core within FDA-approved drugs. By doing this we have discovered, synthesised and patented Cymanquine, a novel organomanganese containing compound, which outperforms its organic analogue, by a minimum factor of 10. In this proposal, we will prepare new improved derivatives of Cymanquine within the goal to identify an analogue suitable for future clinical development and to keep the ageing population healthy and cancer-free.

University of Greenwich

Medicinal electrosynthesis new approach to drug design

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Multi-systems modelling approaches to healthy ageing

Healthy ageing is essential to prevent overburdening health care facilities and to capture the potential of an increasingly older population. Since 2001, commitments to achieving healthy ageing have featured heavily in government policy and directives. However, over 15 years later healthy ageing for all remains elusive, suggesting we are not addressing the problem correctly. In the face of a growing NHS crisis, we have an urgent duty to reduce lifestyle-linked chronic ill health, if we are to enable healthy ageing for all. To deliver the goal of increasing healthy, active ageing, we must first understand what causes ageing, if we are to develop means to influence the processes. To do so, we propose to recruit males and females (ages 20-80) to the study in order to determine, manipulate and model functional, physiological, cellular and molecular adaptations with age. This application therefore proposes to define and model the ageing process, with derived data ultimately being used to inform healthy ageing and thereby to improve quality of life and to decrease NHS demands of an ageing population.

Liverpool John Moores University

Multi-systems modelling approaches to healthy ageing

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Neural and muscular mechanisms of fatigue in fibromyalgia syndrome and older age

Generalised chronic fatigue characterised by a lack of energy or motivation to complete physical and mental tasks is relatively common amongst older people and the 1.5 – 2 million patients in the UK with fibromyalgia syndrome.

The early stage researcher will join our team to quantify the degree of mismatch between measured effort (heart rate, blood pressure and muscle activity) and perceptions (subjective feelings) of effort during moderate intensity exercise and study how the nervous system sends and receives information about movements. Full training will be given to assess muscle size and body composition using magnetic resonance imaging and x-ray scanning, cardiorespiratory fitness, strength and fatiguability with measurements of muscle activity. These tests will reveal whether any sensory or neuromuscular abnormalities are associated with chronic fatigue in old age and fibromyalgia syndrome.

Manchester Metropolitan University

Fatigue in fibromyalgia

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Novel synthetic tools to monitor/elicit beneficial health/performance adaptations with age, injury and disease

The design and discovery of new synthetic molecules that can mimic natural biological molecules (chemical tools and probes) coupled with an array of interdisciplinary techniques allow us to ask important questions about the mechanisms that underpin key biological events that occur during health, ageing and disease. For example, we require new innovative ways to understand how inflammation leads to a wide range of diseases such as dementia (and related conditions), autoimmune diseases (e.g. rheumatoid arthritis & multiple sclerosis) and cancer. This can lead to improved medicines, dietary supplements and disease diagnosis/prognosis, and elicit beneficial health outcomes in important areas such as cancer, neurodegeneration and resistant infectious disease.

Liverpool John Moores University

Novel synthetic tools to monitor beneficial performance adaptations with age, injury & disease

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Now where was I? The changing role of the prefrontal and motor cortices as a function of healthy ageing

There are many situations in daily life where our view of the surrounds are interrupted, such as when attention is shifted to another location. Accordingly, the human brain has evolved predictive processes that fill in the gaps in degraded visual information. We have shown that typically-developed young adults use these predictive processes to achieve safe and effective behaviour. However, there is evidence these same processes can be impaired in those with acquired brain disorders and neurodegenerative brain disease. This could have serious consequences when driving or preparing food with sharp objects and hot surfaces Therefore, it is important to better understand complex coordinated movements between the eyes and hand, and associated brain-behaviour relationships. We will compare conditions where the upper limb is moved actively by the participant or passively by a motor, thus enabling us to examine the contribution of signals from the upper limb to the brain (afference) or from the brain to the upper limb (efference). This will be confirmed by measuring blood flow in the relevant areas of the cortex or temporarily disrupting information processing using a magnetic pulse. The findings are intended to inform treatment/rehabilitation programmes aimed at maintaining performance of everyday life tasks.

Liverpool John Moores University

Changing role of prefrontal & motor cortices as function of healthy ageing

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Optimisation of the therapeutic index and delivery mechanisms of antimicrobial peptides.

Fewer new antibiotics are being developed than in the past. This has meant that there are circumstances where patients have been treated with antibiotics that are less effective and more toxic than drugs that would have been used in the past but to which bacteria have now developed resistance. New drug development and a better understanding of the how the antimicrobials we have work are crucial for infection management in our hospitals and communities as well as for improved outcomes for patients suffering from infectious diseases. One option that has recently been developed is the use of antimicrobial peptides (AMPs). AMPs differ from traditional antibiotics by targeting multiple sites on the bacterial cell membrane, making the development of resistance less likely when compared with traditional antibiotics.

By investigating how AMPs interact with bacterial membranes we can better manage the use of these agents and develop new and improved AMPs that have a greater activity against bacterial cells and have less toxic effects on human cells. In this project we will optimise how AMPs interact with bacterial cell membranes and investigate techniques for applying these drugs to maximise their antimicrobial effects for patient benefit.

