A team of researchers at the University of Limerick have been awarded €480,000 in funding to help develop a human exoskeleton.

An exoskeleton could be used to minimise the risk of lower back injury among those in the workplace who carry out repeated manual handling.

It is estimated that 44m EU workers are affected by work related musculoskeletal disorders every year.

It is thought that work related musculoskeletal disorders cost the EU economy more than €240bn.

The project called the Robomate project aims to develop an exoskeleton for use in the workplace which would help reduce back injury.

The UL team will receive the money as part of a €5.8m European wide project, funded under the EU's Framework Programme 7.

The programme will be coordinated by Zurich University of Applied Science and involves 11 industry and academic partners across Europe.

The research will involve a collaboration between the Human Factors and Product Design Research Group and the Centre for Physical Activity and Health Research at UL.

Dr Leonard O'Sullivan, who is Co-Director of the Enterprise Research Centre and Lecturer at the Department of Design and Manufacturing Technology, University of Limerick is leading the project.