Health technology innovation expert with notepad
Effective and reliable technological innovations are an essential part of any future-ready health and care system. PIHR is able to draw on technological and research expertise in a range of areas including:
  • bioengineering 
  • robotics and artificial intelligence
  • virtual and immersive reality
  • mHealth and telehealth
  • cybersecurity
  • big data and health informatics
  • machine learning
  • technology implementation and behaviour change.

AI and Machine Learning

Making responsible use of artificial intelligence (AI) is seen as an important part of creating a future ready health and care system. Researchers in our Centre for Health Technology have been applying AI in a number of areas. Examples include the use of deep phenotyping to predict the development of colorectal cancer stages, including the potential return of cancer after treatment and associated multimorbidity; the use of genomics and AI to predict responses to chemotherapy in breast cancer; and the use of AI to enable the safe and effective use of medications.

Our dental researchers are also using machine learning tools to support the conduct of complex systematic reviews involving clinical, animal and in-vitro studies. They work collaboratively with members of the Space Medicine Team in the Astronaut Centre (European Space Agency), CAMARADES Berlin, Berlin Institute of Health at Charite, QUEST Centre for Responsible Research, and University of Philippines Open University. Their current project focuses on bringing together crowdsourcing and machine learning to develop a more efficient system to screen titles and abstract for complex systematic reviews. 


Bioengineering is a multidisciplinary STEM field that integrates knowledge across engineering, materials science, biology and medicine to develop new devices, algorithms, processes and systems that improve medical practice and health care delivery. Our research focuses on advanced engineering materials and the use of nanotechnology to build novel composites, biomaterials and implants with improved mechanical, physical and antibacterial properties with the aim to improve clinical outcomes. Within dentistry, for example, researchers have applied biological and molecular technologies including transgenic modelling, organoids, 3D bioprinting, 3D skin and oral mucosa stratification simulation as well as using 3 dimensional in vitro oral mucosal models to develop denture wear and salivary gland repair processes. Nanomaterial composites are especially being explored in medical implants for post-surgical disinfection and wound healing, bone repair, and as alternative new-generation antimicrobials.

Cybersecurity, big data and health informatics

The University of Plymouth’s Centre for Cyber Security, Communications and Network Research, Big Data and Medical Statistics teams’ are actively engaged in a range of health technology related projects and initiatives. From development and evaluation of medical information systems, health network cybersecurity and healthcare software to health data analysis and interpretation, including medical imaging and the use of machine learning to analyse clinical patient data for decision-making and diagnosis.

Diagnostic Devices

A 2022 study revealed that 1.25 million people per year die of antimicrobial resistant (AMR) infections globally (Murray et al., 2022), as bacteria evolve to develop resistance to antibiotics. Led by Dr Tina Joshi, the Molecular Microbiology Research Group are developing a point of care device able to aid clinicians in diagnosing AMR infections (particularly in the urinary tract), thus aiding antimicrobial stewardship. This interdisciplinary research is at the cutting edge of engineering, biophysics and molecular microbiology.

Digital Health Apps

Stimulated in part by the Covid-19 pandemic, the consumer market for digital health apps has recently surged, with over 350,000 products now available, albeit with varying quality and effectiveness. PIHR’s Centre for Health Technology has considerable expertise in both co-designing and evaluating health apps with patients, clinicians and researchers. Projects include the NIHR i4i Challenge Award project to evaluate the asthma monitoring phone apps which are designed to help children and their carers to manage the condition between visits to the doctor. Meanwhile in the School of Nursing and Midwifery, Professor Jos Latour has been funded by the Lullaby Trust to update and re-evaluate the Baby Check app which is designed to reduce mortality and improve the early identification of severe illnesses amongst babies aged up to six months old. 


Researchers in our Centre for Health Technology are investigating the development and use of humanoid and companion robots, and other digital devices, such as voice activated assistants, to transform the provision of health and care, from assistive living and health monitoring to cognitive training and social engagement Recent projects include Movecare, EPIC and Akara. 

Meanwhile our dental researchers have an established collaboration with engineers in the School of Engineering, Computing and Mathematics on a robotics in dentistry group (Privacy-preserving Robotics in DEntistry - PRiDE).  We have an AI and Robotics lab in Dentistry that hosts research students from University of Plymouth and VNU-HCM (Vietnam) to work on a range of projects. 


Researchers within our Rehabilitation Research Group have developed and published the ‘First of its kind’ Telerehab toolkit, a resource that guides health practitioners through remote assessment for people with physical conditions. The group are also working on a project around Developing, optimising and implementing a blended digital self-management tReatmEnt for FatigUe in multiplE scLerosis (the REFUEL-MS project). This £2.6 million project is led by Professor Rona Moss-Morris from Kings College London and in Plymouth by Professor Jenny Freeman. Another member of the group, Rachel Rapson, has been leading on a study to test the efficacy of a ‘dynamic interactive trainer’ (which is similar to a cross-trainer) in helping children with cerebral palsy to walk (the ACCEPT study). 

Virtual Reality

Research suggests VR can play an important role in addressing a range of physical, mental, or psychosocial health outcomes, including pain management, cognition and depression. The institute’s Centre for Health Technology has considerable capability and experience in the development and application of virtual, augmented and immersive reality technologies, from design and software development to implementation and clinician/patient/public experience of using such technologies. Recent examples include the EPSRC-funded ICONIC project and the ESRPC-funded GOALD project where extended reality is giving participants the ability to move around heritage sites and natural landscapes.