Linking iconic British writer Angela Carter to Bristol by way of an art exhibition

It comes as no surprise that Dr Marie Mulvey-Roberts’ shelves house an abundance of books, given that she is a Professor in English Literature at the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol), and specialises in Gothic literature. Included in the works nestled on her bookshelf are many books by a star of contemporary British literature: Angela Carter.

This year marks the 25th anniversary of Carter’s death and earlier in 2017, Mulvey-Roberts co-curated an exhibition at Bristol’s Royal West of England Academy (RWA) art gallery entitled ‘Strange Worlds: The Vision of Angela Carter.’ The exhibition proved extremely popular and highlighted through the display of a variety of art exhibits, Angela Carter’s links with Bristol.

“This was important because I wanted to identify Angela Carter with Bristol, as she is often seen as a London writer,” says Mulvey-Roberts. Carter’s most productive time as an author, says the Professor, was when she lived in Bristol for a decade in the 1960s, where she wrote best part of five of her nine books. Three of the novels are set in the city and it is still possible to visit sites frequented by characters appearing in Carter’s works.


Co-curated by artist and writer Fiona Robinson, the exhibition featured film, illustrations from Carter’s books and paintings that related to Angela Carter’s ethos or writings. Other exhibits included historically significant works by William Holman Hunt, Paula Rego, Dame Laura Knight, Leonora Carrington and John Bellany, on loan from major national collections.

A Marc Chagall painting was borrowed from London’s Tate Gallery. The work, entitled The Blue Circus features a trapeze artist surrounded by animals. “Angela Carter said she wanted her writing to be like Chagall’s paintings as she writes visually,” says Mulvey-Roberts. “In her book The Nights at the Circus, there is a trapeze artist called Feathers who has real wings, so this painting seemed to evoke that.”
One of the particularly striking sculptures featured was The Banquet by Ana Maria Pacheco, depicting four dark-suited men around a dining table on which lies a nude man.


Critics have often described Angela Carter as one of Britain’s finest writers. The Times has ranked the novelist, short story writer and journalist tenth in their list of the 50 greatest writers since 1945. The Telegraph described her as “one of the most important writers at work in the English language.”

The three-month exhibition at the RWA was therefore crucially important to raise awareness about Carter. It had a lasting impact on visitors, of which there were over 11,000, and cemented recognition of her links to Bristol. Marie Mulvey-Roberts took part in a number of interviews for the media, including on BBC Radio 4’s Front Row show.

The exhibition also had a huge impact on the local community. School children came in to undertake creative writing exercises, inspired by the paintings. The exhibition also attracted young composers from the New Music in the South West (NMSW), a Bristol based non-profit organisation running a music and education project serving the south-west of England. The sixth formers attended the exhibition and wrote music, inspired from the works on display.

But Angela Carter’s influence is not limited to Bristol and the UK. The author still has a huge following around the world and interest in and awareness about her increased thanks to the exhibition.

Mulvey-Roberts has received many enquiries about Angela Carter from universities and art galleries around the world. She was invited to attend a special event at the Estoril Higher Institute for Tourism and Hotel Studies, based some 25km outside of Lisbon, where a banquet was prepared by students in gastronomy. “The university’s MA students in culinary design organised a gastronomic experience: a banquet around the theme of Angela Carter,” says Mulvey-Roberts.

As a result of the exhibition, the academic was also invited to the Universities of Lausanne and Bern in Switzerland, as well as the Light house Media Centre for an event organised by the University of Wolverhampton, where she gave presentations showcasing the Bristol exhibition. Her talks in Switzerland were arranged through Angela Carter scholar Professor Martine Hennard Dutheil de la Rochère, who is contributing to Mulvey-Roberts’s next book called The Arts of Angela Carter: A Cabinet of Curiosities.

Along with Charlotte Crofts, Associate Professor in Filmmaking and Caleb Sivyer, visiting lecturer in English at UWE Bristol, Mulvey-Roberts is founding an International Angela Carter Society, dedicated to the promotion of the study and appreciation of her work and life, which will involve a newsletter and bi-annual conferences.