Sheffield Hallam University

Optimisation of therapeutic index & delivery mechanisms of antimicrobial peptides

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Preventing infections in an ageing population: new nano/microcarriers for antibacterial coatings

Infectious diseases are approaching pandemic levels in an ageing population; responsible for ca. 30% of deaths in people over the age of 60. Antibiotic resistance poses a threat to everyone, but seniors are at particular risk due to accumulative antibiotic resistance; with ca. 40% of all prescription drugs containing penicillin-based antibiotics (including wound dressings, catheters, joints replacements). This has resulted in an antimicrobial resistance and the rise in so-called super bugs e.g. MRSA. Antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) and nanosilver have demonstrated rapid antimicrobial activity and therefore offer a viable alternative to conventional antibiotics. However, they are currently limited by their stability in physiological conditions; there is a general lack of controlled effectiveness and reduced mode of action, including controlled release. Overcoming these issues will therefore have significant impact on Healthy Ageing. The aim of this project is to design a new approach for effective action of nanosilver and AMPs based coatings towards combating the antimicrobial resistance. This will be done via fabrication of coatings containing biocompatible vectors to effectively host, protect, and locally release bactericides on demand. We will integrate cutting-edge technologies that will result in fabrication of novel highly active and cost effective antibacterial surface coatings.

Nottingham Trent University

Novel self-healing antibacterial coatings on nanocarriers

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Smart Biomimetic Nanomaterials for Novel Treatment and Prevention of Viral Infection

Rapid development of antibody-based therapeutics and vaccines are crucial to combat emergent diseases. Molecularly-imprinted polymers (MIPs) constitute a rapidly-evolving class of antigen-recognition materials that act as synthetic antibodies. MIPs comprise cavities (or ghost-sites) capable of selectively re-binding a biomolecule of interest e.g. a protein antigen or virus. We hypothesise that it is possible to grow polymeric moulds within these cavities as secondary imprints to produce antigenic mimics of the original antigen/virus. We propose to develop virus-imprinted hydrogel-based nanoscale MIPs (nanoMIPs) as virus capture agents. Synthetically produced, MIPs offer alternative, stable, ethically produced and economical ‘plastic’ antibodies and vaccine antigens that to treat or prevent viral infections. The research has wider implications for developing alternative antiviral technologies in readiness for and rapid response to emergent infectious diseases such as Avian Influenza A (H7N9), Zika and Ebola

University of Central Lancashire

Smart biomimetic nanomaterials for novel treatment

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The delivery and evaluation of COPD-specific pain education in pulmonary rehabilitation

Breathlessness is common in Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) but 66% also experience pain. Most pain occurs in the region between the neck and the stomach and is likely caused by breathlessness provoking muscle tension. People with COPD and healthcare professionals suggest that pain also leads to anxiety increasing breathlessness. COPD-specific pain education, which highlights the relationship between pain, breathlessness and anxiety, may help people with COPD to rationalise how these symptoms interact.

This research involves:

  1. the development of COPD-specific pain education and
  2. an investigation into the delivery of COPD-specific pain education and its benefits.

To meet aim 1 the candidate will review previous literature in this area.

To meet aim 2 COPD-specific pain education will be delivered within pulmonary rehabilitation which is standard care for people with COPD. Individuals with COPD and pain will be randomly assigned to receive pulmonary rehabilitation with COPD-specific pain education or without. We will compare the groups to see if the intervention reduces pain. We will also measure factors such as the efficiency of the muscles involved in breathing to investigate why any improvement in pain occurs. The views of patients and healthcare providers on the intervention will be explored in interviews.

Teesside University

COPD - specific pain education in pulmonary rehabilitation

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The effectiveness of Virtual Reality (VR) for management of pain

Virtual Reality (VR) can reduce acute pain by distracting attention away from the pain while people play the games. Chronic pain is different than acute pain and is much more difficult to reduce – for example, drugs that work for acute pain do not work well for chronic pain. But people with chronic pain do use distraction to make their pain more bearable. Therefore, they may find VR useful but that has not been scientifically proven yet. This project will see whether or not VR can help people make their chronic pain more bearable.

The project will have three stages. In stage 1, the existing scientific studies on VR for pain will be closely examined to choose types of VR that might work best. In stage 2, some of the best available types of VR will be compared in a fair trial to see which produces the most relief in people with chronic pain. In stage 3, the best one of these will be given to people with chronic pain for a number of weeks. They will then describe how they used the VR and they will explain how they think it could be used to help others.

Teesside University

Effectiveness of VR for pain management

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The gut mycobiome and healthy ageing: signatures of longevity and the effects of probiotic intervention

Recent evidence suggests that the microorganisms living in our gut (gut ‘microbiome’) may have potential for treating age-related diseases, including dementia, and may also slow down the ageing process itself and promote longevity. It has been shown that the gut microbiome of centenarians has a different proportion of specific bacterial types to that of younger subjects and that these species may be predictors of longevity. Isolation of gut bacteria associated with exceptional longevity and the development of probiotic interventions with such microbes seems a promising approach to promote health-span and lifespan. However, while gut bacteria have been intensively studied, fungi are also an integral component of the gut microbiome and little is known about this (gut fungal) community. Recent studies have highlighted that gut fungal populations are much more diverse than previously thought and appear to have significant roles in health and disease. A state-of-the–art investigation into the nature of our natural gut fungi, and its potential to influence on our health and lifespan, is thus a fascinating and very timely subject. This project aims to identify the gut fungi potentially associated with longevity, determine their applicability to probiotic use and assess their potential beneficial effects on human health.

University of Brighton

Healthy ageing and probiotic intervention

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The role of DNA polymerases in aging of the mitochondrial genome

Aging is the progressive deterioration of a cell’s (or organism’s) ability to undertake its normal physiological and molecular functions, resulting from increasing damage to molecular and cellular components. Aging is thought to play this role through the gradual acquisition of damage to mitochondria (energy-producing parts of cells), in particular, damage to the DNA in the mitochondria that codes the blueprint for how they function. Such changes in mitochondria are associated with aging-related degenerative conditions, such as Parkinson’s.

