The ninth R+D+I ICT Health and Social Seminars will feature more than 20 multidisciplinary speakers who are leaders in virtual and augmented reality17.10.2019El Sucre building in Vic will host the ninth R+D+I ICT Health and Social Seminar, the fourth to be held in the capital of the Osona region, which is entitled "Virtual and augmented reality: the technology that is transforming the present". The UVic-UCC and the ITC Health Social Foundation, with other healthcare institutions, are organising seminars over the coming days that are expected to be attended by more than 170 people, and most of them are healthcare and technology professionals. This year, the theme will be virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR), which is becoming another major technology in the healthcare field. Unlike previous years, registration is free, and must be arranged by 20 October via the following link.
The seminars will once again last one day, and aim to highlight the utilities and potential of VR/AR applied to health, to present projects that are already under way in various healthcare institutions all over the country, and to create a forum for dialogue between health professionals, companies and government bodies to assess how virtual reality can be incorporated in this field. The Seminars are also a leading platform for knowledge transfer, which contributes to aligning the fields of research and innovation, business and healthcare for convergence on solutions with greater added value. According to Marina Geli, director of the Centre for Health and Social Care Research at the UVic-UCC, "these seminars give added value to the territory, to the Catalan health sector, to teaching and businesses in an area that is not a window on the future, but is in fact the present reality."
Seminars with leading professionals
The seminars will begin at 9 am with the speech by the General Secretary of the Ministry of Health of the Government of Catalonia, Laura Pelay, the rector of the UVic-UCC, Josep-Eladi Baños, and a representative of Vic Town Council. This will be followed by a presentation by the Catalan Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality Health interest group, an initiative which according to the corporate development director of the ITC Health and Social Foundation and coordinator of the ITC Social Health Chair at the UVic-UCC, Sílvia Cufí, "aims to lay the foundations for promoting technologies in this field and evaluating how to apply them to health, so that the majority of the stakeholders in the territory can actively participate. In short, we want to bring together the various initiatives, professionals and managers in order to join forces and foster innovation among the different institutions in the ecosystem in order to examine how to implement them all over the country in a sustainable and integrated way."
This will be followed by the first framework lecture, which is entitled "Immersive Experiences in the Health and Social Sector: Present and Future," and will be given by Xavi Conesa and Jaume Vaccaro, from the company Visyon 360. This is a leading company in conducting scientific research to understand the workings of the brain using virtual reality and from there, designing practical solutions to improve health. The company is also working on social innovation projects to make positive changes to society in health, education and the environment, among other areas.
The application of virtual reality in the major Catalan hospitals
The Seminars, which will be led by the journalist Núria Jar, will also present solutions for the practical application of VR and AR in Catalan health institutions, involving projects by Sant Joan de Déu Hospital, the Consorci Sanitari Integral, the Hospital Clínic in Barcelona, Parc Taulí, Vall d'Hebron Hospital and the Guttmann Institute. The lecture on "Augmented Reality vs. Virtual reality," by Jordi Boza from EyeTechLab, will show us the differences between the two technologies, and the advantages and/or disadvantages of working with each one. For example, EyeTechLab works with Sony, supplying its technology in augmented reality devices.
In the afternoon, there will be a second framework lecture entitled "How 5G will impact on VR/AR." This presentation will be given by Sergi Figuerola of i2CAT and the 5GBCN project, a public-private initiative that is working to transform the Barcelona metropolitan area into an open laboratory across the entire city for validating and adopting 5G technologies. He will be joined by Dr Borja de Lacy, a surgeon at the Hospital Clínic and member of AIS Channel, a company working on telecare, i.e. remote mentoring or care. The final activity in the seminars will be the public-private Dialogues on "From the clinical need to collaboration with the start-up", with the experience of the spin-off project leaders Virtual Bodyworks, Nixi for Children, Psious and Biel Glasses. The institutional closing ceremony of this ninth seminar will take place at 5.30 pm.
The UVic-UCC is organising the seminars through the ITC Health and Social Chair, promoted by the ICT Social Health Foundation and the UVic-UCC, linked to the Centre for Health and Social Care Research (CESS), as well as the ICT Social Health Foundation, the Hospital Consortium of Vic, the Catalan Health Institute, the Santa Creu de Vic Hospital Foundation, the EBA Vic, the EBA Centelles and the Althaia Foundation. Other partners include the Government of Catalonia, Vic Town Council, the Chair in Social Services and the Faculty of Medicine of the UVic-UCC, COPLEFEC, M4Social and the committee of third sector institutions in Catalonia as strategic partners, and the technical office of the Osona Foundation for Health Research and Education (FORES). Finally, the event is sponsored by companies including SEIDOR, the seminar's platinum sponsor, and other companies such as ISERN, Lenovo, Athenea Solutions (MedXat), who will also be participating.
