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Winner of prestigious student enterprise competition announced

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Jamila La Malfa-Donaldson

A BUSINESS proposal to produce innovative and therapeutic hemp products has wowed the judges to win this year’s Aberystwyth University InvEnterPrize student business ideas competition.

The business plan and pitch by Jamila La Malfa-Donaldson, a postgraduate student researching industrial hemp, won her a £10,000 business investment sponsored by alumni of the University.

Her food and cosmetics brand, ProHempOtic, will offer a range of products derived from organic hemp with added plant-based ingredients, aimed at supporting health and wellbeing.

Jamila’s business idea also secured another of the competition’s coveted prizes, a year of office space at the Aberystwyth innovation and enterprise campus, AberInnovation.  

She was also awarded a £500 prize for rural business sponsored by the Growth in Rural Resilience and Innovation Network (GRRaIN).

Five of this year’s twelve entries were shortlisted by the judging panel, who studied business plans, listened to pitches, and deliberated over the submissions.

All five finalists have been awarded £1,000 by the University, from its Research Wales Innovation Fund grant from the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales.

A separate prize of £3,000 sponsored by Engineers in Business was awarded to Thomas Breeze, a Computer Science postgraduate, who showcased an innovative modular robotics concept, BreezeLabs.

The judging panel included several Aberystwyth University graduates who have gone on to have successful careers in business.  They were also joined by last year’s InvEnterPrize winner Karl Swanepoel, who graduated with a degree in Artificial Intelligence and Robotics in 2021.

After securing investment in his business idea in InvEnterPrize 2021, Karl’s company Revolancer, a freelance marketplace that connects skilled freelancers with ambitious businesses looking to grow, has gone from strength to strength.  

As well as helping to judge this year’s entries, Karl also donated a £1,500 Revolancer voucher as a prize for the finalist whose business idea would benefit the most from freelancer support, such as design work or website development.  This prize was also awarded to ProHempOtic.

Following the prize-giving, Jamila La Malfa-Donaldson said: “The opportunity to enter, let alone win, the InvEnterPrize competition has given me a life-changing opportunity I am very grateful for. To prepare for the competition, I worked with Big Ideas Wales business advisor Julie Morgan, I attended all of the online workshops led by Aberpreneurs and took part in the BioAccelerate programme run by AberInnovation.”

Jamila is studying for her PhD at Aberystwyth University’s Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS), and has been developing testing processes, and cultivation and processing methods of industrial hemp for therapeutic compounds.

The 29-year old from South East London has already been making plans on how to use her investment funding: “I intend to spend the prize money on research and development activities for the product line, testing the products for their safety and nutritional content, as well as developing the brand and an e-commerce website and blog. I’m excited to grow a team of freelancers through Revolancer. I am also taking part in the Productivity to Prosperity programme run by AberInnovation to develop a recipe for a novel hempseed drink.  I look forward to continuing to work with Julie Morgan, who is now working with Antur Cymru Enterprise, to test the product line in a pop-up Trading Space in Aberystwyth town centre this summer.”

Organised annually by the University Careers Service, this year’s InvEnterPrize contest saw entries from entrepreneurial students and groups of students from across the University, who submitted a wide range of business ideas.

There were product design concepts such as a smart cane aid for blind people and a weight harness for kettle bells; online enterprises including a music and chat platform and a styling platform; software to assist with the creation of virtual tours; a healthy lung app to help patients to manage their disease; a shop selling environmentally conscious products; and a seed and seedling development company.

The University’s Careers Consultant and Entrepreneurship Champion, Tony Orme, said: “A decade on from its launch, InvEnterPrize continues to be one of the most exciting student business idea competitions in the UK.  The added value of the competition is that, whilst they are developing their business plans, entrants are given the opportunity to attend workshops and presentations to hone their enterprise skills and access to free one-to-one start-up mentoring from Big Ideas Wales.

“The quality of this year’s finalists has certainly lived up to expectations – congratulations to each of them.  Our thanks go to the Aber alumni whose generous donations fund the main prize, and of course to our fantastic judges. It was great to welcome back last year’s winner, Karl Swanepoel, whose success with Revolancer we are eagerly following.  We wish Jamila all the very best as she develops her business.”

Chair of the InvEnterPrize judges, Peter Gradwell, who graduated from Aberystwyth with a degree in Software Engineering in 2002 and founded business communications company Gradwell Communications Ltd and more recently, a mobile network (IQ Mobile Ltd), said: “The alumni ‘Dragons’ were delighted to be back to assess another fantastic range of innovative business ideas from Aber students. The entries highlighted the diversity and tenacity of student business, covering business opportunities such as fitness, entertainment, mental health, biomedical sciences, tourism and robotics. Congratulations to our overall winner Jamila, who delivered a clear presentation and comprehensive business plan to bring to market an innovative range of hemp based products, leveraging both an exciting consumer healthcare trend and the University’s experience in developing industrial hemp.”

