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Neuromarketing goes global

By By Guest Blogger, on 10 November 2017

By Joe Devlin, UCL Experimental Psychology, Div of Psychology & Lang Sciences

When John Hogan and I began running Neuromarketing Workshops we received a noticeably cool reception from colleagues.  To most neuroscientists, “neuromarketing” epitomizes the worst of pseudo-science and is used to exploit unsuspecting companies.  But business leaders are genuinely interested in what neuroscience and psychology can offer them and they naturally want to take advantage of the latest scientific knowledge.  Where can they go to get accurate, unbiased information? UCL’s reputation as a world-leading research institution provided the perfect opportunity to uniquely meet this need and deliver global impact.

John and Joe hosting workshopWhen we began, we assumed that our workshops would primarily attract people from marketing companies around London.  In fact, there was much wider interest than we anticipated.  Over the last two years, our participants have come from a range of industries beyond marketing, including retail, fashion, publishing, finance, and government.  In addition, they came not only from the UK but also from Brazil, Canada, Denmark, France, Italy, South Africa, Thailand, Turkey, the UAE and the USA. Being based in the heart of London clearly appeals to a wide audience, many of whom are willing to travel considerable distances to attend.

Fostering marketing and neuroscience collaborations in Brazil

This year we had an opportunity to run a series of seminars and workshops on a two week trip to Brazil, organized through UCL Consultants (UCLC).  In São Paulo we spoke to business leaders about the appeal of neuromarketing and its potential for improving our understanding of consumer decision making.  In Rio de Janeiro we spoke at the government’s House of Business, where we discussed how even micro-to-small sized enterprise can benefit from neuromarketing (and crucially, how to avoid neuromarketing snake oil).

John and Jo speaking at University of Central Brazil (UniCEUB)Finally in Brasilia, we were hosted by the University of Central Brazil’s (UniCEUB) marketing school to speak with faculty and students.  There we focused on the science behind neuromarketing and the need to foster stronger collaborations between marketing and neuroscience in order to further develop the field.

In all three cities, we ran in-depth two-day workshops that fleshed out these concepts, provided case-study examples (of both good and bad neuromarketing), and engaged participants with hands-on learning activities.  Ultimately about 70 people attended the workshops and another 150 came to the lectures.

Building partnerships through engagement and enterprise 

For us, the workshops are both exciting and slightly terrifying as we are often challenged to apply the research we discuss to real-world situations on the spot.  On the plus side, this has led to new industry-funded research projects.  Following our Brasil trip, we are now in discussions with two large, international companies about how they can use consumer neuroscience to understand their customers better.

In our experience, these types of opportunities provide access to new research questions, novel (and rather large!) data sets that go beyond anything we could collect in the lab, and unique opportunities for students to apply their knowledge towards solving real-world problems. We were also invited by Brazil’s small business association to help them co-create content about neuromarketing to share with businesses throughout the country via the Sebrae Corporate University.

In a recent Vice-Provost View in The Week@UCL, Dr. Dame Nicola Brewer (Vice Provost International) revealed that the Global Engagement Office has made substantial progress delivering on our Global Engagement Strategy (GES) goals with an investment of less than half a percent of UCL’s overall expenditure.  Building partnerships through engagement and enterprise also helps to meet our GES objectives, while at the same time generating revenue and novel research opportunities.

UCLSat: a collaboration out of this world

By uclqjle, on 26 July 2017

UCL is part of the international satellite mission QB50UCLSat, a satellite designed and built by UCL engineers and scientists, was launched in June from the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in India as part of an international mission called QB50.

The satellite is now 507km up and going overhead three times a day (six times actually, but three times in working hours).

On the current status of the satellite, Dr Rob Wicks (UCL Institute for Risk & Disaster Reduction) said: “We have our ground station here and we listen to it every time it goes overhead and we get data back. It’s working well at the moment, touch wood.”

Funded by the European Union, the QB50 mission has involved the launch of a network of CubeSats built by universities all over the world to collectively study the physics and chemistry of the middle and lower thermosphere of the Earth for the first time.

The mission has fostered a lot of collaboration across universities, science institutes and industry partners. For example, two universities in Australia help UCL listen for radio contact with UCLSat, and UCL does the same for them.

“Australian National University and Adelaide University are both helping us out with radio contact with our satellite,” explained Dr Wicks. “And that’s kind of on just a friendly, reciprocal basis. We listen to theirs and they listen to ours. There’s no official paperwork to do with that, but we are just collaborating as friendly institutions.

“It’s one of the great things about QB50 – you have these 50 institutions around the world that are now sort of semi-friendly and talk to one another about radios and satellites and things like that.”

