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Impact Acceleration Joint Showcase

In January 2023 Leeds Social Sciences Institute (LSSI) joined forces with Research and Innovation Services (RIS) to hold a joint Showcase Event. Hosted by LSSI Director Professor Louise Waite, and RIS Translational Research Portfolio Manager Ruth Rayner, the event had a programme of presentations showcasing some of the fascinating research projects that have received Impact Acceleration Funding to boost their impact.

Below you can find project abstracts, and links to the recordings of these presentations (in event running order). A recording of the the introduction to the event and overview of Impact Acceleration Funding at the University of Leeds can be viewed here.

Projects Showcased

Prof Serge Sharoff, AI Tracing Tools for Detecting COVID Misinformation

Recording of this presentation can be viewed here (access restricted to UoL staff).

This project was conducted in collaboration with NHS and the Yorkshire & Humber Academic Health Sciences Network with the aim to improve our understanding of COVID-19 misinformation chains in social media using AI tracing tools. The team used this funding

  1. to collect a corpus of about 2 million COVID-related messages and corresponding user profiles from Facebook, Telegram and Twitter and
  2. to develop AI classifiers to make predictions about the properties of the messages and the profiles using Deep Learning frameworks.

The team's main hypothesis was that the socio-demographic profile of the audience is an important indicator for the likelihood of falling prey to misinformation, as different readers differ in how much they might be willing to share misinformation of different kinds. The team indeed found a strong positive association of the likelihood of sharing COVID-19 misinformation with reader's age and their right-wing political orientation. Another association concerns different preferences for sharing misinformation genres, in particular, pseudo-academic writing vs personal stories. The funding enabled cooperation between AI research and NHS Communication experts.

Useful links: 

Professor Serge Sharoff's staff profile

Dr Sally Moore, The Fit Food Project: Developing powerful gamified nutrition education featuring virtual food choices in various retail food environments

Recording of this presentation can be viewed here (access restricted to UoL staff).

This ESRC Impact Acceleration Account funded Knowledge Exchange project brought together Leeds University nutrition and medical academics and digital education practitioners alongside game-developers at a European company based in Germany in order to optimise an online game with fun and engaging learning to promote knowledge acquisition and behavioural change relating to nutrition amongst game players. Knowledge transfer undertaken here was based on previous research which highlighted the potential for nutrition education, and gaming, to promote understanding of nutrition (and food labels) and health across young people and patients. This is important because nutrition label information is an often underused tool which is intended to inform healthier food choices and tackle obesity.

Objectives of the knowledge transfer work included collaborative input to align game content with current UK and international healthy eating tools (such as traffic lights and Nutriscore nutrition labels) and to embed models of powerful learning in serious (but fun!) gaming which could promote skill development. Outputs of the work include the freely available game Food Decisions, which features several opportunities to experience, and get feedback on, virtual food choices within different retail food environments (i.e. supermarkets, cafes etc).

In addition, a conference held in April 2021 was delivered and designed to bring together local and international practitioners and researchers in the field of nutrition and serious gaming technologies. These outputs are now to be used with future funding, to evaluate the game within UK secondary schools and University programmes, and as part of interventions which target healthy eating with young people and their families.

Contributors: Dr Sally Moore, Dr Blagovesta Tacheva, Blayn Parkinson, Dr Arthur Lau, Bertram Pachaly and Petra Pechaly

Useful links: 

Dr Sally Moore's staff profile

Prof Roy Ruddle, The Leeds Virtual Microscope

Recording of this presentation can be viewed here (access restricted to UoL staff).

In a 12 year collaboration with pathologists at the Leeds teaching Hospital NHS Trust (LTHT), Prof Roy Ruddle developed the Leeds Virtual Microscope (LVM) which allows doctors to visualize and diagnose cancer from digital versions of tissue biopsies on Powerwall and ultra-high definition displays. Each digital microscope slide is about 10 gigapixels - similar to a Landsat 7 satellite image of the whole of the Amazon rainforest. The LVM underpinned pathology going fully digital at LTHT (England's second largest acute hospital trust), was used as the platform to define Royal College Guidelines for pathologists, has been commercialised by Roche in their uPath digital pathology software, and was also a REF 2021 impact Case Study. In his presentation Prof Roy Ruddle asks "what are the ingredients of the 'perfect' research project?" and explains how Impact Acceleration Account funding helps us bridge the Valley of Death that lies between research and real-world adoption

Useful links: 

Professor Roy Ruddles' staff profile

Dr Briony Thomas, Creative Curriculum Approaches to Embedding Culture on the Doorstep

Recording of this presentation can be viewed here (access restricted to UoL staff).

