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The University of Southampton
Institute for Life Sciences

IfLS launch FortisNet – regional hub of expertise in orthopaedics, prosthetics and assistive technologies

Published: 21 January 2016
FortisNet Launch

Leading academic and industry experts in the fields of orthopaedics, prosthetics and assistive technologies gathered in Hampshire for the launch of the University of Southampton’s Institute for Life Sciences (IfLS) innovative FortisNet network.

FortisNet is a unique, collaborative, interdisciplinary network in hard (bone and teeth) and soft (skin, muscle, cartilage) tissue research that aims to develop a regional specialisation in musculoskeletal challenges whilst also creating jobs, attracting new business and retaining skilled graduates within the region.

The network was created last year after the IfLS commissioned an audit of life sciences in the central southern region. The audit revealed a tremendous concentration of interdisciplinary expertise in regenerative medicine, orthopaedics, prosthetics and assistive technologies.

IfLS Director Professor Peter J S Smith said: “At Southampton we have an excellent strength of expertise in this area of research - from stem cell technology, to designing better implants and prosthetic limbs, to assisting the rehabilitation of patients.”

“By creating FortisNet, we aim to develop a hub of expertise that will connect regional and national excellence in clinical practice, academic research and enterprise. We will be working with end-users to create an effective pipeline of product development for stronger, active bodies.”

Nearly 70 delegates, including clinicians, academics and industry, joined the launch at The Ageas Bowl, near Southampton, to help set the future priorities for the FortisNet network.

Key speakers from UK universities, the Ministry of Defence, prosthetics developers and commercialisation experts outlined the current and future challenges facing their fields.

The day-long conference focused on three areas – augmentation and strength, assistive technologies and rehabilitation; and growing and replacing hard and soft tissues.

Dr David Moser, Head of Research at Blatchford, world-leading rehabilitation providers with clinical expertise in prosthetics, orthotics, special seating and wheelchairs, spoke about the industry’s challenges in producing prosthetics.

He said: “No single group or research team has all the expertise. The problems users face are so complex and multifaceted that we really need to pull in all the expertise for the delivery of new technology.”

“As a company we look after a lot of amputees and orthotic patients, so we have got a very direct link to clinical services and their requirements. We can explain the limitations of technology, where the gaps are, so that hopefully research can be focused on these areas to provide better design solutions and ultimately better products.”

Professor Jo Adams, Professor of Musculoskeletal Health and occupational therapist, shared with delegates her experience and expertise in the importance of involving patients and the public in the design of clinical trials and how this can lead to better design interventions.

Professor Andrew Carr, Nuffield Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at the University of Oxford, spoke about the clinical challenges in musculoskeletal research and shared his experience working in collaboration with academics at the University of Southampton.

He said: “If the UK is to be globally competitive in science we have to move out of our city-based and university-based silos. For some years I have been working closely with Professor Cyrus Cooper, Director of the MRC Lifecourse Epidemiology Unit at the University of Southampton, and it has been very productive. To deliver on the big questions we need to form networks and work together.”

Delegate Peter Birkett, Chief Executive of Southampton Science Park, added: “One of the things we find on Southampton Science Park is that it is utterly fundamental to bring academia and business together, to work as a team to solve the problem of transitioning research into the marketplace. I think FortisNet is a really visionary project to try and achieve that.”

To find out more about FortisNet and its aims visit



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