A £7m Connected Health Research centre was launched at the University of Ulster today by Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster.
The Connected Health Innovation Centre (CHIC) – the only one of its kind in Northern Ireland – issupported by a £5 million R&D grant from Invest Northern Ireland with an additional £1.8 million investment by a consortium of leading technology companies.
The funding package was announced by the Minister during a visit to the Nanotechnology & Integrated Bioengineering Centre (NIBEC) at Jordanstown earlier today.
Connected health is an emerging model for healthcare delivery that uses technology to provide healthcare remotely.
It has the potential to improve patient care, accelerate diagnosis, and allow patients with long term or chronic health conditions to be remotely monitored and advisedby medical staff without having to visit a surgery or hospital.
Launching the centre, Minister Foster said: “The Connected Health Innovation Centre will bring together leading academic and industry researchers to carry out strategic research focused on connected health solutions. This collaboration will see businesses, universities and health providers innovating together to create new products and services that will improve healthcare provision and deliver real benefits for Northern Ireland companies.“Northern Ireland is leading the way in the field of Connected Health and this new centre further consolidates that position and provides an excellent forum within which to develop innovative approaches to the provision of health and social services.
CHIC Manager, Stephen McComb added: “Connected Health focuses on the use of technology to improve health care. It will use technology to provide opportunities for care provision, diagnostics and support beyond the hospital setting.”
“It isa rapidly evolving area of multi-disciplinary research spanning engineering, technology, healthcare, medical devices,academia and industry.
“Connected health research which is academically inspired, industry led and supported by the government will be the driver for high tech economic growth in Northern Ireland. It has enormous possibilities for job creation, inward investment and pioneering research and development work.
“The Centre will be an ideal platform for showcasing the University’s pioneering connected health research. It will provide Northern Ireland with a world-class, industry led organisation and facility, within which high-quality R&D, networking, Intellectual Property (IP) generation and brokering can be conducted on connected health applications," he said.
Professor James McLaughlin, Director of the Engineering Research Institute at Ulster, who is the project’s co-principal investigator – with Professor Chris Nugent, has strongly influenced the growth of engineering research, particularly in the area of connected health.
He is the founder and director of spin-out companies such as Intelesens responsive healthcare and SiSaF which deals with innovations in topical drug delivery systems.He said CHIC represents anew approach to funding R&D.
“It places a much greater emphasis on collaboration between academia, industry and healthcare providers.
“From a University point of view, we have major interests in research and innovation, and we’ll be very much looking at how we can help local companies and SMEs innovate and also how the University can attract some of the larger international companies to Northern Ireland to take advantage of our capabilities and research facilities,” he said.
Professor McLaughlin continued: “CHIC is the next step in building a Northern Ireland connected health eco-system. By developing stronger links between academic researchers and customer focused companies, it will de-risk innovation for the companies and reduce the time to market for new products and services.
“This will create opportunities for companies to compete globally and reach new markets as well as giving local health providers access to leading edge solutions and skills.
”With the world's population of elderly people expected to grow rapidly over the next half century, technology is expected to play a key role in the care of the elderly by helping them maintain their independence within their own home environment."
Professor Chris Nugent, Professor of Biomedical Engineering in the Computer Science Research Institute (CSRI) at the University has played a key role in developing Ulster’s research capability and expertise in Connected Health,specifically through the research and development of mobile and pervasive technologies to improve the quality of life for elderly people and those with long term chronic health conditions.
He said: “We are delighted to be working with an industrial consortium within this context. This will provide the necessary resources to deliver technology based solutions to support those with long term chronic conditions.
“In addition, the Centre will provide a unique opportunity to work with health providers in both the design and evaluation of new connected health solutions. We hope that this will assist in underpinning the long term success of the Centre.”
Announcing the funding package for the Connected Health Innovation Centre, Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster said collaboration between academia, businesses and health providers would create new products and services that will improve healthcare provision and deliver real benefits for Northern Ireland companies.
“Northern Ireland is leading the way in the field of Connected Health and this new centre further consolidates that position and provides an excellent forum within which to develop innovative approaches to the provision of health and social services.”
Caption: Professor Jim Mclaughlin with Minister Arlene Foster at this morning's launch of the £7m Connected Health Innovation Centre (CHIC) at the University of Ulster