Strategic Aim: Applying the engineering approach to understanding biological systems and supporting innovation in healthcare, creating new knowledge and solutions for biological and medical applications, and biologically-inspired solutions elsewhere in engineering.
The challenge consists of three closely interconnected strands:
- Biological engineering - The living world has evolved many complex systems to meet nature’s challenges. As well as traditional biological and biochemical approaches, increasingly engineering can provide a contribution to our knowledge. The challenge lies in identifying appropriate modelling and experimental techniques which can further our understanding of biological systems, and then building interdisciplinary teams to apply these methods.
- Biomedical engineering - Engineers and clinicians are united in their ethos of striving to achieve the best practical outcomes in their fields founded on high-quality scientific research and innovation. They are often separated in this aim by the lack of understanding by clinicians of the contribution that engineering can make, and conversely the lack of understanding from engineers of the practical constraints faced by clinicians. The challenge is to break down this barrier so that consistent effective collaboration can improve clinical tools by the application of engineering research, techniques and innovation to the field of clinical medicine.
- Healthcare engineering - The healthcare system is vast, complex and constantly under pressure to use resources more cost-effectively. The range of stakeholders contributing to the sector, and the variety of decision-making mechanisms present in the system, makes it is one of the most challenging subjects for study in design and systems engineering. It is also the one where an engineering approach stands to yield amongst the greatest benefit for society.
The ambition is to advance our knowledge and practice in the three focus areas:
- Biological engineering research aims to uncover the physical processing underlying such phenomena as tissue deformation, embryo development, cancer cell mobility and blood coagulation, while neuroscience developments aim to develop new approaches to modelling learning
- The ambition of biomedical engineering research is to work closely with clinicians to develop solutions for medical imaging, repair of biological tissue, and diagnosis and treatment using biosensors and nanomaterials.
- The Healthcare Engineering group seeks to embed a systems engineering culture in the UK Health Service and its suppliers, improving patient safety by becoming a focus of patient safety research in the UK, and developing models of good design practice for healthcare practitioners, providers and suppliers.
The ambition of the Department is to build on these focus areas, so as to establish a strong international reputation in bioengineering research across a wide range of activities.
The theme comprises three missions and examples of activity are summarised under each:
- biological engineering
- Biologically Inspired Robotics Laboratory - understanding adaptivity and autonomy of animals through the investigation of dynamic robots, and so engineering novel robotic applications which are more adaptive, manoeuvrable, resilient, and energy efficient
- Biomechanics Group - using modelling and experimental techniques to characterise and simulate the properties of biological materials
- Computational and Biological Learning Laboratory – researching engineering approaches to understand the brain and to develop artificial learning systems
- Structures for the Biological Sciences (Structures Research Group) – understanding the behaviour of Nature's structures using Engineering terms such as, for example, geometrical concepts and determinacy, to shed light on their behaviour and to employ their best features for better engineering solutions
- biomedical engineering
- Biomechanics Group – using an understanding of the properties of biological materials to engineer new materials and approaches in clinical applications
- Medical Imaging Group - developing new techniques for medical image acquisition and novel algorithms for visualisation and measurement that assist clinicians in diagnosis and treatment planning
- healthcare engineering
- Healthcare Design Group in the Engineering Design Centre - researching the role of systems thinking in the UK Health Service as a means to deliver safe, effective and affordable care