Statement by the Board of the Rector's Office of the UVic-UCC15.10.2019At its meeting today, on Tuesday 15 October, the Board of the Rector's Office of the University of Vic - Central University of Catalonia (UVic-UCC), wishes to express its disagreement with the ruling of the Spanish Supreme Court. It regrets that prison sentences have been the response to a problem that is of a political rather than a legal nature. It would also like to express its sympathy and solidarity with the imprisoned political and social leaders and their families, and its support for our colleague, Meritxell Borràs, who has also been the victim of the arbitrary nature of the judges' decisions.
The UVic-UCC is made up of people with diverse ideological perspectives where respect and the defence of dialogue and confrontation of ideas prevails above all else. The value of words for knowledge and the development of critical reasoning are also fostered by all of its governing bodies. Accordingly, it calls on all those concerned to create a space for dialogue with trust, in order to resolve a problem that should never have left the political arena.
Neurekalab - a spin-off of the UB and the UVic-UCC to improve learning and reduce school failure is launched10.10.2019Attention, reading and writing skills, working memory, numerical processing and calculation are key cognitive processes in learning. Poor performance in these areas is related to school failure, and although Spain is one of the three European countries with the highest school failure rates, there are currently few scientifically validated methods for early detection in these processes. The researchers Josep Maria Serra-Grabulosa, of the Department of Clinical Psychology and Psychobiology of the University of Barcelona (UB), and Sergi Grau, Dean of the Faculty of Sciences and Technology of the University of Vic - Central University of Catalonia (UVic- UCC), identified this lack of methods and decided to create Neurekalab, a spin-off in which the two universities are shareholders, and which was established in order to develop and market digital tools to enable users to improve their learning and to prevent school failure. "For some years, scientific studies have shown that detecting learning difficulties and early intervention to work on them improves these children's prognosis. This led us to develop tools that enabled us first, to identify learning difficulties in the classroom at an early stage; and second, to create tools to be able to intervene in an appealing way," explains Dr Serra-Grabulosa.
The researchers have developed two digital products - one for detection and the other for intervention - which are integrated onto a single web platform and are accessible from any computer with an Internet connection: Di-test, a battery of digital tests that detects early learning difficulties and has been tested with more than 1,500 children in Catalonia; and Nummerus, which automates numerical processing and provides challenges of increasing difficulty, which has been created in order to re-educate all children with dyscalculia, i.e. numbers dyslexia, and to improve and facilitate maths learning. "The use of technology must enable content to be personalised, but above all it must allow children to see it as a game. The combination of the two things increases adherence to the treatments and their effectiveness," explains Dr Grau.
These tools are designed to be used both in schools and by clinical psychology and educational psychology professionals. The spin-off will also provide an app for families who want to reinforce their children's maths learning during a specific timeframe. "Our idea is not only to detect learning difficulties, but also to enable healthcare and education professionals to determine each child's strengths and weaknesses in order to improve the personalisation of the learning process," concludes Dr Serra-Grabulosa.
The Bosch i Gimpera Foundation is the technology transfer and innovation transfer unit at the University of Barcelona. It is responsible for transferring the results of research at the UB to society by establishing spin-offs, licensing patents, and by means of contracts with companies and institutions, thereby contributing to the competitiveness of the business fabric and to the improvement of social welfare. 789 projects were managed in 2018, and contracts amounted to 32.67 million Euros. 41 technologies were licensed and 7 spin-offs established during the period between 2016 and 2018.
The University of Vic - Central University of Catalonia (UVic-UCC) is a university with a municipal and national board of trustees, with a commitment to the public realm, governed by the Balmes University Foundation, which provides public services in the areas of teaching, research and knowledge transfer. The Manresa campus has been part of the UVic since 2014 as a result of the federation between the Balmes University Foundation and the Bages University Foundation. It also has facilities in Granollers and in Barcelona. 30 research groups recognised by the Government of Catalonia, and 10 chairs engaged in research at the UVic-UCC are clearly focused on generating knowledge and transferring it to society.
