There was a healthy turnout for Co-Innovate’s MedTech Connects event at Brunel University London, in partnership with South East Health Technologies Alliance (SEHTA). With senior academics from across the university presenting, the event constituted a rare opportunity for SME’s working at the cutting edge of healthcare to discover the range of support and collaboration opportunities that Brunel offers, through the ERDF-funded Co-Innovate scheme.
Following opening remarks from Dr David Parry, CEO SEHTA, and Professor Geoff Rodgers, Vice Provost, Research, Brunel University London, Ian Ferris outlined the range of collaboration opportunities available for SMEs, both through student projects, and academic collaborations using our Brunel Innovation Vouchers, before handing over to the academics.
Dr Gabriella Spinelli explained how design plays a crucial role in healthcare innovation, and how Brunel’s association with design innovation for healthcare goes beyond the university’s history, to the man from whom the institution takes its name, Isambard Kingdom Brunel, who designed the first pre-fab hospital for the British Army during the Crimean War. Dr Spinelli spoke of design’s importance in successful innovation, through the Discover, Define, Develop and Deliver framework. She went on to showcase a range of student-led and research-driven design projects demonstrating how an in depth understanding of the person - from a cognitive and emotional point of view - and the awareness of the socio-economical and built environments, can lead to innovation in the health and wellbeing arena. The portfolio of projects included example of how the application of metaphors can facilitate the adoption of digital technology, the Fold Flat Chair for children with Achondroplasia, and My Click a wearable and inclusive call alarm device.
Professor Wamadeva Balachandran presented the work of the Electrical Systems Research Group in Point Of Care Technology for diagnosis of infectious diseases. He noted how technological innovations, such as smart devices, machine learning and AI can tackle long-term cost and resource challenges faced by healthcare systems. His examples included a self-testing kit for STIs, and an ear-based ECG using graphene sensors and Smartphones.
Professor Ashraf Khir, Professor of Cardiovascular Mechanics, spoke about Biomedical Engineering Research, covering Electrical and Electronic Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Chemical Engineering and Material Science. He explained how research in all these disciplines is contributing to treatment of such conditions as Parkinson’s Disease, depression and coronary disease. Further work includes adapting Internet of Things (IoT) and Smart technology to monitor elderly or vulnerable patients in their homes, or monitor usage of Health & Safety assets within hospitals, to maximise value.
Gene research was the topic of Dr Michael Themis from the Department of Life Sciences, who described the genesis of Brunel spin-out TestaVec Ltd, and its pioneering work in the gene therapy research. This includes research into developing a method for predicting the likelihood of success of Gene Therapy, and researching a method for testing a Gene Therapy vector safety. His presentation emphasized the importance of bringing his research into teaching undergraduates and the value of partnerships and collaborations between Universities and industry. His recent SBRI Challenge success is establishing Brunel University London as a centre for gene therapy safety testing.
Dr Will Young, Lecturer in Rehabilitation Psychology, presented on Brunel’s research into the potential use of Virtual Reality in rehabilitation device innovation. He touched on work with immersive technology and gamification to improve balance and movement in patients recovering from stroke and elderly falls, or to introduce external sensory stimuli to improve movement in Parkinson’s sufferers. A further application for Virtual Reality is treating anxiety through Cognitive Behavioural Therapy – such as challenging fear of falling through simulating falls in a VR setting.
Professor Joseph Giacomin from the Human Centred Design Institute spoke about the role of design in aligning user needs to product development, citing MIT research showing that over 80% of new products fail due to lack of user insight. Describing the importance of emotion in moving products from functional benefit, to ritual to myth, he noted how the likes of Apple and Amazon ally their unique technology to a precisely-calibrated user experience. He pointed out how glasses have shed negative associations relating to poor eyesight to become a desirable fashion item.
Dr David Bell, from the Department of Computer Science, presented some of his department’s work in data-driven health projects. He pointed out that, in an age when we are surrounded by data, understanding and analysing it is more difficult than gathering it – correlation does not equal causality. Techniques such as Clustering and Decision Tree Analysis enable the team at Brunel to work with businesses and healthcare providers to both analyse existing data and forecast future developments such as economic and population modelling. He also presented on HecoAnalytics tool, a web-based economic decision-making tool developed at Brunel.
Notwithstanding alarmist newspaper headlines, effectively harnessing technology is crucial to meeting the challenges faced by healthcare systems around the world. Universities provide the ideal environment for the incubation of new innovations, ideas and solutions. London SMEs can access the specialist expertise within Brunel to develop new products and services they are unable to fully resource internally.
To find out more about specific presentations or topics, please feel free to contact the relevant person. If you would like further information, or to discuss your innovation goals, please contact Ian Ferris.
Ian Ferris, Innovation Director, Co-Innovate Programme, firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr Gabriella Spinelli, Reader in Design, College of Engineering, Design & Physical Sciences, email@example.com
Professor Wamadeva Balachandran, Professor & Head of Electrical Systems Research Group, Wamadeva.firstname.lastname@example.org
Professor Ashraf Khir, Prof of Cardiovascular Mechanics, email@example.com
Dr Michael Themis, Department of Life Sciences, Michael.firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr Will Young, Lecturer in Rehabilitation Psychology, Department of Clinical Sciences, email@example.com
Professor Joseph Giacomin, Human Centred Design Institute (HCDI), firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr David Bell, Department of Computer Science, email@example.com
Dr Rachel Burch, Research Support & Development Office, Rachel.firstname.lastname@example.org