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Assistive Technology Transfer Update


Title: Department of Veterans' Affairs Rehabilitation Research and Development Technology Transfer Program
Author: Saleem Sheredos
Published: 1999
Publication: Assistive Technology Transfer Update: Vol. 1 Issue 1 (Spring)

A large part of successful technology application relies primarily on effective mechanisms that help bring emerging research and development (R&D) prototypes from the lab into the commercial market. The mission of the Veterans' Affairs Rehabilitation Research and Development (VA Rehab R&D) Service is to support an intramural R&D program for improving the quality of life of veterans with disabilities. The mission is accomplished through funding of R&D proposals that will improve the treatment and rehabilitation of veterans within the following priority areas: prosthetics/amputation/orthotics; spinal cord injury (and other neuromuscular disorders); sensory/cognitive/communication aids; and aging. Requests involving non-VA-funded developments are also reviewed to identify those that may meet specific VA needs within these priority areas. In order to support this mission and provide effective transfer of promising developments for commercial production and clinical application, the VA Rehab R&D Service established the Technology Transfer Section (TTS).

The TTS is directly responsible for the design and management of a pro-active process to validate proven rehab R&D findings and progressing successful outcomes into clinical use, manufacture, and commercial availability. Its approach is based on the premise that tech transfer should begin when a developer moves from concept to tangible working model. The ultimate goal is for timely transition of prototype developments into commercially viable products and techniques that have a concomitant benefit for veterans and the public.

The TTS employs a consumer-driven cycle that provides resources to: accomplish manufacture of pre-commercial models; conduct national clinical evaluation studies to validate the development's success in meeting an identified need; secure a manufacturer at the onset; and define readiness for commercial availability and production. Limited or unproved rehab market demand and product salability can often deter potential manufacturers from supporting commercial production and distribution. The procurement of pre-commercial models for evaluation purposes serves two objectives: as a conduit for consumer feedback, product performance, commercial readiness, and clinical guidelines, and as a barometer for potential market size, demand, and target population. Fostering synergetic efforts between developer, manufacturer, consumer, and federal funding sources is important to help build a solid foundation for successful technology transfer.

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