A resounding success

UCL has been involved in the mission since 2011 and, in addition to working on UCLSat, UCL Mullard Space Science Laboratory (MSSL) engineers also produced hardware for 13 of the other satellites.

The mission has been a resounding success. The failure rate for CubeSats is usually 40%, but the CubeSats launched during the QB50 mission is half that, at 20%.

Speaking of UCL’s achievements and pioneering vision for the project, Dr Wicks added: “UCL should be extremely happy that it has been a leader in this field of big CubeSat missions. The whole mission right from the beginning has been a struggle, because space agencies and a lot of the science community were very negative about CubeSats. They said ‘they are too small and too unrealisable – it’s a waste of time and a waste of money to try and do science with them’.

“I think we are basically proving them wrong – we can use them for education, we can use them for training and we can use them for science. We can keep them cheap. We expect that 20% will fail, but that is better than 40%, and we are going to get real useful scientific data out of it. It is only really now that the science community is waking up to this.”

Student support

UCL students have been heavily involved in the project. Masters students worked with MSSL in the early stages of the project on the design of the satellite and on simulations of the upper atmosphere, among others.

Théophile Brochant de Villiers, who worked on the CubeSat while studying for his MSc in Space Science and Engineering at UCL, is now a technician in the MSSL Department of Space & Climate Physics.

He said: “We were a small team working on UCLSat. This meant there was a lot of work and a lot of tasks that I wasn’t necessarily trained for. So I learned everything on the job; this required being proactive, and not being afraid to seek out help around the lab. I got to know a lot of amazing scientists and engineers which I still regularly interact and work with. This is what I’m most proud of.”

First UCL Laidlaw Scholars research Brexit negotiations

By uclqjle, on 25 July 2017

In 2017 UCL is running its first Laidlaw Scholarship Programme, offering 25 fully-funded scholarships to first-year undergraduates.

The programme aims to create the leaders of the future through a mix of training and intensive summer research periods, where scholars work closely with UCL academics on questions of global significance.

Among the first cohort of Laidlaw Scholars at UCL are Anton Gromoczki and Jose Feio, who share in this video how they are contributing to the UCL European Institute’s research into Brexit negotiations.

Filmed and edited by UCL graduate Jason Lewis.

Jose (BASc Arts and Sciences) and Anton (BSc Philosophy, Politics & Economics) both chose to work on Brexit in light of its significance to the future of Europe and on the potential insights to be garnered from the nature of the negotiations.

Anton described Brexit as ‘a process that defines relationships between countries in Europe for the next generations’.

He added: “My opportunity to study in the UK was connected to being an EU citizen, so I feel there’s a personal aspect to this.”

Describing his experience so far at the European Institute, Jose said: “It is an incredible opportunity to look at research and to know what it is to do research in academia. We have a shared office with high-ranked academics. I think this is very beneficial for us to gain skills if we want to go into research, which is a possibility for me.”

Anton added: “I have learned so much about how research is conducted, what are the good practices – it has been very enjoyable. My supervisors are very knowledgeable and I’m looking forward for the next weeks.”

As part of the leadership component of the programme, the scholars have already been involved in leadership workshops which will be ongoing for the next three years.

All Laidlaw Scholars are also expected to participate in the UCL Global Citizenship Programme, in line with the university’s commitment to cultivating its global outlook in order to offer students the best preparation for global lives and careers.

UCL professor appointed Chair of British Hispanic Foundation

By Sophie Vinter, on 21 June 2017

UCL Professor Jim Anderson (right) has been appointed Chair of the British Hispanic Foundation at UCMA UCL professor has been appointed Reina Victoria Eugenia Chair of the British Hispanic Foundation at Complutense University of Madrid (UCM).

Professor Jim C Anderson (UCL Department of Chemistry) has a longstanding collaboration with the School of Pharmacy at UCM in Spain, where he has previously delivered a series of research lectures as well as hosting a number of its students in the UK.

The honorary position, awarded annually, was jointly created by UCM, the British Hispanic Foundation, the British Council and the King’s Group in Spain.

It promotes European collaboration by enabling a UK professor to deliver regular lectures at UCM to post-graduates and members of the public, alongside their teaching activity.

UCM students will spend three months at UCL in the autumn assisting Jim, who is the Alexander Williamson Professor of Organic Chemistry, with his research. They will investigate new ways of making single enantiomer drug molecules, which will be used to explore alternative methods of developing cutting-edge pharmaceuticals.

Professor Carlos Andradas, UCM Rector, and Fidel López Álvarez, Executive President of the British Hispanic Foundation, presented Jim with the title at a recent ceremony.

