Surrey University has launched its Innovation for Health programme. It is aimed at the training graduates to work in both the health and engineering sciences. The goal is to deliver engineers who can build the next generation of healthcare devices.
According to Professor Max Lu, President and Vice Chancellor of the University of Surrey: “The Innovation for Health programme is another example of the University’s ambition to drive innovation for the benefit of our society. In addition to providing opportunities for cross-disciplinary collaboration to develop integrated solutions for future healthcare, this programme will also equip our students with the skills and cutting-edge technology, so that they will not only be job ready but also will be able to lead change in their profession. The research projects that will take place in this new facility will lead to innovative devices and therapies to improve people’s lives.”
Five new undergraduate courses being introduced
The first phase of the programme sees five new undergraduate courses being introduced, Data Science for Health, Electronic Engineering for Medicine and Healthcare, Medical Engineering, Biomedicine (Electronic Engineering) and Biomedicine (Data Science). Students from healthcare, biomedical and engineering will work together in a brand new facility at Surrey University. Called the Innovation for Health building, it cost £12.5 million to build.
Housing the students together is designed to promote interdisciplinary thinking. The university is hoping that it will enable a range of new hybrid research projects. University of Surrey has a history of supporting spin-offs from its graduates. It also has a number of long-term research contracts with commercial organisations. Students will be able to take advantage of this to develop their ideas into fully commercial products.
Two projects are already underway
The 5G test bed at the University of Surrey sponsored by Huawei is also being used in healthcare projects at the university. This is already being used in a project to help those with dementia. The project brings together Surrey and Borders NHS Trust, the Alzheimer’s Society, other partners and researchers from the university. It is investigating the potential for robotics, wearables and remote monitoring systems. The goal is to observe the patient and offer real-time information on how to manage their symptoms at home.
A separate project involving NHS24 and Docobo Ltd is targeting cancer patients to help alleviate some of the more extreme reactions to chemotherapy. Patients are given a mobile phone with an app in which they record symptoms twice daily. This data is then assessed by a system which can trigger alerts to medical staff. Staff are then able to decide if medical assistance needs to be sent to the patient, if they need to attend the hospital or if they can be treated at home.
Both of these projects are of immediate interest to the NHS. They offer opportunities to reduce pressure on hospital beds by treating patients at home. The dementia project also offers benefits for local authorities by helping them better manage limited community care resources.
There is a growing interest in the use of technology to improve healthcare. In May 2016, the Tällt Ventures Healthtech Disruption Report 2016 (registration required) looked at startups in the healthcare market. It claimed there were over 1 million start-up companies worldwide involved in the healthcare market. Between them they had attracted more than $5.8 billion in funding during 2015.
Interestingly there is no mention of cybersecurity in this release. Healthcare devices have come under fire for not being secure. The University of Surrey also houses the Surrey Centre for Cyber Security. It is surprising that none of their researchers are housed in the Innovation for Healthcare facility.