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Development of a new generation of DIABetic footwear using an integrated approach and SMART materials

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Staffordshire University United Kingdom

Staffordshire University aims to excel as a dynamic learning community and its growing research profile forms a core part of this goal with practical application of its research, benefiting business and the community. The University has a strong track record in attracting European funding, acting as a key partner in regional economic development to support university research activity and widen participation in learning. Strengths lie in business, forensic science, information technology, health, computing and technology, arts, media, design and law. The University has undertaken collaborative research projects with partners in almost every EU member state as part of the commitment to building on and extending European research partnerships. Staffordshire University has been Coordinator for a number of EU funded projects; Framework Programme 5, TEMPUS, Asia Link, EDULINK, Leonardo, European Social Fund and European Regional Development Fund. In addition, the University has been a partner in Framework Programme 6, Framework Programme 7 and INTERREG IIIb.

Clinical Biomechanics and Footwear Research: The centre has considerable history of collaboration with industry through knowledge transfer partnership projects. We were one of the major RTDs in the HEELLESS project that was funded by the EU while simultaneously being involved in a number of other clinical and industrial projects.  Diabsmart project has a focus on developing biomechanically suitable smart material that can be used in diabetic footwear to alleviate the symptoms of the diabetic foot.

The facilities within Staffordshire University include a fully equipped biomechanics lab in the recently developed GBP30 M Science Centre. In addition to a state of the art 3D movement analysis system and associated software, this lab has the ability to measure muscle activation (using surface electromyography) and performance (dynamometers), balance and posture (pressure mat based systems and force plates), 2D ultrasound, thermal imaging (useful to study interfaces between patients and devices or footwear), in-shoe pressure measurement systems and a Universal Testing Machine for mechanical testing of the footwear material.

Customised protocols for product development and evaluation have been developed by the team. Furthermore, the laboratory is also equipped with safety hoist systems and virtual reality test treadmill to conduct experiments with elderly and disabled population. The team is currently working with regional (West Midlands) SMEs in the areas of design and development of products related to human movement and performance. The subject areas that the lab caters range from medical technology to ergonomics.

Furthermore kinematic and kinetic analysis for assessing clinical conditions and to develop treatment protocols and assistive devices are being offered along with musculoskeletal clinics (clinical biomechanics involving all musculo skeletal clinical professionals) for the local clinical practitioners and patients. This clinic has a role within the local health trusts providing specialist services to diabetic and rheumatology clinics. Typically the staff at the lab will assess the gait pattern and the pressure distribution under the feet to prescribe foot orthotics. The highlight of this clinic is the footwear provision which is not provided anywhere else in the country. Apart from the strong post graduate programs in the area of Clinical Biomechanics and Musculoskeletal Diagnosis, Staffordshire University, offers several continuing professional development (CPD) workshop and training days in the areas of clinical biomechanics related to specific sports such as ice skating and disciplines related to musculoskeletal podiatry.

The research within the team has a general focus on musculoskeletal biomechanics and gait analysis with an emphasis on foot and footwear biomechanics.

Project Contact: Dr Roozbeh Naemi (email: R.Naemi@staffs.ac.uk)

Hochschule Magdeburg-Stendal FH. Germany

The Centre of Competence in Engineering Sciences/Renewable Materials (CCESRM) is a research unit of the University of Applied Sciences Magdeburg-Stendal. It is funded by the Federal Ministry of Cultural Affairs and Education as part of the Competence Network for Research in Applied Sciences and Technology (in German KAT) of the 4 Universities of Applied Sciences in Saxony-Anhalt. The network gives universities and business proactive support in research and development. Small and mid-sized enterprises frequently have insufficient R&D resources but would be capable of greater innovativeness if they could cooperate with scientific institutions. By promoting the transfer of knowledge and technology, the KAT network provides companies with support in their product and process development. This is achieved through expert advice, cooperation in R&D projects, supply of laboratory facilities and equipment. Assistance is also provided to SMEs in recruitment of graduates and placements for trainees.

The CCESRM at the University of Applied Sciences is working on projects to transfer smart materials (biomaterials like natural fibre reinforced polymers and biopolymers) into industrial applications. The processing of agricultural based raw materials by engineering technologies has a long and successful tradition in the region. Today experts from different faculties (mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, civil engineering, industrial design) work together to close the gap between agricultural production and industrial use of renewables. The main fields in material research are:

  • Improvement of the properties of biomaterials
  • Utilisation of new resources for innovative materials (biocascading)
  • Development of new technologies for closed processing chains in the use of renewable materials

Together with an SME in the city of Magdeburg CCESRM developed a leg prosthesis made from natural fibre reinforced composite (as a smart material instead of glass fibre as reinforcement). CCESRM was a member of the EU funded HEELLESS consortium and supported the SMEs in material development and testing. CCESRMs experienced scientists, engineers and technical staff in the field of material testing and tailor-made material development will be involved in the material development in DiabSmart project. The focus of these developments is on structure-property investigation of the smart materials based in the previous experience available in CCERSM with biomaterials. For a technical application the described, complex material phenomena require a characterisation by several physical and mechanical measurements. The labs of CCERSM are equipped with the base instrumentation to detect the behaviour of smart materials due to thermal and mechanical influences.

