§ Mr. Bowden
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what developments have taken place regarding the workload and location of the bioengineering research and development unit; and if he will make a statement;191W
§ Mr. Prentice:
The biomechanical research and development unit, which is based in the grounds of Queen Mary's hospital at Roehampton, was set up by the Department in 1968 in order to carry out research in the fields of prosthetics and orthotics. Much fundamental work has been undertaken and a number of innovations have resulted. I welcome this opportunity to pay tribute to all the staff of the unit past and present, who contributed to these achievements.
However, with this type of research, as in so many other fields, there is increasingly a need to draw upon specific areas of expertise to meet particular problems as they arise. To some extent this need has been met by placing small contracts outside the unit, usually with universities. Even so it has for some time been obvious that if the unit itself were within a university that would allow easier access to the varied disciplines needed for research.
I am very pleased to announce that, following detailed negotiation, the unit has, with effect from 1 October 1980, become part of University College, London. It will in future be known as the Bio-engineering Centre, Department of Mechanical Engineering, University College, London, but it will not move from its present location and will retain its invaluable links with both Queen Mary's hospital and the Roehampton limb-fitting centre. This will ensure for the new unit the advantages of being within a university—and it also provides opportunities for co-operation with University College School of Medicine.
The work of the centre will be directed towards improvements in the quality of life of physically handicapped individuals particularly those with deficiencies or weaknesses in their limbs. In addition, the centre will advise on design aspects of prostheses as required by this Department.
The Department will continue to fund the centre and provide advice and guidance. I am sure this change will be of benefit and provide a fresh impetus in this field which is so vital to disabled people.