Having a major international company to collaborate with will help us with our ambition to be the leading physical activity research and innovation centre in the world
– Professor Robert Copeland
Sheffield Hallam University’s Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre (AWRC) will officially open on 24 January.
The facility, which forms the centrepiece of the Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park, has been dubbed the most advanced research centre in the world for developing innovations that increase physical activity.
Its operations will focus on improving the health and wellbeing of populations through innovations that help people move and be active.
It will undertake research focused upon taking services and products from concept to market. The aim is to develop the centre into a "hothouse of innovation", bringing together those who make apps, activity loggers, health and sports equipment, orthotics and clinical devices.
The centre has been funded in part by the European Regional Development Fund and the UK government’s Department of Health and Social Care.
Ahead of its opening, AWRC announced that it has secured a partnership deal with Spanish fitness chain GO fit.
The deal will see GO fit – a part of the Ingesport group which runs full-service health and fitness clubs in Spain and Portugal – make the AWRC the European hub of its research and innovation programme.
The move will see GO fit fund a rolling PhD programme and a series of stand-alone test-bed innovation projects. The collaboration with AWRC marks a significant expansion of GO fit’s existing R&D programme, which already includes relationships with six academic institutions across Europe, seven live PhD projects and a number of wider innovation activities.
For AWRC, the partnership is the latest in a number of strategic collaborations. It has already secured deals with the likes of parkrun, Canon Medical Systems, Westfield Health and EXOS.
Recruitment for the GO fit PhD programmes will begin immediately. They will cover innovation in active ageing, family-based activity programming, clinical exercise delivered in non-clinical environments and the social value of community sport.
“Having a major international company to collaborate with will help us with our ambition to be the leading physical activity research and innovation centre in the world." said Professor Robert Copeland, director of the AWRC.
“Having spent the past year getting to know GO fit, it is clear that it has an approach, a philosophy and a business model that is truly progressive, representing a dramatic leap on what we consider the norm in the industry.
"Its ethos of co-production and community engagement in their research echoes ours."
As part of the arrangement, Professor Alfonso Jimenez, GO fit's chief research and innovation officer, will take up a fractional appointment at the AWRC, supporting research and innovation activities at the facility.
Steven Ward, chief transformation officer for GO fit, will also take on an advisory position supporting the development of the institute.
The collaboration comes after GO fit became the first operator in Europe to be directly funded for its innovation activities by the Spanish National Research Agency, the equivalent body to the UK’s Innovate UK.
The funding was announced by the Spanish Government in 2019, and sees GO fit creating a separate doctoral investigative programme exploring the role of exercise in cancer treatments which has been the subject of substantial interest to the NHS in recent times.
GO fit was established in 2009 by its owner Grupo Ingesport, and today serves 250,000 customers across 19 facilities, with 17 in Spain and two in Portugal.