Layout print header[D]

Awarded projects

The following projects were awarded seed corn funding following our third Sand Pit event in February 2011:

Artificial Living Leaves

Lead applicant - Dr. Heming Wang (MERI)

Team - Professor Tom Smith (BMRC), Dr. Ben Abell (BMRC), Dr. Quanshon Luo (MERI), Professor Robert Akid (MERI)

This project aims to develop a novel photochemical material via the encapsulation either photosynthesic bacteria or plant cells into a hybrid sol gel matrix for the production of organic compounds by converting water and CO2 under light irradiation. Climate change and the depletion of fossil fuels increase the need for sustainable energy production. Biotechnologies have recently become one of the most promising sustainable approaches to fulfil such needs. Current systems for the production of bioenergy, such as green or bioelectricity, bioethanol, and biodiesel still have some drawbacks. They compete with food production for arable land and fertilizers, requiring an additional energy input.



Lead applicant - Dr. Simona Francese (BMRC)

Team - Mr. Heath Reed (ADRC), Dr. Rosalind Wolstenholme (BMRC), Dr. Jonathan Wheat (CSER)

Current forensic practice to enhance and recover fingermarks at crime scenes often involves dusting and then lifting the fingermark off the surface with a tape for subsequent image digitalization and database comparison. For currently applied techniques, an image of the ridge pattern is the only evidence that can be produced from the recovered fingermark. However, dusting brushes inevitably remove some of the fingermark material which may compromise the quality of the image obtained. Additionally, brushes are not washed but instead used for different crime scenes and fingermarks. This may cause DNA transfer from one fingermark to another thus affecting the reliability of the DNA evidence. As DNA recovery from fingermarks is one of the emerging forensic research areas, brushes will likely become single use tools thus increasing wastage. As brushes make contact with the dusting agent within a container, DNA contamination might occur using the same pot of powder for the next crime scene. This will likely cause further wastage of powders.

This project intends to develop a contactless powder dispenser to homogeneously and reproducibly apply the enhancing powder onto fingermark left at a crime scene. This would address both the issue of removing fingermark material, connected with the use of brushes, and of the DNA transfer.


Sustainable Hydroponics

Lead applicant - Dr. Neil Bricklebank (BMRC)

Team - Mr. Heath Reed (ADRC), Dr. Christine le Maitre (BMRC), Dr. Joe Langley (ADRC)

This application concerns ‘hydroponics’, or soilless horticulture, which is used worldwide for the mass production of fresh fruit and vegetables. Hydroponic technologies offer a number of advantages over conventional soil-based growing, including increased crop yield and quality, faster growing times, easier pest/disease control with significantly reduced consumption of pesticides. Despite these clear advantages, a number of challenges remain, especially issues of sustainability and the efficient use of natural resources including water, nutrients and energy. Furthermore, despite its widespread commercial use, there is a lack of awareness of the technology amongst the public.


Waste from the Steel Industry: A New Source of Phosphate Fertilizer?

Lead applicant - Professor Tom Smith (BMRC)

Team - Dr. Neil Bricklebank (BMRC), Dr. Joe Langley (ADRC), Dr. Paul Devine (CCRC)

This project aims to develop a microbiological process to extract soil from blast furnace slag as the first step towards new sources of phosphate fertilizer to sustain yields in food production.

This project will also incorporate design of new bioreactors for treating particular material for the recovery of phosphorous and other valuable elements.


What If . . ? Understanding the Complexity of Sustainability through Social Play

Lead applicant - Dr. Daniela Petrelli (ADRC)

Team - Dr. Andy Young (MERI), Dr. David Greenfield (MERI), Dr. David Smith (BMRC), Prof Ian Gwilt (ADRC), Dr. Fabio Caparrelli (MERI)


  • to understand sustainability from a human-centred standpoint, including different social contexts
  • to discuss the impact alternative views of sustainability have on policy and scientific input
  • to foster the adoption of a more sustainable lifestyle that suit personal needs and aspirations


What's in my Stuff?

