University of Salford prosthetics and orthotics image

The UK is set to train more highly-skilled prosthetists and orthotists after the announcement of a new global centre of excellence at the University of Salford.

Worldwide demand for artificial limbs, braces, footwear and other devices which help people recover from injury is mushrooming, but the people who make, fit and monitor prosthetics require a rare combination of clinical, medical and engineering skills.

The World Health Organisation estimates 100 million people globally need prosthetic or orthotic services and as populations continue to age, more than two billion people are expected to require health-related assistive devices by 2030.

To help address this growing demand, the University’s new centre – The Centre for Doctoral Training in Prosthetics and Orthotics – is set to train 60 individuals in prosthetics and orthotics to doctoral level over the next four years. It will also coordinate new Master’s courses and research to address the skills gap at home and abroad, particularly in low and middle-income countries like Cambodia, Uganda and Jordan.

The £11 million project, funded by the EPSRC (Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council), unites 27 industry and clinical partners, including two of the largest manufacturers of prosthetic and orthotic devices, Blatchford and Össur.

Led by the University of Salford, the partnership brings together both UK undergraduate training centres (Salford and Strathclyde) with research teams at Imperial College London, the University of Southampton, and Northwestern University in the US.

The unique doctoral research training over four years will be complemented by a new Master’s 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 trainees are expected to be graduates in Engineering, with others coming from the prosthetics and orthotics industry and some from clinical backgrounds.

“There has been a healthy growth in the number of UK undergraduates studying P&O since the removal of the student numbers cap and there is thus a growing need for doctorally-qualified leaders in the sector to support this growth,” explained Centre Lead Malcolm Granat, Professor of Health & Rehabilitation Sciences at the University of Salford.

“Presently there is a woeful shortage of research engineers who have a deep understanding of these challenges. Our expectation is that this new centre will create a talented workforce, who will be equipped to produce local and global solutions to transform lives.”

The majority of students will come from the UK, but the centre will also support training for students from low and middle-income countries.

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