Forming the centrepiece of the Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park, The Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre (AWRC) is set to become one of the most progressive centres of its kind – developing innovations designed to improve population health and physical activity levels.
Delivered by Sheffield Hallam University in partnership with Legacy Park – the operator of Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park – the AWRC will feature indoor and outdoor facilities, which will be used by researchers to carry out studies on health and physical activity.
Working in collaboration with the private sector, up to 70 AWRC researchers will be tasked with developing a range of services and products, taking them from concept through to market.
The primary aim of the AWRC is to create innovations that will improve health, tackling key issues such as static levels of physical activity, rising obesity and mental health issues – while also attracting jobs and investment to the region.
To assist with the work, the AWRC will include a 7.5m-high indoor laboratory with cameras and tracking instruments, a biomechanics laboratory, diagnostic equipment – such as MRI, CT, DXA and ultrasound, body composition measurement and physiological testing – a technology demonstrator hub and integrated NHS clinics.
There are also plans for AWRC to form close links with the National Centre for Sport and Exercise Medicine, which will result in researchers being able to work with the population of the City of Sheffield and use local communities to explore and test the potential of new innovations and products developed at the Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park.
"Improving population health is one of the great challenges of our time," said professor Chris Husbands, vice-chancellor of Sheffield Hallam.
"Through the AWRC, Sheffield Hallam is leading work that has the potential to transform the health of the nation. Co-locating research and innovation alongside education, health, leisure and business will help to contribute to economic growth and the quality of life in and beyond the region."
Among the private partners working with AWRC are Canon Medical Systems – formerly Toshiba Medical – and Westfield Health. Both will provide cutting edge equipment and technology to assist with research. Other partners include Parkrun, which will work with its two million registered runners to improve their health and wellbeing.
Professor Steve Haake, founding director of Sheffield Hallam's AWRC, says: "Working with the private sector at the Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park, our engineers and researchers will design new products and services from initial concept all the way through to market.
"This will cement Sheffield Hallam’s global reputation for putting the science into health and physical activity, but the AWRC will also be an exceptional asset for Sheffield and the wider region."
AWRC has been supported by the Department of Health and Social Care, which has committed £14m of funding to the new project. The centre is included in the NHS Long-Term Plan to utilise physical activity and use it in preventative health measures.
AWRC will sit at the heart of the Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park, where current facilities include the English Institute of Sport Sheffield; the iceSheffield arena; Fly DSA Arena; the Altitude high ropes adventure course and a number of sports facilities.
In addition to the AWRC, future facilities will include a community stadium; an indoor arena; the National Centre for Excellence in Food Engineering and the Orthopaedic and Rehabilitation Research and Innovation Centre.