News

From press releases about our projects to stories about new developments, all the latest news about things that Matter.

Filming Innovation

Sep 12, 2017 in news

This month, our MD David Reid is working with filmmaker James Harrison to create a promotional film on some of the UK and Ireland’s most innovative low-carbon start-ups.

IMG_4264

The start-ups are part of the EIT Climate-KIC Start-up Accelerator which helps turn great ideas into great businesses in the low-carbon cleantech sector.

Filming began last week at the Edinburgh Centre for Carbon Innovation (ECCI) where start-ups were being interviewed after the completion of Phase One of the accelerator programme.

Innovations included a solar-powered lantern which can also charge up to four mobile phones, a unique new way of growing microalgae for use as a vital food supplement in commercial fish farms, and a social enterprise that helps get clean, safe, drinking water to the people who need it most.

This project will film start-ups at different stages of development throughout September and be used to promote the EIT Climate-KIC Accelerator to new audiences. The Climate-KIC is Europe’s largest public-private innovation partnership focused on climate change, consisting of dynamic companies, the best academic institutions and the public sector.

“It was great to be behind the camera again, producing and interviewing a range of inspiring entrepreneurs. Interviewing is a tricky skill, but if you can get the subject to relax a little and speak from the heart, that’s when their enthusiasm really shines through and you start to get a personal story full of passion and excitement for what they’re working on.” – David Reid, Managing Director, Matter PR.

Matter PR provides a range of PR services including filming, video production, and video news releases. Get in touch to find out more.

Briefing Global Media on African Armyworm

Sep 12, 2017 in news

This month, Matter PR has been helping to raise awareness of the spread of Fall Armyworm in Africa and promote a better understanding of the latest scientific research on this devastating infestation.

On behalf of our client CABI, we worked in partnership with agencies Grayling and African Laughter, to create a stakeholder and media briefing at one of Africa’s largest and most important agriculture and development conferences, AGRF 2017. 

P1040336-1

There has been widespread and sometimes highly emotive media coverage on Armyworm in Africa over the past year but much speculation and misunderstanding about the exact nature of the infestation and what is known about how to control or prevent it. The AGRF 2017 platform enabled CABI, and key partners such as AGRA, to improve the media’s understanding about our current level of knowledge on Fall Armyworm and potential ways to combat it.

During the briefing, CABI released new research which shows that 28 African countries are now confirmed to have FAW, compared with 17 in April 2017. Following the pest’s arrival in Africa in 2016, it presents a permanent agricultural challenge for the continent. FAW feeds on more than 80 crops, but prefers maize and can cut yields by up to 60 per cent.

In research funded by the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), CABI now estimates the pest will cost just ten of the continent’s major maize producing economies in Africa a total of $2.2bn to $5.5bn a year in lost maize harvests – if the pest is not properly managed.

“Enabling our agricultural communities with quick and coordinated responses is now essential, to ensure the continent stays ahead of the plague,” said Dr Joseph DeVries, Vice President – Program Development and Innovation at AGRA.

As countries turn to pesticides to reduce the damage, farmers face the risk of the pest developing resistance to treatment, which has become a widespread problem in the Americas.

Biopesticides are a lower risk control option, but few of the biopesticides used in the Americas are yet approved for use in Africa, raising the need for urgent local trials, registration and the development of local production.

“Maize can recover from some damage to the leaves. So when farmers see damaged leaves, it doesn’t necessarily mean they need to control. Research is urgently needed, and a huge awareness and education effort is required so that farmers monitor their fields, and can make decisions on whether and how to control,” said Dr Roger Day, CABI’s Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Coordinator.

“There are natural ways farmers can reduce impact, including squashing the eggs or caterpillars when they see them, and maintaining crop diversity in the farm, which encourages natural predators.”

CABI has also warned of the need to address the human health issues raised by any far more extensive use of chemical pesticides.

“Resource poor farmers are often unwilling or unable to buy the appropriate safety equipment and in some cases they use pesticides without appropriate application equipment. Farmers may also be disinclined to use safety equipment when hot weather makes it extremely uncomfortable. Recognizing that farmers will still want to use pesticides, specific measures are needed to make lower risk biopesticides more accessible,” said Dr Day.

You can see all the latest information and status reports about Fall Armyworm on the CABI website.

 


CABI (Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International) is an international not-for-profit organization that improves people’s lives by providing information and applying scientific expertise to solve problems in agriculture and the environment.

