Tag: KTP

A three-way partnership to develop artificial intelligence

A three-way partnership to develop artificial intelligence

A Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) between the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol), a graduate, and a financial services firm in Bristol has developed a smart system that will help customers decide how to invest their money. KTP is a UK government programme that supports companies in implementing innovative solutions to grow their business.   

Rowan Dartington (RD) is building a cyborg. Or at least this is the way the financial services firm describes a user interface it hopes will revolutionise how clients invest their money and enable it to attract more millennials to set up portfolios.

RD is one of the UK’s leading providers of personalised wealth management services. With expertise in providing advice to investors, it is also putting a lot of work into developing the algorithms behind its online service. To ensure its new interface towered above competitors, Phil McHenry, RD’s Head of Software Development, wanted to complement its developers’ skills with specific academic knowledge in data science and user experience (UX). It therefore turned to UWE Bristol.

Together, RD and UWE Bristol began collaborating on a KTP, a programme spearheaded by Innovate UK that helps companies improve their productivity and competitiveness via a partnership with an academic institution and the recruitment of a recent graduate with specific expertise. Academic expertise was provided by Dr Paul Matthews, a senior lecturer in the Department for Computer Science and Creative Industries, and Bala Goudar was recruited for the two-year project.

Goudar, who has a PhD in Climate Physics (RD colleagues came to refer him as ‘weatherman’), had a particular skill in analysing data and a keen interest in financial markets. RD introduced him to fund management, helping him adapt to the company’s way of working. “KTP helps move people from the academic to the business environment,” says RD Chief Operating Officer Ben Cooper, “but the pressures in both worlds are different.”

To cater for clients with smaller amounts to invest, many fund managers’ online systems offer ‘robo-advice,’ algorithm-generated information about how to invest. RD’s new platform, once fully developed, will also offer such a service, but it wanted to take this one step further – by making the interface ‘intelligent.’ The KTP provided the innovation and knowledge a to achieve this.

During the KTP, which began in 2015, Goudar grew his skills in data analysis in a business context. In his second year, he began designing the algorithms, which RD’s software development team implemented. By having a data expert apply his knowledge to their business, RD began to look at data in a new way. “Data is an asset that is becoming increasingly important and Bala helped us realise that you can bring together seemingly unrelated data but still find a correlation,” says Cooper.

The KTP experience at RD also gave Goudar insight into the financial services industry. “I have had to learn the way a wealth management company firm such as RD operates before building anything,” he says. “These are all skills we don’t necessarily use in academia.”

Overseeing the project from an academic perspective, Paul Matthews brought to the table, among other skills, his knowledge of UX, ensuring that the system is highly intuitive for users. He also set up focus groups between UWE Bristol academics and RD directors around machine learning. “The KTP has also given UWE Bristol a foot in the Fintech [financial technology] world, which is becoming bigger and bigger, and where there is a lot of scope for us to be further involved from an academic perspective,” says Matthews.

With the new interface, still in development, if someone new to investing approaches RD to enquire about investment, they will first carry out a search through the online system. In the next step, the enquirer meets with an adviser to set up their portfolio. The data generated from this interaction then loops back into the platform to help feed the information provided to future investors. Through machine learning combined with human feedback, the ‘cyborg’ therefore teaches itself to yield even better advice next time.

This Partnership received financial support from the Knowledge Transfer Partnerships programme (KTP).  KTP aims to help businesses to improve their competitiveness and productivity through the better use of knowledge, technology and skills that reside within the UK Knowledge Base.  KTP is funded by Innovate UK along with the other government funding organisations.

KTP Success Story: West Technology Systems

The collaboration between West Technology and UWE Bristol is a fantastic example of the University’s involvement in the Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) programme. Since West Technology recruited a graduate through the programme, sales of its fingerprint-detection machines have gone through the roof. Managing Director Ian Harris also says the KTP further boosted the company’s credibility in the forensics world.

UWE Bristol and forensic engineering firm could help police catch more criminals

west_technology_2016_211
©West Technology Systems Ltd.

A machine that has helped solve numerous cases by revealing fingerprints on evidence could help catch even more criminals thanks to a two-year Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) between the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) and the world-leading manufacturer of this forensic fingerprint development equipment.

In May 2007 serial killer and rapist Peter Tobin was sentenced to life imprisonment after he murdered Polish student Angelika Kluk and buried her body under the floorboards of a church. Subsequent fingerprint evidence found on the tarpaulin covering her remains helped put Tobin in jail for life. The machine enabling police to identify these prints was built by West Technology Systems, the leading manufacturer of these devices.

West Technology, based in Yate, realised it lacked crucial forensic science expertise to develop the system. The VMD (vacuum metal deposition) machine works by evaporating metal particles onto an evidence exhibit to reveal fingerprints. This method has proven successful in developing palm prints on fabric and this can aid in targeted DNA recovery.

But while the VMD method was successful, the company wanted to learn about the science behind it and optimise the machine. “The process was a black art and not even the Home Office knew entirely how it worked,” says  Managing Director Ian Harris. He needed someone with specialist forensic knowledge to research and extend the equipment’s capabilities on black bin liners and polymer banknotes, both notoriously difficult surfaces for revealing finger or palm prints.

Finding the right expertise

The firm therefore looked for these skills externally and approached UWE Bristol. Together, the company and University began collaborating on a KTP, a government-backed programme that connects skilled graduates with businesses and universities. Funded by Innovate UK, this is a great opportunity for a company to develop its business by benefiting from additional know-how and academic support. For West Technology’s purposes, UWE Bristol forensic science graduate Eleigh Brewer proved to be the perfect match.

“Since Eleigh started, our orders on the forensics side have gone through the roof and she has been critical to the success of the company,” says Ian. The KTP meant Eleigh spent two years between the University, where West Technology supplied a VMD machine to use for testing, and the company itself. “This was a fantastic opportunity for me and we were able to get results from our research that the company could use,” says Eleigh

ian_harris_eleigh2
Ian Harris and Eleigh Brewer in front of the VMD machine – ©UWE Bristol

Metal and money

The forensic scientist tested the system’s functionality with different metals. The most common method uses gold to cover the piece of evidence, then zinc to highlight any fingerprints. But gold and zinc are not necessarily the best metals to use according to some experts – especially on certain polymer materials like banknotes.

Knowing the UK was due to release a new polymer five-pound note as legal tender, Ian asked Eleigh to test and adapt the machine for use with these notes. With samples provided by the Bank of England, Eleigh set to work, forming a working relationship with the Home Office’s Centre for Applied Science and Technology (CAST) along the way.

Dr Carolyn Morton, Eleigh’s academic supervisor throughout the KTP, says her research was beneficial to UWE Bristol and has cemented its reputation as an important centre for forensic research. “By linking us with CAST and connecting us to a national network of fingerprinting research teams, this KTP has put UWE on the map,” says Carolyn, who is a senior lecturer in forensic science at UWE Bristol.

With Eleigh’s help, Ian now wants to make it easier for the VMD to highlight prints on fabric, another notoriously hard material to work with in criminal cases. “If we could determine the strength of an assault by looking at grab impressions, we could make a big difference,” says Ian.

And perhaps help catch and convict more high-profile murderers like Peter Tobin.

If you are interested in finding out about  KTPs with UWE Bristol, please get in touch or leave a comment.