£14m research centre on former Don Valley Stadium in Sheffield joins race to beat health crisis
It used to be the third bend of Don Valley Stadium running track - now it has joined the race to combat the UK’s health crisis.
The Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre will use tech to try to close the “enormous” gap between what we know - and what we do.
Researchers will develop virtual reality systems to teach cycle safety before new riders go near a road, CarerBot robots to help people live independently and scanners that detect illness ahead of a video call with your GP.
The AWRC is part of Sheffield Hallam University and was built with £14m from Government and £900,000 from Europe. Don Valley Stadium was demolished in 2014.
Vice chancellor prof Sir Chris Husbands said it was the single most important investment in health and innovation in the North this decade. And it was located in Attercliffe to help combat the “unacceptable” differences within the city. The average person in Darnall lives to 50 in good health - in Fulwood it’s 68.
Prof Husbands added: “We have designed out exercise and movement at enormous cost. This place offers practical solutions to the health crisis.”
Rob Copeland, AWRC director, said it was an answer to the problem of getting people fitter.
“It gives us the best chance to create conditions to boost wellness. We can close the health age gap by 30 per cent through physical exercise. Technology can help, there is more in our phones than in the moon landing.”
Health Secretary Matt Hancock was scheduled to attend but cancelled. City Region mayor Dan Jarvis said he had given a personal undertaking to visit at a later date.
Mr Jarvis acknowledged that the government’s policy of Brexit could create “significant challenges” nationally and to the region and the AWRC could help.
He added: “I want to be insulated against the challenges and make the most of the opportunities it brings and this site is strategically important. It will be linked with other hi-tech sites, such as the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre, to show government and investors this region is open for business and at the cutting edge of technology.
“This institution gives us the opportunity to do that with justification and pride.”
The AWRC has a business accelerator backed with £1m. Sheffield cyber-security firm Ioetec will be ‘entrepreneurs in residence’, mentoring start-ups and making data secure.
Ioetec has worked with government spy agency GCHQ and Sheffield University’s Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre.
Boss Mark Davies said a lot of people were “putting sensors on stuff” and their job was to ensure it was secure, confidential and authentic.
He added: “We want to give start-ups the benefit of our experience and help raise their profile. It’s nice to give something back because we have benefited from these ecosystems.”
Ioetec is four years old, employs four and is based in the Cooper Buildings at Sheffield Technology Parks.