Aberystwyth University offers a full programme of events to support entrepreneurial activity amongst students, graduates and staff. To find out more visit the AberPreneurs website.

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Gweinidog yn agor Canolfan Addysg Iechyd newydd Aberystwyth

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Gweinidog yn agor Canolfan Addysg Iechyd newydd ym Mhrifysgol Aberystwyth
Bydd Gweinidog Iechyd Cymru yn agor canolfan newydd gwerth £1.7 miliwn i hyfforddi staff y gwasanaeth iechyd ym Mhrifysgol Aberystwyth heddiw (dydd Gwener 30 Medi).
Mae’r Brifysgol wedi creu ystafelloedd ymarfer clinigol ansawdd uchel, yn ei Chanolfan Addysg Gofal Iechyd newydd, sydd gyferbyn ag Ysbyty Bronglais yn Aberystwyth. Cafodd y datblygiad gwerth £1.7 miliwn ei gefnogi gyda grant o £500,000 gan Lywodraeth Cymru.
Rhan ganolog o’r safle newydd yw Uned Sgiliau Clinigol gydag ardaloedd efelychu ansawdd uchel sy’n adlewyrchu taith y claf o’r cartref a gwasanaethau cymunedol i asesu, gofal wedi’ i gynllunio a gofal acíwt.
Mae’r offer addysgu newydd yn cynnwys dyfeisiadau realiti rhithwir ar gyfer profi heneiddio a modelau dynol sy’n efelychu ystod eang o gyflyrau iechyd.
Dechreuodd y garfan gyntaf o fyfyrwyr nyrsio ar eu hastudiaethau yn y Ganolfan ym Mhrifysgol Aberystwyth ddechrau mis Medi.
Disgwylir y bydd y datblygiadau newydd yn hwb mawr i ymdrechion i gadw a recriwtio staff i’r gwasanaeth iechyd, yn enwedig yn y Canolbarth.
Dywedodd y Gweinidog Iechyd Eluned Morgan AS: “Rwy’n falch iawn o agor y ganolfan newydd hon ym Mhrifysgol Aberystwyth. Mae’n gydweithrediad ardderchog rhwng y byrddau iechyd a’r Brifysgol a bydd yn hwb o ran recriwtio nyrsys yn yr ardal yma.
“Rwyf hefyd yn falch iawn y bydd myfyrwyr yn cael y cyfle i astudio drwy gyfrwng y Gymraeg, a fydd yn helpu i gyflawni ein cynlluniau i gynyddu’r defnydd o’r Gymraeg yn y gwasanaeth iechyd, fel y nodir yn ein strategaeth Mwy na Geiriau.”
Datblygwyd addysg nyrsio ym Mhrifysgol Aberystwyth gyda chefnogaeth nifer o bartneriaid, gan gynnwys byrddau iechyd Hywel Dda, Betsi Cadwaladr a Phowys yn ogystal â defnyddwyr gwasanaethau a gofalwyr.
Fe ddyfarnodd Addysg a Gwella Iechyd Cymru gytundeb i Brifysgol Aberystwyth hyfforddi nyrsys ar gyfer oedolion ac iechyd meddwl sydd wedi ei ariannu gan Lywodraeth Cymru.
Caiff y myfyrwyr sy’n astudio ar gyfer y graddau newydd a gychwynnodd eleni y cyfle i ddilyn hyd at hanner eu cwrs drwy gyfrwng y Gymraeg.
Ychwanegodd yr Is-Ganghellor yr Athro Elizabeth Treasure:
“Anrhydedd fawr yw cael y Gweinidog yn ymweld i agor y Ganolfan, sydd yn fuddsoddiad arwyddocaol iawn i’r Canolbarth. Rwy’n ffyddiog bydd hyn yn hwb o ran recriwtio a chadw staff yn lleol ac yn rhanbarthol. A, thrwy gynnig llawer iawn o’r hyfforddiant drwy gyfrwng y Gymraeg, bydd yn fuddiol i’r ddarpariaeth iaith yn ein gwasanaeth iechyd yn ogystal.”
“Rydym yn ddiolchgar iawn i Lywodraeth Cymru am gefnogi’r prosiect. Hoffwn i ddiolch hefyd i’r holl bartneriaid sydd wedi cyflawni hyn, gan gynnwys y Byrddau Iechyd lleol, Cyngor Sir Ceredigion ac Addysg a Gwella Iechyd Cymru“
“Dros y blynyddoedd i ddod, ac wrth weithio gyda phartneriaid, rydym yn awyddus i gyfrannu mwyfwy at gwrdd ag anghenion hyfforddi ein gwasanaeth iechyd. Rwy’n siŵr bydd y Ganolfan newydd yn adnodd pwysig yn hyn o beth. Dyma ni heddiw yn gosod sylfeini ar gyfer twf darpariaeth addysg gofal iechyd yma yn Aberystwyth ar gyfer y dyfodol.”

