Keatch, Robert

Professor, Academic Lead for Mechanical & Industrial Engineering

Calculated based on number of publications stored in Pure and citations from Scopus
1994 …2021

Research activity per year

Personal profile


Over the past 34years Professor Keatch has become very experienced in teaching students at all undergraduate and postgraduate levels and has previously been nominated for the Teaching Innovation Award. He currently acts as Module Leader on a number of modules for the BEng in Mechanical Engineering and the MSc in Biomedical Engineering. For 6 years he was the Programme Director of the UG programme in ME and also oversaw the implementation of the new UG degree in Renewable Engineering, Biomedical Engineering, Medical Imaging and most recently the four pathways in Industrial Engineering. His teaching has been directed at students within the School of Science and Engineering, in a range of undergraduate and postgraduate degree programmes. Each of his courses is run in association with practical laboratory sessions to back up the taught activities and enhance the students understanding of the course material. Professor Keatch is directly responsible for the content of these courses which have been designed to form part of the modular degree structure with each module assessed with written assignments and final examinations at the end of the semester. Feedback on the effectiveness of these lectures and comments on his lecturing ability is given by student questionnaires and through staff/student review committees. In 2009 and 2014 he saw his Division voted 1st in Scotland and 3rdand 4th top in the whole UK (Guardian University League Tables). He has also been pivotal in undergraduate recruitment and has seen an increase year on year in student applications into the Division of Mechanical Engineering which now commands one of the largest number of undergraduate applicants  into a programme across the whole school. Professor Keatch has instigated a new learning concept into the programme, which was pioneered in MIT known as CDIO (Conceive, Develop, Innovate and Operate). This method of teaching allows engineering students to experience real life problems and tackle these practical challenges as a group project before being exposed to the theoretical knowledge through a lecture-based learning environment. It has created a new breed of students who are attuned to critical thinking and problem solving which is the key skill required in engineering. Due to the success of this, Professor Keatch now leads on the University Partnership with CERN, securing funds to send engineering students on placements in Geneva for 11months each year.


Professor Keatch founded the multi-disciplinary Bio-Engineering Research Group and was Section Head of Regenerative Medicine Technology (REMiT) as part of the Institute of Medical Science and Technology (IMSaT).  The research  focused on generating complex 3D scaffolds used in wound healing, surface and materials modulation, and systems biology modelling and the principal objective of his group is to promote cross-disciplinary research interaction between Engineering, Life Sciences, Mathematics, and Medicine. In particular his research includes pivotal work on the synthesis and development of novel biocompatible scaffolds to use as in-vitro assays for fundamental studies of cell behaviour such as cell adhesion, proliferation, migration and signalling. He has extensive expertise in microengineering, fabrication techniques, materials and biomechanics and has applied his research interests to cover a wide range of biomedical activities, from designing miniature medical devices to investigating complex cell behaviour on microfabricated 3D structures.

Medical Devices: Professor Keatch’s research developing novel miniature devices for medical applications resulted in the formation of the spin-out company Lumenus in 2004. The prime role of this company was to take the research and exploit the commercial applications of medical sensors for next generation minimal invasive surgical instruments in collaboration with the clinicians in the Department of Surgery and Molecular Oncology and the Surgical Skills Unit at Ninewells hospital, Dundee. This research led to 5 patents and latterly played a pivotal role in the formation of the Institute of Medical Science and Technology that currently is responsible for medical commercialisation. Work on medical devices for colonoscopy led to a FP7 ERC award for £2.4M. This 5year work programme was focussed on developing the next generation of medical exploratory devices for investigating and monitoring diseases in the large intestine.

Research on wound management and materials resulted in Industrial collaboration with a national textile manufacturer (J&D Wilkie) and funded by the Scottish Executive SCORE initiative to develop the next generation of wound dressings from non-woven synthetic fibres. This project led to research to develop activated anti-bacterial dressings for wound care and management.

More recently an EPSRC grant was awarded for £617k on the “Influence of Surface Properties of Biomaterials on Bacterial Adhesion Urine” this is specifically related to developing novel coating for catheters and medical devices and forms a new collaborative team between Engineering, Physics, Maths and Medicine.

