News and Events

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University launches strategic partnership with German research organisation

IMW in Leipzig Formed in the context of a changing Europe and a growing regional renaissance in the UK’s West Midlands, Birmingham City University and the Fraunhofer Society have announced a strategic partnership to deliver a new model of research innovation. 

A Memorandum of Understanding between the UK university and German organisation was signed on Wednesday 17 August, which will see the partners work together to advance their relationship in international research cooperation, technology and innovation transfer, commercialisation and training across a range of sectors. 

This groundbreaking initiative builds on the recent development of a number of significant projects where Birmingham City University is playing a leading role, including STEAMHouse, the Birmingham Knowledge Hub, the newly formed West Midlands Combined Universities (WMCU) and the launch of the six-strong Midlands Enterprise Universities

Employing more than 24,000 staff, Fraunhofer is Europe‘s largest organisation for applied research, with efforts geared entirely towards human needs: health, security, communication, energy and the environment. 


The international and interdisciplinary team of experts at the Leipzig-based Fraunhofer Center for International Management and Knowledge Economy (IMW), combines its economic, social, political and cultural scientific expertise to answer questions relating to knowledge and technology transfer, corporate development in international competition, sustainability management and infrastructure economics. 

As part of the partnership signed today, this international capability will be married with Birmingham City University‘s applied research strengths across the creative industries, social sciences, architecture and urban development, transport and mobility, cyber security and digital technologies, among others. 

Building on Birmingham City University‘s extensive engagement with business and well-established track record of collaborative working, the partnership will leverage Fraunhofer’s expertise in technology transfer and commercialisation, the development of creative spaces and applied research. 


Earlier this year, the UK Government announced that it will be contributing £14 million to help transform the former Typhoo tea factory in Birmingham into a collaborative innovation centre – STEAMHouse – for solving the challenges facing SMEs in the West Midlands region.  

Forming part of STEAMhouse, the Birmingham City University-Fraunhofer IMW partnership will deliver a new model of pan-regional innovation, build research excellence and create a platform for international market development. 

Professor Dr. Thorsten Posselt, Director of the Fraunhofer Center for International Management and Knowledge Economy, said: 

“We know how technology development and transfer work. As an integral part of Fraunhofer, our practically-oriented research and our solutions are always focused on finding solutions for specific problems in business, politics and society. Together with our partners we aim to identify, to tap new markets and to ensure the competitiveness of German and European companies.” 

Redpill Group

In a parallel agreement, Fraunhofer IMW will also enter into a partnership with smart city and innovation leaders, Redpill Group, who have spearheaded the development of the Birmingham City University-Fraunhofer IMW partnership. 

As strategy consultants and innovators in urban technologies, Fraunhofer and Redpill will work together internationally to incubate, build and support new companies and accelerate their growth in global markets. 

Redpill will engage Fraunhofer’s capabilities to support technology innovation and enterprise, developing new products and services applied specifically to citizen-centric smart city projects. Fraunhofer IMW and Redpill will work closely together to create new markets, open up commercial opportunities and drive new business creation. 

Dr Robin Daniels, Managing Director of Redpill Group, said: 

“The decision by the UK to leave the European Union has sent shock waves through the British and European research and innovation community. Amid the uncertainty that has followed it is more important than ever to forge new partnerships, to raise the bar and to deliver even greater value to our clients and partners. 

“The new partnerships that will result from this announcement will do just that and we’re delighted to not only have driven and closed these agreements, but also to be an active party in taking them forward to Europe and the world.” 

All parties expect that formal partnership agreements will be completed by October 2016.

Two Exchange Collaborative Projects awarded to researchers

The round two recipients of The Culture Capital Exchange's Collaborative Research Awards have been announced, and there are two winners from Birmingham City University. 

Jacqueline Taylor and Jacob Salder have each won funding of £5000 to pursue a research project in collaboration with industry partners. 

If you are interesting in applying for Round 3 visit the Exchange Website.

Project details

Project name: Rearrangements

Director: Caroline Horton

Academic partner: Dr Jacqueline Taylor, Birmingham City University

Caroline Horton is a theatre maker, writer and performer, an associate at Birmingham Rep and BBC Birmingham Writer in Residence.

Caroline’s research partner is Dr Jacqueline Taylor, Birmingham City University, whose research critically examines relations between visual art, poetics and philosophy with a particular focus on the textual concept and practice of l’écriture féminine.