The 2019 Ofsted framework introduced a requirement for UK schools to demonstrate how they develop the cultural capital of every child. While there is a risk this may lead to entrenched notions of class and legitimate culture, it also provides an opportunity for educational innovation. Schools have agency to define the cultural capital their children need and embed the unique context of the community and place into their curricula. Through the team’s work they are collaboratively exploring creative place-based learning within the context of 15-minute neighbourhoods. In partnership with teachers, young people, and their communities, we are exploring ways to support effective curriculum development, which embraces the people, places, cultures, and knowledge held within communities.

Useful links: 

Dr Briony Thomas' staff profile

Prof Helen Picton, IVFmicro - Microfluidic Embryo Culture to Improve the Success of Assisted Conception

In the UK, approximately 1:7 couples have difficulty conceiving and will undergo some form of assisted conception treatment such as IVF. However, despite considerable research effort assisted conception treatments remain costly and relatively inefficient. The current practices for embryo culture during assisted reproduction involve growing embryos in vitro in polystyrene dishes in microdrops of nutrient rich culture medium overlaid with mineral oil. At the end of the culture, the best embryo(s) are selected for immediate, fresh transfer to the patient of they are cryopreserved for later transfer.

Using funding from NC3Rs, MRC CiC, EPSRC IAA and Wellcome Trust iTPA we have designed, fabricated and tested a novel microfluidic culture device (IVFmicro) that recreates the micro-physiological environment of the mammalian oviduct in the laboratory with the aim of improving embryo health and development in vitro. IFVmicro supports the in vitro production of embryos from the 1 cell zygote to the blastocyst stage of development. We have generated proof of concept data for IVFmicro by testing prototype device with >5,000 mouse and bovine embryos. Most recently, we have incorporated sensor functionality into IVFmicro by developing miniaturized electrochemical sensors that measure O2 metabolism and pH from small groups or single embryos to facilitate non-invasive measurement of predictors of individual embryo health without disturbing the embryo. The stage is now set to confirm the efficacy of IVFmicro in a veterinary embryo transfer trial before moving onto preclinical trials in humans.

Principal Investigators: Prof Helen Picton and Dr Virginia Pensabene

Useful links: 

Professor Helen Picton's staff profile

Dr Virginia Pensabene's staff profile

Dr Anne Velenturf, A Sustainable Circular Economy for Offshore Wind

Recording of this presentation can be viewed here (access restricted to UoL staff).

Circular economy and renewable energy infrastructure such as offshore wind farms are often assumed to be developed in synergy as part of sustainable transitions. In the UK, offshore wind is set to grow to more that 40GW by 2030. With a designated lifetime of 20-25 years, the first turbines are also starting to be decommissioned.

The growing scale of offshore wind brings new sustainability challenges. Many of the challenges are circular economy- related, such as increasing resource exploitation and competition and underdeveloped end-of-use solutions for decommissioned components and materials. Circular economy is a whole system approach aiming to make better use of products, components and materials throughout their consecutive lifecycles.

Circular economy is not yet commonly and systematically applied to offshore wind. This EPSRC Impact Acceleration Account project successfully integrated sustainable circular economy approaches into the design, development, operation and end-of-use management of offshore wind infrastructure. In partnership with the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult and the Department for International Trade, a framework of circular economy strategies was co-produced, reaching thousands of stakeholders along the supply chain, opening new opportunities for business and collaborative research, placing circular economy firmly on the agenda of the wind sector. Dr Ann Velenturf was awarded the prestigious Poul la Cour prize for making an important and lasting contribution to the wind industry.

Useful links: 

Dr Ann Velenturf's staff profile

Prof Peter Culmer, Development and Translation of Novel Surgical Technologies for Global Health

Recording of this presentation can be viewed here (access restricted to UoL staff).

Over 5 billion people have no access to safe or affordable surgery, despite it being primary life-saving treatment for a range of common but deadly conditions. Access is worst in resource-scarce regions, exaggerating this inequity in healthcare. Gas Insufflation-Less Laparoscopic Surgery (GILLS) is a technique which can address this inequity, bringing the advantages of laparoscopic surgery with low resource use. Unfortunately, extant GILLS instrumentation does not meet modern standards, limiting wider use. The team have worked to address this clinical need for context appropriate GILLS instrumentation be developing and commercialising RAIS: the Retractor for Abdominal Insufflation-less Surgery (RAIS). Initial development and evaluation of RAIS was focussed on resource scarce areas of rural India. The outcomes of this work highlighted the relevance of, and need for, GILLS in sub-Saharan Africa. Accordingly, this work reports preliminary work to translate GILLS, using the RAIS system, to Kenya and Uganda, exploring how the healthcare and technology needs may differ in these contexts, and drawing conclusions to inform future work in the area.

Useful links: 

Professor Peter Culmer's staff profile