Top UWE Bristol marketing graduate to explore new markets for award-winning engineering firm

A graduate from the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) who worked on the Bloodhound Supersonic Car project while studying at the University has secured a job as Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) Associate with Viper Innovations. Kim Mahoney, who graduated top of her year in 2017 with a first class degree in Marketing Communications, will help the engineering company to take its technology to new markets.

Viper Innovations was named West of England Business of the Year 2017 (for a business with a turnover of less than £30m) at a ceremony organised by PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC) in September.

The engineering firm develops fault detection systems that can monitor structural defects in cables and their insulation. Historically, it has worked with the oil and gas industries, but saw opportunities to transfer the highly sought-after technology to other sectors. To pave the way for this diversification, in 2016 it underwent a re-branding, changing its name from Viper Subsea to Viper Innovations.

Part-funded by Innovate UK (the UK’s innovation agency), a KTP is a three-way partnership between a business, an academic institution and a high-calibre graduate (called an ‘Associate’) with technical expertise.

Although UWE Bristol is one of the partners on the KTP with Viper Innovations, the job was advertised nationwide and Kim Mahoney was selected from 30 candidates, following a series of interviews.

Viper Innovations, based in Portishead, has already started working with Network Rail and its supply chain partners to develop and apply its technology to the rail signalling power systems. Kim will support the engineering company identify, screen and evaluate additional new markets where its technology can be applied, before ranking them in order of best rate of return.

5717While studying for her degree, Kim directly applied her learning and honed the skills gained on the course by working as a Sponsorship Manager on the Bloodhound project. Her work supported the team working on the car, who are aiming for a land speed record of 800mph.

Kim said the KTP is providing her with invaluable experience, “This KTP presents not only a high-tech marketing opportunity, but also the experience to work with different cultures and practices, and truly shape my global marketing skills.”

Tracy Hunt-Fraisse is UWE Bristol’s academic supervisor on the project and is overseeing Kim’s work. Tracy has previously worked as Global Head of Marketing for Speedo and as Planning Director at Levi’s Europe. She said, “We will bring business development expertise and apply tried and tested marketing methods to help Viper with their client in the rail industry to help them learn how best to approach other new markets. We will then look at markets where power outage or downtime is potentially very expensive, like hospitals or airports, for instance.”

“It’s not very often you have a marketing communications student who is interested in engineering. Kim’s background with Bloodhound has placed her in a strong position and she has a passion for finding out how things work.”

Peter Alexander, Marketing and Business Acquisition Manager at Viper Innovations, said the company aims to enter two new markets by the end of the KTP, “The University’s knowledge and experience of entering new markets with new products in different parts of the world will lead us to having a toolkit to verify and validate our ideas, and make us think differently.” We now have the essential ingredients: the right associate and a team in place to achieve what is a challenging target.”

For more information about Knowledge Transfer Partnerships at UWE Bristol, please visit:


Do you have a hi-tech business idea? Launch Space offers free desk space for one year

Recent graduates from across the UK who have a bright idea for a high-tech business are invited to apply for a free residency in ‘Launch Space‘ at the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol).

‘Launch Space’, a graduate high-tech business incubator that provides start-ups with one year of free desk space and innovation support, is now accepting applications for new residencies that will commence from the end of October 2017.

High-tech, innovation and research focused graduate start-ups can benefit from the chance to develop business contacts, gain access to mentorship and talks by visiting companies.Press release image with logo

They are also able to access UWE Bristol’s research community, tap into student talent through work placements, internships and recruitment, and make full use of all the facilities offered on campus.

The Launch Space incubator forms part of a larger UWE Bristol innovation support programme funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF). Located in the £16m University Enterprise Zone on UWE Bristol’s Frenchay Campus, alongside the Future Space technology incubation centre and the Bristol Robotics Laboratory, its residents benefit from co-location with other growing, innovative enterprises.

“We are particularly excited that, through launch Space, we can provide office space and innovation support to graduate-led start-ups. This helps the West of England to retain and nurture entrepreneurial talent and the University to build on its commitment to supporting enterprise,” said Professor Martin Boddy, who is UWE Bristol’s Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research and Business Engagement.

Residency in the incubator is available to individuals who have graduated from any UK university in the past three years. Those applying are required to have a UK-based business located or operating in the West of England (Bristol, Bath, South Gloucestershire, and North Somerset). If they are a pre-start enterprise, and have not yet registered their business, the Launch Space team can help with this process.

