What does the Carolan guitar, waste water, petrol tankers and meteorology have in common? 

The LATi Expert Exchange on ‘Connecting to the Internet of Things’ gave an exciting glimpse into the future of IoT, and the diverse and interesting applications that the technology is being used for.

The LATi Expert Exchange, which was held at the Advanced Technology Innovation Centre (ATIC) at Loughborough University Science and Enterprise Park on 17 March, brought together scientists, engineers and technologists interested in how they can exploit this new technology.

Kicking off the presentations was Professor Steve Benford from the University of Nottingham. Steve introduced a new technology called Artcodes, which allows information about an object to be embedded in digital codes. This was demonstrated with the Carolan guitar featuring Celtic inspired decorative patterns. When scanned using the Artcodes app each decorative pattern will tell a different story; the history of making the guitar, playsets and stories from its ‘owners’, overall creating a digital footprint for the object. Other applications for this technology include wallpaper, homes, cars and even wargaming miniatures.

Three companies followed Steve’s presentation, Martin Croft from Dynamic Flow technologies Ltd, Michael Belcher from Datalink Electronics and Simon Massey, Campbell Scientific Europe. Each gave insight into their recent developments and current thoughts about increasing connectivity between products and systems. Martin Croft and Michael Belcher gave demonstrations of recent technology developments. Martin spoke about the waste water sensing and the technology they have developed, which is in use today by some water companies.  Martin also showed a portable mini Infrared sensor (SCiO Lab) that uses a smartphone app to show present the results ‘molecular fingerprint’. This was an example of where they could go next. Dynamic Flow Technologies Ltd is working with Loughborough University to explore new development opportunities.  Michael spoke intelligent petrol tank refuelling and described how the final product evolved to meet the needs of the end user. He demonstrated wireless sensor nodes and described how the ‘intelligence’ in sensor networks (such as home energy apps) is in the ability to learn from historic data. Simon provided an overview of how Campbell Scientific’s products have evolved to meet end-user requirements. They are seeing an increasing desire from the end-users to provide meaningful data on demand, and this has allowed Campbell Scientific to develop data management software and mobile apps such as LoggerLink to present the data in desired formats when required.  

Overall this expert exchange provided a good platform for individuals in the space to hear what the internet of things means to companies, how it is being used and to discuss some of the opportunities and challenges being faced.

Lightweight materials are the next pit-stop in the challenge of reducing mass, and therefore curb emissions, to improve fuel economy in the vehicle industry.

Current estimates suggest that global levels of CO2 may still be rising by 2050. By that date UK authorities have promised to cut CO2 emissions from transport by 80%. Current reductions have been gained by improvements in engine performance but these gains are diminishing. To meet the carbon emissions target we need to reduce vehicle mass. For example, a car the size of a Ford Focus would need to reduce mass by about 300kg (from ~1200kg to ~900kg).  The car industry needs to find a way to manufacture lightweights without adding production cost in the shorter term.

Loughborough University and Far UK Ltd, a Nottingham-based innovative low-volume tailored vehicle designer and manufacturer, have joined forces to explore the concept of novel and engineered structures, multifunctional materials bespoke for their mechanical properties, and manufactured in a cost-benefit and continuous fashion using Sonication technology that allows on-demand tailoring of porosity. This exciting research program has just secured co-funding from the UK’s innovation agency, Innovate UK.

 This collaboration is developing new technology in the production of carbon fibre and glass fibre porous composite beams as well as natural fibres, which are seen to have a positive impact on the Life Cycle Analysis of the process. The continuous extrusion process moves away from traditional high waste composite manufacturing methods. It offers flexibility in the dimensions and the tailored structural beams require minimal tooling. This novel manufacturing technology could also work for other sectors e.g. heavy goods vehicles and rail.


Dr Carmen Torres-Sánchez, from the Multifunctional Materials Manufacturing Lab in the Wolfson School, is working towards developing new products and manufacturing protocols to design and manufacture engineered porosity structures that combine high-spec of mechanical properties and low weight.