CCESRM is one of the RTDs in the materials sector of the HEELLESS project. The research portal of Saxony-Anhalt is the most important and comprehensive information platform about research, scientific innovations, and technology transfer of the country, in which 47 research institutions with 8,513 projects, research topics, and 45,407 publications participate.

Dr Peter Gerth discusses their involvement

Project Contact: Dr Peter Gerth (email: peter.gerth@hs-magdeburg.de)

Salts Healthcare Limited Birmingham, United Kingdom

Salts Healthcare Ltd. is a highly progressive specialised healthcare company, with a 300 year history of working in partnership with not only individuals in the healthcare industry, but also the NHS since its inception in 1947. The company has two main healthcare divisions Orthotics, and Ostomy and we are proud of the way we have listened to our customers’ individual needs to provide them with a service specifically tailored to their own requirements. This individuality is something we believe a necessity of any service or product supplier particularly in the ever-changing world of healthcare.

Salts has a specific Orthotics Division including a large stock of off-the-shelf products combined with a manufacturing department, providing bespoke products and specialist alterations. This is where they have traditional craftsmen working alongside modern technology producing quality products with the primary intention of improving the end users quality of life. Not only as a division but also as a Company it recognises the need for investment in the future and it is totally committed to research and development of not only innovative products but also new materials. We are also constantly involved with various academic establishments in the search for new techniques to enhance our products and services. Salts has full time and part time Clinicians with experience in Biomechanics who are directly involved with research and development of all lower limb products. These have the backing of our comprehensive CAD/CAM department who pride themselves in being at the forefront of IT technology. On the traditional Orthotics division within Salts has 12 skilled technicians who are capable of producing almost any product using materials varying from leathers, metals and a variety of plastics. To enhance this division the company have commissioned part of their present building in Lord Street, Birmingham as a new research and development centre that is also used for training and as a clinic. As one would expect the company is also committed to helping the environment and use recyclable products wherever possible.

State of the art, CAD/CAM facility includes Bridgeport milling machine & also a large Pacer Router, both machines software is Delcam. Furthermore, the company has several shoe trade machines in the Traditional factory including oven for plastics. The Salts Healthcare Techstep Education and Research Centre, the first purpose built clinic in the UK solely for the understanding, development and support of the human foot. The GBP500,000 investment in Techstep - a foot clinic boasting state of the art sensory treadmills, running strip with the latest movement monitoring software, teaching facilities, R&D offices all managed by the specialists to advance the knowledge of podiatrists/orthotists. Techstep aims to be the UKs leading innovative training centre for podiatrists, orthotists, R&D facility, treatment hub for clinicians and researchers from academia.  Techstep is a giant stride in pushing the boundaries of knowledge and product development available to healthcare professionals involved in the study, diagnosis and treatment of disorders of the foot, ankle and lower leg. This state of art strategy will be transforming the current labour intensive manufacturing to knowledge intensive production in line with the EC Lisbon Strategy that helps in improving the quality of products and patient care.

Ms. Gill Donolan outlines the involvement of Salts HealthCare

Project Contact: Ms Gillian Donlon (email: gillian.donlon@salts.co.uk)

Technofootbed SL Spain

TechnoFB currently manufactures rubber and polymer based products for the footwear industry across Europe. They have huge knowledge and skills base complemented by infrastructure which used to host over 150 employees. Currently they have less than 50 employees and are hoping to expand. They have demonstrated growth in the last 18-24 months in the area of developing new products focusing on footbeds/ insoles. They have a strong market presence in the UK and in Europe. Technofootbed is a good example of a strong beneficiary of various EU initiatives and projects such as DiaBSmart.

Mr Chris Royale highlights the work of Technofootbed

Project Contact: Mr Francis Sempere

AR Hospitals, Chennai India

ARH is one of the leading diabetic hospitals in South India. The clinical team within ARH is dedicated to developing and providing the highest quality, compassionate medical care to serve the needs of the patients. While, it provides comprehensive, efficient and effective clinical services, it also provides continuing medical education programmes for clinicians. It interacts with governmental and non governmental agencies to respond effectively to the diabetes health care needs.
Furthermore, ARH has also tied up with various reputed centres across various parts of the world including the Universities in Oxford and Cambridge, UK to conduct multicentre, long term research studies on methodologies for management and prevention of diabetes and related complications.
Dr Lakshmi Sundar discusses their involvement

Project Contact: Dr Lakshmi Sundar (email: sundarlakshmi2009@googlemail.com)