Project: Empowering Future Care Workforces

Categories: Uncategorized
Categories: Uncategorized

I’m leading a new research project starting April 1st 2022. It’s funded by the UKRI Trusted and Autonomous Systems Hub and the aim is to develop methods and principals with which to center the capabilities and wellbeing of health and social care workers in future technology design and evaluation. We’ve got an amazing team of roboticists, social scientists, clinical physiotherapists and non-academic partners. Here are the details:

Empowering Future Care Workforces: Scoping Capabilities to Leverage Assistive Robotics through Co-Design

Empowering Future Care Workforces aims to understand how health and social care professionals can benefit from using assistive robotics on their own terms. Empowering health and social care professionals through digital technologies has long been a goal in health and care policy. But as governments invest in post-pandemic digital transformation, ensuring workers are empowered and not excluded by technology is more urgent than ever.

Confronting this challenge, the project addresses a gap in understanding how care professionals can use digital technologies such as assistive robotics in ways that are safe, trustworthy, and meet the ethical and legal standards of their professions. We know that care professionals are empowered when they have a diverse set of human capabilities available to them. For instance, being able to undertake their care tasks safely and with empathy, or having confidence to safely use technologies on wards and in people’s homes. Our aim is to scope what kinds of human-digital capabilities help carers perform tasks with greater skill, fluency, and proficiency. We’re doing this by running a series of co-design workshops to evaluate the capability needs of a diverse group of nurses, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, and unwaged carers – and to allow them to steer the research towards capabilities that matter most to them.

With partners such as the Association of Chartered Physiotherapists in Neurology and Bristol after Stroke the project is identify gaps in how technology augments the needs of staff in dynamic care contexts. This work will help us scope needs for continuing professional development programmes. And we are also generating insight for verifying and validating systems to best match these needs. Finally, our analysis is also generating insights about the kinds of policy support and interdisciplinary research infrastructure needed for new forms of human-robot collaboration in caring environments during and after digital transformation.

Principal Investigator:

  • Dr. Cian O’Donovan, Senior Research Fellow, UCL Department of Science and Technology Studies


  • Professor Praminda Caleb-Solly, University of Nottingham, Professor of Embodied Intelligence in the School of Computer Science
  • Dr. Praveen Kumar, Senior Lecturer in Physiotherapy, UWE Bristol, Faculty of Health and Applied Sciences – Allied Health Professions
  • Professor Robin Williams, University of Edinburgh, Professor of Social Research on Technology in The Institute for the Study of Science, Technology and Innovation
  • Dr. Linda Sumpter, Research Fellow, UCL, Department of Science and Technology Studies

Non-academic public partners

  • ACPIN – Association of Chartered Physiotherapists in Neurology – led by Adine Adonis , Chair