The European CO3 project is developing modulable open-source software to apply in citizen participation processes21.12.2020Three pilot tests in Paris, Athens and Turin are getting underway in the first few months of 2021 to get citizens involved in defining policies and taking public decisions which are usually taken by administrations, institutions and entities. They will be doing so within the framework of the European research project CO3. Transformative impact of disruptive technologies in public services, which has developed a digital platform for interaction among the different stakeholders involved in citizen participation processes, and via the use of disruptive technologies based on co-creation, co-production and co-management methodologies which engage all the parties affected. In 2020, the second of the project's three years, the software which will serve as the basis of each specific participative action was developed, and after initial testing, the pilot tests are now expected to get underway.
The CP3 project is led by the Università di Torino (Italy) with the participation of Ruth Sofia Contreras and Alejandro Blanco, researchers in the Research Group on Data and Signals Processing at the Universitat de Vic ? Universitat Central de Catalunya (UVic-UCC). Both researchers are part of an interdisciplinary team that includes entities, companies and research centres in Greece, Italy, France and Spain. "More and more town halls, for example, are launching websites, mobile apps and other digital resources to encourage citizens to participate in decisions, but in practice these participation forums are seldom used, or their theoretical objectives don't match their practical application", Ruth Contreras says, pinpointing the point of departure of this initiative.
Software adaptable to each project
The second year of C03, 2020, has been wholly spent on developing the software underlying the platform where institutions and citizens will interact, which is now in the final co-production phase. Throughout this year, the developers of the disruptive technologies have delivered the software, which is comprised of ten modules, four of them visible and six of them invisible to users, which makes it incredibly flexible. "This enables the end application to be totally different for each project where it is used, as it can be adapted to the needs of each specific case via the programming", says Ruth Contreras. According to this researcher, via a website and mobile app, technologies like geolocated social media, augmented reality and tools to participate in surveys, debates or votes can be used depending on the specific needs in each case.
Addressing social issues via three pilot tests
Despite the fact that the development team has undertaken the first usability testing of the application this autumn, the third phase of the project will get underway next year, in which the software will be implemented in three pilot tests in Athens, Paris and Turin. Some of these adaptations to practical, specific and real cases were supposed to launch this autumn but were delayed because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In Athens, the implementation of the software in the pilot test will be associated with a project by an NGO which will use it to create a support network for the homeless, who comprise a very large group in that city. In Paris, it will be transferred to an application which will give voice to people currently living in the area where the 2024 Olympics will be held to allow them to contribute to defining the new setting. And in Turin, the software will be used to launch a shared social housing project which aims to help to solve the housing problem in this city.
Moving ahead despite the pandemic
The researchers view this past year positively overall. Even though some of the project's actions have had to be postponed because of the pandemic, "all the partners involved have been able to continue working online, and even though it hasn't been the ideal situation, the most important thing is that we have been able to make headway in the development", says Ruth Contreras. The key to the project, this researcher asserts, is the co-creation process as the working methodology, which "entails getting all the affected parties involved and designing the product hand-in-hand with everyone who will use it". During the pandemic, this work process has proven to be a drawback that has forced some of the scheduled participation activities to be cancelled, transformed or postponed. "We have adapted the calendar and adjusted the methodology in order to continue working", says Contreras.
CO3 is a project financed by the European Horizon 2020 programme (subsidy 822615), it has an overall budget of almost ?3.2M and it is being led by the Università di Torino (Italy).
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UVic-UCC once again tops the transparency ranking for private universities16.12.2020The University of Vic-Central University of Catalonia once again tops the transparency ranking of Spanish private universities for the fourth consecutive - this year, tied with Nebrija University. This is the result of the 2019 Transparency Examination, which is organised by the Fundación Compromiso y Transparencia, and was announced last Monday.
This ranking examines the information that the 49 public and 26 private universities voluntarily publish on the website, about their staff, governance, board of trustees, their range of academic courses and the demand for them, and financial information and results, among other indicators.
UVic-UCC scored 47 points on a scale of 48, which shows compliance with 98% of the indicators evaluated. The University of Navarre is in third place, with 46 points. The tendency of UVic-UCC in the ranking is clearly in the ascendant, as it was classified as a translucent university in 2015, and it has been considered a transparent university since 2016, and held first place for the last four years.