They commented on the importance of maintaining international collaboration, both for scientific and educational purposes, but also to send “a message of peace and respect for all, as a basis for the world’s future.”

Prof Andradas highlighted that thanks to the initiative, which will celebrate its 25th anniversary next year, UCM doctorates have access to high quality teaching and overseas study.

Jim said: “International collaborations are so important in research for widening everyone’s perspective. I am very grateful to the British Hispanic Foundation, UCM and especially Professor José Carlos Menéndez for arranging my lectures at UCM and the warmth of my reception in Spain.”

The British Hispanic Foundation is a non-profit organisation registered with the Spanish Ministry of Culture. It aims to promote cultural collaboration and understanding between Spain and the UK.

UCL and the French Embassy: fostering interdisciplinary research

By uclqjle, on 31 March 2017

UCL and French Embassy logosUCL and the French Embassy share a longstanding impactful partnership with the aim of fostering the co-production of innovative insights into how to solve some of the world’s most pressing challenges.

This partnership has resulted in a number of collaborative initiatives that have provided platforms for cross-disciplinary research collaboration between UCL scholars and leading French academics and researchers. These initiatives are largely driven by UCL’s Grand Challenges programme, allowing for interdisciplinary collaboration in the development of societally relevant interventions.

Here are a few examples of UCL/French Embassy initiatives that seek both to build on existing links, and to stimulate new ones between UCL and French academic and higher education organisations such as French universities, Grand Écoles and research organisations:

UCL / French Embassy Funding for Arts, Humanities and Social Science Workshops

This co-operative scheme, which is currently calling for proposals, commenced in 2013 and has been extended to July 2019. Around £2,500 per workshop is available for academics and researchers seeking to organise workshops in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences. This initiative seeks to encourage junior and senior scholars to establish new directions for possible research collaborations – not only in their own areas of expertise, but also across disciplines. The deadline for applications is 26 April 2017.

Conférence-débat lecture series

The annual Conférence-débat lecture series, started in 2010, brings together eminent French academics and UCL’s finest minds to discuss topics such as ‘The State of Nature’, ‘Towards Decarbonised Economies’, and ‘Climate Governance, post COP21 agreement’. These deeply insightful and engaging evening joint lectures have also involved afternoon workshops designed with the aim of facilitating potential collaboration between the visiting French research team and the team from UCL.

Collaborative Science & Technology Workshop competition

The Collaborative S&T Workshop competition, initiated in 2012, calls for proposals from leading academics and senior researchers to hold workshops at UCL that address a related challenge at the frontiers of either basic or applied science, one of UCL’s Grand Challenges, or a European Commission thematic programme.

In accordance with a 2012-signed Memorandum of Understanding between UCL and the French Embassy, the Embassy has generously provided up to €22,500 in annual grants to support five cycles of the S&T workshops. The main aim of this annual event is to strengthen existing links between UCL and French academic and research organisations, and to create a platform that fosters the development of new approaches for potential research collaborations across Europe.

DART-Europe: facilitating Open Access research

By Sophie Vinter, on 27 March 2017

Written by Dr Paul Ayris, Pro Vice-Provost and Director of UCL Library Services

DART-Europe logo_NEW.pngDART-Europe is a research portal maintained and developed by UCL, which indexes and provides access to research theses in Open Access from across Europe.

Many universities now see Open Access as the default mode of collection building for PhD and other research theses, because of the large number of hits which such materials gain.

The DART-Europe portal currently provides access to 723,470 open access research theses from 606 universities in 28 European countries. It is a fantastic achievement to have passed both the 700,000 mark for accessible research theses and 600 for the number of universities and their libraries involved in this pan-European service.

The portal has recently started the ingest of metadata for research theses from Croatian universities. It currently provides access to 433 full-text research theses from Croatia.

The National and University Library in Zagreb has posted about this development, facilitated by UCL Library Services, on its website and via social tools such as Facebook. Zagreb said: ‘The National and University Library in Zagreb (NSK) has set up a system for a regular contribution of data from the Croatian National Digital Dissertations Repository (Nacionalni repozitorij disertacija i znanstvenih magistarskih radova, DR) to DART-Europe, the central point of access to digital dissertations from Europe’s higher education institutions, thus enabling an increased visibility of the research of Croatian researchers.”

The Croatian theses can be seen in DART-Europe here. Congratulations to all UCL colleagues who have supported the continued growth of this portal.


UCL European collaboration awarded €20m for big health data research in cardiovascular disease

By Sophie Vinter, on 20 February 2017

The BigData@Heart research team has secured €20 million research funding from the European Innovative Medicines Initiative.

