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The University of Southampton

Entrepreneurial engineer awarded fellowship to help improve artificial limbs for amputees

Published: 15 March 2019
Josh Steer

Postgraduate research student Josh Steer has secured a Royal Academy of Engineering (RAEng) Enterprise Fellowship to launch innovative software that designs better sockets for prosthetic limbs.

The entrepreneurial engineer, from the University of Southampton’s Bioengineering Science research group, is applying state-of-the-art biomechanical modelling to give clinicians real-time prediction of fit during the socket design process.

The software will ease the process for well-fitting prosthetics, saving health professionals valuable time and increasing the quality of life for amputees.

Josh will spend the next year in the on-campus Future Worlds startup accelerator running feasibility studies of his software programme and laying the groundwork to spin out his business, Radii Devices, from the School of Engineering.

“It is a huge opportunity and privilege to receive this fellowship,” Josh says. “Prosthetics are bespoke devices designed by clinicians who currently rely on skill and experience without the support of analytical tools. Inadequate sockets cause injury, and may even prevent the user from walking, with patients needing an average of nine clinical visits to achieve a comfortable fit.

“My research has developed a software solution which has the potential to enable prosthetists to quickly optimise these devices and deliver life-changing benefits. We are planning to run clinical studies soon as we move toward a full product launch the following year.”

RAEng Enterprise Fellowships provide awardees with up to £60,000 equity-free funding, mentoring and training to help bring exceptional innovations in engineering to market.

Josh completed his BEng Mechanical Engineering degree at Southampton in 2015 having undertaken research on Statistical Shape Modelling of Residual Limb Shape for Transtibial Amputees as part of a summer internship and final year project. His outstanding work was recognised with the Institute for Mechanical Engineering (IMechE) Vicon Award.

He was inspired to carry on his multidisciplinary project at postgraduate level and has been progressing a PhD in the Bioengineer Science group since September 2015, investigating how to further improve the fit and comfort of artificial limbs. Josh has been supported on his journey with expertise and funding from FortisNet, part of the University’s Institute for Life Sciences.

The University of Southampton is leading several pioneering research projects that are seeking to improve the lives of the 100 million people worldwide who need a prosthetic limb to replace an amputated arm or leg, or an orthotic device to support a damaged limb.

Josh’s PhD supervisors continue as advisors on his new project, which links to these wider activities. Dr Alex Dickinson is leading a team of engineers and health scientists to assess how useful a range of digital technologies could be to prosthetic limb provision in Cambodia, while a Medical Devices and Vulnerable Skin Network, which includes Dr Peter Worsley, is providing intelligent strategies to maintain device longevity and patient comfort in different clinical settings.

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