The report classifies universities as transparent, translucent and opaque. Although the number of private universities considered transparent has doubled from three to six this year, 42% of centres are still classified as opaque after 9 years of evaluation.
Among the public universities, the Rey Juan Carlos, Cantabria and Castilla-La Mancha lead the ranking, with a total of 51 points out of 54. The report concludes that although unprecedented levels of transparency have been achieved to date, some outstanding issues remain, such as accountability by boards of trustees.
UVic-UCC would be at the top of a single hypothetical ranking of both private and public universities, together with Nebrija University, with compliance with 98% of the indicators, while the leading public university, Rey Juan Carlos, would be in fourth place, with 94%, just behind the University of Navarre (96%).
According to the foundation that compiles it, the aim of this ranking is to promote good governance, transparency, accountability and the social impact of institutions.
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Paola Galbany, a lecturer at the FHSW, takes part in a study on breastfeeding in mothers who have not given birth16.12.2020The lecturer and researcher of the Faculty of Health Sciences and Welfare Paola Galbany has co-authored the scientific article Understanding the Challenges of Induction of Lactation and Relactation for Non-Gestating Spanish Mothers. The study, which has been published in the nursing, paediatrics, obstetrics and gynaecology journal entitled Journal of Human Lactation, is about the lack of knowledge surrounding the fact that mothers who have not given birth can also breastfeed their children. It therefore covers adopted infants, infants born via surrogacy, and infants born to same-sex female partners. This lack of knowledge also applies to healthcare professionals, and means that they are unable to inform the women concerned, and that opportunities to breastfeed are missed.
Gemma Cazorla and Noemí Obregon, midwives at the Parc Taulí Hospital, Josefina Goberna, a midwife and lecturer at the University of Barcelona and Galbany herself are the co-authors of this publication, which is part of the results of Cazorla's doctoral thesis.
The study looks at two processes related to breastfeeding. The first is induction. This method is aimed at women who want to breastfeed for the first time, and requires hormone treatment and breast stimulation, which is sometimes accompanied by drugs. The process should begin about five months before the baby is born, so that they can benefit from it from the day they are born. It is suitable above all when combining breastfeeding with formula milk, or sharing it with the pregnant woman, in couples consisting of two women. The other process, relactation, is suitable for women who have previously breastfed another child. Women who have adopted who wish to breastfeed can also do so using this treatment. The process involved is shorter than the first one, and drugs are administered to a more limited extent.
The interviews conducted for the project involved women from Spain ? adoptive mothers, surrogate mothers and same-sex female partners ? who went through one of the two processes analysed. The participation of breastfeeding groups and advisers in the field was crucial in obtaining the results, as it was impossible to consult any records of women who have gone through this experience because they do not exist.
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Good conservation and management of lakes and ponds can contribute to slowing climate change16.12.2020Fresh water on planet Earth is scarce, as it accounts for only about 2.5% of the total. Between 30% and 50% of this total fresh water area is in pools and ponds, a resource that despite being exceptional is home to 70% of Europe's aquatic species. They also contain more rare, endemic and endangered species such as amphibians, invertebrates or plants, than those found in lakes or rivers. The small size of pools and ponds has even today led to doubts being raised over their status as resources that contribute to the planet's biological balance and to the fight against climate change.
These ecosystems are an asset for mitigating climate change while providing society with benefits that often go unnoticed. Examples include the water supply, flood control, CO2 uptake or and many health benefits for people. In this context, the PONDERFUL project (POND Ecosystems for Resilient Future Landscapes in a changing climate), led by the Aquatic Ecology research group at the University of Vic - Central University of Catalonia (UVic-UCC) will be studying ponds and lagoons across Europe for four years, in order to determine their implications for climate change and to improve the conservation of their ecosystems and biodiversity.
The main objective of the project, which is being led by the ICREA research professor Sandra Brucet, is to use ponds and pools as nature-based solutions to act against climate change and to improve the conservation of diversity, ecosystems and the well-being of society. The project will therefore study pond networks and identify opportunities, returns and barriers to implementing nature-based solutions. For example, the team will consider: what are the returns involved in restoring a pond? What are the costs and benefits of preserving its biodiversity? What are the barriers to doing so?