Interested graduates can apply for the new residencies online until 30 September 2017, with interviews planned for the first week of October. Those selected will then attend a three-day induction.

Current residents of Launch Space span a wide range of innovative technology ideas. One entrepreneur is designing an environmental mask that filters out harmful pollutants and automatically notifies the user when contaminants are present in the air. Another is designing an app to make it easier for the rental of student accommodation. The platform bypasses estate agents and removes the need to pay a deposit upfront.

Launch Space is part of a larger UWE Bristol programme that is receiving up to £2,000,000 of funding from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) Growth Programme 2014-2020. The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) is the programme’s Managing Authority.

Established by the European Union, the ERDF helps local areas stimulate their economic development by investing in projects that support innovation, businesses, job creation and local community regeneration.

Helping India to help itself with water management and reforestation

Dr Mark Everard is driven by a desire to shape the direction of development and influence world views about sustainability, given his love of nature. This drive has taken him all over the world and most recently to India, where he is working on two projects. One involves reforestation in the southern state of Tamil Nadu, the other pertains to water management in the north-west state of Rajasthan. “I think, globally, people have forgotten the importance of nature and my work is to help re-invent an ecologically based economy,” says the environmentalist, who is Associate Professor of Ecosystem Services at the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol).

Tamil Nadu

One element of Everard’s work in India is in partnership with The Converging World (TCW), a charity that helps regions in India work towards low-carbon energy production and development. One of the charity’s activities is to install wind turbines before recycling a proportion of operating surpluses into reforestation across the country.

The beginnings of a forest at Nadukuppam

Reforestation, the natural or intentional restocking of existing forests and woodlands, provides multiple benefits. First there is the positive impact on people and nature, including hydrological buffering (helping with flood reduction and water resource regenerations), biodiversity enhancement, microclimate, and production of food and medicinal resources. A 40 year-old restored forest at Pitchandikulam demonstrates this. Tended from initial plantings on degraded farmland, it now hosts a diversity of wildlife, medicinal plants and a cold microclimate.

Then there are the carbon and climate benefits. By analysing data on carbon storage in the region’s typical forests, Everard and colleagues have demonstrated that an area of forest restored by incremental investments throughout the operational life of a wind turbine can sequester 3,000 times more carbon dioxide than that averted by the wind turbine.

Along with partners, Everard is involved in an ongoing reforestation programme around Nadukuppam village.  The planting of young trees began two years ago, and the involvement and empowerment of local people has played a vital role in its progress. The academic has now contributed to two scientific papers about the scheme.


In India’s largest state, Everard is involved in a different environmental issue: water management. Rajasthan is a desert state and is today experiencing rapidly depleting groundwater levels and increasing geological contamination of the water, as mechanised pumping of deep groundwater becomes more common.

The region contains many traditional water management methods attuned to local geography, rainfall and culture. Unfortunately, a lot of this traditional water wisdom is lost today, according to the academic. “When the water levels decline, traditional water extraction techniques may cease to work, so interest in communal efforts to replenish it are displaced by competitive pumping of receding water,” he explains.

The environmentalist therefore looks at success factors in cases where people have reversed the cycle of degradation.  He collaborates with NGOs working with local people to restore traditional water harvesting solutions, as well as more modern innovations that complement local hydrology, geography and cultural perspectives. Such solutions can help intercept infrequent and increasingly erratic monsoon rains, enabling them to percolate into groundwater insulated from the region’s high evaporation rate and available for year-round access. In partnership with Wells for India and to highlight these effective methods, Everard is shortly publishing a guide in Hindi and English documenting over 30 ‘water wise’ water harvesting techniques in the region.

For example, monsoon run-off can be harvested using a ‘Johad’ (semi-circular mound of earth) that is adapted to drainage lines on sloping land with a permeable surface. The water is detained and able to recharge soil moisture and shallow groundwater, accessible year-round using open wells. Other solutions are adapted to where the land is sloped or flat, permeable or impermeable.

