A research team at University of Limerick (UL) has been awarded €480,000 in funding as part of a €5.8m EU project called Robomate to develop an exoskeleton for industrial applications in order to tackle musculoskeletal injuries.
The UL researchers are set to use the funding to carry out a study on human-robot interaction for manual handling in industry in order to lower the risk of lower-back injuries.
The overall Robomate project is being funded under the EU’s FP7 programme. It is being co-ordinated by Zurich University of Applied Sciences and involves 11 industry and academic partners from across Europe.
The UL research team is a collaboration between the Human Factors and Product Design research group and the Centre for Physical Activity and Health Research at the university.
Dr Leonard O’Sullivan, co-director of UL’s Enterprise Research Centre, is the lead researcher on the Robomate project. With around 44m workers in the EU affected by work-related musculoskeletal disorders every year, he said the project will aim to develop an exoskeleton for use in the workplace and in turn reduce back injury.
“Our team has extensive expertise in ergonomics and occupational health research,” explained O’Sullivan, adding that the group’s research expertise in product design will determine key technology advances for the exoskeleton.
According to the European Foundation for Living and Work Conditions, 65pc of workers perform lifting and carry loads for at least a quarter of their normal work time.
Work-related low back pain and injuries are the most common musculoskeletal disorders, and they are directly related to frequent manual handling of heavy loads.