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The University of Southampton
Institute for Life Sciences

IfLS funding leads to launch of global prosthetics network

Published: 27 July 2020

Pump-priming funding by Southampton’s Institute for Life Sciences (IfLS) has led to the launch of an interdisciplinary network committed to improving prosthetic limbs and rehabilitation services across the world.

People Powered Prosthetics (P3) is a global group of researchers, clinicians, prosthetic users and engineers, based at the University of Southampton, who are working together on research to improve the lives, limbs and rehabilitation experience of anyone affected by limb loss.

The creation of the research group comes as a result of stimulus funding from the Higher Education Innovation Fund (HEIF) provided by the IfLS, that explored the research and development priorities to create the next generation of prosthetic limbs which meet the lifestyle needs of users.

The team ran Patient and Public Involvement (PPI) workshops for prosthetic limb users and their family members, and for professionals working in prosthetics clinics and industry. They produced an accessible infographic of the users’ priorities and built new collaborations to start trying to meet these priorities.

P3 brings together people from engineering, health sciences, healthcare psychology, computer science, business modelling, and prosthetics and orthotics education and service delivery to ensure that all stakeholders have their voices heard.

P3’s Lead for Innovation and Sustainability Dr Cheryl Metcalf, from Health Sciences, said: “At P3, we strongly believe that prosthetics and orthotics research should be multidisciplinary and that all people who use and work with prosthetic limbs should be given a voice.”

P3’s Lead for End-user Research Dr Maggie Donovan-Hall, from Health Sciences, said: “As a group we aim to generate and influence the direction of new research. By working in partnership with people who use prosthetic limbs in their day-to-day lives we can ensure this research focuses on what really matters and helps to improve the lives of limb wearers for the future.”

P3 Lead for Technology Development Dr Alex Dickinson, from Engineering, said: “The insights we gather could be used to generate ideas for new research projects, to develop new prosthetic components, to inform the design of rehabilitation services or just to stimulate creative thinking.”

Patient representative Janet Riddell added: “As a through knee amputee of almost three years and a patient at the Portsmouth Enablement Centre, being involved in the research gives me an invaluable insight into the complexities of prosthetics and their users. My inclusion allows me to have a voice as a patient representative, thus affording me the opportunity to provide/gain feedback from other amputees. 

“The workshops have been a huge success with both patients and their families and the feedback received has been highly commendable.”

The research being carried out is imperative for the future of prosthetic users going forward.'

P3 builds on a strong history of prosthetics research and development at the University of Southampton, including the IfLS’ FortisNet interdisciplinary network of clinical academic and industrial partners that aims to develop research, products and services that will transform musculoskeletal health.

The P3 team is already involved in a number of people-powered projects including:

As well as the HEIF funding, the IfLS is further supporting this innovative research by part-funding a PhD studentship for P3 Clinical Lead Chantel Ostler. Chantel is a clinical academic physiotherapist with almost 20 years’ NHS experience working with patients following lower limb loss.

Her PhD project - Development of a Core Outcome Set (COS) and identification of measurement tools for Prosthetic Rehabilitation following lower limb amputation - is seeking to explore what recovery following prosthetic rehabilitation means to limb users, and how the NHS  can ensure that services focus on achieving  and measuring outcomes that are meaningful to the people for whom they matter the most.

To find out more or get involved in P3 visit

This is a marvellous example of interdisciplinary teamwork from our next generation of leaders in health sciences and engineering. For research to have real-world impact, it is vital to work alongside clinicians and the people who will use the end product - the P3 team are demonstrating best practice in this area

Prof Peter J S Smith - Institute for Life Sciences Director
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