Meeting with villagers in Rajasthan

Using this evidence, Everard communicates with highly placed officials in the Rajasthan government to remind them of such water resource recharge practices that have kept communities in the region viable over centuries. The academic says that authorities are beginning to recognise the need to rebuild ecosystem vitality from the bottom up.  “The Additional Chief Conservator of Forests in the Government of Rajasthan has recognised that the work we have published at UWE Bristol contains jigsaw pieces useful in converting high-level aspirations into practical reality.” Everard has already published three papers on this topic with three more in the pipeline.



Collaborating with creatives to make history more interactive

SPProfessor Steve Poole wanted to redefine what it means to be a historian. Rather than only publish his work in print or make himself available for interviews from the press about his findings, the Director of UWE Bristol’s Regional History Centre felt a need to work with people from other disciplines to present history in a more interactive way. This desire led him to begin collaborating with experienced design specialists Splash and Ripple, who are residents at the Pervasive Media Studio, based in the Watershed (Bristol), a cross-artform venue and producer, sharing, developing and showcasing exemplary cultural ideas and talent..

Ghosts in the Garden

In 2012, together they created Ghosts in the Garden, a project for visitors to the Sydney Gardens in Bath to bring part of its history alive. The site, which makes up the grounds of the Holburne Museum, used to be a pleasure garden 200 years ago and, although few of the original features are still standing, the site once bustled with stall owners, entertainers, musicians – even pickpockets.

“We wanted give the public a flavour of what it must have felt like to wander around the garden,” says Poole. After he explored the archives to identify some of the more ordinary people who took part in the gala events, the team worked with storytellers and scriptwriters to develop characters and scenarios and design an interactive visit set in the early 1820s. “We didn’t want it to be a one-way authoritative guide book for audiences in heritage sites,” says Poole. “We wanted people to make discoveries by following clues and be part of a dialogue.”ghosts9

Splash and Ripple therefore created a GPS-driven hardware prop called the Time Radio, a ‘listening device’ that enables visitors to tune in to the conversations of people from the past, triggered in certain areas of the ground. These sound bytes provide clues to follow, allowing audiences to piece the story together and even change the ending.

Bodiam Castle

Their experience working on the pleasure garden led the team to their next project: the visitor experience at a National Trust property: Bodiam Castle. The moated 14th century fort in East Sussex wanted to involve its visitors more in the castle’s history. Poole and his team, including UWE Bristol colleague Professor Peter Fleming, therefore built a visitor experience involving a device similar to the sound radio: a drinking horn that houses a speaker and electronics to enable visitors to hear stories of historical goings-on in the fortress.

Romancing the gibbet

Steve Poole’s next project took him in a different direction. With knowledge of incidents in the 18th century when people were hanged at the scene of their crimes, he wanted to create a situated visitor experience at these sites, creating a project called Romancing the Gibbet.

A gibbet is an iron cage, used occasionally in the 18th century to contain a body after hanging to prevent the corpse rotting and display it as a deterrent. “Gibbeting was about creating a lasting memory on a community that the authorities felt should be taught a lesson,” says Poole. “We were interested in the ways narratives may have been passed down through generations.”

This project involved collaborative live public performances at the crime scene locations in the South West, including Over Stowey in Somerset, beginning with a brief historical background presentation from Professor Poole, followed by a poem by Ralph Hoyte with an audio representation by sound artist Michael Fairfax. In July 2017, this team also launched a series of locative audio apps for use at the sites of four of the hangings.

Romancing the gibbet

Heritage Empath

Poole’s most recent project – still in development – is Heritage Empath, an immersive audio experience delivered via smartphone comparing the life of migrants living in Bristol with those that moved to the city in the 19th century. The 18-month project, which again sees the University working with Splash and Ripple, has been awarded £200,000 from the Arts & Humanities Research Council.

Heritage Empath looks at the challenges migrants have often faced when moving to a new city or country, such as a language barrier, or adapting to new surroundings. Poole and colleagues will conduct and record interviews with modern-day migrants and compare those with witness accounts from past migrants who arrived in Bristol in the 1800s. By using a digital technology – most probably an app – visitors will be able to walk in designated areas around the city, such as the harbourside, and put themselves in the shoes of migrants from two different ages. “The challenge is to move the locative heritage experience from one in which we feel sympathy for historical characters to one where we may feel empathy,” says Poole. “The extent to which this is either possible or desirable – and then scalable in terms of outputs – is what this research is really about.”