To make this possible, PONDERFUL will assess the interactions and feedback between these ecosystems and the rest of the biodiversity in various pools and ponds in multiple locations. The results will be obtained by sampling in various parts of the European Union, Turkey and Uruguay in Latin America, and they will subsequently be used to produce a guide to financing and sustainable investment for the implementation of nature-based solutions. This guide will be aimed at raising awareness of the conservation of the biodiversity of lakes and ponds.
Eighteen partners from eleven countries
PONDERFUL is a project involved 18 partners, including universities, research centres and private institutions in the 11 countries involved. In addition to UVic-UCC, other participants include the University of Girona and Randbee Consultants, in Spain; the IGB Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries, the Ecologic Institute of Berlin and the Technische Universitaet Muenchen in Germany; the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven in Belgium; the Higher Specialized School of Western Switzerland in Switzerland; the University College in London, Bangor University and the Freshwater Habitats Trust in the United Kingdom; the Middle East Technical University, in Turkey; the CIIMAR - Centro Interdisciplinar de Investigação Marinha e Ambiental in Portugal; Aarhus Universitet, in Denmark; Uppsala Universitet on Sweden; the Institut Superieur d'agriculture Rhone Alpes and Amphi International, in France, and the Universidad de la Republica in Uruguay.
"This wide range of partners from various countries means that we can undertake multiple sampling in lagoons and ponds in various locations, and enables a much broader analysis of the current situation," says the coordinator of the Aquatic Ecology research group and the project's lead researcher, Sandra Brucet. The ICREA research professor emphasises the importance of involving stakeholders in the project, including managers, farmers, NGOs, county and town councils, among others, "to coordinate the management of these spaces."
Mireia Bartrons, a researcher in the Aquatic Ecology research group, stresses that their point of view must be taken into account and that throughout the project, "many meetings with them will take place to provide conclusions and recommendations focusing on European directives, which must be aligned with these interest groups."
Apart from the research group responsible for the project, UVic-UCC's Centre for Interdisciplinary Gender Studies (CEIG), led by Gerard Coll, is also involved. Following the European Union's recommendations on gender issues, the group will be responsible for gender mainstreaming in the content and activities that will take place during the project's life cycle. Examples include participation in surveys, ensuring gender parity in contracting and activities, and managing the gender dimension in the research.
Sampling in three bioclimatic zones: Mediterranean, Atlantic and continental
A total of 16 samplings will be carried out over the 4 years that the project lasts, which are divided into three different bioclimatic zones: the Mediterranean zone, which includes Spain, Turkey and Uruguay; the Atlantic zone, which includes Belgium and the United Kingdom, and finally the continental zone, which covers Switzerland, Denmark and Germany. As for the places where the sampling will take place, the number of pools and ponds, their landscape, the specific ecosystem services they provide and the regulation of the quantity and quality of water have already been identified, among other parameters.
Several areas have been identified for analysis in Catalonia. They are three areas located in Girona, the Baix Ter region (the Montgrí Natural Park, the Medes Islands and the Baix Ter) and the Albera and Cap de Creus ponds, and areas in central Catalonia that have yet to be defined will also be studied. Ten of the total number of ponds sampled will be resampled, i.e. they will also be sampled next year to see the year-on-year variability in the ecosystem.
The project is part of the European Union's Horizon 2020 call, and has a total budget of almost 7 million Euros, of which UVic-UCC has obtained 800,000 Euros. The project, which is expected to be completed by November 2024, was launched on 1 December.
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A collaboration between Blanquerna-URL and UVic-UCC culminates in the patent for an innovative device for improving sports performance and people's health07.12.2020The doctoral thesis currently being written by the Blanquerna-URL doctoral student Joan Aguilera, jointly supervised by Bernat Buscà, a senior lecturer at the URL, and Javier Peña, the director of the Physical Activity and Sports Studies Centre (CEEAF) at UVic-UCC, has led to an application for a patent for an innovative device to improve the results of strength training, and to prevent sports injuries and other pathologies. As well as this new application, the fifth by UVic-UCC, the CEEAF has also begun the process involved in creating a spin-off to develop and market the product, and bring the research to market.
Last June, the two parties signed an agreement governing the rights to ownership and exploitation of the valorised results of the thesis. Given the nature of the process involved in obtaining industrial property rights, the technical specifications of the device cannot yet be made public.
The project was selected also to enter The Collider 2020 of the Mobile World Capital, a deep tech transfer initiative which helps to create high-performance teams and provides support in bringing technology to market, by creating companies with disruptive technologies.
