EU-backed project helps maximise the potential of Welsh businesses in the green economy

Economy Minister, Edwina Hart, has launched the next phase of a project aimed at helping businesses in West Wales and the Valleys become more sustainable and support the low carbon economy.

The WISE Network is a collaborative project between Swansea, Aberystwyth, and Bangor  universities that enables businesses across the region to take full advantage of the growth in the green economy.

By working in partnership with university research and development experts and making use of their facilities, the project aims to better equip businesses to develop sustainable products, processes and services, and to become more  economically, socially and environmentally sustainable.

 The idea for WISE Network was conceived by Swansea University, phase 1 of the project was led by Bangor University, and phase 2 of the project is being led by Aberystwyth University. This trusting, collaborative relationship between the Universities ensures that company needs are met by those best placed to help.

The WISE Network aims to create a culture of confident businesses that use research and innovation as an essential component in their future development, and to date has successfully collaborated with almost 500 companies through phase 1, and is currently working with 20 new companies and many more in the pipeline.

WISE Network next phase launch

Speaking at the launch of the latest phase in the Senedd, Edwina Hart, Minister for Economy, Science and Transport said:  “I am very pleased to launch the next phase of the WISE Network programme. Supporting growth in this key sector is vital. This is an excellent example of the continued collaboration between industry and academia in Wales.”

Finance Minister, Jane Hutt, said “Ensuring that we become a truly sustainable nation is a key goal in our Programme for Government. I am delighted we have been able to invest European funding through the Welsh Government to back this ambition to boost the green economy.”

Professor Jamie Newbold, WISE Network Director said:

“The WISE Network responds directly to the needs of businesses resulting in the development of a wide range of innovative products and services. Many of Wales’ businesses are SME’s and would not normally be in a position to have their own R&D departments, and the joint expertise of our three universities offers a valuable and accessible resource. We aim to provide advice and assistance to allow commercial partners to help develop the Green Economy in Wales by developing sustainable products, processes and services"

Professor April McMahon, Vice-Chancellor of Aberystwyth University said

“With Welsh Government support through European funding, the WISE Network enables companies to access the phenomenal research and development expertise that exists across our three universities. We collaborate to provide advice and practical support for businesses, and work together to jointly realise our potential within the growing green economy. We are proud to be leading the partnership between Aberystwyth, and Bangor and Swansea Universities, and building on the success of WISE 1 led by our colleagues at Bangor.”

Case Studies

The project is helping Swansea-based firm Lifebytes to work alongside Swansea University to develop smart tag  software that can analyse an individual’s movement patterns and predict how this can determine their physical responses to exertion,  their general health and efficiency and their ability to cope with stress.

Another  business already involved in the WISE Network is Phytorigins based in Cwm y Glo, Gwynedd. The company is collaborating with Bangor and Aberystwyth Universities through WISE to investigate whether the use of specific feed additives could prevent obesity problems in cats and dogs.

Carol Michael of Phytorigins said “The global pet food market is set to reach US$95.7 billion by 2017, according to independent recent (2011) analysis by GIA (Global Intelligence Alliance), opening up excellent opportunities for commercialisation of products developed by WISE Network partners, and potential significant gains for the Welsh economy.”  

Another example is Anglesey based Hiraeth Group Sustainable which is producing Welsh Wood products for the home.

Through the WISE Network the company has been working with Bangor University in developing a certified heat-treated timber product suitable for applications in sustainable construction and the manufacture of high quality household products. The collaboration has also played a major role in developing links between the company and organisations such as Coed Cymru in order for them to fast-track the development of their supply network. They are now looking to establish a larger supply chain and manufacturing base in North Wales.

Emlyn Williams, Hiraeth Partner, said that his company had benefited greatly from the WISE Network assistance.

 He said: “I initially approached WISE Network with a technical challenge but they have subsequently helped my business in ways I had never imagined; ethical branding, funding application support and networking...the list just goes on."

More about the companies:

Lifebytes, Swansea

A detailed and in depth understanding of an individual’s physical movement can provide a deep understanding of their individual and particular response to the world and circumstance they may find themselves in.

By the use of accelerometers - an instrument for measuring acceleration, it can routinely quantify human responses to the physical environment from seconds to years. An electronic tag with an embedded RFID device (radio frequency identification) is attached to an individual for the purposes of tracking or storing data relating to movement.

Contact: Geoff Proffitt 01792 205678 / 07973 790129  g.proffitt@swansea.ac.uk

Phytorigins, Cwm y Glo, Gwynedd

Obesity is the most common nutritional disorder in cats and dogs and a problem of increasing concern for their owners. Numerous studies demonstrate that obesity can have detrimental effects on the health and lifespan of companion animals. Bacteria plays a key role in the gut in controlling obesity through their effect on food digestion, nutrient absorption and gut health.

Feed additives have been successfully used in human and animal nutrition; however much less is known about how or indeed if they work in companion animals. This is largely due to experimental difficulties of working with live cats and dogs in controlled nutritional trials. 

This project overcomes such difficulties by taking advantage of considerable university expertise in designing animal gut simulation fermenters.  An imitation canine and feline gut will be developed in order to evaluate the effect of feed additives on the gut bacteria populations and potential in reducing obesity. 

Contact: Carol Michael 01286 872506 / 07717 425925 info@phytorigins.co.uk

Hiraeth Anglesey

Sustainable Welsh Wood at the heart of your home.

Hiraeth™ approached WISE Network with the aim of developing a certified heat-treated timber product suitable for applications in sustainable construction and the manufacture of high quality household products.  WISE Network initially undertook a scoping study and review, introducing the main commercial approaches to thermal modification, outlining the benefits and the methods for testing or quantifying them, and identifying the requirements for standards or certification in the target applications. WISE Network also assisted in developing links between the company and organisations such as Coed Cymru in order for them to fast-track the development of their supply network.

As part of the on-going collaboration WISE Network also investigated the consumer psychology of sustainable products in this high value residential market and assisted in the research and development of the brand proposition to this market. Following this work the new product range was launched on ‘Anglesey Day’ at the House of Commons in Westminster and both the company and its product range have been very well received. Developments are now underway to establish a larger supply chain and manufacturing base in North Wales.

Contact:  Emlyn Williams, Partner info@hiraeth.com  07714310491

 

Picture: 

Professor Richard Davies, Vice-Chancellor Swansea University, Professor John Hughes, Vice-Chancellor Bangor University, Professor April McMahon Vice-Chancellor Aberystwyth University , Edwina Hart AM, Minister for Economy, Science and Transport, Welsh Government, Professor Jamie Newbold, Director WISE Network.