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Socially Assistive Robot Support to Aid Recovery After Critical Illness

College of Medicine and Veterinary Medicine

Edinburgh United Kingdom Electronic Engineering Human Computer Interaction Other Other Robotics Software Engineering

About the Project

The Advanced Care Research Centre at the University of Edinburgh is a new £20m interdisciplinary research collaboration aiming to transform later life with person centred integrated care

The vision of the ACRC is to play a vital role in addressing the Grand Challenge of ageing by transformational research that will support the functional ability of people in later life so they can contribute to their own welfare for longer. With fresh and diverse thinking across interdisciplinary perspectives our academy students will work to creatively embed deep understanding, data science, artificial intelligence, assistive technologies and robotics into systems of health and social care supporting the independence, dignity and quality-of-life of people living in their own homes and in supported care environments.

The ACRC Academy will equip future leaders to drive society’s response to the challenges of later life care provision; a problem which is growing in scale, complexity and urgency. Our alumni will become leaders in across a diverse range of pioneering and influential roles in the public, private and third sectors.

Recovery after critical illness can be prolonged, and complicated by fatigue, impaired attention and limited engagement with rehabilitation. Socially assistive Robots (SARs) could provide an opportunity for rehabilitation programmes to be developed by health care professionals, then delivered/supported by the robot. This project aims to evaluate the feasibility and acceptability of using SARs for patients recovering after a critical care admission.

This PhD will develop short technical feasibility trials of robots that aim to support patients who are rehabilitating after a critical illness,

The successful PhD student will undertake a series of case studies with qualitative feedback from patients and staff to evaluate the potential for service implementation of SARs. They will then work at The new National Robotarium at Heriot Watt University and test in the assistive living lab and in the hospital a small number of technical pilots (e.g. physiotherapy exercise) by the robot.

The feasibility and concepts for the SARs pilots work will take place in year 1 and the evaluation in year 4 of the PhD, with years 2 & 3 focused on the pilots.

The main objectives are:

  1. Investigation of the potential feasibility and acceptability of SARs to provide suitable patient support in terms of rehabilitation during recovery after a critical illness
  2. A small number of technical pilots in the hospital and/or HWU Living Lab
  3. Assessment of the acceptability of SARs for patients and staff after the technical pilots

Dr Shenkin will provide supervision on the clinical aspects of critical care recovery, in collaboration with an experienced multidisciplinary team (Dr Judith Merriweather, PhD, Critical Care Recovery Lead, NHS Lothian

(rehabilitation, qualitative research)

Prof Tim Walsh, Prof of Anaesthesia, Critical Care and Pain Medicine, Edinburgh Critical Care Research Group,  UoE;

(complex interventions in ICU, mixed methods evaluation); Jo Singleton, Senior Research Nurse, Critical Care, NHS Lothian (post-ICU recovery, research education, PPI); Dr Lisa Salisbury, PhD, physiotherapist, QMU

(physiotherapy, critical illness rehabilitation, evaluation of patient experience, tele-rehabilitation, mixed methods);

Dr Alasdair Fitzgerald, Rehabilitation Medicine, NHS Lothian

Prof Baillie will provide supervision on Human-Robot interaction and access to the National Robotarium.

Dr Stokes will provide supervision on Bioinspired engineering and provide hardware expertise.

This PhD project has the potential to lead to future projects testing the implementation of SARs in critical care recovery and rehabilitation in other areas.


An undergraduate degree in Computer Science, Robotics or Engineering (with a reasonable level of programming)

Funding Notes

PhD's are fully funded with an above industry stipend for the full 4 year period.

The call is open to candidates of any nationality but funded places for overseas nationals will be strictly limited to 3 international students who can apply for the highly competitive ACRC Global Scholarship.

Application forms are now available here:
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Find more information on how to apply on the How to Apply section of our website:
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