Funding awarded for research aiming to improve assistive technologies for disabled people

Categories: School of Health and Society

Funding of £950,000 has been awarded to a new project which aims to improve the quality of devices used to help disabled people, commonly known as assistive technologies (AT).

It is estimated that by 2050 the number of people needing AT will have doubled from 1 billion to 2 billion. Only 10% of this need is currently met, and researchers say it is unclear how many individuals have AT that is well matched to their needs. 

The project, entitled TIDAL N+, is a collaboration between UCL, Strathclyde, Salford and Loughborough Universities, led by Professor Cathy Holloway from UCL and Global Disability Innovation Hub. The research team includes Professor Laurence Kenney (University of Salford), Professor Richard Bibb (Loughborough University), Professor Mikko Koria (Loughborough University) and Dr Arjan Buis (University of Strathclyde). It is funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) as a Healthcare Technologies New Challenges Network Plus.

The aim of TIDAL N+ is to improve the quality of AT and hence the lives of the people who use them. The vision is that in future more people will have access to innovative, sustainable and equitable AT, both physical and digital.

To achieve this, the research team is building a transdisciplinary network - including designers, ergonomists, engineers, physical scientists and AI specialists, alongside entrepreneurs, innovations and manufacturers, as well as AT users, clinical and social care practitioners and commissioners. Through this network they will generate novel design, engineering and technological advances that will empower disabled people, older people and carers through accessible and local solutions.

Professor Cathy Holloway, UCL, explains: "The focus will be on coordinating, inspiring and supporting underpinning research leading to the development of technologies and services that harness advances in design, digital manufacturing and data analysis techniques to create innovative, sustainable and equitable physical and digital AT." 

Professor Laurence Kenney, from the University of Salford, says: “The UK plays an increasingly important role in AT globally. Innovations such as the EPSRC funded Centre for Doctoral Training in Prosthetics & Orthotics represent a global first for the sector and an important step forward. However, challenges remain around getting the right technology and support to those who need it. We hope that TIDAL N+ will create an international network of experts to drive problem understanding, identify new research challenges and co-create novel, innovative solutions.”

TIDAL N+ will be launched at a special online event on 26 January 2022. This will be an opportunity to find out more about plans for the project and how you can get involved, including up-coming events and funding opportunities. It will also be an opportunity to hear from the team and expert guests.

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