SoRo for Health: Implantable soft robotics for restoration of physiological function

Project Details

Description

SoRo for Health is a unique interdisciplinary Platform uniting three new and rapidly advancing areas of science (soft robotics, advanced biomaterials and bioprinting, regenerative medicine) in a collaboration that will deliver transformative technological solutions to major unmet health problems. We are a collaborative scientific group including representatives from three of the most exciting and rapidly advancing technology areas in the world. Soft robotics is a new branch of robotics that uses compliant materials to create robots that move in ways mirroring those in nature; a new paradigm that is already transforming fields as diverse as aerospace and manufacturing. Advanced biomaterials is a rapidly progressing field exploring the application of novel and conventional materials to restoring structure and function. It has recently been augmented by advances in 3D- and Bio-printing with seminal clinical breakthroughs. Regenerative medicine uses a range of biological tools, such as cells, genes and biomaterials, to replace and restore function in patients with a range of disorders. It explores the interface between materials and cells and tissues and has been applied to regenerate critical organs and tissues. Our three groups have combined over the last few years to develop a range of prototype solutions to unmet health needs, in areas as diverse as breathing and swallowing, motor disorders and cardiovascular disease. Here we seek to further coalesce our activity in a unique EPSRC Platform with five primary goals. Firstly and most importantly, we will support, retain and develop the careers of three dynamic rising stars (postdoctoral research assistants, PDRAs) who might otherwise be lost from the field. Primarily supporting their career development, we will thereby also ensure the provision of a cadre of stellar individuals with cross-cutting scientific skills and leadership training who can provide leadership and direction to this nascent, but incredibly exciting, field of Soft Robotics (SoRo) for Health. This will benefit these scientists, the field, and the UK through scientific advance and commercial partnerships. Secondly, we will support our PDRAs to explore novel and high-risk hypotheses related to our combined fields through a flexible inbuilt funding stream. This will help their development, but also generate new ideas and technologies to take forward towards further scientific exploration and, where appropriate, clinic; ideas that might otherwise have fallen by the funding wayside. Thirdly, we will expand and develop a vibrant international network that will further support the development of our stars as well as energising the whole field internationally, with its hub here in the UK. Fourthly, we will engage with end-users, from both healthcare professional and patient/carer communities. We will use professional facilitators and established qualitative techniques to identify the key challenges and opportunities for SoRo as it seeks to address the outstanding and imminent issues in population health and healthcare. Finally, we will work with UK industry and biotech business leaders to develop an effective, streamlined route to IP protection, application and commercialisation that gives SoRo for Health technologies the best possible chance for widespread health gains and speedy application to those in need. Thus, the SoRo for Health Platform combines the talents, and specifically emergent talents, of internationally-leading groups in three new areas with the common Vision of transforming the lives of millions through the development of responsive, customised soft robotic-based implants and devices to address some of the major unmet health challenges of the 21st Century.
StatusActive
Effective start/end date1/06/1931/05/23