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Predicting behaviour to save lives: Research with South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue comes to fruition

Thursday, October 6th, 2016

Dr Dermot Breslin

How can South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue (SYFR) plan to maximise the effect of its fire prevention initiatives?

Research from the Management School, in collaboration with Coventry university, models community behaviour so SYFR can identify high-risk areas and intervene – reaching vulnerable communities and reducing incidents. This decision support tool, called Premonition, enables fire services to input scenarios – the mapping software then combines geographical, demographical and behavioural data to predict areas where there might be increased risk of fires and other emergencies.

This informs SYFR’s resource planning and means that fire prevention initiatives can be focused on the relevant areas, protecting the most vulnerable in our community.

Dermot Breslin from the Management School (pictured above) explained: “We live in increasingly complex social networks and our behaviours are influenced by many factors. This predictive model unpacks the complexity so SYFR, and potentially services in other areas, can manage their resources and services targeted at the most vulnerable groups in our community.

“We hope that over time this will lead to improved community behaviour and less emergencies.”

Hear from the Premonition team in this video:

Contact Dermot on

Dynamic duo – Senate wins for Dr Newman and Dr Breslin

Monday, May 18th, 2015

_MG_8569  Dr Dermot Breslin

Two Management School academics have been added to the University Senate this year, following an announcement from Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Learning and Teaching Prof Anne Peat last week.

For the third year running, the list of Senate award winners has included Management School staff, a consistent achievement which we’re very proud of.

Dr Nicki Newman, Undergraduate Director for Teaching Quality Enhancement, has been granted an Early Career Senate Award, whilst Dr Dermot Breslin is awarded the Senate Award for Sustained Excellence.

Associate Dean for Learning & Teaching at the School, Prof Paul Latreille, said of the news: “I am delighted. Both awards are of course, eminently well-deserved, reflecting the outstanding contributions Dermot and Nicki make to our students’ experiences here at Sheffield University Management School. Congratulations to both of them.”

Following receipt of their awards at a Graduation Ceremony, winners become Senate Fellows. They follow in the footsteps of Management School colleagues Dr Robert Wapshott (2014) and Dr Tim Vorley (2013).

Student entrepreneurs are inspired at SUMS

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014

Enterprise is embedded in the curriculum at Sheffield University Management School, so it’s no wonder that start-ups keep emerging from our module in New Venture Creation.

Overseen by Dr Dermot Breslin, the module (MGT380) is inspiring its students to set up new companies. It provides students with the opportunity to draw on knowledge learned throughout their degree as they develop a business idea, from inception to pre-start-up. Building on areas including strategy, finance and organisational behaviour, business ideas can include for-profit manufacturing and service organisations, based in the UK or overseas and social enterprises.

Recent successful start-ups include Go Fresh Café, started by Danielle Howarth. Danielle used the module to create the business, which started in Tickhill, near Doncaster, over the summer of 2014. You can see updates from Go Fresh Café on Facebook:

Another MGT380 start-up is blossoming in the hands of James Buckley. James’s care company, which you can find more information about at, is going from strength to strength. Friends Together offers support and guidance to people with learning difficulties, people on the autistic spectrum and those with difficult epilepsy.

James said: “We’re not a charity: we’re a business providing services that we believe add value to people’s lives. We respect the people who use our services enough to call them customers. We respect their autonomy and we’re grateful they chose us; our aim is to live up to their confidence with our commitment.

“Growing up with my sister Katie, who has profound learning difficulties and epilepsy, I’ve seen and taken part in the struggles that go with that. Back in 2008, I began working for a domiciliary care agency, and took on the role of my sister Katie’s Personal Assistant. I supported her in managing her budget and assisted her in activities, but the choices and ideas were Katie’s.

“That’s where my inspiration for what I do at Friends Together comes from: I saw what happened for my sister when she became a customer.  I saw first-hand how control of her own personal budget gave Katie a sense of her own life. As she settled into the driving seat, Katie began to achieve things we’d been told she’d never be able to do.”

We’re always delighted to hear about our students’ entrepreneurial endeavours, including those of Ollie Chappell and The Bear Socks Company (, which provides high quality sock garments aimed at reducing the impact of global warming, as well as contributing to charity supporting bear welfare.

So many of the organisations our students start-up are underpinned by the School’s mission and vision – socially responsible, ethical and sustainable.

Firefighters to use sophisticated modelling techniques to improve fire prevention

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014

Dr Dermot Breslin

A new way to keep our most vulnerable communities safe from fire is being developed by universities in Sheffield, in collaboration with frontline firefighters.

The project, called PREMONITION, has been launched as a joint venture between the University of Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam University, and is being carried out by experts in behavioural risk analysis, intelligent simulations and in the study of social processes.

Sophisticated computer modelling techniques, such as large scale agent-based modelling, will enable firefighters to draw together, for the first time, many different strands of information, including geographical, demographical and behavioural data to build up a picture of an area and predict where fires and other emergencies might occur.