 Dr Kevin Lindsey, Far UK Ltd, Technical Director, says "The business opportunity is to manufacture structures and components for the new range of low weight vehicles. This ambition is currently wing-clipped by the lagging behind of the traditional manufacturing technologies in the automotive sector. In collaboration with Loughborough University we will develop a breakthrough cost-effective manufacturing process to create the most efficient structures that enable low-carbon vehicles"

This programme of research presents a new avenue for high value manufacturing and helps support the UK knowledge base, economy and jobs.

A unique part of the CDT-EI programme is the leadership and management training which all our students undertake. In partnership with the Glendonbrook Centre for Enterprise Development at Loughborough University our students gain learn about enterprise and entrepreneurship, leadership and key business skills often cited to be missing in PhD graduates. The results are that all our students are comfortable and confident in working with industrial partners and they obtain an international recognised qualification in leadership and management from the Institute of Leadership and Management



Hosted by Loughborough University’s Graduate School, “Using Media to Publicise Your Research” was a one-day training event for researchers and academics to help familiarise them with interactions with the media. Both of the speakers were ex-BBC journalists with a wealth of experience in dealing with academics.

The first exercise entailed describing my research to an imaginary class of 12-year-olds, a surprisingly difficult task for researchers who spend the majority of their time discussing their work with their peers.

The speakers gave some insight into being a journalist in order to help us academics work with them. They opened with “The first rule of journalism: First simplify, then exaggerate”. Academics are often found guilty of making things too complicated and trying to cover too many aspects of their work. Keeping the content to a minimum with only one or two take home messages is a must when dealing with media. Other tips included replacing nouns with verbs in headlines or titles, what makes a good news story and what journalists find difficult to work with.

Following this, the speakers staged and scenario to demonstrate how to take control of an interview. This was particularly useful for parrying difficult or awkward questions and answering questions with the answers you have planned to provide.

The second half of the session involved a 3-minute interview that was videoed to review later. I was given my first question, as this is often the case in an interview. With that in mind, I had to organise some background material and prepare for the interview. Each participant had their interview recorded and we all gave feedback on the videos at the end. A few things became clear, maintain eye contact with your interviewer, resist from moving or fidgeting and definitely do not look into the camera. After reviewing the feedback, we all had the opportunity to do another 3-minute interview, this time with different questions.

This event served as a basis for some of the skills needed to communicate my research to a wider audience. The common pitfalls are fairly obvious once they are explained but acting on them in another task entirely. Having completed this course, I would feel much more comfortable talking to media or a wider, non-academic audience about my research. However, the way to really improve and develop confidence is through practise.

Joe Holt, Cohort 1

Last week cohort 2 researcher Ruben Kruiper attended the FutureEverything Digital Research Outreach and Impact Lab 'Designing effective engagement and communication for research and innovation' workshop organised by the Digital Economy Network.

The event was aimed at PhD students carrying out research in the following areas:

  • Digital and creative innovation
  • Social and civic innovation
  • Urban applications of new technologies including physical computing, the Internet of Things and big/open data.

Ruben has commented "Open prototyping can be very powerful in gathering insights and understandings. This workshop by FutureEverything, who describe open prototyping as developing and testing a concept or process through input from external contributors, was focussed amongst others on identifying the people you want to gather information from. Whether they are end-users, stakeholders or the audience of your research output should determine the way you approach and involve them. By defining how to reach your audience and why you would use certain communication channels, you start reformulating your research into a more concise, understandable manner.

All in all, it was an interesting workshop that was attended by PhD students from a variety of backgrounds. It was a pleasure to meet these people from CDTs in Nottingham, Lancaster, Newcastle and Bath."

The second International Data and Information Management Conference (IDIMC) was held by the Centre for Information Management at Loughborough University on 12th and 13th January 2016.


The conference aimed to bring together researchers, managers and policy makers from academia, industry, government, commerce and the third sector. To follow on from the 2014 conference, ‘Making connections’, the overarching theme of this conference was ‘Exploring our digital shadow’.