The result of a doctoral thesis
The patent is the result of a research project led by Bernat Buscà, which aims to determine the effect of devices which cause instability and those that offer mechanical vibration as an additional stimulus in strength training. This project includes the doctoral thesis by Joan Aguilera, who has been researching these phenomena in recent years.
According to its joint supervisor, Javier Peña, "when we saw the results obtained in various studies in this thesis, we realised that not all the devices currently on the market and available to athletes allowed us to apply the optimal conditions for receiving the maximum benefits." That was the starting point for the design process of the device that has been submitted for patenting, and for which a prototype was created that has been tested in several proof of concepts.
According to Peña, the fact that the patent is the result of a doctoral thesis shows that "research must be able to be transferred and change something in the area of knowledge," and he asks "what better way to do it in our field that by inventing new devices that enable training and high levels of quality, safety and efficiency?"
A three-way project
The fact that it is a three-way project has led to a need for improved coordination, but it has also been possible to undertake the project due to the combination of various initiatives, knowledge and perspectives. "I think this situation adds value to the project. Being able to mentor Joan Aguilera with the help of my thesis supervisor, Dr Bernat Buscà, has allowed me to learn a lot over this time. We have also been supported by the Technology Transfer Offices at both UVic-UCC and Blanquerna-URL, which have contributed their value and know-how," says Peña.
Towards a spin-off
Being able to have a patent opens up the possibility of setting up a company, and therefore adding a new spin-off to the UVic-UCC ecosystem. It is not an easy process, but joining The Collider, by having passed the initial selection phase, has been a decisive step. As a result, the project has received financial support, mentoring - in the preparation of a business plan, market studies and projections for future development, and above all a working methodology "that has set us in the right direction," as "our idea is much better now and we see things more clearly," says the director of the CEEAF. He also says that "it has been a demanding but extremely enriching process."
The project continues to move forward while awaiting the ruling of the Spanish Patent and Trademark Office (SPTO) on this new device. "Thanks to the latest URL research grants, the prototype is improving in terms of its usability and size to bring it closer to the market. The business strategy, which has still to be finalised, will be defined in the coming months," says Buscà.
A second iteration of the prototype is currently being created and more concept testing is under way, although Covid-19 is not making things easy. Meanwhile, contacts are being made with several partners that can bring new insights, such as the Guttman Institute, which was contacted through The Collider.
The importance of valorisation of the results
The Valorisation and Knowledge Transfer Unit is committed to patents and entrepreneurship as the best means of transferring knowledge and the results of research by UVic-UCC to society, companies and industries in the region. At the Unit, Marc Serra says that "obtaining industrial property rights (patents and utility models) means that the market can be accessed more easily." And he adds that "when we protect knowledge, we ensure the exclusive nature of technology, while for companies, both spin offs and others, it is a guarantee of the economic viability of the investments needed to deliver the results of research as products and services to people."
Cristina Manjón, head of Research and Innovation at Blanquerna-URL, explains that "the commercialisation of research has become a new broad-based discipline experiencing considerable growth," which "enables the development of technology and knowledge created in the university environment, in products of value to the public, which make the economy grow and improve the quality of life at the same time."
She adds that "during the journey in research towards the protection of a patent, each milestone represents a team effort. At Blanquerna we aim to turn research into a great multidisciplinary experience, and place it at the service of people, and at the same time be able to offer researchers a different perspective on science, business and innovation."
The Research and Knowledge Transfer Office of UVic-UCC, on both the UVic and UManresa campuses, has received co-financing from the Catalonia EDRF Operational Programme 2014-2020 for the project "Economic and social transformation of the territory through collaborative leadership of technological and innovative projects" in the call by the Secretariat for Universities and Research of the Ministry of Economy and Knowledge, to undertake projects for valorisation units and the transfer of knowledge by Catalonia's universities aimed at significantly improving interaction with the production sector. Order EMC/ 348/2016.
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New entrance registrations at UVic-UCC increase by 12% for bachelor's degree programmes and 8% for all studies in an unusual academic year01.12.2020The number of new entrance registrations for official study programmes at the University of Vic - Central University of Catalonia (UVic-UCC) has increased by 8% in the 2020-2021 academic year, to a total of 3,216 students. The overall registration figures, which include new and continuing students, have risen by 5% and place the University at the threshold of 10,000 students, including the UVic and UManresa bachelor's degrees, the bachelor's degree in Medicine, the official master's degrees and doctorates from UVic-UCC, the Professional Campus and the training given at the BAU, EADA and ESERP affiliated centres. In bachelor's degree studies on the Vic campus, the Manresa campus and in the Faculty of Medicine, the increase in new entrants is 12% compared to last year.