The PREMONITION simulation will enable firefighters identify where the most vulnerable areas are – considering, for example, times of the year or the day when risks are greatest. Some of this information is already available to fire services through online sources, or from local authority records, but due to the vast amount of data it is difficult for humans to make sense of this information and combine it  in real-time to support decision-making.

Further layers of detail are also being added to the computational model about the routines and behaviours of people living within particular areas, taken from previous research of residents carried out by South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service, to produce even more accurate results.

The primary aim of the PREMONITION intelligent system is to enable fire services to make better decisions about where to allocate resources and improve planning and fire prevention initiatives.

Dr Daniela Romano, in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Sheffield, is leading the project, along with Dr Dermot Breslin, from Sheffield University Management School (pictured), Dr Stephen Dobson, in Sheffield Hallam University’s Business Systems Department, and experts from South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service (SYFRS)

“We live in increasingly complex social networks, with our behaviours being influenced by many interrelated factors,” explains Dr Breslin. “Although fire services already have access to much of this information, there is no tool that can help them grasp all of the different strands and utilise the information in real-time to make decisions. This predictive model will unpack this complexity, and help manage resources and services targeted at the most vulnerable groups in our community”.

The project is funded by SYFRS, through its Stronger Safer Communities Reserve, and is targeted, initially, at communities in Sheffield. If successful, the programme could be made available to fire services across the country.

Dr Stephen Dobson inSheffield Hallam University’s Business Systems Department, said: “The Stronger Safer Communities Reserve has provided an incredible opportunity for university collaboration in its funding of this project. It is great to see the University of Sheffield’s Department of Computer Science, its Management School, as well as Sheffield Hallam Business School, coming together to use research to support the safety and wellbeing of people in the region.”

South Yorkshire Fire & Rescue’s Nicola Smith, said:“The research we are supporting with our academic partners is a cutting edge exploration of behaviours during our prevention and response activities. Partnerships with well respected organisations like the University of Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam University will place us at the forefront of modern approaches to delivering improved community safety.”

Management School stars make the Academic Awards 2014 shortlist

Monday, May 12th, 2014

Learning and teaching quality is at the top of the agenda at Sheffield University Management School, and we’re delighted to announce that our successes are being recognised on a University-wide level.

The Academic Awards 2014, organised by Sheffield Students’ Union with shortlists nominated by students, are awards given to staff and students to celebrate the efforts they make to create an excellent educational experience for all Sheffield students. Despite hefty demands on academics’, support staff’s and student representatives’ time, these individuals are nominated due to their sustained efforts to go out of their way to improve learning, teaching and support to students.

The University is keen to reward excellent teaching, and recognise that studying is much more than attending lectures – which is why we’re so proud to see two members of the Management School’s academic staff nominated this year.

Dr Dermot Breslin, lecturer in entrepreneurship, has made the shortlist for ‘The USE Enterprise Award’. Dermot’s commitment to working closely with the University of Sheffield Enterprise (USE, has clearly struck a chord with our students.

The second member of Management School staff to be nominated is shortlisted in the ‘Best Postgraduate Supervisor Award’. Dr Panayiota Alevizou is a lecturer in marketing who joined us as a member of staff in 2012, following completing the Sheffield MBA and a PhD at the School. She teaches two modules on our MSc Marketing programmes – her teaching is informed by extensive business and research experience. We’re delighted that her supervisory skills have been recognised on this high-profile platform.

They’re in good company on the shortlist, but we wish the best of luck to both Dermot and Panayiota!

Under the category of ‘Best Educational Event’, Inspiration & Co 2014 is a strong contender. We were thrilled to see this appear in the nominations as Professor Penny Dick, from the Management School’s Institute of Work Psychology, was voted as one of the top 12 most inspirational academics in the University and conducted a TED-style talk as part of the event.

You can view all of Penny’s talk below.

Congratulations to all of our recent learning and teaching nomination – it’s fantastic to see such prominent and inspirational individuals representing the Management School at this level.

Best paper award for Dermot Breslin in the ‘Entrepreneurial Learning in Organisations’ track at the ISBE annual conference

Monday, November 14th, 2011

At the Institute of Small Business and Entrepreneurship (ISBE) annual conference, which took place at the Management School during the 9th and 10th November, Dermot Breslin (lecturer in Entrepreneurship) received the best paper award in the ‘Entrepreneurial Learning in Organisations’ track.

The paper was entitled “Entrepreneurship: Learning to Evolve”, which presents an evolutionary perspective on entrepreneurial learning. His co-author was Colin Jones, University of Tasmania, Australia.

Dermot is part of a growing international group of researchers who have been developing an evolutionary approach to study changing behaviour in organisations, including a track at the annual European Academy of Management (EURAM) conference.

You can download the paper, “Entrepreneurship:Learning to Evolve”  here.

Further information: