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Liang He is an Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering at the Department of Engineering Science, University of Oxford, and a Governing Body Fellow at Kellogg College. He received his PhD from Imperial College London, where his focus was on the transformative field of medical robotics.

Liang HeTell us a little about where you come from, and what moves or motivates you?

I am currently an Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering at the Department of Engineering Science. The core of my research explores the dynamic interplay between soft robotics, haptic and VR technologies, and wearable robotics. I have a keen interest in exploring embodied-AI solutions to address multifaceted challenges in healthcare and biomedical applications. My PhD focused on the field of medical robotics.

What continually fuels my passion and motivation throughout my career is the compelling potential that the synthesis of technology and engineering principles offer in revolutionizing health solutions. For me, the magic lies in the dual-fold satisfaction of delving deep into scientific theories while simultaneously generating tangible impact aimed at enhancing the quality of people’s lives.

How is Entrepreneurship and Innovation connected to your area of study or research, and how is it evolving?

With an application focus on healthcare, my research often encounters challenges that require novel solutions, the development of cutting-edge technologies, and co-designing with clinical partners. The goal is to create products that not only advance the scientific field but also have the potential for commercialisation, directly impacting society's health and well-being.

For instance, the development of soft robotics and wearable robotics demands constant innovation to create solutions that are safer, more comfortable, and more effective for human use. The transition from rigid to soft robotics represents a significant innovation, providing robots with the ability to interact more gently and naturally with their environment and humans. Similarly, the development of haptic and VR technologies involves the creation of new, advanced methods to mediate the sense of touch or simulate sensory feedback, often in real-time, providing immense opportunities for innovative healthcare solutions.

As for the evolution of entrepreneurship and innovation in my field, it is primarily driven by the rising demand for personalized healthcare, an aging global population, and the continuous advancements in AI and machine learning. There's a growing trend of start-ups in the biomedical engineering sector, often emanating from research findings, that develop personalized and home-based healthcare solutions, like wearable medical devices and telehealth solutions. Therefore, while conducting research, it's crucial to remain aware of the market demands, the potential for commercialisation, and the ethical and regulatory requirements of healthcare applications, ensuring that the innovations developed are not just scientifically advanced but also commercially viable and socially beneficial.

What attracts you to entrepreneurship?

I am drawn to entrepreneurship because it allows for the practical application of scientific research to meet real-world needs. I think this is essential to translate complex engineering innovation into products and services that can have a direct and meaningful impact on people's lives, particularly in the realm of healthcare. Moreover, entrepreneurship represents a platform where creativity, problem-solving, and strategic thinking converge. It pushes the boundaries, encouraging one to question existing systems, challenge the status quo, and continually strive for improvement. It offers an opportunity to create something new, unique, and potentially transformative, which aligns with my passion for innovation in biomedical applications.

Tell us some of the things that you hope the MPLS Enterprise Fellowship will help you to do or achieve, for yourself or for others.

Through the Enterprise Fellowship, my primary goal is to bring my research in soft robotics and Biomedical Engineering from the confines of the laboratory to the wider world. For myself, I am keen on developing a deeper understanding of the innovation ecosystem within Oxford.

I anticipate that the Fellowship will provide me with critical insights into entrepreneurial practices, market dynamics, and the intricacies of business strategy. This knowledge will be crucial in refining my entrepreneurial skills and enhancing my ability to lead innovative ventures. The Fellowship also provides a platform for me to contribute to others, particularly aspiring innovators within the academic community.

By establishing a successful model of academic-to-industry transition, I can help pave the way for future researchers looking to translate their own academic pursuits into commercial realities. Furthermore, I hope to use this opportunity to build strong collaborative networks within the enterprise ecosystem. These connections will not only support my current venture, but also potentially facilitate future collaborations that can lead to more innovative solutions in robotics and healthcare.