Mitochondria can potentially repair this damage using DNA polymerases, specialised but error-prone enzymes used to copy DNA when cells divide. It is possible however that these enzymes can actually instead increase the amount of mitochondrial DNA mutations during this process, and hence contribute to cellular aging. We intend to assess this in isolated human cells and the compost worm Caenorhabditis elegans, an excellent model system for aging following its ease of genetic manipulation, and its short lifespan allowing effects on whole organism aging to be studied. We will also dissect how these enzymes work in repairing mitochondrial DNA, uncovering whether they can be modulated to reduce the affects of the aging process, both in undiseased aging individuals and those with aging-related disorders.

University of Huddersfield

DNA polymerases in aging of the mitochondrial genome

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Zinc, an essential micronutrient typically deficient in the ageing population, is at the human host /microbiota interphase regulating metabolic function, immunity and pathogenesis

As we age nutrient/micronutrient (like zinc) absorption decreases. This is aggravated by (i) poor diet affecting many people over 65 (1 in 3 in the UK), and (ii) the change with age of our healthy gut microflora (or microbiota).

Our microbiota, mainly bacteria, assists with nutrient bioavailability/absorption (e.g., zinc) and immune system modulation. In turn, zinc preserves the integrity and role of the microbiota, regulating multiple bacterial genes (some leading to disease), supporting gastrointestinal and immune system function. Consequently, zinc deficiency and microbiota imbalance lead to compromised immunity, which is heightened by age-dependent immunological decline.

Naturally, there is a concomitant increase in susceptibility to infection, which is the cause of a third of all deaths in older adults (UK) – an important contributor to total infectious disease mortality and a tremendous economic burden.

Zinc could be a ‘control switch’ central to the interplay between the gastrointestinal and immune systems, the microbiota, zinc-dependent bacterial microbiota gene regulation and infectious disease. Our study of the microbiota of zinc-deficient and subsequently zinc- supplemented human populations, will be the first to dissect this inter-relationship, as a model of the ageing process, including the discrimination of bacterial components leading to human health or infectious disease.

University of Central Lancashire

Zinc at the interphase between host & microbiota regulating functions & pathogenesis

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Energy

Augmented/Virtual reality and serious games as integrators of construction technology

Augmented reality tools/headsets project virtual objects on top of real view of the surrounding environment. Such capabilities offer the opportunity to visualise invisible physical parameters which can be detected by sensors, e.g. temperature, airflow, pressure etc. These visualisations may be useful when making decisions how to better construct buildings, conduct maintenance and improve building operation. As the augmented reality tools are already used in computer games, introduction of serious games potentially offers an effective opportunity to better engage and motivate the users to make a positive alteration of their surroundings in order to compete in the game and win points, while at the same time achieving the real goal of bettering the construction / maintenance / operation of a building.

Teesside University

Augmented VR & serious games as integrators of construction technology

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Biochar-slag cements: valorising by-products from waste-derived energy systems

Accelerating urbanisation puts significant pressure on the energy sector to meet demands of the construction industry to enable economic growth. Cement production generates ~10% of global CO2 emissions. Hence, some important challenges which science/engineering communities currently face include: developing sustainable low-carbon energy sources, reducing global carbon emissions, minimising/recycling industrial waste and improving the circular economy.

Sewage treatment sludge (STS) is a potential low-carbon energy source, but requires pre-treatment before meaningful amounts of energy can be harnessed. EU-funded research at Teesside recently demonstrated a prototype energy system that converts STS into biochar (STSB). STSB represents removal of atmospheric CO2, is an alkali and is porous, allowing heavy metal adsorption. Exploitation of these properties will enhance the economic potential of STS pyrolysis. This may be achieved by combining STSB with cementitious materials to produce low-carbon concretes.

Adding alkalis to slags from the steel industry activates strength development, due to their cementitious properties. However, the carbon savings of using conventional alkalis is low due to the environmental and financial costs of their manufacture. This project will investigate the impact of STS biochar on reducing the embodied energy and carbon in the cement/concrete life cycle. A laboratory programme will characterise the technical performance of a range of novel STS biochar slag formulations. This should add value to pyrolysis co-products, which will assist the economic viability of harnessing renewable energy from STS.

Teesside University

Biochar slag cements valorising by-products

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Decision support system for energy access, generation and distribution planning in displaced population settings

Refugee camps are meant to be temporary settlements, but many exist for several decades with the majority of refugees having no access to electricity. Major problems arise from a lack of basic energy services: unsafe streets with no lighting, a lack of food preservation, indoor air pollution from open fires for cooking and inadequate facilities for education and medical care.

To address these issues, a number of energy interventions in camps have been attempted in recent years, but they have generally been unsuccessful. Products–which have been handed out–are often not suitable or simply resold, and typically, there is a lack of understanding regarding refugees’ needs and cultural practices. This project will involve the development and testing of a tool to aid in the deployment of fit-for-purpose energy strategies in displaced populations. With input from refugees and humanitarian experts, the tool will establish and evaluate different strategies based on the principles of sustainability (society, economy and environment). The project will initially be carried out for refugee campsites in Rwanda and Nepal. The research outcomes from the project will guide the future implementation of energy solutions and encourage sustainable development in displaced populations.