 

New Laser Zaps Toxic French Fries

Sep 12, 2017 in news

Earlier this year, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) issued warnings about eating over-fried potatoes, burnt toast and crisps that can contain cancer-causing chemicals such as acrylamide, deeming them a serious health threat to billions of consumers.

During the Summer, Matter PR helped promote the work of an award-winning young scientist who has developed a new laser system that scans peeled potatoes in the factory to detect toxic compounds and prevent them from reaching the consumer.

This new technique has been developed by Lien Smeesters, 28, at the B-PHOT Brussels Photonics Team at the University of Brussels, in collaboration with Tomra Sorting Solutions. It employs a new sensor that scans peeled potatoes, weeding out food that may cause high levels of the toxic chemical.

Reported by 35 different media, our story reached over 7 million individuals worldwide. Coverage included key campaign targets such as Digital Trends, Yahoo News, De Morgen, Fresh Plaza, Bakery and Snacks, Quality Assurance & Food Safety, The Engineer, and Laser Focus World.

Given how important frites are in Belgium, it also made it on to prime-time Belgian TV News. Following the campaign, Dr. Semesters said: “I never thought that the topic would ever reach such media attention – I’m now getting lots of email enquiries about my work. Thank you for writing the article about our research – without it, all these articles would never have been published. Thanks for everything, Matter PR really did a great job!”

At present, raw potatoes that produce an excess of the carcinogenic chemical acrylamide cannot be detected in a fast, sensitive, and non-destructive way.

Smeesters solution works by scanning the ‘free falling’ food items, such as potatoes, from both the front and back with a laser that employs ‘spatially resolved spectroscopy’, a non-invasive imaging technique using infrared light.

When the laser beam hits a potato, part of the light will be internally scattered during interaction with the tissue. A bad potato produces a deviating internal scattering signal, owing to the high acrylamide precursors, and therefore the system can recognize a ‘fingerprint’ of the undesirable food’.

This unwanted food item is spotted in mid-air as it begins to fall. Selected by the internal processor, the potato is then ‘knocked out’ of the batch by being blasted with a stream of air and into a reject bin before it hits the conveyor belt below.

The sensor is able to do this with each and every individual potato scanning and rejecting in tiny fractions of a second.

Dr Smeesters explains, “Not all potatoes result in excessive acrylamide formation during frying. We have sought to spot the undesirable potatoes when they are in their raw, peeled stage. After scanning with laser beams, the good potatoes will emit a different light signal than the unsuited ones leading to an unambiguous detection.”

Having filed a patent describing the use of this detection method, the laser scanner will be integrated into one of Tomra’s industrial in-line sorting machines, detecting and discarding food items that may contain excessive acrylamide precursors.

Several tons of products could be examined per hour to look for these carcinogenic compounds without using dyes or chemical additives, and without damaging or even touching the food.

1 B-PHOT_Lien_Smeesters

The driving force behind the detection method, Dr Lien Smeesters, 28, post-doctoral researcher at the University in Brussels in the B-PHOT Brussels Photonics Team and recent winner of the Student Innovation Award at the Photonics Public Private Partnership Annual Meeting, describes the motivation for the project:

“When frying potatoes, acrylamide formation is one of the biggest concerns of the potato-processing agriculture industry. At present raw potatoes that produce an excess of acrylamide cannot be detected in a fast, sensitive and non-destructive way.”

“Therefore, we have worked with Tomra Sorting Solutions to develop a spatially-resolved spectroscopic sensor that identifies raw potatoes with high acrylamide precursor concentrations, on basis of their internal scattering properties, in miliseconds.”

 


This story was part of an ongoing Matter PR campaign on behalf of Photonics21 – the European Technology Platform (ETP) for photonics, a technology encompassing all of the products and processes around the emission, manipulation and detection of light. Photonics is integral to a wide range of industries that include the medical, healthcare, transport, manufacturing, and telecommunications sectors.

 

Finalist for Volvo PR

Jun 8, 2017 in news

Finalist for Volvo PR

 

Matter PR came 3rd out of over 125 agencies in a recent international procurement process to find a retained PR agency for Volvo Trucks, an unusual achievement for a small, specialist company up against larger, more established brands. The pitch team was commended for its creativity as well as its extensive knowledge of science, engineering, and technology PR.

