Developing technology to keep people out of hospital

Businesses in the West of England developing health technology products can now benefit from a new £5m centre at the University of the West of England (UWE Bristol).

UWE Bristol reports the Health Tech Hub at its Frenchay campus is focused on advancing technology that enables people to live independently and manage their own health and wellbeing, ensuring they spend as little time as possible in hospital.

The Hub offers companies tailored support for their product development and prototype testing, including access to state of the art technology and specialist support from UWE Bristol academics. It aims to boost regional economic growth, create new regional jobs and international recognition of the vibrant health and life sciences sector in the West of England.

Professor Steven West, Vice-Chancellor of UWE Bristol and Chair of the West of England Academic Health Science Network, said “This World Class facility brings together clinicians, scientists and industry experts to solve some of the most challenging issues of health and social care practice. I am convinced that this will deliver tangible results for patients and grow a vibrant health tech cluster and collaboration here in the West of England. It links closely with the ongoing work in diagnostics, robotics and 5G fast data monitoring and transfer in real time 24/7.”

The 900m² facility is located in UWE Bristol’s University Enterprise Zone, which also houses Bristol Robotics Laboratory, the largest robotics complex in the UK, the Future Space incubator for high tech start ups, and the Launch Space innovation incubator for graduate tech start ups.

Products in development within the facility include next generation diagnostic wearable biochemical sensors able to detect diseases and monitor long-term health conditions, and highly sensitive, home use devices for the rapid detection of infections.

Professor Janice Kiely, Co-Director of the Health Tech Hub, said “Today doctors often give people antibiotics as standard, which are suitable for some patients but not all. The type of technology we are looking at here aims to enable doctors to test the sample there and then, rather than having to send samples off to a lab. This allows them to administer a precise treatment, reducing the global threat of antimicrobial resistance.”

Companies can also benefit from a live testing apartment within the facility. The fully furnished one bedroom flat enables engineers to measure the functionality of their products and, using cameras, monitor how people might interact with them while at home. The space will also allow them to evaluate the use of new home diagnostics, for example smart toilets, and new systems for treatment monitoring, as well as activity monitoring and prompting of everyday tasks.

Tech companies can get feedback from the public through focus groups and other user-led evaluation organised within the Health Tech Hub, before they launch fully fledged products.

Other provisions available within the facility will help companies to develop technology related to digital health, which looks at how information about someone’s health is stored, communicated and displayed. Within the cell culture facility, experts can look at the biocompatibility of health technology, for example implantable sensors for the unobtrusive, continuous monitoring of indicators of health. While in the genomic laboratory, companies can develop technologies for personalised medicine, which are tailored according to an individual’s genetic make up.

With its links to industry, the Academic Health Science Network and Medilink, a national network for health technology businesses, the Health Tech Hub can help companies to accelerate commercialisation and adoption into healthcare environments.

For the UWE Bristol, it also provides the opportunity to engage with the local health tech business community and, given its particular expertise in biosensors, diagnostics and independent living technology, participate in knowledge exchange activities.

Professor Richard Luxton, Co-Director of the Health Tech Hub, said “A key aspect of this centre is developing relationships with companies, from which we are hoping research projects will develop. Given that there are no large health and life science companies in the Bristol area but 100s of small businesses developing health technology, we are using the Health Tech Hub as a lens to focus that vitality.”

Funded by the European Regional Development Fund and the West of England Local Enterprise Partnership (LEP), the Health Tech Hub is managed by a consortium led by UWE Bristol. Other partners comprise the Academic Health Science Network, the University of Bristol, Designability, Sirona and P3Medical.

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