The BETA Technology Centre will coordinate a European project to convert livestock manure into biofertilisers01.10.2019Livestock farms in Europe generate about 1400 Mt of manure every year. More than 90% of this is returned to crops in the form of fertilizers. However, the use of this livestock manure as agricultural fertilisers is often inefficient or sufficiently controlled, which leads to a problem of a concentration of slurry, which reduces crop yields and pollutes both soil and water. The FERTIMANURE research project will address this problem by developing innovative technologies that will turn livestock manure into high value added biofertilisers.
The BETA (Biodiversity, Ecology and Environmental and Food Technology) Technology Centre at the University of Vic - Central University of Catalonia (UVic-UCC) will be coordinating this project, which is funded as part of the Horizon 2020 call for societal challenges, one of the most competitive in this European Union framework programme. The FERTIMANURE project lasts four years, will officially begin on 1 January 2020 and has a total budget of 8 million Euros, of which 1.03 Euros will be allocated to the BETA TC, which will coordinate a consortium of 21 members.
Biological fertilisers, tailor-made and competitive
FERTIMANURE will work to develop biological fertilisers (or biofertilisers) from livestock manure, which will be tailor-made for specific crops and competitive in today's market. The objective is to find "a sustainable solution to the problem of livestock manure, one of the most important at both Catalan and European level, by transforming this waste into high value-added products," explains Laia Llenas, the assistant director of CT BETA and coordinator of the project. According to Llenas, the project is "the only one on this scale financed at a European level and focusing on the recovery of livestock manure and the recovery of nutrients" which in addition, "will address the current barriers in the biofertilisers market both from a legislative point of view and in terms of public acceptance."
For this reason, during the four years that the project is underway, it will work in two broad areas: first, on developing technologies and processes that enable new biofertilisers to be obtained, and second, on creating the business plans that will enable them to be marketed and made available to the end users, i.e. livestock farmers. The project will also focus on questions such as whether farmers can treat manure on the farm for their own use, whether external plants should do this, or whether in an intermediate process, it can be initially treated on the farm before being transferred to the fertiliser plant. At the same time, it will assess the economic sustainability that it will have for farmers, and compare the agronomic quality between the new products developed and commercial fertilisers currently available.
A demonstration pilot project at a farm in the Osona region
FERTIMANURE is a consortium consisting of twenty European members and one Argentinian member, which together cover the entire value chain from livestock farmers to fertiliser production companies, by way of leading European universities and research centres, government agencies, clusters and associations which according to Llenas, "ensure that the results of the project can be replicated in several places, increasing its impact."
In Catalonia alone, the project will have a budget of almost 2 million Euros for a demonstration pilot for the recovery of slurry and poultry litter. This pilot will be located in the Osona region, on one of the farms of the Cooperativa Plana de Vic, which is also a member of FERTIMANURE, and will be run by the BETA TC and the Leitat Technology Centre.
Catalan leadership in the biofertilisers field
The Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Fishing and Food (MALFFF) of the Government of Catalonia is also involved in the project. "Leadership from Catalonia is crucial for our region to position itself and become a benchmark in the field of biofertilisers at a European level," says Sergio Ponsá, director of the BETA Technology Centre. In fact, new European legislation on fertilisers will enter into force in only two years time, and under those circumstances, "coordinating from a project of this magnitude from here will place Catalonia in a privileged position in terms of addressing those changes."
The members of FERTIMANURE include the most important and internationally recognised research groups in the field of livestock manure and fertilisers, including the University of Wageningen, the University of Ghent, the University of Milan and the Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft in Germany. Government agencies are also involved, including the French Chamber of Agriculture, the fertilizer companies association Fertilizers Europe, and companies such as Fertinagro Biotech and AlgaEnergy.
According to Ponsá, one of the European Commission's objectives with the launch of FERTIMANURE is "to obtain essential information and results for the development of future strategies and regulations related to sustainable livestock management and production in Europe." It also aims to "increase the competitiveness of the livestock sector and the production of biofertilisers," and to "reduce the dependence of nutrients from other countries."
Children's playgrounds in Barcelona's lower income neighbourhoods are more crowded09.09.2019Children's playgrounds in Barcelona's lower income neighbourhoods are much more congested than those in areas with higher income levels. This is the conclusion of the study carried out by the researcher of the Data Analysis and Modeling (DAM) research group of the University of Vic - Central University of Catalonia (UVic-UCC), Joan Carles Martori, which has been published in the journal Applied Spatial Analysis and Policy.
