Community 13.02.19

New director at the helm of Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park world-leading research centre

Sheffield Hallam University’s world-leading Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre (AWRC) has appointed a new director to drive its mission to improve the health of the nation.  

Professor Rob Copeland, a chartered sport and physical activity psychologist and professor of physical activity and health at Sheffield Hallam University, will take the helm at what is set to become the most advanced research and development centre for health and physical activity in the world. Professor Copeland was chosen as the best candidate for the role from a choice of eight international candidates interviewed for the position.

As director for the National Centre for Sport and Exercise Medicine (NCSEM) in Sheffield – a London 2012 Olympic Games legacy programme that aims to improve the health and wellbeing of the nation through sport, exercise and physical activity – Professor Copeland is well placed to tackle the key healthcare issues of today.

In Sheffield, the NCSEM has been the catalyst for a systems approach to increasing physical activity under the banner Move More, which aims to transform Sheffield into the most active city in the UK by 2020 by making it easier to be active as part of everyday life.

Professor Copeland’s specific area of expertise focuses on behaviour change interventions in public health and has had significant research, consultancy and service evaluation experience in both clinical and non-clinical settings and has presented and published nationally and internationally on physical activity and health related areas.

A member of several national academic advisory boards and a regular reviewer for international peer review journals and research submissions, Professor Copeland has informed national government on the promotion of physical activity and has worked with Public Health England and the Chief Medical Officer in preparation for the forthcoming update on national physical activity guidelines in the UK.

Elsewhere, Professor Copeland has worked as a psychologist within a wide range of professional sports including downhill mountain biking, golf, football, and snooker, and he has also worked with chief executives and senior managers applying sports psychology techniques to a business environment to improve performance under pressure.

“This is a really exciting time for the University and for Sheffield as we push forward with our plans to revolutionise healthcare on a regional, national and international scale,” said Professor Copeland.

“I am thrilled to be appointed the new director of Sheffield Hallam’s Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre and through my work with the NCSEM, I am already aware of the fantastic work that’s being done by the University’s talented scientists, engineers, designers and healthcare practitioners who regularly collaborate to create innovative solutions to tackle real-world problems.

“Increasingly, healthcare in the twenty-first century is not just about treating illness and disease, it is about supporting people into better health, wellbeing and wellness. Inactivity leading to long-term chronic illness is a global challenge. New, technological advances make it so easy for us to lead sedentary lifestyles but they also have huge potential to help people self-manage and adopt and maintain healthful behaviours. The AWRC is in prime position to shape research, innovation and practice so that future generations are sufficiently active to benefit their health, wellbeing and economic outcomes.”

Under Professor Copeland’s leadership, the AWRC will seek to find solutions to key issues affecting the nation such as; physical inactivity, rising obesity, drug and alcohol misuse as well as developing preventative measures against life-limiting diseases and illnesses.

Situated at the heart of Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park, the AWRC will undertake research focused upon taking services and products from concept to market – acting as a hothouse of innovation, bringing together those who make apps, activity loggers, health and sports equipment, orthotics and clinical devices.

The AWRC is a key part of the city’s Advanced Manufacturing Innovation District/Global Innovation corridor and has widespread support from both the public and private sector.

The UK Government has invested £14m as part of the ‘Northern Powerhouse’ agenda, whilst confirmed partners include global healthcare giants Cannon Medical UK, Westfield Health, parkrun UK and Sheffield Children’s Hospital Charity.

The AWRC is a key project for Sheffield City Region, creating jobs, spin-off companies and generating wealth within the emerging healthcare sector.

Professor Alison Metcalfe, pro vice-chancellor of the University’s Faculty of Health and Wellbeing, said: “Professor Copeland has an outstanding, global reputation within the health sector, bringing with him a wealth of experience and expertise in healthcare research.

“Sheffield is the home of a new healthcare revolution of which Sheffield Hallam’s Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre is at the forefront and with Professor Copeland’s drive and ambition, the AWRC will become a model of urban development that will positively influence economic growth, health improvements and community wellbeing.”