Patients could find themselves face-to-face with a robot when they first arrive in hospital, Lord Bhattacharyya has suggested.
The peer, who is head of the Warwick Manufacturing Group and an adviser to the Government, said it could allow more people to concentrate on treatment and care.
His comments came as he received an honorary doctorate from the Indian Institute of Technology at Kharagpur where he studied before coming to the UK.
The doctorate of sciences is IIT Kharagpur’s highest accolade. Only 16 have been awarded in the institute’s history. Previous recipients have included Mother Theresa and Ratan Tata, head of the Tata conglomerate which recently acquired Land Rover and Jaguar.
The event marked confirmation of a memorandum of understanding between IIT Kharagpur and WMG which will see joint working on range of “globally significant research issues”.
Lord Bhattacharyya also used the occasion to announce a plan to offer scholarships to IIT graduates at WMG. He outlined how new energy sources, improved energy efficiency and a revolution in car technology could help prevent world conflict.
The effects of increased energy demand were not just being reflected in higher oil prices, but in the war in Georgia, the debate over the future of Iran’s nuclear programme, and in the politics of the Middle East, he told his audience.
Lord Bhattacharyya stated: “At WMG we are developing plans for a major technology demonstrator project that will bring together global automotive leaders with research scientists and parts suppliers to look at every aspect of low carbon automotive design.
“This project will become more important as demand for energy becomes one of the defining features of our global environment.
“Many of these social conflicts are ripples caused by the need for economies to secure their energy future.
“So if we can find ways of managing that demand more effectively the long term consequences will not just be less polluting cars or more efficient factories, but a less dangerous world.
“In short, the more scientific solutions we apply, the less pressure on resources there will be, and the lower the risk of human conflict and tragedy.”
Lord Bhattacharyya also gave details of how WMG was looking to revolutionise healthcare - an area it has only moved into relatively recently.
He said: “The fundamental challenge for hospital managers is to maximise the effective utilisation of costly healthcare equipment and optimise the throughput of patients.
“Consider the problem of ensuring patients are in the right place in hospital for their treatment at the right time, a logistical issue that currently consumes the time of nurses, doctors and hospital porters.
“We are researching systems where patients manage their own movement around a hospital with robotic guidance. This frees up human resources to focus on treatment and care.”
Factory processes, he said, could be adapted for hospitals.
“In one application we found that a typical blood test sample was looked at by 21 different people, each time introducing a risk of error and time and cost spent.
“In another we applied the type of simulation modelling used in laying out new factories to look at the flow of patients in an emergency department.
“Applying these principles meant we were able to provide exactly the right number of doctors and nurses to meet patient demand.”
The peer said global partnerships were needed between institutions if such advances were to be made, adding: “India can be a test bed for some of the things we are doing.”
He highlighted the pressures on manufacturers as they sought to balance the need for economic growth with the impact on the environment.
“We know that we will need more energy to ensure our economies grow. We also know that the energy we produce now has an unacceptable impact on the environment.
“That tension creates a double role for scientists. First we need to develop ways of maximising energy efficiency. Second, we need to find new sources of energy.”
New emission standards for the likes of carbon, particulates and nitrous oxide were placing tough challenges on car makers.
He said WMG was looking at low carbon vehicles “from the bottom up” which included the total redesign of cars and said WMG had been able to demonstrate how a wide range of natural origin plant-based materials could replace oil-based plastics, using, for example, cashew nut shells and starch from potatoes.
Lord Bhattacharyya said: “These have been brought together in a racing car platform. This year we will be racing a Formula 3 car built from natural origin materials and running on biofuels.”