 

“This is a fantastic achievement for a small agency like Matter PR and the team did an incredible job to get so far. Volvo were really impressed with the depth of knowledge we have of the science and technology sector, as well as our ability to create impactful storytelling campaigns.”
David Reid, Managing Director.

Matter PR’s pitch centred on innovative storytelling. One campaign idea highlighted the people behind the trucks, rather than the technology itself — the engineers, scientists, designers, test drivers, and others. To make the stories about them: their passions, hopes, fears, motivations, families.

Volvo Trucks have developed a reputation for incredible PR stunts and powerful video stories in recent years. Their CEO recently stood in front of a driverless truck in a pitch-black mine while it came to a stop just inches from him. And their Epic Split feat featured Jean Claude Van Damme.

 

 

Find out more about Volvo Trucks news stories here.

 

Alien plants win Gold at Chelsea

Jun 8, 2017 in news

Alien plants win Gold at Chelsea

Congratulations to our client CABI (the Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International) who won a gold medal at this year’s Chelsea Flower Show for their first-ever solo exhibit – an educational display that showed some of the UK’s most invasive alien weeds including Japanese knotweed.

Matter PR worked closely with the CABI PR team to promote the garden to the media and coverage included the Daily Mail, BBC Radio 5 Live, BBC TV News South East Today, i-news, The Telegraph, and the Oxford Mail.

The story was reported by 14 individual websites, with a reach (based on IP addresses) of over 1 billion unique visitors per month, and it is estimated to have reached over 639,000 individuals worldwide.

The exhibit was the vision of young CABI scientist, Suzy Wood, currently reading for a PhD in ecology sponsored by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC). She wanted to show the impact of invasive alien weeds on the UK’s environment and infrastructure, including Japanese knotweed on property prices, buddleia on the railway and Himalayan balsam on riversides.

“I liked the idea of communicating CABI’s work on invasive species to a wider audience, helping people learn more about the option of natural control of invasive weeds. We applied last year to exhibit, and it’s been the perfect opportunity to showcase the science of biocontrol and connect with people who are already passionate about plants and the environment.”

Suzy Wood, Research Scientist, CABI

Created for the educational ‘Discovery Zone’, the exhibit showed how plants can spread and cause problems when moved from their native habitat to a new one, with no natural enemies like diseases and insects to keep them in check.

Untitled design (1)

Say Hi in Munich!

Jun 8, 2017 in news

Say Hi in Munich!

The Matter PR team will be in Munich later this month at Laser World of Photonics (26 – 29th June) – if you are attending and would like to discuss our photonics campaign or communications opportunities in general please drop us a line.

LWoP is the international trade fair for Photonics Components, Systems and Applications. Together with the World of Photonics Congress, the fair unites research and industry and promotes the use and ongoing development in the Photonics industry.

 

We’ll be based in the press centre all week – if you’d like to arrange to have coffee or a chat here are our details:

 

David Reid

Managing Director

0044 (0)7818 518736Laser_world_of_photonics

david@matterpr.com

@dburrettreid

 

Sam Young

Head of Content & Media

0044 (0)7944 965493

sam@matterpr.com

 

 

M

Matter PR – communicating things that matter.

See our full range of services here.

 

Photonics campaign has real impact

Apr 27, 2017 in news

Photonics campaign has real impact

Matter PR’s campaign to promote photonics research and technology has been the sector’s most successful global PR campaign ever. In its first year (2016), it generated 524 pieces of media coverage in 28 different countries and reached over 70 million people.

Over half of these articles were in trade media targeting potential end-users of photonics research and technologies, and generated real commercial impact as a direct result.

Matter PR have successfully delivered the first year of an ongoing campaign on behalf of the European platform Photonics21. The campaign has focused on promoting a range of high-impact projects funded by the EU through the Photonics Public Private Partnership.

So far, the campaign has resulted in over 524 articles in newspapers, magazines, and websites in more than 28 countries, representing an advertising value totaling approximately €4 million.

Highlights have included coverage in The Times, Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph, BBC News, MSN, as well as major national and international titles in Italy, Spain, Belgium, Germany, France, China, Japan, and the USA.

With a readership of over 70.7 million people so far, Matter PR has helped applied research groups across Europe promote the value and potential uses of photonics (the emission, manipulation and detection of light) as well as raising awareness with the public and policy-makers in governments across the world.

