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D1: Supply Push Program

Method

 

Seeking Potential Products

Invention competitions are one of the sources of technology and products that the T2RERC will draw on for new products in the Supply-Push Model. We will be attending national competitions in the upcoming years. These competitions are chosen for their national exposure and the screening that precedes a technology or patent being exhibited at these shows. Devices are graded on their commercial market potential, their technological advancement, and their intellectual property status.

All devices at the exhibitions will be evaluated for possible assistive technology applications. Inventors of those devices deemed having a new and useful application in assistive technology will be approached at the exhibition and asked to complete a project submission package. They will then forward the completed invention disclosure package to the T2RERC for our assistance with commercialization activity.

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Checking Patents and Partners

Another method of locating new technology and products that the T2RERC will pursue, is the mining of the USPTO's database on patents. On a biweekly basis, the T2RERC accesses the database for newly issued patents. A database search by U.S. Patent Classification will enable us to quickly ascertain if any patents were issued in classifications that would normally house assistive technology. Once we verify the patent's uniqueness, we contact the inventor for purposes of further research (learning if a working prototype exists, if any commercialization efforts underway, etc.) At this point we invite the inventor to complete a project submission package and forward a complete invention disclosure package to the T2RERC.

Lastly, the T2RERC canvasses NIDRR's other RERCs for new breakthrough technologies that may have a commercial application in assistive technology. We contact researchers to explain the program and qualify any product or technology the researchers may have which they feel is appropriate for the RERC. Upon such qualification, the researcher will be asked to complete a project submission package.

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Reducing Rejections

From our experience with the open solicitation of inventors by the RERC on Technology Evaluation and Transfer, we found that the majority of inventors contacting us for commercialization assistance were rejected in our initial screening process. Rejection reasons varied from the existence of a competing product unbeknownst to the inventor, to technical unfeasibility, to existence of another technology that performs the same function, to not being an assistive device, to the almost non-existence of a market for the potential product.

By having the new T2RERC focus on prescreening devices for its Supply-Push Model through the aforementioned three channels, we hope to eliminate the vast amount of invention submission rejections we experienced in the past.

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The Road to the Marketplace

Upon the completion of the prescreening of devices, the T2RERC runs another exhaustive series of evaluations. The evaluation approves only new and unique inventions that demonstrate technical feasibility, market potential, and consumer acceptance. We then proceed to secure an agent agreement with the inventor. This allows us to seek a commercial partner and form a product team comprised of members from our technical, marketing, and consumer groups. These team members lay out a scope of work and timeline for commercialization of the submitted device.

The T2RERC partners begin a number of "Action Steps", which include: Identifying relevant product manufacturers; More in-depth literature search on competing products; A literature search for technical references, standards and regulations; Consumer input through focus groups held on the device to determine possible product enhancements and priority ranking of characteristics; Technical analysis detailing device characteristics, technical feasibility, and product enhancements; Market analysis with a competing product matrix benchmarking (contrasting) competing products versus the submitted device's characteristics; Identification of the target market, and distribution channels; Supporting documentation in the way of CAD drawings (computer-aided design), pictures, or graphics; and a virtual product matrix.

The product team then integrates all this material into a commercialization package that is sent to prospective, previously identified companies doing business in that device's specific market sector. Therefore, by prescreening devices, conducting exhaustive evaluations, and providing professional commercialization packages, the T2RERC hopes to impact the lives of people with disabilities by introducing useful new AT (assistive technology) products into the marketplace via its Supply-Push program of Technology Transfer.

Example: Accessible Thermostat Commercialization Package Accessible Thermostat Commercialization Package

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