Coventry University

Decision support systems in displaced populations

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Development of high performance thermoelectric materials for low to medium temperature range applications

A large amount of the world’s energy consumption is wasted as heat (accounts for > 50% of the world energy use), which raises environmental concerns as well as incurring significant costs. The development of efficient thermoelectric materials is expected to provide a breakthrough in the widespread application of thermoelectric generators to recover some of this waste heat.

When two suitably different electrically conducting materials are connected together, while bridging a temperature gradient, they produce electrical current (electricity). This is known as the Seebeck effect. The different conductors must comprise a negatively (n-type) and a positively (p-type) charged material. A TEG is a solid state device designed to exploit the Seebeck effect for the purpose of generating electricity, typically formed by a series of the n- and p-type materials sandwiched between highly efficient thermal conductors. However, existing thermoelectric materials have relatively low conversion efficiency (~10%). This project proposes an innovative strategy to enhance the conversion efficiency of thermoelectric materials based on engineering the composition and microstructure. The expected outcomes of this project would introduce a new generation of thermoelectric materials to place the UK at the forefront of research in the internationally focused fields of thermoelectric materials.

Sheffield Hallam University

Development of high performance thermoelectric materials of low/medium temperature

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Development of Nano phase change materials based on polymer nanocomposites for thermal energy storage systems

Thermal energy storage (TES) systems based on latent heat of PCM (phase change materials) have the potential to be employed in the fields of intelligent buildings and temperature-adaptable greenhouse solar energy storages. To promote the prospects of wide application, there is a need to provide more economical and high performance phase change materials for thermal energy storage systems. This proposed project aims to employ nano-technology to develop nano phase change materials which can enhance the potential of thermal conductivity, low cost and optimised thermal performance for thermal energy storage systems. The effects of nano-materials, such as nano-tubes/particles, on the potential of nano phase change materials for thermal energy storage for buildings and other applications will be studied. The proposed project is to deal with fabrication, physico-chemical characterisations and thermal properties of nano phase change material based on polymer nanocomposites for thermal energy storage. Samples of board of the nano materials will be tested so that the potential materials could be studied. A detailed parametric analysis of the effects of all major influencing factors on the PCMW thermal performance (in both criteria) will be investigated, including melting temperature, melting range, latent heat, thermal conductivity and surface heat transfer coefficients.

University of Hertfordshire

Nano phase change materials based on polymer nanocomposites for thermal energy storage systems

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Fault tolerant control for increased safety and security of nuclear power plants

In safety-critical systems, such as nuclear power plants, the demand for reliability, safety and fault tolerance is high. Faults compromise plant safety, cause inefficiencies in the operation of industrial processes and reduce component life. In such safety-critical systems, it is useful to design control systems which are capable of tolerating potential faults to improve the reliability and availability while providing a desirable performance. A control system which can automatically tolerate component malfunctions, while maintaining desirable performance and stability properties is said to be a fault- tolerant control system.

Fault tolerant control approaches allow control systems to operate under fault conditions with minimal degradation of performance and stability, preventing localised, random, or intentional faults from developing into catastrophic system failures leading to accidents that may have severe consequences to human life, equipment, infrastructure, or the environment. Fault tolerance helps to reduce the damaging effects that faults can have while remedial action is taken to repair or eliminate the fault.

This project will study the application of fault tolerant control approaches in nuclear power plants.

University of Portsmouth

Fault tolerant control for safety & security of nuclear power plants

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Holistic Monitoring and Control (HoMeriC) System for Reliable and Efficient Photovoltaic Technologies

Interest in photovoltaic power generation has increased in recent years thanks to its inexhaustible and clean energy resources. However, advances in design solutions to guarantee their reliability and efficiency have not followed a similar development. The project proposes a novel holist methodology consisting in the design of new monitoring circuits, advanced diagnosis algorithms and proactive and reactive actions to guarantee that PV systems keep on operating effectively and efficiently also in presence of faults and malfunctions of their components, thus guaranteeing continuous reliability, high-energy efficiency and adequate investment profitability.

The innovative, holistic approach will represent a plug & play solution that will further boost the use of PV system as a reliable and efficient source of green energy, tackling effectively the impact of fossil-based energy system. Moreover, the project may lead to a considerable breakthrough in terms of PV technology and competitive advantage for investment profitability.

University of Hertfordshire

HoMeriC systems for reliable photovoltaic technologies

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Innovative cement-based composites for reducing the embodied energy of civil infrastructure

Concrete is the dominant construction material and the key element in the vast majority of infrastructure assets. However, concrete’s manufacture is extremely energy and resource intensive: >4 Billion tonnes of cement are produced annually, accounting to ~8% of global anthropogenic CO2 and resulting to an annual production of ~2 tonnes of concrete for every person on the planet. Clearly this is not sustainable and there is a strong requirement for more environmentally friendly concretes.

The proposed project aims to investigate the potential of exploiting abundant non- conventional natural minerals and recyclable waste in the manufacture of concrete as replacement to the currently used, energy intensive, engineered additives. Successful implementation of such materials into the manufacture of concrete will considerably reduce the energy associated with the manufacture of civil infrastructure.

University of Hertfordshire

Cement-based composites for reducing embodied energy of civil infrastructure

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Intelligent decision support system for predicting and managing Building Energy Performance over whole life cycle of buildings

Globally, it is well known that buildings account for approximately 32% of the total energy consumption and associated CO2 emission. Hence, there is a huge drive to improve decision making towards reducing energy consumptions and CO2 emission by improving building energy consumption predictions. Subsequently, good performance energy predictions can assist in evaluating different building design alternatives and apply more energy efficient building operation strategies including improving demand side and supply management. This can be achieved by developing and implementing an intelligent energy performance management platform to simulate energy profiles, predict consumptions and compare them with real-time set points to enable appropriate energy performance decisions to be made over whole life cycle of buildings.