UManresa grows by 4% in both new and continuing students registered
The Manresa campus registered a total of 1,990 students in official higher education qualifications for the 2020-2021 academic year: 1,833 on university degree courses, 121 on advanced vocational training cycles and 36 on university master's degrees. This is the first time that the campus has exceeded the threshold of 1,800 undergraduate students, with a growth of 4% compared to the previous year, both in terms of the addition of new students and in all four year groups of the six degree courses taught there: Nursing, Physiotherapy, Podiatry, Speech Therapy, Business Management and Administration (ADE) and Pre-School Teaching.
New entrance registrations for the bachelor's degree courses on the Vic campus increase by 13%
Degree courses on the Vic campus have experienced significant growth in recently admitted students, with registration increasing by 13%. 1,200 new students have joined this year, compared to 1,060 last year. The total number of undergraduate students has stabilised, and is now 4,276. In addition to these figures, there are 164 new students on the Translation, Interpretation and Applied Languages bachelor's degree course taught jointly with the Open University of Catalonia, which includes 705 registrations. Striking figures include the fact that 80% of the registrations are first preference; 89% of the total places offered were filled (10 percentage points more than a year ago); and 5 degree courses (Physiotherapy, Physical Education and Sports Sciences, Nursing, Human Nutrition and Dietetics and Psychology) now have a minimum entrance mark for admission.
Furthermore, in the case of Nursing, the high demand for places and the request by the Catalan government for more graduates in the near future have led UVic to open a third group in the first year. Registration on this course has increased by a total of 36%.
The Faculty of Medicine enters its fourth year, and now has almost 400 students
This year, the third year in the bachelor's degree in Medicine and the second in which the teaching of the clinical cycle has been distributed between the teaching units in Manresa and Vic, the Faculty has had 162 new entrance registrations, 25% more than the previous year, and now has 390 students taking all four years into account. In total, 1,021 people applied for a place on this degree course (the equivalent last year was 700) and 110 of them made it their first preference. The minimum entrance mark for the degree course has risen, from 11.798 last year to 12.194 this year.
The Faculty's projects for this new year include the launch of a preparation programme for the MIR (Resident Internal Physician) examination, which is mandatory for access to the field, aimed at all undergraduate students.
Strategic projects on the two campuses
As the Manresa campus of UVic-UCC, the Bages University Foundation (FUBages) plans to move forward in adapting its range of training to the new needs of the market. As a result, during this academic year, it will complete the part-time courses in the bachelor's degrees in Podiatry and Pre-School Teaching, so that teaching can begin in the 2021-2022 academic year. It will also begin to publicise a new master's degree in Accounts Auditing that is due to begin next year.
The investment and equipment projects of the Balmes University Foundation are growing in Vic, based on the city campus or university city model. These projects include the inauguration in early 2021 of the new facilities of the BETA Technology Center at Can Baumann, which is the first part of the future Science and Technology Park, which is conceived as an ecosystem with its own facilities for UVic and local companies in the fields of research, transfer and innovation.
Finally, the federation contract with the Elisava Foundation has been formalised this year, under the terms of which UVic-UCC incorporates the Barcelona university school of design and engineering as its own centre, which will become the Faculty of Design starting in the next academic year.
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A BETA Technology Centre project will evaluate solid and liquid waste from the meat industry16.11.2020According to the Catalonia Waste Agency (ARC), 911,480 tonnes of waste was generated by the food industry in Catalonia in 2018. One of the challenges facing the sector is how to optimise the management of the waste it generates and lower the economic and environmental cost this entails by minimising its transport and obtaining by-products with high added value. This is precisely the goal of the research project ACCELWATER (Accelerating Water Circularity in Food and Beverage Industrial Areas around Europe), financed as part of the European Horizon 2020 project, in which the BETA Technology Centre (CT BETA) of the Universitat de Vic ? Universitat Central de Catalunya (UVic-UCC) is participating. The project seeks the twofold objectives of optimising water consumption in the food industry and reconverting waste into fertilisers and energy.
