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Flood protection in Brazil and hearing aids in Nepal thanks to UKRI award

  • Brazilian communities to better defend themselves against flooding, and people in Nepal to benefit from high quality, low-cost hearing aids, thanks to new University of Warwick research
  • Research projects funded by £757,929 from the UKRI Global Challenges Research Fund
  • “Global challenges, such as those related to climate change and poverty, should be tackled by the collaboration of experts” – Professor Pam Thomas

Mitigating disastrous flooding in Brazil and providing hearing aids in Nepal are the focus of two new international research projects by the University of Warwick, thanks to more than three quarters of a million pounds from UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

The projects have been funded as part of UKRI’s Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) Innovation and Commercialisation Programme, developed to fast track promising research findings into real-world solutions.

One of the research projects will strengthen the resilience of communities that are vulnerable to devastating floods in Brazil through ‘citizen science’, with the development of a mobile app.

Working with 81 schools across the country, the researchers will equip people of all ages in these communities with the power to collect and record their own data on rainfall and previous flooding using the app, in order to better understand the impacts of flooding and prepare for future threats.

Guidelines and materials to support schools and stakeholders for creating local awareness and building flood resilience will also be developed.

The research team — led by Professor João Porto de Albuquerque — will work alongside Brazil’s National Centre for Natural Disaster Monitoring and Early Warning (CEMADEN) to ensure that this crucial information gathered by communities will inform flood risk governance at local and national levels.

The project builds upon previous successful work with Brazilian schools and government agencies, which has already informed policy around flood planning and is being extended across the country.

Another University of Warwick project will focus on developing high quality, low-cost hearing aids for some of the poorest people in Nepal living with hearing loss.

Hearing aids rely on advanced signal processing chips, which transform sounds into new signals that compensate for hearing loss, and are usually very expensive. The research, led by Professor Nigel Stocks, will create a device by repurposing chips commonly found in consumer electronic products such as home assistant technology.

This approach will lead to hearing aid technology that is affordable in low and middle-income countries.

Collaborating with partners in Nepal, including the Green Pastures Ear Hospital in Pokhara, the researchers will also work alongside medical professionals to help train ear care practitioners who can assess patients and fit hearing aids — ensuring that this advanced technology gets to the people who need it the most, and who would otherwise not have access to treatment.

Together, the two projects will receive £757,929 from the GCRF Innovation and Commercialisation Programme.

Professor Pam Thomas, Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research) at the University of Warwick, said:

“The University of Warwick academic community is, at its heart, innovative and international. I am proud that these new projects will work to improve — and even potentially save — the lives of people across different continents, through the practical application of research and the sharing of new ideas.

“Global challenges, such as those related to climate change and poverty, should be tackled by the collaboration of experts, and thanks to the GCRF Global Research Translation Awards from UKRI, we will continue to do this.”

 Professor Helen Fletcher, UKRI Director of International Development, said:

“This is a really exciting opportunity to fund 18 projects through the Global Research Translation awards. Each and every one will make a massive difference to peoples’ lives in communities spread across the world to ensure some of the most challenged communities have a brighter future.

“Over the next year and a half, UK researchers will work with their international counterparts, policy makers, businesses and local organisations to turn promising research into solutions that can be taken forward through various pathways such as spin-out companies and social enterprises to make a positive difference to people who live with the reality of challenges such as climate change, poor sanitation and disease every day.”


17 October 2019


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