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Healthcare Innovation: Engineering, Systems and Improvement

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The course consists of the following three units, each including a residential week in Cambridge. Teaching outside the residential weeks will be supported by online lectures/seminars, supervisions and online resources.


Unit 1: Research Skills and Innovation

Unit 1 provides the landscape to understand the breadth of technology, innovation and improvement in the healthcare and economic landscape in the UK and globally. It provides knowledge of the technical, legal, regulatory and ethical infrastructure which guides research, commercial development, and healthcare quality improvement. Furthermore, it introduces key concepts from subsequent parts of the course to allow students to develop their thinking around systems engineering, biomedical and healthcare engineering, patient and population health, and medical technology innovation. The cross-cutting themes of Cambridge Public Health ( will be drawn on to demonstrate how economics, ethics, evidence, technology, systems and data science can all inform innovative approaches to improving healthcare. Students will be taught by a faculty of experts from fields as diverse as public health, clinical medicine, business, engineering and innovation. Masterclass sessions will use case studies to examine the impact of appropriate processes, tools and technologies in the delivery of effective healthcare innovation.


Indicative content for this module includes an introduction to healthcare systems and biomedical engineering; an overview of local, national and global healthcare systems; trends in individual and population health; and trends in the use of healthcare data. Exemplar areas of innovation will be showcased, such as life-course and ageing, health inequalities, global health, sustainability, and public mental health.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of the unit the participants should be able to: describe the landscape of healthcare innovation from biomedical engineering to changes in public health provision; understand the practical and ethical considerations relevant to healthcare improvement and biomedical engineering; discuss future trends in healthcare systems, biomedical interventions and use of healthcare data; and outline how the results of a body of research can be communicated to appropriate groups to support the implementation of change.

Key dates

Residential week: 30 September - 4 October 2024


Unit 2: Healthcare Technologies I

The aim of this unit is to introduce key technologies applicable to healthcare. The unit combines teaching of core knowledge and methodologies with case study examples taken from clinical medicine and healthcare. These application examples are used to showing how technology innovation can be implemented practically in a healthcare setting, taking account of the healthcare systems and regulatory environment described in Units 1 and 2. Lectures are given by research leaders who are experts in the relevant areas. These lectures are supported by hands-on practical sessions, seminars and group workshops. The unit has three sections - biomaterials, biofabrication and sensors - covering core topics in healthcare technology. Each section is assessed with a 4-page report drawing on material covered in the lecture material, practical sessions and discussions.


Indicative content for this module includes:


  • Biological materials, biomaterials, materials used for biomedical applications.
  • Methods to characterize mechanical properties of biomaterials, and the importance of considering mechanics of biomaterials.
  • Measuring material properties: includes a practical activity in a bioengineering laboratory, measuring properties of biomaterials.
  • Materials data analysis: numerical analysis of materials data, fitting to material models, statistical analysis.
  • Application of materials and characterisation techniques in healthcare applications: includes the impact of regulatory constraints and workshop discussion sessions critiquing published application examples.

Biofabrication and manufacturing for biomedical applications

  • Advanced additive manufacturing, biofabrication and microfabrication techniques, including 3D printing, soft lithography, and tissue engineering
  • Microfluidics laboratory: hands-on use of microfluidics devices.
  • Laboratory tour of bio- and micro-fabrication facilities.
  • Application of fabrication techniques in healthcare applications; sensors, microfluidics, lab-on-chip, organ-on-chip, implants, future trends; includes workshop discussion sessions critiquing published application examples.

Biosensors and wearables

  • Sensor technologies: development of devices; human interactions; systems engineering; future perspectives.
  • Data: data acquisition; signal processing; data analysis and statistics; accuracy and use of data; introduction to machine learning.
  • Practical activity: hands-on collection of human participant data, e.g. heart rate, from a range of devices (for example ECG, pulse oximetry, smart watch).
  • Application of biosensors and wearables in healthcare applications: patient-level and population-level data and interventions; planning trials and analysis; screening and stratification; includes workshop discussion session considering application examples.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of the unit participants will have a good knowledge of key engineering technologies that can be used in healthcare, including biomaterials, manufacturing, biosensors and wearables and will have developed knowledge and expertise in how to use technology solutions within the complex multi-professional healthcare system.

Key dates

Residential week: 13 - 17 January 2025


Unit 3: Healthcare Systems Improvement

Healthcare faces considerable challenges and the complexity of the system mean that efforts to improve it often achieve only limited benefits and frequently have unforeseen consequences. Over the past two decades, there have been numerous calls to implement a systems approach to transform healthcare; however, there has been no clear definition of what this might mean. Engineers routinely use a systems approach to address challenging problems in complex projects and this allows them to work through the implications of each change for the project as a whole. They consider the layout of the system, defining all the elements and interconnections, to ensure that the whole system performs as required. This module will apply a systems engineering approach to the process of change in healthcare environments allowing students to understand healthcare systems before making such changes and to understand and measure their consequences. This will allow students to become experts in balancing the differing needs of users, assessing risk, and then implementing change and assessing the effectiveness of system change within hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, and health research charities.


Indicative content for this module includes the introduction of the concept of a systems approach; description of the architecture and behaviour of systems; risk management by delivering robust system risk assessment and evaluation; facilitating the delivery of the ‘right’ systems solution; and how to improve improvement by supporting a systems approach to improvement.

Learning Outcomes

By the end of the unit the participants should be able to appreciate the importance of people, systems, risk and design perspectives within improvement; understand the role of data-flow diagrams, influence maps and rich pictures in mapping systems; understand the value of FMEA, SWIFT and bowtie methods in the management of system risk; understand the use of requirements, morphological charts and measures to drive system design; and have the skills to use relevant tools to plan the application of a systems approach to healthcare improvement projects.

Key dates

Residential week: 7 -  11 April 2025


Course duration

11 months part-time

Apply by

2 January 2024 for first set of interviews

15 April 2024 for final set of interviews

(See Applying / Selection Process for further information)

Course fee

Home: £5,737

Overseas: £10,526

Course Director

Dr James Ward


Cambridge University Engineering Department

Trumpington Street



Qualifications / Credits

PG Certificate (60 Credits)

Teaching sessions

Residential weeks:

Unit 1: 30 September – 4 October 2024

Unit 2: 13 – 17 January 2025

Unit 3: 7 – 11 April 2025

Course code