ACCELWATER is upheld on four cornerstones: water, waste, energy and artificial intelligence. Through a combination of these four factors, the project seeks to treat both the liquid and solid waste generated in the food sector so they can be reclaimed and can be used for new purposes. By implementing monitoring and control technologies made possible by artificial intelligence, the researchers will both reuse the water and recover, optimise and manage the waste and energy. Lídia Paredes, a researcher at the CT BETA who is coordinating the project in Catalonia, alongside Oscar Mauricio Martínez from the same centre, summarises it as "a process which translates into cost-savings, environmental sustainability and obtaining added-value products". According to Paredes, who is in charge of the research line focused on liquid waste, "we are trying to close the waste management circle within the company and keep the waste from being transferred elsewhere for treatment".
The project is being led by the Greek company AGENSO (Agricultural and Environmental Solutions) and has a total of 18 partners, including universities; small, medium and large companies; research centres; and public administrations in Greece, Iceland, Italy, Germany and Spain. A total of four pilot tests will be conducted: the one in Catalonia coordinated by CT BETA and three more in Greece, focused on industrial symbiosis in the beer, dairy and food processing sectors; Iceland, where the project revolves around the fish farming sector; and Italy, where it focuses on tomato processing.
Reducing and reclaiming waste from the meat industry
The pilot test in Catalonia will focus on the meat sector and will be carried out at the MAFRICA slaughterhouse in de Sant Joan de Vilatorrada, which is also a partner in the project along with INNOVACC, Catalan Association of Innovation in the Pork Sector, which will coordinate the communication and boost the project's impact. The installation that CT BETA will put into place in MAFRICA seeks to find a use for the solid and liquid waste that the company generates in its industrial process. This is why one solid and one liquid waste treatment line will be established, each independent of the other but working in coordination with each other. The goal will be to find a solution to the failure to reclaim this waste and to purify the water autonomously, in-company. Indeed, Paredes says that "this company currently does the initial purification of the water generated, and afterwards the outgoing effluents are treated in the Manresa water purification plant". Thanks to the implementation of ACCELWATER, one of the outlets of this water will be to reuse it for tasks like cleaning the lorries that transport the livestock.
Another of the project's challenges is to reconvert solid waste into products with added value. Specifically, energy recovered from the waste that MAFRICA generates will be used in the industry itself, as well as products with agronomic value like organic remains that are rich in nutrients and biostimulants. "We are hoping that the fertilising products obtained from ACCELWATER can be of commercial interest and value, which will allow MAFRICA to reclaim waste that is managed wholly externally right now, at a high cost to the company", says Oscar Mauricio Martínez, the head of the solid waste line.
Four years of the project and more than one million euros for the Catalan test
The programme will last four years. In the Catalan test, 2021 will be spent designing and building the pilot, which should be ready for installation in MAFRICA by the end of the year, where it will remain in operation until the end of 2024. Once the pilot test is over, "we will have gained valuable data on its efficacy, which will enable companies in the meat sector to evaluate its benefits in terms of sustainability and learn what it would cost to permanently implement a waste management system like the one in the pilot test", says Oscar Martínez.
Martínez also stresses the exclusivity of the project and says that "it is the only initiative in Catalonia and one of just a handful in the field of waste management in the meat industry being carried out in Europe".
The total financing of ACCELWATER is almost 9.5 million euros, more than 1,200,000 of which is earmarked for the activities to be conducted in Catalonia. The project was launched on 1 October of this year, and this past Thursday, 12 November, the launch meeting was held virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
About the BETA Technology Centre
The mission of the UVic-UCC's BETA Technology Centre is to improve and promote the competitiveness and technological capacities of companies, public organisations and other entities through collaborative RDI projects. Its main fields of expertise are green technologies, ecology and biodiversity, the agrofood industries and sustainability. The CT BETA is a member of TECNIO, the network promoted and backed by the government of Catalonia which encompasses outstanding tech centres in Catalonia with high quality standards (in terms of the development and transfer of technologies and the capacity for innovation).
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A European project will use creative writing and digital narrative resources in primary schools to foster inclusion among children22.10.2020A school must be a place where children live naturally with diversity, and where all children have the same opportunities for growth and learning, without any distinction on the grounds of disability, gender, religion or race, or any other reason. Conflicts that hinder inclusion may be latent in the early stages of formal education, such as at primary school, and may not become readily apparent until later. That is why teachers must have tools in the classroom enabling them to identify these hidden problems and prevent future situations of exclusion. That is precisely the aim of the WIN project (Writing for Inclusion), led by researchers at the University of Vic - Central University of Catalonia (UVic-UCC) within the framework of the international Erasmus+ programme.