Lead applicant - Ms Maria Hanson (ADRC)

Team - Dr. Hywel Jones (MERI), Dr. Karen Vernon-Parry (MERI)

The envisaged fully fledged version of this project will seek to change the public attitude to high technology products by raising awareness of the environmental, human and economic impact of the elements used to manufacture them. It will seek to renew an emotional connection between people and "not the latest version" high technology devices by getting people to find out for themselves "What's in My Stuff" and to find new ways of getting value from something that is no longer state of the art. The deconstructed devices (mobiles) will be reconstructed into desirable artwork and jewellery, giving new value and emotional context to them.

The "seed corn" version of this project begins to explore how this can be achieved and will involve a one week field laboratory in the Atrium at SHU at the beginning of October 2011 where we invite students and staff to deconstruct mobile phones and compare their findings to those of a phone that MERI took apart and analysed previously. Engaging participants in a practical and multi-sensory activity which provides individuals with a greater sense of agency will play an important role in raising awareness.

Feasibility Account Awards:

Arty Sciency Sporty Art: The Bigger Picture

Lead applicant - Dr. John Hart (CSER)

Second applicant - Julie Westerman (ADRC)

The Arty Sciency Sporty Art (ASSA) initiative is a cross faculty project that uses Sport as a gateway into Art and a gateway into Science for the general public. Capitalising on the very different languages and visualisation used in sports science and arts it is intended that this interdisciplinary project will give a fresh and innovative insight into sports, science, and the arts.


Hydro-Delivery for the Back

Lead applicant - Dr. Christine Le Maitre (BMRC)

Second applicant - Dr. Chris Sammon (MERI)

Hydro Delivery for the Back aims to develop a new therapy for low back pain which targets the failing shock absorbers in the spine. The project is developing a novel, injectable biomaterial delivery systems which will inhibit the cause failure of the shock absorbers and deliver mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) which can stimulate regeneration. To date the team has developed hydrogel systems capable of supporting MSC growth and incorporation of proteins which could be delivered to inhibit the cellular changes during disease.


Visualising the Interaction of Proteins in Biological Membranes for Diagnosis of Diseases

Lead applicant - Dr. David Smith (BMRC)

Team - Dr. Aleksey Nabok (MERI), Dr. Benjamin Abell (BMRC), Dr. Verena Kriechbaumer (BMRC), Dr. Anna Tsargorodskaya (MERI)

Membrane proteins are central to life on earth controlling how cells interact with the environment and each other. Biological membranes consist of a double layer of chemicals called phospholipids, which separate the inside of the living cell from the outside, in the same way that a wall insulates a house. Membrane proteins either sit on the surface of this wall or pass through it and control how cells react with their environment. Building on preliminary data this project will develop methods to probe membrane interactions.


Intelligent Mobile Intermittent Compression Cuff

Lead applicant - Dr Karen Vernon Parry (MERI)

Team - Dr. Ben Heller (CSER), Dr. Alan Holloway (MERI), Mr. Tony Jones (ADRC), Dr. Subodh Sabnis (MERI)

A proof of concept study for the development of an intelligent intermittent pressure cuff that will be sufficiently light, comfortable and use such little power that it can be worn all day while permitting the user to go about their daily life.  The eventual aim is for the cuff to also act as a datalogger, and download the day's data to a centralised healthcare system at the end of the day or on demand.


Improving Materials Properties using Modified Flax and Innovative Design

Lead applicant - Mr. Roger Bateman (ADRC)

Team - Professor Chris Breen (MERI), Dr. Brendon Weager (NetComposites)

This project will:

  • Adopt and improve a new biocomposite material using a new, in-situ fibre modification technology
  • Identify and develop THREE initial design propositions of varying size and complexity
  • Realise the best design proposition using the enhanced, modified-fibre material produced

The following projects were awarded seed corn funding following our second Sand Pit event in June 2010:

Visualising the Interaction of Proteins in Biological Membranes for Diagnosis of Diseases

Lead applicant - Dr. David Smith (BMRC)

Team - Dr. Aleksey Nabok (MERI), Dr. Benjamin Abell (BMRC), Dr. Verena Kriechbaumer (BMRC), Dr. Anna Tsargorodskaya (MERI)

Using methodology new to this area, this project aims to develop a novel analytical technique to detect interactions between proteins and cell membranes. It will rely on specialists from BMRC and MERI. This research will hopefully aid in understanding diseases such as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's.

