Innovation UK > News > Innovation UK Vol6-1 > Pioneering projects at Northumbria University

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Pioneering projects at Northumbria University

From keeping elderly people fit and healthy to helping businesses develop healthcare concepts, Northumbria University is currently investing in a range of projects and programmes that will make a real and lasting difference in society

Northumbria University is investing in an ambitious programme of research that will help the University, the region and the wider community grow in reputation and well being.

The Corporate Strategy at Northumbria University recognises that a difficult economic climate heightens the demand for world-class research with real-life application. With this in mind, and alongside a high-quality research environment with enhanced training, development and career opportunities for all staff and students, Northumbria University has identified a research framework consisting of four broad themes: Health and Wellbeing; Technology and the Environment; People, Society and Business; and Design, Creativity and Digital Media.

Unsurprisingly for a university that educates so many health professionals, Northumbria University undertakes considerable high-quality research around health and well-being. Now, a commitment to further increase collaboration across its academic schools is set to give this work added momentum and provide a comprehensive research spectrum. All of the nine Schools at Northumbria University engage with research and knowledge transfer in the field of health and well-being.

The FISHNETS programme aims to prevent falls among older people by keeping them Fit, Inolved, Safe and Healthy

Added to this is a new £17.8m investment that the Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive at Northumbria University Professor Andrew Wathey believes will strengthen the University?s research and teaching focus through the recruitment of new academic staff. Professor Wathey from Northumbria University said: ?This investment is intended to grow the research strengths at Northumbria University and has already attracted some high-quality staff to the North East who will generate excellence across the board, not only in research, but also in teaching, innovation and employer engagement. ?Our priority is to encourage excellent, inter-disciplinary research that have a real and lasting difference on the community and the economy, enhances the learning experience of students and has a positive, cultural impact.??

Fishnets programme at Northumbria University

One of the research projects in which Northumbria University has been involved is the FISHNETS programme, which aims to prevent falls among older people by keeping them Fit, Involved, Safe, and Healthy through investment in sustainable, community Networks. As part of the initiative, low-level basic services, such as home care and exercise classes, were developed to keep people at home for longer and prevent, or at least delay, admission to hospital or residential care.

Working with a team of older people researchers, Dr Pam Dawson and Dr Glenda Cook from the School of Health, Community and Education Studies at Northumbria University, evaluated the FISHNETS project using an action research approach. They found FISHNETS to be highly successful in changing the service culture from one of individual falls prevention to a whole systems approach. People who attended exercise classes improved in confidence and physical performance and partnership working with older people was critical to the management and success of the project.

The Collaborative Development Network aims to benefit older people

Another project being pioneered at Northumbria University is the Collaborative Development Network, which brings together experts at Northumbria University from a range of disciplines including health, social science, psychology and mathematics, as well as from other universities and international advisers from Australia and South Africa. Building on research which began in the 1980s, the Collaborative Development Network will help to shape the long-term provision of health and social-care services across the UK, which will ultimately benefit older people.

The original research was started by psychologists who wanted to examine cognitive abilities as people get older. Their findings will feed into the Network which will build on three key platforms including work by the British Academy International Research Network on risk and ageing, the UKCRC Centre for Translational Research in Public Health and comprehensive data collated by North East Age Research.

Research into ageing has traditionally been carried out in discrete areas, looking at either psychological issues, community influences or health-related issues. This research draws together social, health and economic factors, and then employs mathematical modelling techniques which will enable accurate planning for the future to be made. Professor Wathey added: ? Northumbria University has a history of creating knowledge and expertise which has direct application to people?s lives. Health and well being is a crucially important area where we believe there is a need for unprecedented innovation and research to improve lives regionally, nationally and internationally in the decades ahead.??

Northumbria University and the Nurture project

One further innovative health project, which is this time based in the School of Design at Northumbria University, is Nurture. Nurture is a £1.6m integrated service helping businesses to develop healthcare concepts, which has been launched to exploit the North East?s strengths in health sciences and design. The service allows businesses to bring successful new products to market, providing them with a clear and practical route to transfer state-of-the-art research into commercial products such as medical devices and technological services.

It offers targeted businesses fast-track support and multidisciplinary expertise to include every stage of product development, from research and concept design through to feasibility, prototyping, design for manufacture and clinical testing. The project is being part financed by the European Regional Development Fund and the regional development agency One North East as well as by Northumbria University. ?In the current economic climate, companies? R&D plans and budgets are often the first area to feel the pain,? explained Bruce Watson, Enterprise Business Manager for the School of Design at Northumbria University.

?Through NURTURE, we aim to ensure that the pipeline of innovative healthcare and well-being ideas continues and that North East SMEs have access to a broad range of development expertise and funding support to keep them at the forefront of this sector. ?This project?s multidisciplinary support will ensure that we maximise new healthcare opportunities across the region.?

Northumbria University
Ellison Place, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 8ST
Tel: +44 (0) 191 232 6002

Added the 27 April 2010 in category Innovation UK Vol6-1

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