Laying foundations for a solid client-agency relationship

In an increasingly competitive world in which marketing agencies are prolific, how best should they retain clients, and how can a relationship between client and agency be set up in the first place to ensure longevity? Two academics at the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) are researching this relationship with a view to advising both parties how to lay solid foundations from the start.

For the last four years, Professor Tim Hughes and Dr Mario Vafeas have endeavoured to find out what makes a successful and long-lasting relationship between agencies (creative and digital), and their clients (usually marketers).

Beginning in 2013, their research project initially involved interviewing 25 people on both sides of existing business relationships, to ascertain what their common issues were. Since then, the researchers have also used a combination of one-to-one interviews, focus groups, workshops and survey questionnaires to gather more data from clients and agency account managers.

Mario Vafeas has experience working both on the client and agency side

The results reveal some of the typical challenges both sides face. “You tend to find that agencies have common complaints about their clients, and vice versa,” says Vafeas. “However things are not getting better and in fact are getting worse,” he adds.


The first challenge that has emerged from the research is the power imbalance between both sides. The client controls the purse strings and, because the agency is trying to hold on to the account, their creatives may not always tell them what needs to be said through fear of negatively affecting the relationship.

To counter this imbalance, one of the first things for agencies to think about is whether they are compatible with the company commissioning them, explains Vafeas. “Working with clients where there is a good fit helps the subsequent relationship,” he says.

Establishing a modus operandi on how the two will interact from the beginning is also extremely important. “Explaining to the client at the outset that they don’t intend to impose their way of working on them, but instead want them to get the best possible work out of the agency is key,” says Vafeas. “That investment needs to be made upfront,” he adds, suggesting this is more important than a detailed contract, which can sometimes be off-putting for both parties.

Tim Hughes in one of the team’s workshops

Says Hughes: “A lot of it is about agencies understanding what clients want, and clients understanding what they need to do to get the best out of agencies.” He adds: “This is very much a co-creative process.”

It is also vital that agencies fully understand the clients’ business and that they do not tell them what they already know, say the researchers. “Making sure the creative output is exceptional is key, as many clients can get work done in-house, so if they go to an agency they want something that stands out,” says Vafeas.

Hughes and Vafeas have also observed that there is sometimes a disconnect in the way the two parties want to communicate. They have noticed that agency staff are invariably aged under 30 while brand managers are often in their 50s. The former tend to prefer email, according to the academics, while the latter prefer direct contact. “In the past, a face-to-face interaction was fundamental to building a relationship, but we are now finding this doesn’t happen so much anymore,” says Vafeas. Despite occasional geographical constraints, agencies might therefore consider a more personal approach, he suggests, in order to nurture a stronger relationship.

With a view to sharing their findings and helping practitioners, Vafeas and Hughes work with business networks such as Bristol Media and the Chartered Institute of Marketing, hosting workshops to share results and asking participants to talk about implications for their businesses. They also host seminars, including with the Design Business Association in London. They also organise workshops with individual agencies.

Finally, their findings have also led the academics to incorporate sessions on how to optimise business relationships into the University’s Business and Management degree, as they see this as a vital skill for graduates.

(This article is also published on the Small Business Charter website)

How I4G helped an education company open up the world of particles

The Innovation4Growth (I4G) funding offers grants to businesses in the West of England wishing to develop an innovative project. The current I4G round of funding is offering £1 million for SMEs in the region.

Interactive Scientific is a previous recipient of I4G funding. The education company’s CEO Becky Sage explains how the grant helped it develop the Nano Simbox digital platform.

For more info: The deadline for applications is 12th July 2017.  

UWE Bristol BDAS talks to receive 100th guest speaker

A series of lectures featuring top business executives will receive its 100th guest speaker when it restarts this autumn. The Bristol Distinguished Address Series (BDAS) evening lectures are organised by the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol), and feature some of the world’s most senior executives. The business-related talks take place in the Bristol Business School’s new £55m building on the University’s Frenchay campus throughout the academic year, averaging two a month.

Karen Blackett OBE, Chairwoman of MediaCom, will be the 100th speaker on 6th December, after the talks kick off on 11th October with an address by Sacha Romanovitch (CEO of Grant Thornton). The subjects of the talks are still unconfirmed, but past topics for BDAS have included everything from leadership challenges to the future of work. Other invited executives include Duncan Selbie (Chief Executive of Public Health England), who will speak on 15th November, and George Weston (Chief Executive, Associated British Foods) whose talk is on 22nd November.

