UWE Bristol joins forces with BIME to improve life for people with disabilities

Issue date: 14 February 2013

UWE Bristol and the Bath Institute of Medical Engineering (BIME) have recently announced a partnership bringing together UWE's expertise in information technology and medical engineering with BIME's practical experience of working with people who have healthcare problems. The five-year research project will develop smart technologies to support the health and wellbeing within a home environment.

BIME is an independent charity, set up in 1968, to design and develop technology to improve the quality of life of children and adults with disabilities and healthcare problems. It is based at the Wolfson Centre, in the Royal United Hospital in Bath.

UWE has a wealth of academic expertise to offer in medical engineering. This includes its Centre for Innovative Medical Technology and Centre for Machine Vision within the Bristol Robotics Laboratory (BRL), the Institute for Bio-Sensing Technology, and its expertise in product design.

By joining together, the partnership will enable research ideas to become reality, coming up with products that can assist people in maintaining active, independent lives. The research programme will look at how smart home automation and mobile phone technology can be used to support frail elderly people or those with long term conditions, such as dementia and stroke, to live safely and independently in their own homes.

One project has involved undergraduate students in the Product Design Cluster, who have worked with BIME and the Stroke Association to design products to aid stroke patients with everyday living. The project concluded with presentations of concepts to stroke survivors and members of the BIME therapy team.

Catherine Hobbs, UWE's head of the department of engineering, design and mathematics explained, “These are great examples of designing solutions for real life situations, and enable students to gain from BIME's practical experience in ensuring the best product solutions are found.

“The partnership will link undergraduates, postgraduates and researchers at UWE with practitioners and user groups at BIME.”

Associate Professor Dorothy Monekosso, an electronics engineer and an expert in assisted living and smart homes, has just been appointed to work across UWE and BIME as project lead.

Dr Nigel Harris, Director of BIME, said, “We place great emphasis on a sensitive understanding of an individual's needs and adopt a user-centred design approach to ensure that we evolve solutions appropriate to their requirements.

“BIME was started in 1968 when an engineer and a local surgeon embarked on a mission to engineer a better quality of life for those with disabilities and healthcare problems. Since then we have worked on well over 300 projects, with over 100,000 items of equipment having been made available.

“We have strong partnerships with local universities, hospitals and commercial partners and warmly welcome this new partnership with UWE.”

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