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Minister opens new Healthcare Education Centre at Aberystwyth University Wales’

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Health Minister will open a new £1.7 million center to train NHS staff at Aberystwyth University today (Friday 30 September).The University has created a suite of high-quality clinical practice rooms within its new Healthcare Education Centre, which is located opposite Bronglais Hospital in the town. The £1.7 million development was supported by a grant of £500,000 from the Welsh Government. A central part of the new site is a Clinical Skills Unit with high-fidelity simulation areas that reflect the patient’s journey from home and community services through to assessment, planned and acute care. The new teaching equipment includes virtual reality headsets for experiencing ageing and life-size human models that simulate a wide variety of health conditions. Aberystwyth University’s first ever cohort of nursing students began their studies at the Centre at the start of September. The new developments are expected to be a big boost to retain and recruit NHS staff, particularly in mid Wales. Health Minister Eluned Morgan MS said: “I am delighted to open this new centre at Aberystwyth University. It is an excellent collaboration between the health boards and the University and will provide a boost to nurse recruitment in this area.“ I am also really pleased that students will have the opportunity to study through the medium of Welsh, which will help deliver our plans to increase the use of Welsh language in the health service, as set out in our More than Just Words strategy.” Nursing education at Aberystwyth University has been developed with the support of several partners, including Hywel Dda, Betsi Cadwaladr and Powys local health boards as well as service users and carers. Health Education and Improvement Wales awarded a Welsh Government-funded contract to Aberystwyth University to educate both adult and mental health nurses. The new degree courses offer students who started their studies this year the opportunity to study up to half of their course through the medium of Welsh. Aberystwyth University Vice-Chancellor Professor Elizabeth Treasure added: “It is a great honour to have the Minister visit us to open the Centre, which is a significant investment for mid Wales. I am confident this will boost the recruitment and retention of staff both locally and regionally. And, by offering much of the training in Welsh, it will also benefit the language provision in our health service.“ We are very grateful to the Welsh Government for supporting the project. Thanks go to all our partners who have helped make this happen, including the local health boards, Ceredigion Council and Health Education and Improvement Wales.“ Over the years ahead, and working with partners, we are keen to make an increasing contribution to meeting the needs of our NHS. I’m sure that the new Centre will be an important resource in that effort. We are today laying the foundations for the growth of healthcare education here in Aberystwyth into the future.”

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Extreme droughts sparked cultural leaps in human evolution

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EXTREME droughts lasting tens of thousands of years played a critical role in human evolution by forcing Homo sapiens to develop the culture and tools to cope, according to new research.

An international team of researchers, including academics from Aberystwyth University and across a wide range of disciplines, extracted two 280-metre cores of sediment from the Chew Bahir basin in southern Ethiopia. This area boasts a large concentration of human fossils and is where early humans lived during the Ice Age between 2.5 million and 11,700 years ago.

The cores give the most complete record across the longest period for humans living in this area and provide unprecedented insight into how climate influenced their biological and cultural transformation.

In a paper published today in the journal ‘Nature Geoscience’, the research found that between 620,000 and 275,000 years ago, humans lived in long-lasting and stable conditions in southern Ethiopia alongside a range of closely related groups.

However, between 275,000 and 60,000 years ago, the area was rocked by extensive natural climate changes which transformed areas of lush vegetation and deep lakes into deserts and small salty puddles.

The research demonstrated that these changes in climate forced humans to adapt culturally, socially and technologically, developing enhanced language, sophisticated hunting methods, and stone tools such as blades and spear points.

The period between 60,000 and 10,000 years ago contained the most extreme drought and likely forced humans to move to wetter regions in north east Africa and the Mediterranean.

However, while Homo sapiens were able to develop strategies to help them adapt, other human species like Homo habilis and Homo erectus were unable to do so, which led to their extinction.

The extracted cores are among the most detailed obtained from the region, giving researchers the opportunity to examine every single decade’s climate for the past 620,000 years every half a centimetre of sediment.

Professor Helen Roberts and Professor Henry Lamb, both from Aberystwyth University’s Department of Geography and Earth Sciences, worked on the project, which involved researchers from 19 institutions in six countries.

Professor Roberts said: “These findings take us a step closer to understanding the links between past climate, the environment and human evolution. The period we studied was one of great human innovation in how people interacted with each other, their culture, and their use of stone tools. Because of our findings we can further understand the conditions in which humans lived, how they evolved and developed as societies.

“It also has resonance today as our project helped us explore how different climate drivers interacted in the past. This is something that can be translated into the modern day and help us to understand climate and climate change now.”

Dr Verena Foerster at the University of Cologne’s Institute of Geography Education, which also took part in the research, said: “In view of current threats to the human habitat from climate change and the overuse of natural resources through human activity, understanding the relationship between climate and human evolution has become more relevant than ever.”

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