Teesside University

Intelligent decision support systems in Building Energy Performance

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Making decisions about saving energy in Compressed Air Systems using Ambient Intelligence and AI

ndustry is facing higher energy-costs and needs to reduce financial and environmental impacts of using energy. Government recognised needs to reduce climate change effects and introduced targets to achieve by 2020 / 2050. Air compressors account for >10% of UK industrial energy use. Ambient-sensing and knowledge gathered within manufacturing environments represent untapped resources to optimise energy use. This research project will investigate ambient-sensing with artificial intelligence (AI) for manufacturing units that interact with people to produce detailed awareness. AI will interpret sensors, make intelligent judgements and take automated decisions in real-time. It will evaluate compressed air systems by asking questions such as: “Are hoses leaking?”, “Is air needed?”, “Does loading need all compressors?”, “Can couplings be removed?”, “Are compressor sizes correct?”.

A knowledge management system will answer questions and automatically provide energy efficiency suggestions. Answers will include: “Use smaller compressor.”, “No action.”, “Replace filters.”, “Investigate.”, “Dry system.”, “Replace compressors”.

The research will go beyond current practices (e.g. condition monitoring) by introducing intelligence and holistic awareness. Data will concern equipment, how manufacturing units are performing, environmental effects, human interactions, and energy consumption. That data will be brought together and used with machine learning techniques to provide intelligent approaches to energy efficiency.

University of Portsmouth

Decisions about saving energy in compressed air system using AI

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Manufacturing highly efficient and scalable electrolysers via screen-printing technology

The ability to use renewable energy generation techniques (wind, wave, solar, etc.) as the power source for water electrolysis (whereby hydrogen and oxygen gases are generated) has increased the attractiveness of hydrogen fuel cell technologies (FC), e.g. hydrogen fuel cells. This project will utilise the benefits of 2D materials to generate hydrogen and oxygen that can be used to feed hydrogen fuel cells from water (known as hydrolysis). Our approach is to allow the mass production of electrolysers via screen-printing technology which allows the mass production of cost effectively electrolysers.

Manchester Metropolitan University

Manufacturing electrolysers via screen-printing

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Mathematical modelling of storage and demand-side management in power systems

The increased use of varying and unpredictable renewable and low-carbon energy sources such as solar, wave and wind power will require an intelligent electricity network, the so-called smart grid, in which consumers regulate their own power consumption as well as providing power back into the network with small-scale generation.

A major challenge of renewables is the storage of electrical energy and the use of demand- side management to even out variations in supply and on suitable mechanisms to incentivise service providers.

The aim of the project is to develop differential-equation models of electrical power systems with a particular emphasis on the role of storage, demand-side management and price in a smart grid and on grid resilience and security.

Following a review of the smart grid and energy systems, and of electrical storage and demand-side management, you will develop and study numerically several mathematical models, taking into account demand-side management, storage, price and system requirements.

The project will draw on both stochastic and deterministic modelling as well as simulation, as appropriate.

The Open University

Mathematical modelling of storage and power systems

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Multi-scale numerical modelling of phase-change heat transfer for the design and optimisation of energy efficient thermal management systems in datacentres

Thermal management has become a major issue in high density power components such as microprocessors, fuel cells, nuclear reactors. Furthermore, efficient and Smart Thermal Management (STM) is also becoming an important and challenging issue for the cooling and thermal homogenisation of Li-ion battery cells in Electric Vehicles (EVs) as well as for energy efficient and effective cooling of Datacentres. Systems based on phase-change heat transfer, utilising two-phase flows (boiling/condensation), are a valid option for such cases, due to the dissipation of significantly higher heat fluxes than conventional cooling methods (e.g. air cooling, water cooling). The present project aims to develop an integrated, multiscale, CFD- based numerical simulation framework for phase- change heat transfer (boiling/condensation) that will be applicable for the design and optimisation of on-chip cooling technologies in datacentres. The simulation-based optimisation of the utilised micro- channel evaporators in such cases can significantly increase the performance and efficiency of the utilised on-chip cooling systems.

University of Brighton

Thermal management systems

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Novel electrocatalysts for hydrogen fuel cells produced by magnetron sputtering techniques

Hydrogen fuel cells offer the potential for clean, abundant, renewable energy. They are simple in concept, requiring only hydrogen and oxygen supplies and producing only water as a waste product. However, they are highly demanding in terms of the properties of the materials that make up their key components. They require either expensive catalysts, such as platinum, or complex oxide materials that are very sensitive to the operating conditions of the cell. These issues have held back the deployment of fuel cells in many areas. We are proposing to utilise new developments in coating deposition and screen printing techniques to produce novel materials for incorporation into fuel cell assemblies. These new production techniques will allow us to develop novel materials, which cannot be produced by current techniques, that will offer enhanced performance and reduced costs, compared to existing materials. Furthermore, these production techniques are ideally suited to industrial scale-up to allow commercial exploitation of candidate materials.

