16 July 2019

New Campus opportunities with nanotechnology expert

The University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI) is expanding its expertise with the appointment of a professor of medical nanotechnology.


Based at the Centre for Health Science in Inverness, Professor Alistair Kean plans to develop new innovations by applying the science of nanotechnology to healthcare. The discipline works with materials on an atomic and molecular scale.


Professor Kean will investigate nano-scaled coatings which can be used to improve medical products and devices. The research will include the development of rugged antimicrobial coatings to kill bacteria on medical instruments and new forms of thin film diamond to increase the lifetime of implants. His role will see him develop this research towards commercialisation with a view to generating employment and improving the wellbeing of the population. He will also be responsible for building a team of researchers and establishing nanotechnology facilities at the university.


Professor Kean has a background in applied physics, studying at the universities of Strathclyde and St. Andrews. During his 30 year career, he has held a variety of academic positions. He has worked in industry, notably with Sharp Laboratories of Europe in Oxford. In 2013 Professor Kean set up NikaWorks Ltd with the aim of commercialising nanotechnology. He also works with Johnson Matthey PLC and is a visiting professor at Manchester Metropolitan University. 


Speaking about his new role, Professor Kean said: “I’m excited to take up this position and I am bowled over by the opportunities and potential at Inverness Campus and across the University of the Highlands and Islands partnership. My aim is to develop world-leading research which can have practical benefits in the healthcare sector. Ultimately I want to make peoples’ lives better through healthy living supported by nanotechnology.”


Professor Ian Megson, Head of Health Research and Innovation at the university, said: “This is a significant appointment for the university and signals the start of a new and exciting research initiative in our region. Professor Kean’s depth of knowledge, coupled with his links to industry will greatly accelerate our potential to develop valuable new medical devices to improve disease prevention, diagnosis and treatment.”


Professor Kean’s post is being supported by the Inverness and Highland City-Region Deal, an initiative jointly funded by the UK and Scottish Governments. The university was awarded £9 million from the UK Government to establish commercialisation, academic and clinical capacity to deliver projects in health, social care and life sciences.


Professor Kean will be working closely with Highlands and Islands Enterprise, putting forward potential inward investment prospects in the nanotechnology field. Ruaraidh MacNeil, Highlands and Islands Enterprise’s Inverness Campus Director, said:


“Nanotechnology has the potential to create many next generation products and services in a number of sectors, with healthcare being one of the most promising. Professor Kean’s expertise and extensive industry contacts will open up a wealth of technology based commercial opportunities. We very much welcome his appointment and look forward to working with him in pursuing these.”


To find out more about the University of the Highlands and Islands School of Health, Social Care and Life Sciences, visit


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