The first day focussed on early career researchers, with a programme including a selection of workshops designed to hone skills in information management research. The second day comprised a series of invited and contributed papers and posters with a broad appeal across the sector. There were excellent networking opportunities throughout both days.

Melanie Zimmer, Cohort 2 student, was one of the CDT-EI students who attended the conference and had this to say;

"Even though the "International Data and Information Management Conference" was not directly targeted to my PhD topic, I - as a PhD student half way through my first year - gained a lot from attending it. During the first day of the conference I attended speakers would talk about "The digital transformation of defence operations in the 21st century", but also share their opinions on "8 ways to develop your research". Two workshop sessions were offered in each of which one out of four workshops could be chosen.  Especially "Writing journal and conference papers" and "Reflections on the 'how'. Reconsidering research methods in Information Systems", in which skillful researchers would share their experiences, were really helpful for me.  Also of interest was the "5 minutes madness" session I which other PhD students had to present their research within 5 minutes. Although the conference was aimed at a broad audience, I felt it perfectly focused on PhD students and early career researchers."

With thanks to IDIMC for the photograph.

The proceedings of the conference can be downloaded here.


The two days CDT HighWire writing retreat in Wyresdale Park Scorton provides a good environment to think and write. Normally an efficient writing requires a peaceful and calm place, and this retreat was structured and scheduled in such a way that researchers could have a better outcome of it. This is achieved in two ways:

  1. Setting goals for both days, as well as getting feedback from someone else on the realism of these goals. On the end of the day, reflect on what is a reasonable goal for yourself.
  2. Have scheduled breaks and stick to them. Instead of continuingly working until you ‘finished’ a section, write some keywords of what you will need to do to finish the section. This makes it easier to pick up writing and makes your day more fun (compared to writing by yourself non-stop). Furthermore, the absence of internet access allowed for more focussed writing periods.

We attended this writing session in order to work on our group project report. We felt the schedule of the writing retreat would be useful during writing-intensive periods, especially if you can team up with some other PhD students and have breaks together! This turned out to be one of the goals of the program; finding others that are willing to work according to a schedule and have breaks together. Therefore, it would be good to have some other students from our department at a writing retreat session. Furthermore, we believe that working on a group project in a structured way can be beneficial as well. The structured sessions allow group-members to keep each-other up to date on their progress.

Besides the writing sessions the retreat gave us the chance to meet some PhD student from another CDT programme. It was interesting to talk about their PhD topics and learn from their experiences. But most of all it is cool to meet people from various backgrounds and universities.

Last but not least, the location, food and hospitality in general was amazing. And Tish was amazing in sorting this out for us! We would recommend this writing retreat to any CDT student!

Written by Cohort 2 students Ruben Kruiper and Jamal Umer

For more information about Highwire CDT based at Lancaster University or the Digital Economy CDT Network please click the links.

On the 11th of November 2015, HSSMI Ltd hosted their first Leadership Forum at The ArcelorMittal Orbit in Stratford (London). The High Speed Sustainable Manufacturing Institute (HSSMI) Ltd is a research institute closely working together with industrial companies and leading academic institutions to support manufacturing in the UK.

The subject ‘Manufacturing, the next five years; technology, knowledge building and political support; what is needed? How it is best delivered?’ was discussed on a panel with the following keynote speakers: Margaret Wood MBE ‐ Chairman, ICW (UK) Ltd; Professor Robert Allison ‐ Vice Chancellor and President, Loughborough University; Brian Holliday ‐ Managing Director, Siemens Digital Factory; Peter Domeney - ‎Manufacturing Engineering Director, Jaguar Land Rover. One of the main themes of the discussion involved the need of strengthening the manufacturing in the UK by making engineering more appealing to young people.

As part of the agenda, PhD students sponsored by HSSMI Ltd prepared posters outlining their PhD research. This was a great opportunity for networking and to communicate the research and also get valuable input from industry by representing HSSMI Ltd as well as the CDT-EI.

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