Connected Health Forum at Ulster


University of Ulster Connected Health Forum


As we witness global demographic changes within our population, with larger percentages of the population being classified as elderly, society is now increasingly being faced with the huge challenge to alleviate the burden being placed on health and social care services by this cohort. Advances in technology have the potential to revolutionise healthcare delivery, reduce the amount of time spent in hospitals and support the elderly to ‘age in place’.

A newly formed University of Ulster Forum aims to move one step closer towards the realisation of patient self-management and hence fully embrace the shift from ‘reactive’ to ‘preventative’ healthcare delivery. This Forum has been established to develop the Connected Health theme via a multidisciplinary approach. In order to achieve our goals, the following well established research groups are participating in developing industrial links; developing key strategies; participating in local and national debates; developing IP and seeking funding.

  • Sensors Group (within ERI: NIBEC)
  • Smart Environments research Group (within CSRI)


The participating groups at Ulster are members of the high priority Metallurgy and Materials and the Computer Science Units of Assessment (RAE 2008). Together they have secured income of over £35M since 2001. They have a strong impact on the overall University Research Strategy and Corporate Plan especially in areas relating to teaching; research; PhD training; outreach; consultancy and innovation.

The Engineering Research Institute: The Engineering Research Institute (ERI), led by Professor Jim Mclaughlin is one of a small number of high priority research areas identified as such by the University of Ulster. Over a number of years, it has had a very high profile in research and impact associated with structural and advanced functional materials, relating to medical devices, tissue engineering, nanomaterials, plasmas, photocatalysis, coatings, sensors, composites and metal forming.In particular the Institute has focused on it’s three research centres: The Nanotechnology and Integrated Bioengineering Centre (NIBEC); The Engineering Composites Research Centre (ECRE) and the Advanced Metal Forming Centre (AMFoR).


Nanotechnology and Integrated BioEngineering Centre (NIBEC: Director Prof. McLaughlin):NIBEC’s £16M purpose-built facilities house some of the most sophisticated nano-fabrication, biological and characterisation equipment in the world. Strong international collaborations have been developed and large infrastructural and project funding has been a highlight of this rapidly growing research area. The centre hosts major core research initiatives such as EPSRC-MATCH (£6M); Cross Border POC (£2M) CACR (£1M); NanotecNI (£11M). The groups have also developed formal collaborations with numerous world-wide institutions (IIT Mumbai; NUI Taiwan; MIT, UCLA, Cambridge and Surrey) and Industry (Seagate; Intel and Medtronic).

The recently established Centre for Advanced Cardiovascular Research (CACR) is a joint UU-Royal Victoria Hospital (£1.35M) collaboration which is based at NIBEC.

Sensors Group: NIBEC’s major sensor research activity for the past 22 years is in the area of ‘Point of Care’ monitoring, developing a wide range of electrode-based and vital signs monitoring devices for companies such as Tyco and Medtronic (PRIME, chest-based remote monitoring and implantable sensing). Current research is centred on optimising the immobilisation and sensing techniques for high reliability, accuracy and repeatability POC systems. The group is managed by Professor McLaughlin and it is strongly underpinned by material and device expertise by Professor Maguire. This group encompasses areas of study that include: sensor design for a wide range of diagnostic and therapeutic applications astronaut monitoring systems (JUNO, MIR), telemetry sensor integration, wound-monitoring and accelerated wound healing, neural stimulation, nano-electrodes and micro-fluidic fabrication and immobilization of proteins.

The sensors activity has led to a range of collaborations in France (INSERM, INSA, CNRS Lyons), throughout the EU (Neuropro, Microtrans, Microcard), in the USA (University of Illinois), Ulster-IIT Mumbai-UKERI microfluidics project and Ireland (DCU-Higher Education Authority-ROI). On a more applied scale the group has tele-monitoring capability (the smart ward and the smart GP surgery). Within these facilities interoperability, wireless optimisation, location tracking and pre-clinical trials are under development. The group has also specialised in the miniaturisation of sensing devices with the capability to produce system-on-chip solutions with a strong focus on the use of embedded software and integrated microprocessor & telemetry hardware (Wi-Fi, Zigbee and Bluetooth).