A UCL collaboration with European partners has been awarded €20 million research funding from the European Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) to help improve treatment for cardiovascular disease.

BigData@Heart is a consortium that comprises the UCL Institutes of Health Informatics and Cardiovascular Science, the European Society of Cardiology, European patient organisations, universities from Utrecht, Berlin, Cambridge, Valencia, Stockholm, Hamburg, Birmingham and Uppsala and various pharmaceutical and technology partners.

The research programme will use healthcare data to deliver better care for people with heart attacks, heart failure and the commonest heart rhythm disturbance, atrial fibrillation.

Despite major progress in treatments, these conditions present a substantial burden to the estimated 30 million or so people in Europe who suffer from cardiovascular diseases, and to the healthcare systems that care for them.

The programme will integrate healthcare data, activity monitors (wearables), state-of-the-art ‘-omics’ profiles, information about patients’ lifestyles and health and their own reporting of symptoms, to better understand the causes of these conditions and the different subtypes. This information will be used to develop personalized (rather than ‘one size fits all’) treatments.

Professor Folkert Asselbergs, scientific coordinator of BigData@Heart, said: “The IMI funding gives us a unique opportunity to impact clinical care using Big Data approaches. BigData@Heart brings together the strongest research groups in Europe, industry, professional and patient organisations, all working in partnership to improve care for people living with heart disease.”

€15m EU grant awarded to innovative UCL health partnership in Portugal

By Sophie Vinter, on 24 January 2017

UCL Professor Jonathan Knowles with vice rectors and mayors from Portuguese regionsAn interdisciplinary UCL collaboration has secured a €15m EU Horizon 2020 Teaming grant to set up a new centre in regenerative and precision medicine based at the University of Minho (UoM) in Portugal.

The team, led by Professor Jonathan Knowles (Professor of Biomaterials Science, UCL Eastman Dental Institute) secured just over €5m of the award for UCL to develop its work with UoM and other Portuguese partners.

Through training, development and research, the seven-year-long Discoveries Centre project being led by UoM’s Professor Rui L. Reis could bring further investment from the Portuguese central government and regional authorities totalling €100m.

Innovative treatments

Regenerative and precision medicines are emerging medical research fields that aim to provide innovative treatments for diseases affecting millions of people worldwide, from musculoskeletal and neurodegenerative disorders to heart disease.

Working with Professor Knowles on the project are Dr Ivan Wall (Department of Biochemical Engineering), Professor Giampietro Schiavo (Institute of Neurology), Professor Andreas Schätzlein (School of Pharmacy), Professor Vivek Mudera (Division of Surgery), Dr Richard Day (Division of Medicine), Professor Tim McHugh (Division of Infection and Immunity), Dr Jane Kinghorn (Translational Research Office) and Oli Pinch from Innovation and Enterprise.

Activities involved in the partnership include stem cell therapies, bioreactor technology and developing materials to regenerate tissues.

Strength in innovation

Playing a central role, UCL’s strength in innovation and enterprise will complement the University of Minho’s work as one of the leading European institutes in laboratory based regenerative medicine. The Universities of Porto, Aveiro, Lisbon and Nova Lisbon are also involved. The team will help move the research out to clinical use, treating patients in need.

Professor Knowles said: “This collaboration will help address the needs of the ageing population and create therapies that are cost effective. Regenerative medicine is very interdisciplinary – you need to understand the tissues, cellular processing and in vivo models – it requires a lot of expertise.

“For example, to use stem cells you need to think about scaling up and producing enough cells in the right form and in clinically relevant numbers.

“There is a lot of great work going on at UCL in the fields of tissue engineering and regenerative medicine. The opportunity that UCL has is to build on this centre to establish a much stronger structure across the university.”

Teaming is key part of the EU’s effort to unlock Europe’s potential in research and innovation. Only ten grants were approved by the European Commission, from around 170 applications.

The project will begin on 1 April 2017.


Ask GEO: Conor Rickford, Partnerships Manager (Europe)

By Sophie Vinter, on 20 July 2016

Conor Rickford, Partnerships Manager for EuropeConor is GEO’s Partnerships Manager for the Europe region. We asked him to share some key insights around Brexit.

Q: How many European partnerships does UCL have? How is UCL taking forward its collaborations with European partners at the moment?

A: UCL has an exceptionally large number of partnerships across Europe. In terms of Erasmus+ alone, we have more than 450 agreements with over 250 institutions. If we also consider the, less formal, academic-to-academic, researcher-to-researcher partnerships there are simply too many to count.