Support, Positioning and Organ Registration During Breast Cancer Radiation Therapy: SUPPORT 4 All

Lead applicant - Dr. Heidi Probst (CHSCR)

Team - Dr. John Hart (CSER), Prof Marcos Rodrigues (CCRC), Lisa Radford (CSER)

Breast cancer affects a substantial proportion of the population. Current radiotherapy approaches require precision accuracy to avoid long term side effects. The methods for positioning and immobilising the breast are inadequate given increased complexity of the radiotherapy approaches used. This study hopes to devise a novel solution for safer breast radiotherapy and to improve the dignity and comfort of treatment for women.

Arty Sciency Sporty Art

Lead applicant - Dr. John Hart (CSER)

Second applicant - Julie Westerman (ADRC)

Scientist and artist collaborations have the ability to stimulate new thinking in audiences and provide a new dimension to public engagement. The presence of art in our public space is acknowledged to have a transformative effect in the public's perception of place and space; it provides an interpretation and reflection of events and inspires new readings and insights into the world around us. Art creates a forum that makes it possible to engage the public in ways not possible by conventional discussion of the science. This project intends to use sport as a gateway into art and science, capitalising on the different languages and visualisation of the different areas.

Using Mobile Technology in Tackling Maternal Obesity

Lead applicant - Dr. Hora Soltani (CHSCR)

Team - Prof Andrew Dearden (CCRC), Dr. Sally Atkinson (CCRC), Dr. Penny Furness (Nursing & Midwifery), Mrs. Fazilatur Rahman (ADRC), Dr. Madelynne Arden (Health Psychologist from D&S), Lindsey Reece (CSER), Dr. Kerry McSeveny (CCRC)

Obesity in pregnancy is associated with an increased risk of maternal and neonatal death. It has a negative impact on women's experiences as well as being a significant burden on the NHS by increasing risk of complications during pregnancy and birth.

Mobile technologies (e.g. text messaging) have been shown to be successful in other areas of health promotion such as diet improvement, smoking cessation and diabetes management. This has not been evaluated in the pregnant population. This feasibility study is aimed to identify factors that should be considered in designing a platform for bespoke self management mentoring and support to help women with obesity in pregnancy.

CROWD (Controlled Release from Open Wound Dressings)

Lead applicant - Dr. Neil Bricklebank (BMRC)

Team - Prof Chris Breen (MERI), Ms Louise Freeman-Parry (Dept of Biosciences), Dr. Keith Miller (BMRC)

Wound infection is a common problem affecting up to 20% of hospital patients and can cause significant morbidity and mortality. This project aims to reduce this statistic and the inconvenience attached to regular hospital visits. It will also reduce the significant drain on NHS resources by delivering a new kind of wound dressings which require less regular contact with health care professionals and higher levels of sanitisation.

Hydro-Delivery for the Back

Lead applicant - Dr. Christine Le Maitre (BMRC)

Second applicant - Dr. Chris Sammon (MERI)

Lower back pain affects a large percent of the population at some point in their lives and nearly 5 million working days were lost as a result of back pain in 2003-04. This study aims to develop a new delivery system which can inhibit disc degeneration and stimulate regeneration for a more permanent solution to this problem than already exists.

As a result of our first ideas generator event, held in January 2010, the following projects have been awarded seed corn funding:

Joints for Life

Lead applicant - Dr Thomas Smith (BMRC)

Team - Professor Robert Akid (MERI), Dr. Christine L. Le Maitre (BMRC), Dr. Sarah Haywood-Small (BMRC), Dr. Christopher Sammon (MERI) and Dr. Arutiun P. Ehiasarian (MERI)

This project aims to secure external funding to develop a new coating system that will  extend the service life of orthopaedic prostheses, so that in future joint replacement  surgery will generally be a single operation leading to life-long improvement in  mobility and quality of life.

