New network to tackle frailty using robotics



Heriot-Watt academics are working as part of a new network to create and catalyse robotics to support healthcare in the community.

The network, led by UWE Bristol, connects researchers, health and social care professionals, service users, regulators and policy makers, to encourage the use of healthcare robots to support people living with frailty in the community. The collaboration, called EMERGENCE, also includes Sheffield, Sheffield Hallam and Hertfordshire Universities.

The EMERGENCE network will explore how robots can be used to support people to better self-manage the conditions that result from frailty and, by providing information and data to healthcare practitioners, enable more timely interventions. This project is supported through a three-year £700,000 EPSRC NetworkPlus grant.

The EMERGENCE consortium will trailblazer research into assistive and rehabilitation robotics and recognises the urgent need to join forces and work systematically to develop a clear agenda and roadmap for healthcare robotics research in the UK.  Its vision is to unite a fragmented research community and setup a sustainable framework for bringing healthcare robotics out of the lab and into the real-world. 

The EMERGENCE consortium is a world class multi-disciplinary team that brings together expertise in healthcare technology research with innovative living lab testbeds from across the country, including the National Robotarium in Edinburgh.

Each testbed will collaborate with a regional academic health science network, care commissioning groups, integrated care systems, hospital trusts, as well as residential and community care providers and local authority councils. By bringing together their existing individual regional networks, EMERGENCE plans to create a strong national network. 

Partners also include robotic companies Consequential, Cyberselves, and PAL Robotics, alongside Skills for Care UK, who will advise on understanding the care workforce’s future skills development requirements, with particular focus on the role of the social care workforce and the impact on their future learning and development needs.

Prof Praminda Caleb-Solly, from UWE Bristol, is leading the EMERGENCE network. She said: “Healthcare robots are increasingly recognised as solutions in helping people improve independent living, by having the ability to offer physical assistance as well as supporting complex self-management and healthcare tasks when integrated with patient data. The EMERGENCE network will foster and facilitate innovative research and development of healthcare robotic solutions so that they can be realised as pragmatic and sustainable solutions providing personalised, affordable and inclusive health and social care in the community.”

Dr. Mauro Dragone, an assistant professor and director of the Robotic Assisted Living Testbed (RALT) at the National Robotarium, based at Heriot-Watt University, is leading the work package on Workforce Education. He said: “It is vital that we identify gaps in the skills set of carers and therapists that might prevent them from using robotic solutions effectively and inform the development of training content to address these gaps. This will foster the regulatory, political and commercial environments and the workforce skills needed to make the UK a global leader in the use of robotics to support the government's ageing society grand challenge.”

Utilising the consortium’s international links with partners, the network has already setup agreements to collaborate and bring international learning to help inform national developments. These include the consortium on Neurodegeneration in Aging and AGE-WELL, the National Rehabilitation Centre, Seoul, South Korea and the Smart Life Care Co-creation Studio, Kitakyushu Academic Research City, Japan.


Annie Pugh