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The University of Southampton

Southampton and partners to become global leaders in Prosthetics and Orthotics

Published: 11 November 2019
Professor Liudi Jiang
Professor Liudi Jiang is the Southampton Engineering lead for the CDT in Prosthetics and Orthotics.

The University of Southampton’s expertise in prosthetics and orthotics is contributing to a new global centre of excellence aimed at meeting the accelerating demand, worldwide, for artificial limbs, braces, footwear and other devices which help people recover from injury.

As part of a national Centre for Doctoral Training in Prosthetics and Orthotics, based at the University of Salford, Southampton is collaborating with Imperial College London, the University of Strathclyde and 27 industry and clinical collaborators to lead in the training of up to 60 highly-skilled engineers in Prosthetics and Orthotics.

Two of the largest manufacturers of prosthetic and orthotic devices - Blatchford and Össur – are also involved, as is the global leader in research in the field, Northwestern University in the US. The Centre benefits from £11 million in UK government funding with £5.3 million from the Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC). 

“The rich combination of research, development and training is vital to the success of this invaluable CDT and Southampton is uniquely positioned to play a key role in activities that will benefit the millions of people who depend on a wide range of devices to help them recover and achieve improved quality of life,” said Liudi Jiang, Professor of Materials and Electromechanical Systems in the School of Engineering and the Southampton Engineering lead for the CDT in Prosthetics and Orthotics. “A key element of our work is the close liaison we’ll have between the Centre and with those in industry and clinics who will benefit from the expertise we bring across many multidisciplinary areas of biomedical and biomechanical applications.”

Maggie Donovan-Hall, Associate Professor in Southampton’s School of Health Sciences, is also part of the management board and said “This is a fantastic opportunity to move forward research and development in this field.  The strong emphasis on interdisciplinary and user-led approaches involving all key stakeholders really strengthens the ethos of the CDT.”

Starting this autumn, the first 11 students have now arrived in Salford where they will study for six months before returning to their home institutions. Amongst them is Kirstie Devin  the Southampton-hosted student who is enthused about the prospects of taking forward her knowledge and capabilities in this very important field in which the World Health Organisation estimates that more than two billion people are expected to require health-related assistive devices by 2030.

“The course offers the opportunity to work alongside other students from a variety of backgrounds which makes for a great learning experience; the mix of people from engineering, clinical and academic backgrounds, is proving extremely invaluable as we are able to learn from each other, since we all have different strengths and weaknesses”, said Kirstie. “The teaching at Salford covers essential training including e.g. the Fundamentals of Prosthetics and Orthotics (P&O) to equip us with sufficient overall knowledge and understanding before we dive into our PhD-specific research areas.

“This gives us a real appreciation for the different aspects surrounding P&O, and for each other’s PhD topics,” Kirstie concluded. “This isn’t just a learning experience – it is also a networking opportunity that isn’t just limited to the 6-month stay at Salford; there will be plenty future opportunities for us to reconnect over the next 4 years. It is a truly exciting experience.”

In addition to four-year doctoral research training, Southampton and its partner UK universities are offering a new Masters’ programme operating across all four partner Universities.  Students will be supported by national and global industry, and clinical, patient and service partnerships who will ensure high-quality training, and provide placement and employment opportunities.  Many students are expected to be graduates in Engineering with the remainder coming from industry and some from clinical backgrounds.

In the UK, the Disabled Living Foundation estimates that 6.5million people live with mobility disablement, while in parts of the developing world, and often in the aftermath of conflict, there is a growing and desperate need for prosthetics and orthotics support.

We are currently in the process of recruiting CDT students starting in October 2020 (fully funded, four-year PhD studentships). If you are enthusiastic candidates who are interested in applying engineering knowledge and skills to healthcare technologies, please contact Professor Liudi Jiang or Dr Maggie Donovan-Hall for further information.



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