German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced a memorandum of understanding between the Auckland University Bio-engineering Institute and the Fraunhofer IPA research institute of Stuttgart during her visit to Auckland on Friday.
i Institute for Manufacturing Engineering & Automation) have agreed to collaborate on a commercially focused medical robotics research project, known as the Bionic Joint.
The institute’s website says the goal of the Bionic Joint project is to enable the first generation of highly integrated sensing & actuation technology for human exoskeletons. It will integrate the latest wearable sensor technology from Auckland University, with high torque actuation & monitoring technology provided by Fraunhofer IPA researchers
The first application of this technology will be an exoskeleton device that will sense & assist movements of the arm to reduce workplace injury and assist patients who have suffered a stroke.
Professor Peter Hunter, of the Auckland institute, will manage the project and Associate Professors Iain Anderson & Thor Besier will lead the scientific investigation. 2 wearable sensor companies, Stretchsense Ltd & IMeasureU Ltd – both spin-outs from the institute, and both winners at the NZ innovators awards – will also be involved in the project.
The sensing framework for the bionic joint will integrate the underlying technology of these 2 companies with institute musculo-skeletal modelling to produce a unique wearable sensing device to measure & monitor arm motion.
Auckland University vice-chancellor Professor Stuart McCutcheon said: “The aim is for the technology to be licensed, and there is already considerable industry interest from industrial equipment medical device & sports industries.”
The institute expects the Bionic Joint project will strengthen the local medical technology ecosystem and provide contacts & opportunities for local researchers & companies to engage with leading German counterparts.
Science & Innovation Minister Steven Joyce said science was the jewel in the crown of the bilateral relationship between the 2 countries: “Research co-operation between New Zealand & Germany is underpinned by the Science & Technology Co-operation Agreement, which was signed back in 1977.”
The Government confirmed, in principle, co-funding of up to $750,000 over 3 years to help New Zealand companies leverage commercial opportunities, matched by Auckland University & Fraunhofer.
“Science and innovation are at the heart of achieving a brighter future for New Zealand. They are fundamental to our growing economy & improving living standards for all New Zealanders.
“To compete in a global landscape, we need to support new ideas & new ways of thinking, and work collaboratively across a range of disciplines to find solutions to the world’s most pressing problems.”
Attribution: Ministerial release, ABI website.