There have also been some direct commercial impacts from the campaign already, with a number of the Horizon2020 Photonics PPP projects receiving commercial application requests and developing new business partnerships as a result.

One success was a story about using inspiration from nature to create a new anti-bacterial, dirt-repellant metal. Media around the world hailed this as a possible way of making a “self-cleaning saucepan”. The Tresclean project team have been inundated with enquiries about potential business opportunities and R&D collaborations with major industrial manufacturers in the food and drink industry.

The campaign has involved creating original and engaging content and developing strong relationships with the media, especially in key target sectors such as aerospace, manufacturing, defence, healthcare, and security.

David Reid, Founding Director of Matter PR said:

“The Photonics Public Private Partnership chose Matter PR, one of the only communications agencies specializing in science, technology, and engineering, for its experience in targeting general news and industry sector media. We are demonstrating how photonics can be applied to wide variety of industrial sectors as well as showing its importance to our everyday lives.”

Europe is a global leader in light-related research and with the production of European photonics alone accounting for €60 billion and employing over 350,000 people directly.

Matter PR is the only communications, PR, and government relations agency which specialises in promoting photonics and related areas. Read more about our services.

If you would like to discuss a project or campaign please get in touch.

Science Community Responds to the 2017 Budget

Apr 10, 2017 in news

Following our briefing on science in the UK’s 2017 budget, here’s our round-up of the main reactions, comment, and analysis from the HE and research community. (Prepare yourself for overuse of the word “welcomed”).

The BBC did the most detailed analysis of the robotics, 5G, and driverless car funding announcement, part of the National Productivity Investment Fund (NPIF). They point out that the new investments in robotics and driverless cars are much lower than those being made in other countries, which might make it difficult for the UK to achieve the Government’s ambition to be a world leader in these technologies.

Speaking to the BBC, Professor Noel Sharkey, a robotics expert at the University of Sheffield, said:

“The money means there will be more resources for universities, which may help them retain their staff. But it’s not nearly enough for all of the disruptive technologies being developed in the UK. The government says it want this to be the leading robotics country in the world, but Google and others are spending far more, so it’s ultimately chicken feed by comparison.”

In their response, CaSE director Sarah Main highlighted the need for the UK’s immigration policy to work in harmony with these announcements in order to attract and retain international talent, and  reiterated the standard warning to ensure that funding for specific initiatives doesn’t come at the expense of unallocated (or responsive mode) funding.

Russell Group policy experts Jessica Cole and Sarah Stevens welcomed the investments but also warned of the need for balance in the ratio between competitive funding and QR funding, which allows universities “to explore new opportunities in efficient and effective ways”.

In their official media response, the Russell Group focused on this being an affirmation of the Industrial Strategy – making a direct link between investments in talent and key research areas and future prosperity: creating jobs and wealth. Acting director of the Russell Group, Tim Bradshaw, also cited the international nature of the investments as a welcome sign ahead of Brexit.

“Moves to attract the best international talent to the UK are also welcome. International staff and students are fundamental to the work of our world-leading universities and our ability to attract the best from around the world pays huge dividends to the UK economy and society. This investment sends a positive signal about the Government’s long-term intentions ahead of Article 50 being triggered.”

Similar sentiments were expressed by RSC President Professor Sir John Holman who also said:

“Science is a human activity that depends on the free exchange of ideas, and this is a welcome sign of the government’s commitment to keeping UK science open to international exchange and collaboration.”

UKRI’s official response (by Innovate UK CEO Ruth McKernan and RCUK Chair Phil Nelson) said nothing (not even reading between the lines) beyond welcoming the announcement and reiterating some of the competitions it will fund.

The IoP’s Paul Hardaker called it a sign of the Government’s confidence in UK research and the IoP welcomed the support this offers for researchers as well as to technical education through the new T-levels.

The Royal Academy of Engineering, represented by Dame Ann Dowling, said:

“Improving productivity across the country is vital, and I am glad to hear of measures from the National Productivity Investment Fund to enhance digital infrastructure and tackle traffic congestion. Engineering currently underpins at least 20% of UK gross value added, and the changes announced today will help us to grow that contribution.”

See the RAEng’s full response here.

Unusually, there was no specific response by the Royal Society who had previously commented on the Chancellor’s major investment announcements in the 2016 Autumn Statement.

