Planning approved for world leading research centre backed by Westfield Health
Building of the AWRC – which has attracted major investment from health and wellbeing company Westfield Health and Toshiba Medical – is set to start in early 2018 and it will become the centrepiece of Sheffield’s Olympic Legacy Park (OLP).
Delivered by Sheffield Hallam University in partnership with Legacy Park Ltd, the AWRC is set to become the most advanced research and development centre for physical activity in the world. The key facility is supported by UK Government, who has committed £14million of funding to the project.
Designed by HLM Architects, the Centre will have facilities such as; a 7.5m high indoor laboratory, 3rd generation pitch with cameras and tracking instruments, 3D biomechanical and gait analysis and scanning, a manufacturing workshop, MRI, CT, ultrasound, body composition measurement and physiological testing and a technology demonstration hub.
The primary aim of the AWRC is to create innovations that will 'improve the health of the nation', tackling key issues such as static levels of physical activity, rising obesity and mental health whilst also attracting new jobs and investment to the region.
Opening in spring 2019, it will feature indoor and outdoor facilities for 70 researchers to carry out world-leading research on health and physical activity in collaboration with the private sector. It will form a key part of the City Region's Advanced Manufacturing Innovation District (AMID) - a 2,000 acre centre of excellence for innovation-led research and industrial collaboration.
The AWRC will undertake research focused upon taking services and products from concept to market, using the intellectual property, products and knowledge developed in the centre to generate both wealth and employment opportunities.
In 2015, Toshiba Medical - a Canon Group Company, and Westfield Health were announced as the first major, private sector partners of the AWRC and will provide cutting edge equipment and technology to assist with research. parkrun became the AWRC’s third major partner in 2016 and will work together with their two million registered runners to improve their health and wellbeing.
Westfield Health’s commercial director, Dave Capper said: “As the major private sector partner, Westfield Health is delighted with the progress being made by the AWRC, a world leading research centre which will be core to a whole system approach to population health.
"This is timely news ahead of a delegation visit authorised by the mayor of Frisco in Texas later this month, where a team are coming to see some of the innovative work being done in terms of transferring learning from elite sport to the wider population."
Sheffield Hallam's Vice-Chancellor, Professor Chris Husbands, said: “Our vision to develop the most advanced research and development centre for health and physical activity in the world is coming to fruition. What this means is that Sheffield Hallam will be leading work which has the potential to transform the nation’s well-being.
“The AWRC will revolutionise sport, health-care, physical activity and leisure. Working in collaboration with the private sector at the heart of the Olympic Legacy Park, our talented engineers and researchers will design new products and services from initial concept all the way through to market. This is a major step forward for the University, the city and the country."
Professor Steve Haake, director of the AWRC, said: “This will cement Sheffield Hallam’s global reputation for putting the science into sport and physical activity, but the AWRC will also be an exceptional asset for Sheffield and the wider region in helping to attract new jobs and investment."
Sir Nigel Knowles, chair of the Sheffield City Region LEP, said: “This world leading development will be an inspiring example of what can be achieved in our region, creating jobs and boosting our local economy whilst playing an important role in tackling global problems through innovation and research. The Sheffield Hallam University AWRC at the Olympic Legacy Park will play a key role in the growth and development of the city region.”
Councillor Julie Dore, leader of Sheffield City Council, said: “The Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre will help to revolutionise sport research and innovation, not only in Sheffield but across the world.
"Creating those networks and opportunities was essential to our wider plans for the Olympic Legacy Park and will be a centre in which the city and country can be rightly proud.
"Sheffield’s world-class offer is attracting businesses, growth and city-wide investment and we are pleased that the plans can now be progressed.”
The Olympic Legacy Park will provide organisations with the opportunity to co-locate at the world-class centre of excellence and partner with Sheffield Hallam University to carry out collaborative research and development, sparking new innovations that link the health and wellbeing, sports and technology sectors.
Through the AWRC’s close links with the National Centre of Sports and Exercise Medicine, researchers will be able to work with the population of Sheffield and use local communities to explore and test the potential of new innovations and products developed at the OLP.
The Rt Hon Richard Caborn, project lead for the OLP, said “The Olympic Legacy Park is set to be an internationally recognised Innovation District for health and wellbeing research and learning, and the AWRC will play an integral role at the very heart of the site.
“Together with the National Centre for Sport and Exercise Medicine, this unique facility will make a vital contribution towards sustaining the health of the nation.”
The AWRC was recently highlighted as a key contributor in the Sheffield City Region vision launch which forms a cornerstone for the future of health and wellbeing in the region.
Toshiba Medical UK's managing director, Mark Hitchman, said: "Our partnership with the AWRC forms a critical part of our strategy to invest and partner in research projects that will have considerable benefits to NHS efforts and UK population at large.
"Our imaging equipment and research and development capability will play a crucial role in identifying and understanding the positive effect of exercise on health and disease prevention, as well as faster rehabilitation of many chronic conditions."
Tom Williams, chief operating officer at parkrun, said: “The AWRC plays a key role in supporting us with our mission to make the world a healthier and happier place, and it is great to be involved with them at this exciting time.
"We already have excellent insight into who participates in parkrun and why they do so. If we are to achieve genuine, worldwide impact, it is critical that we enhance our understanding of that participation and our partnership with the AWRC is a significant part of that."