Their collaborative research project ‘is a critical, practical and creative interrogation of narrative, form and structure and how this affects meaning-making when encountering/interpreting artistic practice. ‘Rearrangements’ opens up a site of exchange between Caroline’s expertise as a theatre-maker who experiments with form in her work and Jacqueline’s academic specialism of l’écriture féminine, which proposes alternative linguistic structures, narratives and forms to create ‘other’ languages.

Project name: The creative business - enhancing business practices in arts-based creative industries

Director: Antonia Beck

Academic Partner: Jacob Salder, Birmingham City University

Antonia Beck is an independent artist and creative producer specialising in performance-based work that spans theatre, live literature, outdoor arts, live art and other interdisciplinary performance practices.

Antonia’s research partner, Jacob Salder, Birmingham City University, is an economic geographer and economic development specialist through qualification and experience. He has spent a number of years researching different sectors, including the Creative Industries, in various Economic Development roles for local and regional government.

Their collaborative research project ‘The Creative Business – Enhancing business practice in the arts-based creative industries’ will look at business practice in this sector, focusing on arts / performance-based creative industries (ABCIs) and examine this against orthodox understandings. They will consider how applicable these understandings are to ABCIs and how they can be refined to support business development in this sector. The project will produce key outputs in the shape of intensive guidance for a set of ABCIs alongside creating an analysis and support framework specific to this sub-sector, enabling creatives to develop their businesses.

New STEAM Scholarships announced

We're investing more than £3m to fund more than 50 fully funded PhD scholarships.

As part of our commitment to our research future and our 'Better, Bigger, Broader' research strategy, exciting opportunities will be available for students across the arts and humanities, physical and social sciences, technology, engineering and mathematics. 

We've achieved international recognition for 'creative innovation' and have recently secured funding from the Arts Council and UK central government for a STEAMhouse Innovation Centre in Digbeth. Here we will unleash creative innovation to stimulate research across all our academic disciplines and power new collaborative partnerships and entrepreneurial activities. 

The application deadline for STEAM Scholarships is 30 June 2016 for a September 2016 start.

Find out more about STEAM Scholarships

Conservatoire researcher wins AHRC grant

Deborah H. Mawer (Birmingham Conservatoire) has been awarded a research grant from the Arts & Humanities Research Council, with a bid value of £461,583, to lead a three-year project: ‘Accenting the Classics: Durand’s Édition classique (c. 1915-25) as a French Prism on the Musical Past’, in collaboration with Graham Sadler (Birmingham Conservatoire), Barbara L. Kelly (Royal Northern College of Music) and Rachel Moore (University of Oxford). This project will blend analytical, cultural and historical musicology with music performance to investigate the nature of the varying ‘French accent’ (Ravel’s ‘accent singulier’) given to earlier European piano music (the ‘Classics’) within Durand’s multi-volume edition, on the occasion of its centenary. The repertoire comprises music by well-known and since-forgotten composers, which was edited by well- and lesser-known early 20th-century French composers, together with musicologists and teachers at the Paris Conservatoire.

Investigation will start with detailed analytical case studies of edited music. An initial group will include Ravel (editing Mendelssohn) and Debussy (Chopin); Emmanuel, Garban and Roger-Ducasse (Bach and Burgundian folksongs); balanced by music of the 18th-century French harpsichordists, including Couperin (edited by Tiersot) and Rameau (Diémer). Secondly, using blended archival, historical and interpretative skills, assessment of the role and wider cultural network of the Édition classique will offer new insights into early 20th-century French cultural identity (for example, incipient neoclassicism); relations with 20th-century French composers’ own music; canonic issues; Conservatoire pedagogy; wartime publishing, in the context of editions by Henry Expert, Saint-Saëns and Heugel. The project will also embrace how today’s users - students, scholars, musicians and the wider public - can benefit from (test out and inflect) this knowledge, including alternative interpretations for pianists and the promotion of ‘lost’ repertoire. ‘Accenting the Classics’ will run from summer 2016-2019.

New PhD Digital Stories

One of PGRNet's main projects this year is on sharing the voice of our PhD students, and we are doing that through digital storytelling. Throughout the year, we will publish new digital stories where PhD students from across the University will share their PhD experience and the research they are doing. Anastasia Nikologianni (right) talks about her research in landscape architecture and the fascinating work she has done across Europe.

