“The Faculty are delighted with the strong Ulster University REF2021 performance in Unit of Assessment 12 – Engineering at Ulster which has seen 90% of our research outputs rated as world-leading or internationally excellent while having more than doubled the number of eligible staff submitted since the last exercise.

This coupled with our inclusion in a group of institutions who are ranked joint first in the UK for having attained a 100% 4*/3* rating in the quality of the impact from their research, is a testament to the staff in the School of Engineering who have actively contributed to this success.”

Associate Dean R&I Professor Brian J. Meenan

People Involved

“Engineering research at Ulster has continued to grow both in terms of scale and quality. We have more than doubled the number of our staff submitted to REF since 2014 and our percentage of research deemed to be world-leading has more than tripled.

Conducting impactful research has always been key to our strategy and we are delighted to be recognised amongst the top tier of Universities delivering exclusively 3* and 4* research impact in engineering.

In addition, we have strived to create an environment that supports all out researchers in their ambition to realise the highest quality research and are delighted to also have the entirety of our research environment recognised as 3*/4*.”

Professor Dewar Finlay, Research Director

Impact Case Study - Stryker Success

Automated Defibrillator Technology for the Successful Treatment of Sudden Cardiac Arrest

  • Background

    There are approximately 30,000 sudden cardiac arrest (SCA) events in the UK per year. This figure approaches 6 million when scaled globally. SCA often happens without warning, and it can happen to anyone, anywhere and at any time. SCA can strike regardless of age, race or gender. The majority of these events take place outside of the hospital environment. A SCA event is incompatible with life if there is no immediate and effective treatment with the overall chances of survival less than 10%. SCA is responsible for more deaths than breast cancer, lung cancer, and HIV/AIDS combined.

  • Summary of Research

    Ulster University has a well-established record of accomplishment in the development of defibrillator technology.  Our early work at Ulster and NIBEC on defibrillation technology was very much based on realising the vision of Professor Frank Pantridge (Royal Victoria Hospital Belfast) – pioneer of mobile coronary care. Pantridge’s vision in the 1950s was that a defibrillator should be beside every fire extinguisher.

    Devices at that time were extremely large and this was mainly due to the lack of miniaturised electronic components – particularly those required to power a defibrillator and provide the electrical energy needed to produce the required shock.

    Much of our early work was focused on the development of suitable technology to allow this miniaturisation to be realised. These developments, including the integration and in-house research of new flat panel displays, compact capacitors, flexible defibrillators pads, high density batteries and embedded software primarily led to a device that was suitable for transportation, in an ambulance, to a patient suspected of having a cardiac arrest.

    Ultimately, however, this work provided the platform for which the modern wall mounted AED is based on.  Our research has continued to optimise the technology supporting the development of world leading AED products.  This has included the development of medical device grade algorithms for automated ECG analysis through to the development of new concepts in medical device user experience.

  • Summary of  Impact 

    In 1997, new defibrillation technology developed at NIBEC was spun out to form HeartSine Ltd in Belfast. In 2015 HeartSine was acquired by Physio-Control which was subsequently acquired by Stryker. The financial investment and the growth in employment have had a significant impact on the Northern Ireland Economy. As a testament to the global brand identity that HeartSine had established prior to the acquisition, Stryker, a Fortune 500 company, has retained the HeartSine product identity in its current product range and supported the further development of its highly innovative technology.

    As the number of lives saved with this technology continues to grow the personal impact of this research is profound. While the value of each life saved is unquantifiable, the impact upon the bystander who has administered the AED is also significant. The advancements in the AED technology mean that the citizen first responder is offered advice and guidance to administer high quality CPR. Hence, bystanders who witness a cardiac arrest are now empowered to act in a lay rescuer lifesaving capacity. While the majority of us are, fortunately, likely to remain unaware of the level at which the HeartSine-Stryker AED technology operates, efforts to ensure accessibility all around us should make us feel reassured that we are all potential beneficiaries, either as recipients or providers of this lifesaving intervention.

    As a testament to the continuing value of the research undertaken by NIBEC in AED technology, the collaborative arrangements with HeartSine-Stryker have remained active. In addition to ongoing research programs on specific aspects of AED technology the collaboration is also evidenced by joint representation on key international scientific advisory panels. This joint input is providing scientific direction in ECG algorithm development to medical device regulators (e.g. FDA), the medical industry and clinical bodies.

  • Related Research
    • Walsh, S.J., McClelland, A.J., Owens, C.G., Allen, J., Anderson, J.M. and Adgey, A.J., 2004. Efficacy of distinct energy delivery protocols comparing two biphasic defibrillators for cardiac arrest. The American journal of cardiology, 94(3), pp.378-380.
    • Kidwai, B.J., McIntyre, A., Anderson, J. and Adgey, A.J., 2002. Optimization of transthoracic ventricular defibrillation - biphasic and triphasic shocks, waveform rounding, and synchronized shock delivery. Journal of electrocardiology, 35(3), pp.235-244.
    • Daly, M.J., Finlay, D.D., Scott, P.J., Nugent, C.D., Adgey, A.A.J. and Harbinson, M.T., 2013. Pre-hospital body surface potential mapping improves early diagnosis of acute coronary artery occlusion in patients with ventricular fibrillation and cardiac arrest. Resuscitation, 84(1), pp.37-41
    • Howe, A., Escalona, O.J., Di Maio, R., Massot, B., Cromie, N.A., Darragh, K.M., Adgey, J. and McEneaney, D.J., 2014. A support vector machine for predicting defibrillation outcomes from waveform metrics. Resuscitation, 85(3), pp.343-349
    • Mackle, C., Bond, R., Torney, H., McBride, R., McLaughlin, J., Finlay, D., Biglarbeigi, P., Brisk, R., Harvey, A. and Mceneaney, D., 2020. A Data-Driven Simulator for the Strategic Positioning of Aerial Ambulance Drones Reaching Out-of-Hospital Cardiac Arrests: A Genetic Algorithmic Approach. IEEE Journal of Translational Engineering in Health and Medicine, 8, pp.1-10.
    • Cromie, N.A., Allen, J.D., Navarro, C., Turner, C., Anderson, J.M. and Adgey, A.A.J., 2010. Assessment of the impedance cardiogram recorded by an automated external defibrillator during clinical cardiac arrest. Critical care medicine, 38(2), pp.510-517.

Research Outputs