Innovating Across the Globe

The health and life sciences sector in Northern Ireland is full of inspiring stories of partnerships to drive excellence and innovation to help patients manage chronic conditions.

None more so than Professor of Intelligent Technologies, Joan Condell, who is a mother of five, with children at all levels of schooling from primary to university.

Joan is no stranger to academic corridors having lectured at Magee College for over 20 years.

“My commercial journey started when I was asked by a rheumatologist at Altnagelvin hospital to create a glove that could quantify the reduction of movement in the joints of the fingers of patients.

“I bought lots of gaming gloves, worked to adapt them and when that did not work, I created my own gloves in partnership with the Tyndall Institute (UCC) Cork. We moved to create our own technology at Ulster via a spinout company, so getting more involved in the commercial side of early-stage technologies.”

Joan went on to create a European project called SENDoc which included geriatricians from Sweden, physios from Finland, engineers in Tyndall Cork, and as computer scientists based in Northern Ireland!

“We rolled this project out across Europe and as news spread, I was then invited to join other projects because of our success. One of these was IT4Anxiety, a European North-West European programme, testing early-stage technologies to help reduce PTSD, depression, and anxiety remotely, in the home.”

“Then Brexit and Covid happened, and I brought my knowledge and expertise from the European projects, which were cross-sector, multi-technological and cross-discipline, to prioritise health and wellbeing at home, considering technologies for supporting anxiety, depression, dementia. I was successful in securing just under a million pounds to set up a testbed, ‘eCarewell,’ in the Derry City & Strabane District Council area.

Working with 20 NI companies, local carers, researchers, the Health Innovation Research Alliance Northern Ireland and UKRI Digital Catapult, the eCarewell project aimed to put NI technologies into 170 NI carers homes in this council area.

The project looked at how user-friendly, accurate, how acceptable the technologies were, and how they ‘fitted-in’ with patients and carers lives at home, to support their care and wellbeing.

The eCarewell health-and-wealth project put NI Technologies from local innovators into the hands of their neighbours – real people in NI , to be tried and tested in their homes , who then gave NI businesses direct feedback, meaning the companies had co-design partners and the carers, in turn, had access to technologies they would not usually have access to, supporting their mental and physical health.

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