Manchester Metropolitan University

Novel electrocatalysts for hydrogen fuel cells

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Novel Energy Trading Models to encourage the use of Smart and Renewable Energy (SRE) Technologies

Large number energy saving technologies have been introduced to households recently (e.g. energy saving lighting and electrical products, smart sockets, solar panels). Due to high capital cost of installation, their growth is largely supported by government subsidy schemes. Thus, their widespread use is hindered, and financial attractiveness remains a key hurdle to overcome due to issues such as lack of awareness, and lack of incentives. With governments scaling back subsidies, it is essential to make these technologies financially viable for households. Most widely accepted approach is to reduce their capital cost through mass manufacture, and income generation through selling saved energy to utility companies. However, the latter is not profitable as the energy saved is sold based on low unit costs set by the utility companies. No other profitable models are available or have been proposed thus far. The key aim of this research is, therefore, to find more attractive energy trading models that could allow households to trade energy they save to energy buyer at a higher price or purchase another product (e.g. selling energy to a supermarket in exchange for grocery vouchers). Herein, energy buyers could be industries who can use traded energy to offset their energy bills.

University of Central Lancashire

Novel energy models to encourage Smart & SRE technologies

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OXYHYH2O-Integrated Renewable Hydrogen and Oxygen Production for Reduced Emissions in Wastewater Treatment Plant Operations.

In advanced economies, such as in Europe, there are ambitious targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, increase the level of renewable energy and reduce air pollution in particular related to road traffic emissions. The water industry in UK is one of the biggest consumers energy using approximately 3% of generated electricity. The wastewater treatment is one of the most energy intensive activity with 25% of the overall energy consumption from aeration and 15% from transport. This project aims to research a concept of embedding the production of oxygen and hydrogen produced via water electrolysis from renewable electricity into the water industry. It is proposed, that the hydrogen produced will be used as a low emission, high efficiency transport fuel, whilst the oxygen will be used to displace air used in conventional sewage treatment processes for oxidising the organic matter pollution (biochemical oxygen demand) in sewage. As air is only 20% oxygen, this process is intrinsically inefficient and wastes substantial amounts of energy. The target of the project will be to leverage increase the efficiency of sewage treatment whilst producing a low emission fuel and increasing the deployment of renewable electricity.

University of South Wales

OXYHYH2O for reducing emissions in wastewater treatment

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Rain energy harvesting by droplet to surface triboelectric interaction.

Triboelectricity is the well-known effect by which two surfaces can accumulate static electrical charges by contacting each other. Many kids will probably have experienced this phenomenon with party balloons, when previously rubbed to their hair, appearing to be able to stick to the ceiling. When rubbed together the balloon and the hair will acquire and accumulate opposite charges, one material ripping off electrons from the other. The accumulation of static charges at the surface of the balloon generates an electrostatic force allowing it to stick to the ceiling.

Interestingly, droplets rolling on water-repellent surfaces, just like the balloon in the example, are able to generate and accumulate charges. Taking advantage of this ability, we propose to use bespoke surfaces encompassing a network of electrodes to harvest energy from the rain (relatively abundant in the UK), a clean, renewable source. The aim of the project is to demonstrate a low-cost rain energy harvester that can be applied to power different scale systems, from small autonomous devices (e.g. drones) to large scale structures (e.g. buildings). This PhD programme addresses the environmental concerns that our modern energy consumption represents. Success will tackle the challenge that sustaining our lifestyle while preserving our world represents.

University of Hertfordshire

Rain energy harvesting to triboelectric interaction

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Socio-technical study of the integration of renewable energy technology in existing domestic buildings (The RETB project)

Renewable energy technologies (RETs) including heat pump systems are widely recognised as important low carbon technologies for addressing energy and climate change challenges. Currently RETs are mainly installed in new buildings, therefore retrofit RET-integration in existing domestic buildings offers an untapped potential to reduce building energy and emissions, particularly important when most of the 2010 building stock will be in use in 2050. This socio-technical study will examine retrofit RET-integration processes in existing domestic buildings, including design, planning, procurement/purchase, installation and use of RETs. It will involve working with key actors in the construction industry, including designers, planners, installers and managers working on retrofit RET-integration, and with private actors engaged with RET use in domestic buildings. It will adopt a case-study approach using quantitative and qualitative methods to investigate how construction industry practices influence the choice and costs of RETs for existing domestic buildings, the compatibility with buildings and systems, and the use in private and social housing, examining how such practices influence building energy performance and the ‘whole life carbon/energy’ efficiency of RETs once installed. The findings contribute to informing and improving current construction industry practices around effective retrofit RET-integration in existing domestic buildings to deliver improved building energy performance.

The Open University

Integration of renewable energy technology in existing domestic buildings

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The design and integration of a novel heat-pump system with stratified thermal energy storage to reduce energy consumption and carbon emissions

This project aims to develop the technology and knowledge to enhance energy security, reduce energy poverty, increase the use of renewable energy and support the de- carbonisation of the electricity national grid. Most residential buildings depend on a gas boiler or electric heaters to provide the building’s heating and hot water. Most buildings use instant electric showers and/or combi-boiler, hence no thermal storage is available. With the focus on renewable energy generation, energy thermal storage is becoming an important facility to capture renewable energy (e.g. wind and/or solar) when available over the grid or locally. Hence, thermal storage is re-attracting the attention of research. Stratified thermal storage (i.e. water could be at different temperatures at different levels in the same storage) could be beneficial to enhance the utilisation of energy and integrate a wide range of technologies (e.g. heat pumps with electrical heaters, solar thermal or gas boilers). Moreover, the user-interface of heating technologies will be explored to investigate a better approach to communicate with the user.