WIN has a financial endowment of 129,435 Euros and will last for two years. During this period it will develop resources and tools for care and prevention for inclusion using creative writing in the classroom, and is aimed primarily at boys and girls aged 9 and 10 years old. The project aims to support teachers with training sessions and teaching resources to help them identify latent conflicts and improve students' inclusive attitudes, and focuses on using resources for creative writing and digital storytelling. The end result of the process will be a free tool that is open to all schools in Europe to work on inclusion in classrooms in all areas of education.
WIN is led by Mireia Canals-Botines, Angel Raluy Alonso, Miquel Pujol Tubau and Núria Medina-Casanovas, who are lecturers and researchers at the Faculty of Education, Translation and Humanities (FETCH) at UVic-UCC. When carrying out the project, they will work with teachers at the Les Pinediques School in Taradell, which is also a partner in the project, and where one of the pilot tests will be carried out. The other partner institutions are the Università Degli Studi Di Firenze (Italy), the Eötvös Lorand Tudományegyetem (Hungary), and the Poltava V.G. Korolenko National Pedagogikal University (Ukraine), three higher education centres, each of which has a school in its area as a partner: Istituto Comprensivo Le Cure (Italy), Erzsébetvárosi Két Tanítási Nyelvú Általános Iskola és Szakgimnázium (Hungary) and Poltava Comprehensive School of I-III degree # 18 of Poltava City Council of Poltava region (Ukraine).
Audiovisual tools for children to create stories
The WIN project will be carried out in three phases. In its first year, which is now under way, its work will focus on two areas: on the one hand, it will create resources and tools, which are basically animations available in a Moodle environment, which the children will use to create their stories of inclusion. On the other, it will train the teachers who will accompany the children in the activities focusing on creative writing and inclusion in the classroom in the second phase.
The aim is to have everything ready for the second phase, which takes place in the first term of the 2021-2022 academic year. At that point, the children and teachers will carry out the project and create the stories using the tools that have been created, which according to Mireia Canals-Botines, the project's lead researcher, "will offer a wide range of creative possibilities." Among other items, the children will find animations of boys and girls doing specific actions, objects and backgrounds in the resource library: "pleasant drawings, with soft colours and rounded shapes, which are very neutral so that they do not affect the creative process in any way, and enable underlying conflicts to emerge without any conditioning factors."
"The teacher will provide a problem or difficult situation in the classroom that will act as the starting point," explains Mireia Canals, who says that "from there, the children, in randomly created small groups, will use the animations to invent a collective story with a resolution that may be positive to varying degrees." The researcher says that during this process, "problems and disagreements between the children will arise, which are determined by the social and family environment in which they live, which they carry inside them but have not yet left behind, and which will emerge unconsciously."
The results obtained will be worked on at various levels. First of all, the boys and girls themselves will share the stories with their class to discuss the conflicts that have arisen, accompanied by the teachers and observed by students on the EHEA degree course in Primary School Teaching at UVic- UCC, who will also be involved in the project. All the stories will subsequently be shared with the other participating centres on the Etwinning platform and through focus groups. Finally, the WIN project will conclude with a meeting in Vic in 2022, where the conclusions of the project will be shared, and with the publication of several scientific articles.
A project "that has been simmering"
Mireia Canals explains that this is a project that has been simmering for two years: "this measured pace of work will make the children become immersed in reflection, in order to normalise inclusive behaviours both inside and outside the classroom" because according to the researcher, "a relaxed environment is needed to address the problems that arise in depth."
At the Les Pinediques School, the teachers Marta Ramírez and Cinta Gonzalez, who are coordinating the project there, argue that one of their motivations for taking part is being able to work with UVic -UCC and other schools in Europe. "It is very enriching and we hope it will enable the children to learn from interacting with children from other countries, as well as internalising inclusion as something that is natural," they say. At the moment, the children are preparing logos to identify the project in a competition organised by each school, which they will share through Etwinning. "One of the European students participating in the project will be the author of the final image, which will be decided upon by a vote," say the teachers.
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