A BRAND new orthopaedic laboratory worth £700,000 has been installed at one of Bournemouth University's research centres, thanks to funding from the Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership.

The GRAIL - gait real-time analysis interactive laboratory - is just one of three in the UK and 23 in the world and will allow the Bournemouth University Orthopaedic Research Institute (ORI) to become one of the leading establishments in the country offering training in this field.

Dorset LEP's investment has seen state-of-the-art virtual reality training equipment installed, including a self-paced treadmill with integrated force plate, a 10 camera motion capture system and a 180 degree floor-to-ceiling surround screen featuring augmented reality scenes.

The lab will also be the only place in the world offering keyhole surgery training, and the first place in Europe offering total knee replacement surgery training, both using virtual reality.

It is hoped that it will help train doctors more quickly, easing pressure on the NHS. It is also hoped that the technology could be transferred into other areas of medicine.

Professor John Fletcher, pro vice-chancellor of research and innovation at Bournemouth University, said: “We are delighted that support from Dorset LEP has allowed ORI to install new, state-of-the-art training equipment. This will bring great benefits to the students and qualified professionals being trained, as well as enhancing ORI’s research activities."

Professor Rob Middleton, head of ORI, said: “Thanks to the capital grant from Dorset LEP, ORI now has world-class research and training facilities here in Bournemouth. Our virtual reality training simulators allow us to train surgeons in the ORI labs, where in the past they would be going through a learning curve on real patients. It’s a big advance and we’re generating huge interest from around the country and abroad.

“The gait lab allows researchers from across BU faculties to study human motion to improve sporting performance and treat injury and arthritis. Its unique contribution for studying joint replacements and their outcomes has attracted over 30 national and international companies to visit ORI over the last year. I am pleased to say that nine companies have now signed agreements and partnerships to work with ORI.

"Without Dorset LEP’s support we could not have attracted this work to Bournemouth.”

Gordon Page, chairman of the Dorset Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “BU ORI is a leading edge research facility. Its work will deliver more effective treatments for osteoarthritis as well as attract multi-national global orthopaedic businesses to Dorset.

"This is good news not only for people whose lives will be enriched by better orthopaedic treatments but also for the economy. We are delighted to have secured the capital investment through our local growth fund to support this innovative and pioneering project.”