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The Eastern Corridor Medical Engineering Centre (ECME), a cross border centre of research excellence within the field of cardiovascular medicine, has received €8.2 million in funding from the European Union’s INTERREG VA Programme, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB).

Cardiovascular diseases are the cause of over a quarter (26 per cent) of deaths in the UK; amounting to almost 160,000 deaths each year, the equivalent to an average of 435 people each day or one death every three minutes.

In the Republic of Ireland this figure is slightly higher again at around 30 per cent.

The idea behind ECME will be that researchers from academia and industry will collaborate with partners in the health and social care system to create better models of heart disease care, develop new medical grade wearables, in addition to remote monitoring systems for improved clinical outcomes and patient experience.

It is hoped that innovative medical technology will alleviate some of the current pressures facing our healthcare system, as waiting lists climb and the demand for hospital beds increases. Medical technologies such as smart wearables, user-ready sensor technology, and patient monitoring systems may improve diagnostics and patient outcomes and enable patients to live independently.

It has been claimed that there will also be economic benefits from the project as new and innovative products will be brought to the market.

Professor Jim McLaughlin, Director, Nanotechnology and Integrated Bioengineering Centre (NIBEC), Ulster University said; “Working with our project partners we will develop a cardiac data database to collate and analyse patient information from across the region and better inform decision making at both a clinical and policy level.

“Wearable technologies and remote monitoring systems have the potential to transform cardiac care. Smart technologies are helping to move care out of hospital and into the home, reducing pressure on the healthcare system. Our researchers will work to improve existing sensor technologies, point of care diagnostics and monitoring systems to improve clinical outcomes, free up hospital beds, predict patient needs and grow patient confidence and satisfaction”.

Gina McIntyre, CEO, Special EU Programmes Body said, “This is a project which has the potential to positively transform the lives of thousands of people and their families across Northern Ireland, the border region of Ireland and Western Scotland.

“By increasing the levels of cross-border Research and Innovation within the Health & Life Sciences sector, there is the opportunity to create a strong economic impact, and this is one of the core objectives of the INTERREG VA Programme”.

The ECME is a partnership between Ulster University, which is leading the Centre, and University College Dublin, Dublin City University, Dundalk Institute of Technology, Southern Health and Social Care Trust Cardiac Research Unit and the University of Highlands and Islands.