Since 2008, highly prestigious speakers have captivated audiences attending the BDAS

Lord Karan Bilimoria (Chairman, Cobra Beer)

events at UWE Bristol. Eminent lecturers have so far included Lord Karan Bilimoria (Chairman, Cobra Beer), who spoke about boldness in business, Michael Ward (Managing Director, Harrods) on the luxury industry and its challenges, and Baroness Dido Harding (Chief Executive, TalkTalk) on how Britain can lead in the digital revolution. Many other high-profile names from the business world also feature on the list of previous speakers.

The lectures are free to attend, open to everyone and last about an hour with opportunities to meet the speaker afterwards, and to network. The talks provide a rare opportunity for attendees to hear about the challenges, issues and decisions made at the highest level of leadership.

Many in the audience are local entrepreneurs and the lectures can give them invaluable insights for their businesses. “There are a lot of SMEs in the Bristol region that want to learn from these chief executives, as they are the major movers and shakers of UK and international business,” explains Professor Nicholas O’Regan, who is Associate Dean of Research and Innovation at UWE Bristol. Attending companies can also take part in a masterclass on the subject pertaining to the subsequent BDAS lecture.

BDAS also provides up to date practitioner-based leadership knowledge for students on the University’s post-graduate programmes, including the MBA. This is a rare privilege, says Prof O’Regan. “Few other students will have the chance to meet the chief executive of a FTSE100 company at a university, and talk to them personally. Here it happens on a huge scale throughout the year,” he says.

Bristol Business School actively encourages students to attend the series and many are able to obtain answers on subjects that may relate to their course or curriculum thanks to the talks. “We can teach topics in any module but what is talked about with BDAS is at the cutting edge as it’s not textbook thinking, but the real world,” says Prof O’Regan. “This contextualises what students are taught here,” he adds.

After each talk, the floor is opened up for questions from the audience. “The Q&A session makes the whole event interactive and is always extremely interesting as the questions are answered amazingly frankly,” says Prof O’Regan.

Overall, says Prof O’Regan, the speakers are there to share their experience and knowledge of senior leadership but also to enjoy talking to students and members of the business community. “They like to be part of what has become an exclusive club,” he says.

For more info, or to attend:

Public inquiries: a way to draw a line in the sand, or avoid accountability?

When gross negligence occurs in a hospital or a public organisation is suspected of acting inappropriately in a murder investigation, the victims’ families often want to hold someone accountable. For them, public inquiries are a chance for those responsible to apologise. Dr James Murphy from the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) researches the language used in public inquiries and the role blame plays in them. He has discovered that the victims’ loved ones do not always get the outcome they expected.

Over a six-month period in 2007 and 2008, more than 30 people died in three hospitals in an area of Northern Ireland as a result of an outbreak of the hospital-acquired infection Clostridium difficile. The bacterium also infected several other patients, making them severely ill. It later emerged that poor hygiene and lack of information for patients and their families meant the infection was not contained in one part of the hospital. A subsequent public inquiry was set up to find out why this happened.


Dr James Murphy, who is senior lecturer in English language and linguistics at UWE Bristol, researches how such public inquiries are conducted, how blame is attributed, and how apologies are expressed. He has examined the C. difficile case, and other public inquiries such as the Bichard Report (which asked why the necessary background checks were not made before a school employed Ian Huntley as a caretaker – he later murdered two 10-year-old girls).

In the case of the hospital-acquired infection, the inquiry invited two distinct groups of witnesses: the blameless family members of the victims, and a second group of hospital staff who were potentially blameable for the spread of the infection. Murphy assessed the linguistic aspect of the questioning. Although he expected that the hospital employees would be interrogated in the same way as defendants in a criminal court, and that family members would be treated like friendly witnesses, he found the opposite happened.

Instead, family members (often still in trauma) were questioned with closed, leading questions, similar to prosecution questioning in court. This, says Murphy, was simply so that the inquiry could confirm facts in the case. Meanwhile investigators asked hospital staff open, less-restricted questions. Murphy says this was to gather more evidence to help the inquiry identify who was responsible.