 


 

See also:

 

 

 

Matter PR promotes EU’s digital incubator for photonics

Apr 10, 2017 in news

ACTPHAST, the EU’s digital incubator for photonics, has asked Matter PR to help promote their success stories and raise awareness of their services among a wider range of industry sectors.

logo-actACTPHAST (Access CenTer for PHotonics innovAtion Solutions and Technology Support) is a unique “one-stop-shop” for supporting photonics innovation by European companies, which is financially supported by the European Commission under the FP7 framework.

Matter PR have already promoted one project with the company Holoxica, a UK-based initiative to develop an interactive holographic video that can display live footage of internal organs such as a beating heart.

ACTPHAST supports and accelerates the innovation capacity of European companies by providing them with direct access to the expertise and state-of-the-art facilities of Europe’s leading photonics research centres (the ACTPHAST Partners), enabling companies to exploit the tremendous commercial potential of applied photonics. There are 23 research institutes who together make up the ACTPHAST Partners.

Together the ACTPHAST Partners provide a full spectrum of photonics technology platforms ranging from fibre optics and micro optics, to highly integrated photonic platforms, with capabilities extending from design through to full system prototyping.

It has been geographically configured to ensure all of Europe’s companies can avail of timely, cost-effective, and low risk photonics innovation support, and that the extensive range of capabilities within the consortium can impact across a wide range of industrial sectors and application domains, from communications to consumer-related products, and life sciences to industrial manufacturing.

The ACTPHAST program is particularly suited to the needs of small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) who do not have the financial resources to invest in in-house R&D expertise and state-of-the-art technologies, nor to undertake risky innovation projects.

Over the next year, Matter PR will continue to work with the outreach team at ACTPHAST to promote successful collaborations and help them reach small and medium-sized companies from many different industry sectors.

Find out more here.

 

Science in the UK’s Spring Budget: Briefing

Mar 8, 2017 in news

Today’s up-beat Budget announced by Britain’s chancellor Philip Hammond contained good news for science and engineering with investments of over £500 million for research talent, robotics, and electric vehicles. Here’s Matter PR’s round-up of what the Budget means for science and technology.

Electric_Car_recharging

Last month, Business Secretary Greg Clark announced an investment of £229 million to support research and innovation to deliver the UK’s Industrial Strategy. This created two new national centres, the Sir Henry Royce Institute for Advanced Materials and the Rosalind Franklin Institute, a centre of excellence for the life and physical sciences.

Today, the chancellor said he wants to “prepare Britain for a global future”. He made it clear that science and innovation is a key part of making Britain the “best place in the World to do business” with a range of investments worth over £500M — part of the £23 billion National Productivity Investment Fund (NPIF) announced in the 2016 Autumn Statement.

“Brightest and best research talent”

The NPIF will invest a total of £250M in funding to build the pipeline of highly skilled research talent for a “growing and innovative economy”. £90M will be used to provide an additional 1000 PhD places in areas of the UK critical to the Industrial Strategy. 40% will be focused on improving collaboration between academia and business through industry partnerships. A further £160M will support new fellowships for early and mid-career researchers in areas aligned to the Industrial Strategy.

Global research talent

£100M will be used to attract the best minds to the UK over the next four years to make it a world leader in science and engineering. £50M will be ring fenced for “fellowship programmes to attract global talent” and a further £50M from existing international funds will be used to attract researchers from “emerging powerhouses” such as India, China, Brazil, and Mexico.

Disruptive Tech

The chancellor announced an Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) which will support collaborations between business and the UK science base. It will make an initial investment of £270M to kickstart developments that “have the potential to transform the UK’s economy” such as robotics, biotechnology, and driverless vehicles. Key areas for support include:

* Development, design, and manufacture of batteries that will power the next generation of electric vehicles and reduce air pollution.

* Robotics and AI systems for extreme and hazardous environments such as offshore energy, nuclear power, and Space.

* Medicine manufacturing technologies that accelerate patient access to new drugs and treatments.

5G and Broadband

£16M for a new 5G National Innovation Network to trial and demonstrate new 5G applications. A further £200M was announced to leverage private sector investment in fibre broadband for local initiatives.

The Budget also contained continued support for the Oil and Gas industry through a package of tax incentives and support for specialist “Maths” schools.

 

Detailed information on these announcements will be revealed in the coming days. Full analysis will appear in the next Matter PR newsletter due out at the end of March.