The article, which was co-authored by Philippe Apparicio and Anne-Marie Seguin of the Institut National de la Recherche Scientifique in Canada, examines congestion and accessibility in 514 children's play areas in Barcelona to determine whether residents have equal access to these facilities. The research shows that there is no lack of equal access, but there are different levels of congestion and accessibility in different areas of the city. For example, levels of use of playgrounds in the Ciutat Vella district and in some areas of the Sants-Montjuïc district are much higher than in the city's wealthiest areas, but only 7.70% of Barcelona's areas and 7.23% of the city has problems of limited accessibility and congestion. According to Martori, this shows that "the specific plan developed by Barcelona City Council to improve the provision of playgrounds is leading to results, although more playgrounds are required in the most disadvantaged areas in order to reduce potential congestion."
There is a very clear pattern to the congestion, with areas in the centre of the city such as districts of Ciutat Vella, Eixample and Sant-Montjuïc suffering from congestion because they have fewer parks than other districts. However, in the outlying districts such as Nou Barris, Sant Andreu and Sant Martí, the congestion is caused by the larger number of children living there. The pattern of accessibility is less clear. There are high levels of accessibility in the districts of Sant Martí and Nou Barris, but the levels are low in some areas of these same districts.
High concentrations of lead found in wildlife in Amazonia26.08.2019Researchers at the University of Vic - Central University of Catalonia (UVic-UCC) and the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB) have identified high levels of lead concentrations in samples of wildlife from Amazonia in Peru, caused by lead ammunition and pollution related to oil drilling. The research was published this week in the journal Nature Sustainability.
The highest concentrations of lead, the world's most widespread cumulative neurotoxic metal, are found in the most industrialised countries and regions on the planet. For this reason, it was assumed that in Amazonia, the world's largest and most diverse tropical rain forest, the levels of urban and industrial pollutants were low due to the area's isolated location and the limited human impact it has received.
A team of researchers from the University of Vic - Central University of Catalonia (UVic-UCC), the Institute of Environmental Science and Technology (ICTA-UAB) abd the Department of Animal Health and Anatomy of the Autonomous University of Barcelona has evaluated concentrations of lead and its isotopic signature in wildlife in remote areas of Amazonia in Peru for the first time. To do so, they collected liver samples from 315 wild animals from 18 different species, which local indigenous peoples (Quichua, Achuar and Yagua) hunted for their own consumption. The areas of study are very isolated, and reaching them entails a boat journey along local rivers lasting about four or five days. Some of these areas are in the country's second most productive oil concession, which has been operational since the 1970s.
The research found high concentrations of lead in livers from Amazonian mammals and birds - animals that are consumed every day by the local indigenous population. The levels of lead recorded are higher than those in wild animals in industrialised countries. The presence of unexpectedly high levels of lead in Amazonian wildlife is a health hazard for the local indigenous population, which depends on hunting for subsistence.
Half of the samples analysed contained over 0.5 milligrams per kilogram, which European legislation establishes as the threshold for the human consumption of animal offal, and 91% of the samples were above 0.1 milligrams per kilogram, which is the level below which meat in general is considered fit for consumption. This is a very significant risk for the population, as almost thirty of the samples analysed contained much higher lead concentrations.
The researchers also showed that the main sources of lead are the widespread use of ammunition made from the material, as well as pollution related to oil drilling. In fact, pollution from lead ammunition may be an underestimated problem on a continental scale in South America, since these results suggest that lead has entered the food chain in areas of Amazonia where the human population depends on hunting for subsistence, and rather than being restricted to the study area, this problem is likely to be applicable to indigenous populations that use lead ammunition all over the world.
Furthermore, finding lead related to hydrocarbon extraction in wildlife suggests that other poisonous petroglyceric components may also have entered the food chain. Indeed, in Peru's northern Amazonia, oil drilling has had a significant environmental impact due to the operational dumping of lead-rich residues in the environment.
Because of the planet's indigenous peoples' dependence on subsistence hunting, the widespread use of lead ammunition and the expansion of oil drilling in tropical rainforests (30% of tropical forests are located on oil and gas reserves), these results highlight an important risk to the conservation of wildlife, as well as to the health of local communities that depend on it as a source of protein.
Finally, the study also shows how impact from humans is apparent in remote natural areas of the planet. The findings reported in this study could apply to the rest of Amazonia and other tropical forests, showing a degree of human impact going beyond initial predictions, with anthropogenic pollution spreading from industrialised centres to more remote areas on the planet.
The study, published in the journal Nature Sustainability this week, was authored by Mar Cartró Sabaté, a researcher at the Institute of Environmental Science and Technology of the Autonomous University of Barcelona (ICTA-UAB); Martí Orta, who works at the ICTA-UAB of the UVIC-UCC, Pedro Mayor, of the Department of Animal Health and Anatomy at the UAB; and Antoni Rosell, ICREA researcher at ICTA-UAB.