Quite simply, following Dame Nicola’s unequivocal statement, we are taking things forward with a renewed vigour. In practical terms, this means being more active in researching opportunities and fostering warm relations with potential partners; making sure that the wider world knows that UCL remains open and receptive to creative ideas from top partners, new and old.

The fact that the Faculty of Engineering signed the Alliance4Tech partnership agreement with the Politecnico di Milano, TU Berlin and CentraleSupélec on the day of the Referendum result gives me reason to believe that, whilst the structures around our engagement might change, UCL’s reputation for excellence and drive to collaborate will endure.

Q: What support can UCL academics get from GEO around Brexit?

A: The Europe Regional Network remains GEO’s primary channel for support around all matters European and I would encourage anyone with an interest to sign up. Through this group, we disseminate information about the regional funding streams from GEO, as well as information on new developments.

As we look to reconsider our strategic approach to European partnerships, Professor Jan Kubik (Pro-Vice-Provost, Europe) and I are welcoming contributions from members. They can email me directly.

UCL's ERASMUS+ Agreements in Europe by city

UCL’s ERASMUS+ Agreements in Europe by city

Q: How do you think Brexit might impact on UCL’s involvement in the Erasmus scheme?

A: At the moment, we are reviewing and renewing over 300 of our Erasmus agreements and that work will carry on. We will continue to host students from around Europe and will continue to offer excellent opportunities for our students to study abroad. It is clear to me that partners across Europe remain fully committed to working with us.

For our continued participation in the Erasmus scheme, I would hope that we are granted with non-EU programme status, like Norway. Some will look at the Swiss situation for a precedent, where they were suspended from full engagement in the Erasmus scheme following a 2014 referendum on free movement of people, but I think this might be a pessimistic comparison. The scale is completely different; in 2013/14, the UK received over 27,000 students, compared to around 4,000 to Switzerland and, in light of that, I suspect that there will be pressure, from both the UK and remaining EU states, to retain the UK as a full member.

Q: UCL is the most successful university in Europe for attracting Horizon 2020 funding. What impact do you think Brexit might have on this?

A: UCL’s researchers, supported by the ERIO team, have been incredibly successful and ensuring this continues has got to be a key consideration. It is too early to speak of the impact of Brexit on H2020; we are full members and the judging criteria have not changed. Post-Brexit, given the incredible depth and breadth of research capability in the UK, we may yet remain as an associated member of H2020, in a similar model to Norway.

The lack of clarity around our future engagement in H2020 is a risk that precedes Brexit and will not be resolved until well into the exit negotiations. That lack of clarity might make some colleagues in Europe slightly hesitant to involve UK academics in a joint bid but our proven success record in attracting H2020 funding should mean that is a very rare occurrence.

Q: How is UCL currently working with the wider sector?

A: As one would expect, UCL is working in concert with the key voices in sector. Our key European affiliation, the League of European Research Universities, has just published a very welcome statement, reaffirming its intentions to work with UK universities. Likewise, we will continue lobbying Government through the Russell Group and UUK. The Vice-Provost (Research)’s office have been co-ordinating contributions back to the Science and Technology Committee and the Foreign Affairs Committee.

As Partnership Manager for Europe, Conor helps develop collaborative projects from inception through to delivery. He can also provide strategic guidance for ERASMUS+ activities, including student mobility and funding bids.

Contact Conor on:

+44 (0)20 3108 7785 / internal 57785 

European engagement through UCL Press

By Sophie Vinter, on 19 July 2016

Europe and the World logoSince its launch in June 2015 as the UK’s first fully open access university press, UCL Press has to date reached a combined total of more than 40,000 readers in 172 countries around the world – 39 of these countries being in Europe.

So far it has made 14 books and 3 journals available to its global audience across a wide range of subjects – from archaeology and anthropology to urban studies and history – with 35 more books and several more journals already on the cards for 2017.

One of these journals will be Europe and the World – A Law Review, which is due to be released in January 2017.

The journal, co-edited by UCL Laws Professor Piet Eeckhout with academics at the University of Amsterdam and the University of Reading, is being peer reviewed by an editorial board of experts from universities and legal institutions across Europe.

It aims to contribute to legal scholarship on the place of Europe in the world, with a particular but not exclusive focus on the EU’s external relations law.

Professor Eeckhout, who recently spoke on the panel of the sold-out UCL Laws public event ‘Brexit: Legal and Constitutional requirements’, said: “The journal will cut across the traditional boundaries between national, international and EU perspectives on legal issues. Something like Brexit raises questions of all of these.

“Brexit doesn’t mean that cooperation is terminated. Academics need to use all opportunities to keep on cooperating and engaging with Europe. This journal, being based at UCL but being a European and international publication available globally, is a good example of this.”