Two Scottish universities are to join forces in a “first of its kind research collaboration” that aims to develop technological solutions for serious clinical problems.

Heriot-Watt University and Edinburgh Napier University, both of which are based in the capital, have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to formalise a joint-programme between the two institutions.

The project will be to bring together Heriot-Watt’s engineering students with nursing students at Edinburgh Napier, with the goal of sharing insights and experience. The programme will also involved collaborative projects and will give engineers access to a specialised clinical simulator to held develop their understanding of scenarios and challenges and healthcare environments.

Edinburgh Napier University is the only one in Scotland to offer training in all nursing specialisms as well as midwifery.

Heriot-Watt is part-named after one of Scotland’s most famous engineers and inventors, having been founded in 1821 as the world’s first institute dedicated to mechanics. It recently launched a Global Research Institute in Health and Care Technologies, and plans to develop new research in Scotland as well as at its international campuses.

The Herald:

Maïwenn Kersaudy-Kerhoas is a Professor in Microfluidic Engineering at Heriot-Watt University and the lead academic for the university’s new global research institute in Health and Care Technologies.

She said: “It has already proved to be a fantastic and fun learning experience for students from both the nursing and engineering programmes.

This collaboration will ensure an excellent student experience and we are very enthusiastic about the interface between nursing and engineering. Nurses are the closest to patient needs on a daily basis, by championing this first-hand knowledge and expertise, we enable nurses to co-create and help deliver innovation. Alongside this, our engineering students benefit from detailed real-world feedback on their health and care engineering concepts. The professional advice of nursing practitioners and their network of patient engagement opportunities is invaluable as we continue to create the health and care technologies needed for the future.”

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The Herald:

Cathal Breen, Professor of Simulation and Clinical Skills at Edinburgh Napier, told The Herald that Nurses are an “untapped reservoir of innovative solutions for the health and care sector” and that the new programme is “hugely exciting.”

“The health sector workforce is not currently incentivised to come up and come forward with solutions. In our new agreement with Heriot-Watt, our students will identify potentially suitable clinical problems and work with engineering students at Heriot-Watt to design solutions to real-life clinical problems.

“While nursing students are exposed to engineering innovation, when they are given the opportunity to contribute to development they are empowered to innovate in their future career. There is no doubt that technology is going to play a vital role in delivering health care solutions in the future.”

Professor Breen added that in September, Edinburgh Napier is launching a new Masters programme for clinicians trying to understand the opportunities and challenges that new technologies will bring – The MSc Clinical Healthcare Technology.

She added: "This MoU with Heriot-Watt is another link in the chain to ensure we equip the UK’s future healthcare professionals with the skills, experiences, and opportunities they need to sustain a world-leading healthcare service."