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Supporting research for longevity and well-being – University of Reading

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Supporting research for longevity and well-being

Release Date 07 March 2005

an old persons handsA pioneering scheme run by the Universities of Reading and Brighton which will encourage more young researchers to take an interest in the needs of older people and an ageing population has been announced by the EPSRC and BBSRC. The programme SPARC – Strategic Promotion of Ageing Research Capacity – aims to attract new blood and thus build the capacity and capability for ageing research in the UK, benefiting current and future generations of older people. As part of SPARC, 30 awards worth more than £1,300,000 in total will be made available to support newcomers to ageing-related research in the fields of design, engineering and biology. Award holders will be supported by an extensive infrastructure of advice and will have many opportunities to promote their work. SPARC is led by Professor Peter Lansley, of the School of Construction Management and Engineering at the University of Reading, and Dr Richard Faragaher, from the School of Pharmacy and Biomolecular Sciences at the University of Brighton. Professor Lansley said: "SPARC has been developed in response to pressing concerns about the low priority accorded to ageing-related research at a national level. It will build on the highly successful EQUAL and ERA ageing research initiatives (1) and bring together the small but enthusiastic research communities who have worked closely with older people and those who provide services to them, such as charities, transport, housing, health and social services organisations and industry. "The overall aim is to create a research programme that really will make a difference to the lives of older people. "By bringing together engineering and biology we will be able to generate a more integrated perspective on many of those issues which are of vital concern to older people. For example, better design and engineering of the home and the environment, and better control of balance and perception, informed by biology research, will help to minimise the frequency of falls and their severity. When the worst happens and a bone breaks, biological research will contribute to combating the infections, and the return to independence will be assisted by novel technologies." As well as providing funding for new researchers, SPARC will organise national workshops on engineering and biology ageing-related research and will act as a vigorous advocate of the needs of older people and the contribution which research can make to meeting those needs. The first workshop was held at Brunel University on Thursday 24 February. A second workshop, 'Integrating Research on Ageing: bridging the gap between biology, engineering, design and older people', is being held at the University of Strathclyde on Wednesday 16 March. For further details, visit the website: end Notes for editors 1. The EPSRC Extending Quality Life (EQUAL) Initiative and BBSRC Experimental Research on Ageing (ERA) Programme were established in the late 1990s to promote ageing-related research. They have funded nearly £10m of research in design, engineering and biology and have been very successful. 2. SPARC is a response from a committed research community backed by equally committed research users to ensure that ageing research is not neglected and that the UK retains and develops a unique approach to ageing research. For further information, see 3. There is a particular need to attract more newcomers to the ageing research as there is insufficient capacity in the research base and many of the leading figures in ageing research are within sight of retirement. For media enquiries, please contact Craig Hillsley, the University of Reading press officer: Tel: 0118 378 7388 Email:

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