University of Hertfordshire joins new network to support people living with frailty

7 June 2021

The University of Hertfordshire has joined a new network to create and catalyse a robotics for healthcare community, which connects researchers, health and social care professionals, service users, regulators and policy makers, to effect the wider use of healthcare robots to support people living with frailty in the community. The EMERGENCE network is being led by UWE Bristol in partnership with Herts and three other UK universities, Sheffield, Heriot Watt, Sheffield Hallam.

The EMERGENCE network will explore how robots can be used to support people to better self-manage the conditions that result from frailty and, by providing information and data to healthcare practitioners, enabling more timely interventions.

This project is supported through a three-year £700,000 EPSRC NetworkPlus grant.

The EMERGENCE consortium is a world class multi-disciplinary team who bring not only their expertise in healthcare technology research, but also innovative living lab testbeds from across the country (Assisted Living Studio at Bristol Robotics Lab covering the South West, the National Robotarium in Edinburgh together with the Health Innovation South East Scotland’s Midlothian test bed, the Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre and CATCH HomeLab in Sheffield, and the Robot House at the University of Hertfordshire covering the South East).

Each of the testbeds collaborate with their regional Academic Health Science Networks, care commissioning groups, Integrated Care Systems, hospital trusts, as well as residential and community care providers and local authority councils. By bringing together their existing individual regional networks, EMERGENCE plan to create an exceptional and strong national network. The EMERGENCE consortium’s testbeds have already been enabling some of the key foundational research underpinning assistive robotics, including Internet of Things and intelligent sensing, as part of user-centred, open innovation research projects. Together they will bring the interdisciplinary skills and complementary approaches needed to spearhead a shared learning initiative to drive and coordinate the development of robotics technology for frailty in all sectors of health and social care.

In addition to their healthcare partners, the network also has on board robotic companies such as Consequential, Cyberselves, and PAL Robotics. EMERGENCE partners also include Skills for Care UK, who will advise on understanding care work force future skills development requirements with particular focus on the role of the social care workforce and the impact on their future learning and development needs. Utilising the consortium’s international links with partners, the network have already setup agreements to collaborate and bring international learning to help inform national developments. These include the consortium on Neurodegeneration in Aging and AGE-WELL, the National Rehabilitation Centre, Seoul, South Korea and the Smart Life Care Co-creation Studio, Kitakyushu Academic Research City, Japan.

The network will nurture and support a community of researchers in healthcare and robotics through pilot feasibility studies, sponsored and facilitated by the network to develop new approaches beyond the state-of-the-art. £300k will be made available in total for these pilot projects.

Farshid Amirabdollahian, Professor of Human-Robot Interaction at the University of Hertfordshire and the lead of the work package on safety, regulation and ethics for integration said: "In order to ensure adoption of these emerging technologies and ensure that healthcare robotic solutions are easily deployed and integrated as part of frailty care, it is important to define the safety, regulatory and ethical requirements and frameworks. The EMERGENCE network will organise workshops for robotics researchers and companies on how to conduct risk assessments, hazard analysis and support them in interpreting and applying regulatory requirements in health and social care."


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