The academic has also learned that public inquiries are framed in a way that shies away from blaming anybody. “A lot of families expect someone to take responsibility for what they have suffered,” explains Murphy. “However public inquiries are not necessarily allowed to blame anyone.” He explains that blame is often more implicit in inquiries, which by highlighting lessons learned, imply that someone did something wrong and is potentially to blame.

Apologies are also invariably avoided in such investigations, finds Murphy. “When people are asked to apologise, they often have a carefully crafted statement demonstrating sympathy or regret, without taking responsibility,” he explains. “On the whole in inquiries, people don’t apologise because they fear that, in doing so, they risk public litigation,” says the linguistics expert.

Murphy also found that those who could be blamed, usually do a lot of preparation work on how to deliver their answers before attending a public inquiry. “There is a lot of rehearsal beforehand,” he says. Families, on the other hand, are often less clear about what to expect.

In fact, Murphy’s most striking discovery is the disconnect between family members’ expectations from a public inquiry and what they get at the end. “They see it as a line in the sand whereby they can discover who was responsible and can then move on,” says the academic. However, the reports they receive after the process are too often legalistic, hard to read, and careful about how they frame the findings. “The families want a direct and straightforward result, but what they get is something indirect and implicit,” he explains. This can sometimes leave them feeling like there has been a cover-up, says Murphy.

To address the issues in public inquiries, James Murphy is writing a book, due out in 2018, called, ‘The Discursive Construction of Blame: Language at Public Inquiries.’ The academic hopes it will influence policy and positively impact how public inquiry reporting can be improved and how victims and their families can better prepare for their involvement in proceedings.

Says Murphy: “Public inquiries are a strong representation of our democracy. Historically we might have lynched somebody we thought was to blame, but public inquiries represent the rational end of blame and is the endpoint of how we’ve developed as a society.”

Accelerating the way to clean fuel with the help of I4G

An electrochemical materials company based in Cornwall has developed a catalyst to fill a gap in the market in the water electrolysis industry and help customers make hydrogen more cost-effectively – and quicker. An Innovation4Growth (I4G) fund through the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) provided PV3 Technologies with the boost it needed to research and develop the product.

Hydrogen is considered a clean fuel, as when it burns it produces water vapour as the only by-product. One way of making the gas is through water electrolysis, whereby hydrogen (and oxygen) is produced when electricity passes through two electrodes (the positive anode and negative cathode) immersed in water. This hydrogen provides fuel for hydrogen cars, energy storage and metal treatment.

Based in Launceston, PV3 Technologies develops catalysts that help speed up the electrolysis process. The company found that although the industry mainly uses iridium oxide, there is a strong demand for a novel catalyst that is more durable and operates with lower energy consumption.

Members of the PV3 team

In 2015, it therefore set out to develop a powder used in the scientific process, but first it needed funding. This came after it applied for an I4G grant provided through UWE Bristol. The fund currently provides applicants with a maximum of £75,000 to cover up to 35% of the cost of an R&D project and is financed by the UK government’s Regional Growth Fund (RGF).

“The I4G funding enabled us to undertake an innovation programme that we probably wouldn’t have been able to do on our own,” says PV3 CEO David Hodgson. “It was also a grant that gave us the freedom to channel the money into an internal project,” he adds.
The funding allowed PV3 to secure existing jobs within the team and recruit two highly-qualified staff members (one a material scientist, the other an expert in catalysis) to bring the total head count to six. The money also went into consumables, scientific hardware and testing equipment.

During the 18-month R&D period, the scientists developed the product’s synthesis, working to make it pure enough to meet customer demands, before undergoing evaluations to check that the catalyst performed well.

It then supplied samples of the powder to customers for testing. “A major impact of the I4G is that it gave us the confidence to move forward with the project,” says Hodgson, “and has allowed us to cement existing relationships and go out to new customers.”

Hodgson says UWE Bristol was on hand to provide support throughout the project. “UWE was particularly helpful in assisting us with the claiming procedure and we were later awarded an extension of the fund, which shows that our project went well.”

The company is now scaling up the product and hopes its new catalyst will make the industry’s life easier when trying to produce clean fuel such as hydrogen.