Sir Malcolm Grant, chair of NHS England was in Sheffield today to mark the start of construction work on Sheffield Hallam University’s Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre (AWRC).
Set to become the most advanced research centre in the world for developing innovations that will improve population health and physical activity levels, the AWRC will form the centrepiece of the Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park.
The key facility, which will open next year, is supported by the Department of Health and Social Care, who have committed £14million of funding to the project.
Delivered by the University in partnership with Legacy Park Ltd, the AWRC will feature indoor and outdoor facilities for 70 researchers to carry out world-leading research on health and physical activity in collaboration with the private sector, with a focus on taking services and products from concept to market.
It will also feature a 7.5m high indoor laboratory with cameras and tracking instruments, a biomechanics laboratory, diagnostic equipment such as MRI, CT, DXA and ultrasound, body composition measurement and physiological testing, a technology demonstrator hub and integrated NHS clinics.
Sir Malcolm Grant, chair of NHS England, said: “I’m really looking forward to see what the AWRC is going to do for the NHS and for people’s health. We have got to reverse the depending model and people depending on healthcare professionals, our doctors, nurses and clinicians.
“People need to take responsibility for their own health and are empowered by medical technology. I’m really fascinated to see the technology being developed for elite athletes and sport and this can be modelled and mass produced to enhance the lives of ordinary people to help them live longer and healthier lives.”
The AWRC will form a key part of Sheffield City Region’s Advanced Manufacturing Innovation District (AMID) – a 2,000-acre centre of excellence for innovation-led research and industrial collaboration. Sitting alongside Sheffield Hallam’s National Centre for Food Engineering, the Orthopaedic and Rehabilitation Research and Innovation Centre and the Centre for Child Health Technology, the AWRC will create interventions and solutions that have real-world application.
It has also been highlighted as a key contributor in the Sheffield City Region vision, which forms a cornerstone for the future of health and wellbeing in the region.
Professor Chris Husbands, Vice-Chancellor of Sheffield Hallam University, said: “Improving population health is one of the great challenges of our time. Through the AWRC, Sheffield Hallam is leading work that has the potential to transform the health of the nation. Co-locating research and innovation alongside education, health, leisure and business will help to contribute to economic growth and the quality of life in and beyond the region.”
The primary aim of the AWRC is to create innovations that will improve health, tackling key issues such as static levels of physical activity, rising obesity and mental health whilst also attracting new jobs and investment to the region.
The event also heard about the announcement of a new collaboration to enable current and future Olympic Legacy Park partners to work closer together. Chaired by Sheffield Hallam University, a ‘Health Innovation Partnership’ will see members collaborating on priorities including incorporating research and innovation, acting as a lobby group for the future development of the Olympic Legacy Park and developing joint funding bids. The partnership will be key to future developments.
Professor Steve Haake, director of Sheffield Hallam’s AWRC, said: “Working in collaboration with the private sector at the heart of the Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park, our talented engineers and researchers will design new products and services from initial concept all the way through to market.
“This will cement Sheffield Hallam’s global reputation for putting the science into health and physical activity, but the AWRC will also be an exceptional asset for Sheffield and the wider region.”
In 2015, Canon Medical Systems (formerly Toshiba Medical) and Westfield Health were announced as the first major, private sector partners of the AWRC and will provide cutting edge equipment and technology to assist with research. parkrun became the AWRC’s third major partner in 2016 and will work together with their two million registered runners to improve their health and wellbeing.
Sheffield Children’s Hospital Charity and the Sheffield Children’s Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Wosskow Brown Foundation and the Sheffield Health and Social Care NHS Foundation Trust have also become partners.
Rachel Clark, director for trade and investment at Sheffield City Region, said: “The research facilities and university-industry partnerships we have here in Sheffield City Region are respected worldwide. We’re at the forefront of innovation at not just a national, but an international level.
“Here we have the intellectual infrastructure to kickstart innovations along with the driving curiosity to research and prototype the ideas that come from both medical practitioners and their patients.
“As a city region, we are proud to host what will be a world-leading Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre and it is a privilege to be here today.”
Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park will provide organisations with the opportunity to co-locate at the world-class centre of excellence and partner with Sheffield Hallam University to carry out collaborative research and development, sparking new innovations that link the health and wellbeing, sports and technology sectors.
Through the AWRC’s close links with the National Centre for Sport and Exercise Medicine, researchers will be able to work with the population of Sheffield and use local communities to explore and test the potential of new innovations and products developed at the Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park.
The Rt Hon Richard Caborn, project lead for Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park and former Minister of Sport, said: “This is a hugely important step for us in realising our ambition to create a world-leading environment for collaborative research and innovation in health and wellbeing and in driving forward the delivery of the 2012 Olympic legacy.
“It’s a very exciting day and with construction of the AWRC underway we will look forward to the development of further research centres which are set to transform our understanding of health, wellbeing and sport even further.”