Microengineering: Professor Keatch developed and ran the University’s microelectronics and microengineering facility for 12 years prior to taking over as Divisional Head of Mechanical Engineering. As a grant holder of a significant Ministry of Defence research contract with the AWE plc. (in excess of £1M) his prime interest was to develop novel techniques for the mass-production and complex manufacture of microcomponents and miniature target assemblies used in the Inertial Confinement Fusion (ICF) energy programme  (recently been highlighted as part of the National Ignition Facility (NIF) in Lawrence Livermore Laboratories, USA).


Tissue Engineering: Professor Keatch has applied his considerable expertise in microengineering to the emerging field of regenerative medicine. His studies of mammalian cell interaction with microfabricated extracellular matrices have been very successful, with funding totalling over £1.2M since 2003.

His first successful grant in this area was awarded by EPSRC (£270k Physics for Healthcare); whereby techniques and applications were developed that have led to international collaborations in the field of regenerative medicine and wound care. A further grant of £580k was subsequently awarded from EPSRC (first SANDPIT on Complex Biological Systems) as part of a tri-centre collaborative network to study the tissue level control of new blood vessel formation involving Dundee (project coordinator), Imperial College London and the University of Nottingham.

The inter-collaborative nature of this research led to Prof Keatch co-founding the Dundee University Tissue Engineering Centre (DUTEC) of which he ran the Microengineering & Biomaterials Group. The Tissue Engineering Centre has attracted £1.12M to fund a cell and molecular biology facility at the University part-funded by £250k from the Royal Society (Wolfson refurbishment grant scheme). The principal objective of this Centre was to promote cross-disciplinary interaction between Engineering, Life Sciences, and Medicine, with a research focus on generating biomaterials for scaffolds used in wound healing, vascular and blood biology, surface and materials modulation, genomics, and biological mathematical modelling. In particular this includes pivotal work on the synthesis and development of novel biocompatible scaffolds from polymer composite hydrogels for fundamental studies of cell behaviour. These are used for the production of in-vitro assays containing specific amino acid sequences relevant to study cell adhesion, proliferation, migration and signalling. Other research focuses on innovative additive manufacturing techniques using synthetic polymers and nano-fibres to produce 3D scaffolds for cell growth and has provided the platform technology for collaborative studies with biologists and clinicians to ascertain the effects of the substratum on tissue cell response to cytokines and other soluble regulatory factors.

Leading edge research is also underway to produce a physiologically functional muscle construct from adult skeletal muscle stem cells. This research involves the development of biomaterials which provide a biomechanical interface with the engineered muscle tissueand the biomechanics of soft tissue itself. This collaboration with the Cell Physiology group in the College of Life Sciences has already attracted £436k funding from BBSRC (Engineering and Biological Systems) in association with the University of North Carolina, USA and has led to further funds £640k from Wyeth Pharmaceuticals (Translational Medicine Research Centre) in association with Aberdeen University for pre-clinical and clinical trials on patients with ruptured tendons. This research is aimed at producing in-vitro models of functional muscle tissue to replace current animal testing experiments and also focuses on non-invasive imaging techniques to monitor muscle physiology during mechanical loading.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 2 - Zero Hunger
  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 4 - Quality Education
  • SDG 6 - Clean Water and Sanitation
  • SDG 7 - Affordable and Clean Energy
  • SDG 9 - Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure
  • SDG 11 - Sustainable Cities and Communities
  • SDG 12 - Responsible Consumption and Production
  • SDG 13 - Climate Action
  • SDG 14 - Life Below Water
  • SDG 15 - Life on Land

Education/Academic qualification

Doctor of Philosophy, PhD Microengineering and Microfabrication Technologies

1 Jun 19881 Jun 1992

Award Date: 1 Jun 1992

Bachelor of Science in Engineering, BSc (Hons) Electronic & Microcomputer Systems

10 Sept 19841 Jun 1988

Award Date: 1 Jun 1988

External positions

External Programme Reviewer, Heriot-Watt University


  • TJ Mechanical engineering and machinery
  • Industrial problems
  • L Education (General)
  • R Medicine (General)
  • Implants, surgical devices
  • Q Science (General)
  • TS Manufactures
  • Microengineering, 3D printing, scaffolds


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