Computer Science Research Institute (CSRI):  The CSRI currently comprises over 40 research active staff from three Schools in the Faculty of Computing and Engineering together with 20 research associates and research fellows and over 70 doctoral research students. The CSRI comprises three research groups:  Artificial Intelligence, Information and Software Engineering and Intelligent Systems.  A key strategic research area within the Artificial Intelligence theme is the Assistive Technologies Group.  The applicationof artificial intelligence research to this area is a directing influence and the CSRI’s work is strongly aligned with EPSRC’s activities in Ageing Research (New Dynamics of Ageing (NDA) Programme and the Extending Quality of Life (EQUAL) Initiative) and the EU initiatives in healthy aging and ICT for independent living in an ageing society.

The Smart Environment Research Group (Professor Chris Nugent) has a track record of funding awards and strong research developments in “smart homes” technologies and systems for assisted living. A strong resource base has already been secured from a range of funders (EPSRC, EU FP5/FP6/FP7 and InterRegIIIa, HPSSNI, the Everyday Technologies for Alzheimer Care (ETAC) consortium and the Nestling Technologies Initiative) totaling approximately £2M for projects and new infrastructure to provide the platform for further expansion. Most notably the funding within the Nestling Technologies Initiative and the InterRegIIIa-funded NETWELL project has enabled the refurbishment of a laboratory to support expanding research in ambient intelligence technologies for assisted living. A facility has been refurbished to establish two rooms (each 17 square-metres) replicating a kitchen and living area, each comprehensively equipped with a network of activity sensors.  Overall project funding with the Nestling Project will provide 16 real living environments that promote and sustain independence and well-being for older people within the Dundalk region. Funds from the EU FP6 the R&D Office and the ETAC Consortium have supported significant research efforts in the development of ICT based solutions for persons with mild dementia.  Funding from the EPSRC EQUAL initiative has supported interdisciplinary collaborative work on home based rehabilitation and self management.

Molecular Biosciences Institute is directed by Professor Bjourson and focuses on aspects of Lab-on-chip sensor arrays applied to Genome sequencing, Pharmaceutical Biotechnology, and Prostate/ Bladder Cancer Genomics. Within this project the group advices on bio-chemical and key diagnostic strategies.

Connected Health Technology Transfer at Ulster Over the past fifteen years our fundamental research has been directed towards, and translated into, a range of advanced commercialised products through technology licensing and more recently, via a number of spin-out ventures. This has lead to over twenty five filed patents and 4 spin-out companies (over 100 employees) being established. We have developed and licensed numerous devices such as PRIME ECG (Heartscape), Vital signs wireless Patch (Intelesens), 12-lead holter-telemonitoring, AED defibrillators (Heartsine), the world’s biggest selling ecg electrode and a range of licensed algorithms to companies such as Samsung and Meridian Medical.

The experience gained has led to a translation model, driven by our commercialisation office, which will focus scientific efforts directly into compatibility and integration with market-derived products and systems. Close tri-lateral partnerships with industry (local and international) and clinicians will establish further market and clinical roadmaps for each product family along with field testing and rapid feedback. We are now well experienced at Ulster in taking ideas to proof of concept (funded by UUTECH seed funding; University Challenge funding or INI/Halo) to early stage seed funding (Local VC backing, INI or Wellcome funding) and then on to well funded company formation with CEO & International Marketing structures. Good examples that are doing well under these models include; Diabetica; Heartsine; Heartscape, Intelesens (formerly ST&D Ltd.); Causeway Communications and SiSAF (spin-in).

Contact:   Professor Jim McLaughlin:   :     or

Dr Chris Nugent:


Engineering Futures and Dr Steve Myers Talk

Monday 23rd of February 2015

Engineering Futures and Dr Steve Myers Talk

news image

Tuesday 10th of February 2015

Inaugural Professorial Lecture by Tony Byrne, Professor of Photocatalysis

Inaugural Professorial Lecture by Tony Byrne, Professor of Photocatalysis

When & where Wednesday, 22 October 2014 18:30 at the Jordanstown campus Lecture Theatre 9F03

NIBEC Lecture Series begins in mid - October