Nottingham Trent University

Design & integration of novel heat-pump system with stratified thermal energy storage to reduce energy & carbon emissions

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Understanding the impact of LCA on decisions to reduce embodied energy and carbon from buildings

This project will identify the decision processes during new building projects and their subsequent embodied energy and greenhouse gas impacts on the buildings. These ‘embodied’ impacts come from the materials, their transport and construction at the start of the building life, their refurbishment and replacement, and their demolition and processing at the end of life. Combined with the operational energy and carbon – that which is used in heating, cooling and lighting the building over its lifetime – these make up the whole life impacts of a building. The current prevalent tool used across Europe is Life Cycle Analysis; however the increased use of this tool has not yet resulted in the reduction of embodied impacts. This project seeks to understand why this is the case, by analysing the role that LCA currently takes in decision-making, in order to recommend how it might be used more effectively.

The Open University

Impact of life cycle assessment to reduce embodied energy

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Social Policy

Effective Policy and Practice Addressing Supply and Demand in Sex Trafficking

Sex trafficking involves the exploitation of women, men, young people and children. It inflicts long term damage on its victims and contravenes principles of human rights and dignity. It is underpinned by and contributes to global inequality. To date, policy and interventions aimed at ending sex trafficking have largely focused on the identification of traffickers and their victims. This study aims to capture and analyse the experience and views of policy makers, practitioners and trafficked people themselves to develop proposals for tackling those factors that contribute to the supply and demand for sex trafficking. The study will be undertaken in Romania and the UK and will focus on both adult and child victims of sex trafficking. The research will be located in UCLan’s new Lancashire Institute of Citizenship, Society and Change and the interdisciplinary supervisory team will be drawn from social work and forensic science. The supervisors have a history of collaboration on this and associated issues with Babeş-Bolyai University, Romania, and Professor Maria Roth at Babeş-Bolyai University has agreed to assist with recruiting, selecting and supporting the PhD candidate.

University of Central Lancashire

Effective policy & practice addressing sex trafficking

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Establishing an evidence-base for what works in homicide investigations.

This project will focus on the investigation of homicide exploring the context surrounding the investigative decision-making, to understand the cultural, situational, personnel and organisational factors influencing decision-making. Decision-making is at the heart of investigative success and despite increasing regulatory guidance to assist the decision-making process cases go cold and miscarriages of justice occur. This can result in victims of crime not receiving justice, justice being delayed, and innocent people being wrongly convicted. The focus of the project is to establish the systemic errors resulting in investigative failures. Included within this there is the scope to explore the role of investigative experience and knowledge, the impact of official guidance in investigative decision-making, the problems of technology and the overload of information and, where appropriate, the role of expert evidence in the investigations.

University of South Wales

Establishing evidence base in homicide investigations

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How much social media is too much? A cross-cultural interdisciplinary investigation of social media use and addiction

Our recent report requested by the UK Government’s Science and Technology Committee on the impact of social media use on adolescents indicated social media use (including Facebook and Instagram) is an online activity frequently engaged in which may have negative health and psychosocial impacts if used to excess, including loneliness, anxiety, depression, relationship problems and addiction. Excessive social media use has also been associated with serious physical conditions (i.e. obesity, diabetes), co-occurring psychosocial problems and a decrease in psychological wellbeing. Excessive and addictive social media use is a societal challenge, and current UK public policy advice is risk-focused with minimal reference to socioemotional consequences and impacts experienced by users. Accordingly, the proposed research will study (i) the individual experience of social media use and overuse (examined via focus group interviews and an online survey), (ii) the associated mental health and society impacts using a multi-method, interdisciplinary design in an international context (i.e., UK and Norway), and (iii) test a smartphone application to improve mental health challenges associated with excessive social media use (via an intervention study). All of these findings have social policy implications and will be used to help develop national/international policy about healthy social media use in occupational and educational settings.

Nottingham Trent University

Investigation of social media use & addiction

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Night-Time Economy (NTE) venues as crime attractors and Secure By Design prevention

Violence, which costs the UK economy £13 billion annually, and alcohol-related crime hot spots invariably include areas with high concentration of Night-Time Economy (NTE) venues. The impact of the physical environment on such crimes consist a large gap in knowledge. As a result, there is no evidence base (or policies) on environmental interventions designing out opportunities from NTE settings. However good management and design of the NTE venues and their immediate environment in principle can reduce opportunities for crime. The proposed PhD will draw on the interdisciplinarity of a supervisory team of internal and external academic experts (criminology, digital architecture, urban planning, and social policy) and their sustained collaboration with practitioners in crime prevention and alcohol-related harm reduction to design-out crime from NTE venues and their immediate surroundings. To this end, it will use highly innovative methodology to collect primary data and, merged with existing secondary data, statistically analyse them, and digitally design crime-proof NTE venues. The findings, in addition to creating new knowledge across multiple disciplines, will influence NTE venues’ planning and licensing and Secure By Design guidance and standards for local government, national (Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government), and international policies.

Nottingham Trent University

NTE venues as crime attractors & secure by design prevention

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Public Order Policing in Post-Conflict Societies

This project examines how, and why, the police use violence to produce order in a post-conflict society. It is an important topic: if the police use violence disproportionately to police some (marginalized) groups, but not other (powerful) groups, it can damage police legitimacy, undermine social justice and the rule of law, and even destabilize the constitutional order. In spite of its importance, however, there is very little academic research on the subject. This doctoral project examines two important cases of police reform, Northern Ireland and South Africa, to provide a fresh insight into policing and social justice in post-conflict societies.

The project applies theoretical insights from a range of disciplines – including peace and conflict studies, organizational studies, and socio-legal studies – to explain why the Police Service of Northern Ireland has been relatively successful in their policing of public disorder, while the South African Police Service has not. This case study will produce new evidence – relying primarily on interviews with police officers, activists, politicians, and ordinary citizens – to develop clear guidelines that help guide policy-makers who wish to design and build a democratic police service that protects the vulnerable in a post-conflict society.