The UVic-UCC and the UOC develop an application to support caregivers of Alzheimer's patients29.07.2019The UVic-UCC and the Open University of Catalonia (UOC), working with the company Confluencia Solucions en Convergència Digital y Mobilidad, SL, have created a tool to improve the quality of life of informal caregivers of Alzheimer's patients. This is a mobile application (an app) that creates virtual communities of practice by contacting relatives of Alzheimer's patients who are caregivers, so that they can share their knowledge and experiences to improve their quality of life, and alleviate caregiver stress by improving information, social support and providing coping strategies.
More than 50 people, divided into two groups, used this application for 10 months. One was made up of only caregivers and an expert who acted as moderator. In the other group there were 22 caregivers and three moderators who were professionals in the healthcare field. In both cases, the caregivers rated the app in very positive terms, as they felt it provided them with support, and they asked to continue using it. As a result, the next objective is to raise awareness of the app among caregivers' associations and foundations that work with Alzheimer's patients.
The app, which is called "Estic amb tu," was developed as part of the doctoral thesis by Montse Romero Mas, which she is producing at the UVic-UCC Doctoral School and which is supervised by Dr Anna Ramon Aribau (UVic-UCC) and Dr Beni Gómez-Zúñiga (UOC), for the company Confluència Solucions en Convergència Digital i Mobilitat, SL. The four parties have signed a joint authorship agreement, formalising the result of a collaborative process that was presented at the Mobile World Congress 2019.
The app aims to provide a social use for research based on Alzheimer's, a chronic disease that is increasingly prevalent, and it focuses on the "invisible patient," the informal caregiver. The third-year students at the Sant Genís and Santa Agnès primary school in Taradell christened the application "Estic amb tu" [I'm with you] during the "emotions workshop" that they shared with the researchers that connected them to caregivers. The logo was produced by the graphic designer Guillem Lluch.
Link to download the app on Google Play
A project led by the UVic-UCC produces an inventory of Catalonia's temporary lakes 25.07.2019Mediterranean temporary lakes are ecosystems that are very characteristic of Catalonia, and have periods of flooding (in winter and spring) alternate with dry periods (in summer and early autumn). They are inhabited by very unusual species that have adapted to these conditions, but they are also habitats that are very suitable for other groups that need areas of water throughout the year to reproduce or to find plenty of food, such as amphibians and insects, as well as semi-aquatic and terrestrial species. This means that the biodiversity of these environments is very important, which is why they are considered priority habitats for conservation at a European level.
The Aquatic Ecology research group (GEA) at the University of Vic - Central University of Catalonia (UVic-UCC) has recently launched a project to carry out an inventory of Catalonia's various temporary lakes. This exhaustive compilation of information on these ecosystems is being carried out for the first time, although they have been the focus of some studies in recent years.
Information on biodiversity and the state of conservation
Apart from creating a database of all the lakes in Catalonia, the project aims to gather information about their biodiversity and state of conservation. The data obtained will be particularly useful for studying the vulnerability of these ecosystems as a result of climate change and the consequent variation in rainfall levels that is expected in the Mediterranean region, where more intense periods of drought and an increase in the number of episodes of torrential rain are anticipated.
This inventory will include the temporary lakes known as the Platja d'Espolla in the Pla de l'Estany region, the temporary lakes in the Albera massif, and those on the Lleida Plain. However, it will also include other less well-known lakes, for which less information is available, such as those in the Baix Ebre region and Central Catalonia.
Nucleus of a future Observatory of Temporary Mediterranean Lakes
The project is being led by the researchers Sandra Brucet, an ICREA research lecturer, and Anna Badosa, who are both members of the Aquatic Ecology research group. It is also supported by the Biodiversity Foundation of the Ministry for Ecological Transition, and specialists from the University of Girona are working on the project. The database will be public, and provide free access in web format, and will lay the foundations for a future Observatory of Temporary Mediterranean Lakes in Catalonia. This institution aims to bring together more researchers and its objective will be to study these ecosystems, increase knowledge of them and ensure their conservation.
The database is currently in the testing phase, and its launch is anticipated after the summer. The project also includes two other initiatives: the restoration of a temporary Mediterranean lake in the Cap de Creus Natural Park, and the production of an educational video to raise awareness and increase public knowledge of the importance of these vulnerable ecosystems.