See all of our Digital Stories in PGR Corner

CEBE Research Journal issue 2

The Faculty of Computing, Engineering and the Built Environment have released the second issue of their research journal. It is an online, open-access journal which gives research staff and students the opportunity to publish their work. It follows the first issue which was released in 2014. 

Articles in the new issue include 'Ethics and the University' by Professor Peter Larkham and 'Urban agriculture, planning and health: exploring the links' by Veronica Barry.

Read the Journal of CEBE

Case study selected as REF impact exemplar 

A Birmingham City University case study submitted to REF 2014 has been chosen as one of the top 20 for research impact in computer science.  

Professor Cham Athwal (right) and his team in the Digital Media Technology research group have been developing innovative vehicle crash testing technology since the mid-1990s, and the importance of the work has been recognised in a new report by the UK Computing Research Committee detailing the best twenty examples of the impact of computer science research.

The technology developed enables faster and more intuitive analysis of vehicle crash test data, and has proved to be very popular in the industry. The system was developed in collaboration with the Motor Industry Research Association (MIRA) and was soon incorporated into an international standard for vehicle crash testing.

Jimmy Robinson, a research associate on the project, completed a research degree under Cham’s supervision, before going on to create his own company to develop and sell the system.

Director of Research, Professor Keith Osman said: “This case study reinforces how critical to impact an integrated research and enterprise strategy is, with innovation representing the bridge between new knowledge creation through research and application, and impact generation by enterprise”.

Read more about the case study 

New facility for postgraduate research students

A new, dedicated facility for research students has been opened at City North Campus.

The PGR (Postgraduate Research) Hub, based on the third floor of Baker Building, provides a number of resources for research students and their supervisors including room for flexible working, seminars and meetings, as well as a social space.

Research students from every part of the University will be able to make use of a variety of new equipment including desks, 25 PCs; 24 laptop docking stations with mice and keyboards, lockers, kitchen facilities and two separate rooms for meetings. In addition, there is a furnished seminar room for use as a teaching space.

The PGR Hub has been created as part of the University's work to ensure that research students have access to improved resources until new research facilities become available at City Centre Campus and City South Campus from summer 2017.

Jane Farrow, Research Support Manager, commented: "We want to make sure that our postgraduate students have easy access to facilities that will really help them in their studies. The PGR Hub also provides a central location for lectures and seminars which will help to bring together research students from across the University."

Find out more about City North Campus

University conference a success in Jordan

The University co-hosted an international conference in April in Jordan, and was a success in attracting academics from around the world.

The ‘First International Conference on the Transformation of the Urban Character of Arab Cities since the Late Last Century’, organised and co-hosted by Birmingham City University and the German Jordanian University (GJU), took place in Jordan from 22 April to 24 April 2015 at the German Jordanian University main campus, and was supported by the Mayor of Amman, Akel Beltagi.

The conference discussed various topics and subjects such as:

  • Modernity and tradition: Approaches and practices in urban design; comparative analysis of contemporary and traditional approaches.
  • Capitalism and modernism: the changing character of urban spaces.
  • The social dimension of urban design: responsive and inclusive public spaces.
  • Urban identity and social sustainability of the city
  • The political and sociocultural dimensions of regeneration projects.

The GJU President, Prof. Natheer Abu Obeid, emphasised that this International Conference was held in the context of the social and cultural transformation, globalisation and the revolution of information technology, pointing out that education, training and human development are major activities that need healthy competitive environments.

Prof Mohsen Aboutorabi, Professor of Architecture at the University, said: “This conference is aiming to develop a new narrative to form a new utopian thinking that can change the global sameness paradigm to colourful landscape of variety of cities, through underscoring the urgent political priority of constructing cities that correspond to human social needs, rather than to the capitalist imperative.”

Despite the political unrest in the region, the conference succeeded in gathering professionals and academics from all other the world. Dr. Bushra Zalloom, (conference coordinator and University representative in Jordan) mentioned that there were around forty scientific papers at the conference from the USA, Canada, Germany, Italy, Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Iran, UAE, UK, and Jordan. The conference included eight valuable sessions and welcomed keynote speakers Dr. Farouk Yaghmour from Jordan, Prof. Christoph Zoepel from Germany, Prof. Ali Madanipour from UK, Prof. Ruth Carter from the USA. The third day was a scientific tour to discover the legacy of Amman, Jordan.