Touching Light: Seeing Sound: Supplementing Sensory Feedback

Lead applicant - Heath Reed (ADRC)
Second applicant - Claire Craig (Health and Wellbeing)

This proposal is the first phase of a much larger piece of work which would see the development and testing of supplementary sensory feedback devices for individuals with a range of sensory, neurological and possibly neuro-developmental needs.

Autism, Barriers to Social Engagement and Interventions

Lead applicant - Heath Reed (ADRC)

Team - Maria Burton (Health and Wellbeing), Dr. Joseph Langley (ADRC), Dr. Lyuba Alboul (MERI), Dr. Fabio Caparrelli (MERI), Dr. Arutian Ehiasarian (MERI), Dr. Martin Beer (CCRC) and Dr. Jill Aylott (Health and Wellbeing)

Social interactions and engagements between people are not essential for life but are essential for living, without which we are at risk of becoming isolated and socially excluded. For people with many long-term conditions, there are often barriers to these forms of engagements that can detrimentally affect their quality of life. The work proposes to explore the application of technology and relevant knowledge to develop systems to help provide interventions to overcome barriers to social engagement for people with long-term conditions. The project focus will be in the area of Autism and barriers to social engagement arising from the condition/s.

Next Generation "SMART" Materials    

Lead applicant - Dr Karen Vernon Parry (MERI)

Team -  Dr. Aseel Hassan (MERI), Lesley Campbell (ACES fashion), Dr. Ben Heller (CSER) and Dr. Anna Tsargorodskaya (MERI)

Multidisciplinary research in the development of new electronic materials, sensors technology, devices research and modern textile solutions is resulting in the rapid evolution of “intelligent” or “smart” materials and in stimuli-responsive polymers with potential applications in fields ranging from the biomedical through personal safety and robotics to high fashion. This project will concentrate on two applications in particular: exo-skeletal support during physical therapy and robotics (both as muscle analogue and as "skin").

Engaging Coping Strategies for Enhanced use of Assistive Technology

Lead applicant - Dr Alaster Yoxall (ADRC)

Team - Dr. Ann Light (CCRC) , Katarzinya Machaczek (CHSCR), Claire Craig (Health and Wellbeing), Dr. Chris Roast (CCRC)

This study proposes to understand how psycho-social issues affect the take up of assistive technologies in the wider context of making these tools fit for purpose and intuitive to use. In other words, it is known that suitable and effective tools are not being adopted by clients for reasons that have little or nothing to do with the design of the technology. A     pilot project will be conducted to establish whether there are common reasons between individuals for this reluctance to abandon other forms of coping and accept support from these assistive devices.


Lead applicant - Professor Breda Beban (ADRC)

Team - Claire Craig (Health and Wellbeing) and  Dr. Joseph Langley (ADRC)

This project aims at using technology to expand across a range of creative disciplines including art, design and architecture, social sciences, health and psychoanalysis to explore a ‘family-life’ institutional model of an intergenerational living arrangement as a socially –oriented response to the personal, social, and psychological realities faced by children and the elderly in institutional care.

Second Lives for the Third Age                                                                           

Lead applicant - Dr Ben Heller (CSER)

Team - Prof Breda Beban (ADRC), Katarzyna Machaczek (CHSCR) Dr. Alaster Yoxall (ADRC), Dr. Kerry McSeveny (CCRC)

The purpose of the study is to improve the health and wellbeing (the quality of life) of older adults, in particular those suffering from isolating physical disabilities such as poor balance, by allowing them to participate in engaging, bespoke and creative physical activities in a virtual world. We believe the system will help stimulate memories and thus support cognitive function, increase the elderly participant’s ability to perform daily physical activities and look after themselves, improve CVD risk profile and increase enjoyment and satisfaction.



Sheffield Hallam University, City Campus, Howard Street, Sheffield S1 1WB

Telephone 0114 225 5555 | Fax 0114 225 4449

Privacy Policy

Freedom of information




Legal information