Update: May 12 – UNB’s Biomedical Institute of Biomedical Engineering captured this year’s Innovation Champion KIRA Award. This post originally appeared on the ONB Blog in May 2016, it is being republished as part of New Brunswick Innovation Week.

Conversations about cutting-edge research and development and the province of New Brunswick are certainly not mutually exclusive, quite the contrary. Visit the Institute of Biomedical Engineering (IBME) at the University of New Brunswick and you will quickly see that New Brunswick is a world leader in biomedical engineering and that the province’s cluster is only getting stronger.

Opportunities NB (ONB) recently learned more from Dr Kevin Englehart, the Institute’s Director. 

ONB: Can you tell us about the cutting edge research and hands-on clinical care that is taking place at the IBME and the Atlantic Clinic for Upper Limb Prosthetics (ACULP)? Also, what is the relationship between the two?

Dr EnglehartOur research is multidisciplinary within the field of Rehabilitation Engineering. We have two major areas of specialization, including upper limb prosthetics, and biomechanics. Both fields include fundamental and applied aspects of the research, and both have become increasingly involved in industrial collaboration and commercialization.

ACULP is the clinical part of IBME. The staff includes a prosthetist, and occupational therapist and a prosthetics technician. The researchers and clinical staff at ACULP work closely together to innovate the next generation of prosthetics.

ONB: UNB is a treasure trove of research and highly skilled professionals. What is it about the University that draws so many great researchers, and great people able to carry out practical applications of that research?

Dr Englehart: It is widely known as a leader in the field of myoelectric control of prosthetics, and it is one of the few places where one can conduct research, interact with the clinic and its amputee population, and carry out applied engineering to realize commercial prototypes.

ONB: There is a tremendous amount of innovation taking place at UNB. Your work is among a handful of facilities around the world doing this type of research, and one of only a handful doing the clinical fitting/testing, why UNB?  

Dr Englehart: Dr Robert Scott developed one of the first prosthetic control systems at UNB in the mid-1960s, and established a culture of innovation and quality that has been sustained. Our international reputation and quality of work have kept us at the forefront of innovation. 

ONB: How many students graduate each year and where do they go?

Dr Englehart: We have roughly 5-6 students (PhD and Masters) graduate per year. Several undergraduates conduct their summer projects or senior design projects with us.   

ONB: What other organizations do you work with?  

Dr Englehart: We work with people across many fields, including:

  • Government  Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), New Brunswick Health Research Foundation (NBHRF), New Brunswick Innovation Foundation (NBIF), Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA), MITACS, Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI)
  • Industry  B-Temia, Autonomous~ID, Liberating Technologies, Accreon, and Smart Skin
  • Health  Horizon Health, Stan Cassidy Centre for Rehabilitation, Nova Scotia Rehab Centre, Spaulding Rehabilitation Network (Boston)

ONB: You are a native New Brunswicker, but you could have gone anywhere in the world to work. What made you stay in New Brunswick?

Dr Englehart: It’s really a combination of lifestyle, family, and the international quality of work being done at the IBME.

ONB: You speak of going from innovation to having an impact. Can you tell us about what that means to you, and what it means for the Institute?

Dr Englehart: It is very important to me to channel our research efforts toward creating technologies that will improve the quality of life for those in need, and to create high-quality jobs locally. This will be a significant driver for us in the next decade.

ONB: We think New Brunswick is a great place to live and do business. Would you agree?

Dr Englehart: Absolutely. We have an outstanding faculty of engineering here producing some of the best-trained engineers in Canada, and a burgeoning entrepreneurial ecosystem. We have great entrepreneurs here working hard to create opportunities, and the quality of life here is second to none. 

Written by Heather MacLean

Cover image: UNB