Ulster University

Public order policing

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Reforming Kleptocracy through Shock Therapy: A Social Harm Assessment

Kleptocracy is a term coined to depict regimes where organs of state power have been captured in order to loot assets, fix market activity, and swindle revenues. International reform efforts designed to counter kleptocracy have focused on introducing neoliberal forms of governance. This doctoral project will examine case studies where this process has happened in a particularly condensed and explicit form, in order to test its impact on kleptocracies and the social welfare of citizens.

To achieve this aim a multiple case study approach will be employed. Cases will be analysed using a three-step approach. First change in the kleptocratic regime over time will be measured. Second, the relationship between this change and shock therapy will be considered using process tracing, an analytical method for detecting causation. Third, social harm theory will be used to identify what the outcomes are of shock therapy on kleptocracy for citizens. Social harm considers how structural distributions of social assets and opportunities, impact on the capabilities of citizens to achieve their social, cultural and biophysical potential.

It is anticipated that this study will generate new knowledge on dominant anti-corruption policies and their potential to facilitate meaningful forms of transition within kleptocratic regimes.

Ulster University

Reforming kleptocracy

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State monitoring and social cohesion: A comparative analysis of European asylum and penal policies and the impact on individuals and communities

This project will examine the effects of the policies that are in place in countries across Europe which dictate the way asylum seekers and offenders in the community are treated. Countries around the world are seeing these groups increase in number and governments are responding by imposing increasingly strict controls upon them. These controls include electronic monitoring, stringent reporting requirements and threats of detention. In spite of this, we do not know what the effects of these policies are at an individual or community/societal level. The research will elicit data which will fill this gap in knowledge around this topical and important social issue. We know that asylum seekers and offenders are more likely to die than other groups in the population but we do not know how this changes across different political systems. This will be part of the analysis. We know even less about other effects of these policies on outcomes such as physical and mental health, engagement in community activities or social integration. The research will contribute to our understanding of the ways in which policies can have a negative effect on people and communities or can work to increase people’s chances of re/integration into society.

Sheffield Hallam University

State monitoring & social cohesion a comparative analysis of European asylum & penal policies

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Strengthening Civil Society in Central Asia

Autocratic states limit freedom of expression and see civil society as potentially threatening to the status quo. As a result, such states tend to suppress attempts aimed at strengthening the role of civil society organisations or incorporate them into the state through funding relationships which restrict their independence. Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan) is one such region where largely autocratic leaders have been responsible for weak civil society through restrictions on funding opportunities, strict laws on registration, bureaucratic reporting mechanisms, and rigorous oversight of their work. This research project is aimed at exploring the existing role of civil society organisations in Central Asia, the potential for strengthening their functions, in particular holding autocratic governments to account, and as a mechanism for more deliberative processes which embrace the wider principle of open government. The proposed project will have a strong social policy dimension congruent with the DTA programme, has an international placement in Central Asia, and will co-ordinate the activities of the successful student through Nazarbayev University in Kazakhstan which has a research record in this field of scholarship.

Ulster University

Civil society in Central Asia

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The Europeanisation of local policing: the governance of security interdependence by the UK and continental European police forces.

Criminologists agree that crime, particularly organised crime, may involve a cross-border aspect even when the problem is primarily experienced as a local problem. For example, drugs impact communities negatively, but supply chains within drug markets often extend across borders. This characteristic often requires police forces of different countries to cooperate and successfully address the problem. Within the European Union there are well developed structures to facilitate such
cooperation. Little, however, is known about how and how much the local police services both in the UK and in neighbouring EU countries depend on these structures of cooperation in their day to day crime control activity. Does international police cooperation matter for local policies and responses against crime? To what extent do UK police forces interact with other European police forces and European law-enforcement agencies (and vice versa), and how significant is this interaction?

The project will aim to conduct an in-depth investigation of questions such as the above. By doing so, it will address a significant knowledge gap, and importantly, it will seek to contribute reliable evidence to help decisions regarding the management of the UK’s security environment, particularly in light of Britain’s departure from the European Union.

Teesside University

The Europeanisation of local policing

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Using a co-production approach with young people to develop an app for gaining consent in research trials in the criminal justice system.

Research in the criminal justice system is difficult. There are a lot of competing parts to carrying out research including busy caseloads and high levels of need. Ethical approval for research in the criminal justice system is difficult primarily because of the perceived coersion and vulnerability of the participants. However, research tells us that participants do not feel coerced if the project is explained properly. At the heart of this evaluation is that it will be carried out in co-production with young people and staff involved in this system so they have a real say in what is happening and how things develop.

The aim of this PhD is to use a co-production approach with young people to develop an app for gaining consent in research trials in the criminal justice system. This will be a mixed methods study with the following objectives:

  1. To carry out a systematic review of the international literature to investigate the barriers and facilitators associated with gaining consent to public health interventions for young people
  2. To carry out interviews with stakeholders from the criminal justice arena and from university ethics boards to ascertain what is needed in order to ensure that the app would be sufficient for ethical approval.
  3. To carry out a series of workshops with young people (in and out of the criminal justice system) to co-produce an online app that explains and gains informed consent from young people.
  4. To qualitatively explore the views of young people/practitioners and research commissioners to ascertain their views on the proposed app.
  5. To work with young people to make changes to the app based on the findings of previous aims.
  6. To make the app available online to researchers and monitor use.

Teesside University

Co-production with young people to develop an app gaining consent in research trials

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