The conference highlighted that stakeholders should find practical solutions to prevent the city identity, rather than only focusing on the urban problems in the region. It also highlights the importance of the co-operation between Universities, public and private sectors to establish strategies that could be implemented gradually on ground. Moreover, the Arab region should benefit from the developed countries experiences in the field and try to create their own way in preventing their identity.

During the concluding session, Dr. Mohammed Yaghan, the Dean of School of Architecture and Built environment at GJU, said: "This conference has come to bridge the gap between theory and practice, and will help in developing the field."

New chapter published on landscape architecture

Senior academic and MArch course director Mike Dring has co-authored a book chapter entitled 'Landscapes of Variance: Working the Gap between Design and Nature' as part of the recently published 'Revising Green Infrastructure: Concepts Between Nature and Design', available from leading academic publisher Taylor and Francis.

Originally conceived as part of the 'Land Art Generator Initiative' competition submission in 2012, and later presented at 'Designing Nature as Infrastructure' conference at the Technical University of Munich the same year, the chapter explores the gaps between design and interventions in the landscape, in doing so opening up the latent potential of a site, in this case the Fresh Kills landfill site in New York. The chapter examines the work of artists and designers through their engagement with site, most recently through its reinvention as a public park.

Mike also exhibited work at the Royal Academy Summer Show in 2013, illustrations for which also appear in the book.

The essay sees the culmination of an extended period of academic and practice based research across disciplines of architecture, landscape architecture, art and public policy, and has reached multiple audiences.

Groundbreaking cancer diagnosis research featured on Radio 4

Doctor discusses issue with patient Pioneering research into cancer diagnosis, led by the University's School of Digital Media Technology (DMT), was featured on Radio 4's PM programme in early March.

Dr Ryan Stables of DMT has collaborated with the University of Central Lancashire and GEANT, (a pan-European research and education network) on a preliminary study which converted stem cell data into sounds rather than visual data such as graphs, similar to the function of a metal detector.

Ryan says, "It allows you to identify the characteristics of cancer in real-time, which we hope could have life-changing implications for patients through the development of better diagnostic tools."

At the moment, waiting times for cancer tests are at a six year high. The testing itself is often invasive and can involve taking a biopsy, sending it to a lab and awaiting results, which can take up to six weeks. Current methods of stem cell analysis involve computational pattern analysis, which is very time consuming. By classifying data into audio signals instead, it is easier to differentiate between healthy and cancerous cells and the process is much quicker.

This non-invasive system is still in the early stages of development; the preliminary study was launched at the 20th International Conference on Audio Display.

Listen to Ryan's Radio 4 appearance on BBC iPlayer.

Could your research be award winning?

As part of this year's Extra Mile Awards, the University has launched a new award to recognise the work of our research community.

The Extra Mile Awards, which are run in partnership with the Students’ Union, are your opportunity to nominate a student or member of staff to receive an award from the University. This year’s awards have a number of new categories recognising exceptional work by staff and students.

The Researcher of the Year award will be presented to the member of staff who is judged to have made the biggest contribution to research over the academic year.

The winner and runner-up of the award will be personally recognised by the Vice-Chancellor and Students' Union President at an awards ceremony in May.

If you know a member of staff who is making an impact in the research community then why not put them forward for the award?

Every nomination made will also be entered into a prize draw to win a new iPad and a pair of tickets to the awards ceremony.

Make your nominations on the website

REF 2014 results show the real world impact of our research

English research For our submission to the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2014, we doubled the number of staff producing internationally recognised research and significantly increased the impact our work is having on society and the economy.

The 2014 Research Excellence Framework 2014 (REF) results revealed that 90 per cent of the University's submission was judged to have delivered 'outstanding' or 'very considerable' impact externally.

The six-yearly assessment of research performance also saw the University achieve an increase in the four-star or three-star research on which public funding is partly based, from 40 per cent in 2008 to 60 per cent in 2014.

Birmingham City University's research has impacted on a range of business developments and public policy. Examples include work that enables the migration of music on obsolete platforms to modern devices, and research that has influenced death penalty policy and practice around the world.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Cliff Allan said: "Moving forward, our new research and enterprise strategies will enable us to do more and better research, ensuring new knowledge aligns increasingly with the needs of society and the economy.

"Our 2014 REF submission is far more ambitious than ever before, forming part of our aim of repositioning the University as a broader based institution with research increasingly integral to our work."

See detailed results on the REF 2014 site