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Assistive Technology Transfer Update

 

Title: Strategic goal 1: Demand-Pull Project
Author: Stephen M Bauer
Published: 2000
Publication: Assistive Technology Transfer Update: Vol. 2 Issue 1 (Spring) Annual Report, 1998-1999

Abstract

The first goal of the Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Technology Transfer (T2RERC) is the Demand-Pull Project. This project seeks to transfer current technology to assistive technology manufacturers as a means to improve the quality and variety of assistive products on the market. To do this, T2RERC employs a five-step process identified in this article along with a month-by-month account of the progress achieved by this project since it's beginning

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Full Text

Objective:

Improve the variety, quality and choice of products available in the marketplace through a "Demand Pull" model of technology transfer. Project Leader - Dr. Stephen Bauer.

Process:

The Demand Pull Project focuses on the transfer of emerging technologies, R&D capabilities, or design expertise from Federal Laboratories, advanced technology manufacturers, and researchers (referred to as "technology developers") to assistive technology manufacturers (referred to as "technology consumers"). The T2RERC Project has a five-step process:

  1. Select the industry segment for study;
  2. Identify the critical technology needs;
  3. Validate technology needs through stakeholder consensus;
  4. Develop problem statements and solicit technology solutions;
  5. Qualify and facilitate the transfer of technology solution.

For additional information on these steps, please see:

http://t2rerc.buffalo.edu/development/demandpull/

Progress:

November 1998: Staff at AZtech and the T2RERC completed a comprehensive industry profile for the manual wheelchair, power wheelchair and scooter industries. This profile includes but is not limited to: manufacturers, product and contact information, and market share; market profiles; component suppliers; laws, regulations and reimbursement issues; trade organizations and journals; and shows and conferences.

February 1999: Consumer panels and interviews with researchers and industry representatives were completed and the gathered information was tabulated. A joint meeting was held involving staff from the T2RERC, RERC on Wheeled Mobility and RTI. Four technology areas were selected on which further project efforts are to be focused: manual wheelchair propulsion (e.g., geared hubs, power assists, ...); power (e.g., batteries, power management, power monitoring, ...); materials and components (e.g., tires, frames, seating materials, ...); and motors and drive-trains (e.g., motor technology, transmissions, ...).

April 1999: Staff at the T2RERC and RTI completed "White Papers" for each of the four technology areas. Each White Paper included: the unmet manufacturer and customer needs; market potential and business opportunity to be realized if the need is met; the current state-of-the-practice for products and technology; and a short list of open issues. The White Papers were reviewed for accuracy and completeness by students and staff at the RERC on Wheeled Mobility.

Approximately eighty persons, including major manufacturers, leading researchers, knowledgeable end-users, government officials, and other relevant stakeholders, were identified and contacted. After determining their interest and availability, each of these persons was mailed a copy of the four White Papers, a project description, and logistical information pertaining to attendance at, and participation in, the upcoming Stakeholder Forum.

For details on the White Papers, Industry Summary, Forum Attendees and Discussion Groups, please refer to the T2RERC or RERC on Wheeled Mobility URLs: http://cosmos.buffalo.edu/t2rerc/ or http://www.rercwm.pitt.edu/.

May 24 and 25, 1999: The "Stakeholder Forum on Wheeled Mobility" is held in Pittsburg Pennsylvania. The event was hosted by the RERC on Wheeled Mobility while staff from the RERC on Technology Transfer managed the logistics, data gathering, group moderation and related activities. 75 persons attended the Forum including manufacturers, researchers, clinicians, end-users, distributors, federal lab scientists and other stakeholders. Data gathered at the Forum added substantially to information developed through earlier consumer panels and expert interviews. Process quality was monitored for the purpose of improving future practices. All participants were asked to complete a survey at the Forum's closing. All staff and student assistants were asked to document their observations and suggestions.

June 1999: T2RERC and RTI staff complete six Problem Statements (see below). The principal focuses of the Problem Statements are technical requirements and targets for the needed technology solutions and anticipated barriers to the realization of these solutions. Each Problem Statement also includes: the unmet manufacturer and customer needs; market potential and business opportunities; and the current state-of-the-practice for products and technology.

  1. geared hubs for manual wheelchairs
  2. battery management / charging systems
  3. battery power monitor / indicator
  4. tire materials
  5. motor technology
  6. transmission technology

In addition, forum data suggests that the potential is developing for the transfer of advanced battery technology to the Wheeled Mobility industry. Forum participants suggested that the RERC on Wheeled Mobility take the lead on a "battery consortium" whose purpose would be to monitor the emergence of advanced battery technologies and guide its application to the wheeled mobility industry. The T2RERC believes that it can make a useful and active contribution to the consortium's efforts if it is put in place.

September 1999: T2RERC and RTI staff completed a web-site for the dissemination of Problem Statements to federal laboratory scientists and other technology developers. Over three hundred representatives of the federal laboratory consortium were notified by mail.

October/November 1999: T2RERC staff complete (write, edit, format and compile) the "Proceedings for the Stakeholder Forum on Wheeled Mobility." These Proceedings are mailed to Stakeholder Forum participants and other interested parties. The Proceedings include a summary of the Industry Profile; White Papers; data gathered from forum participants; Problem Statements; data gathered through evaluation efforts; partner descriptions; and participant contact information. To view the Proceedings or the full Problem Statements, please go to http://t2rerc.buffalo.edu/pubs/t2rerc/forums/mobility/index.htm.

As of December 1999, the first three steps (Select Industry Segment, Identify Technology Needs, Validate Technology Needs) of the Demand Pull Project on Wheeled Mobility are complete. We are actively engaged in the completion of the fourth step (Locate Technology Solutions). To date, we have received ten technology proposals. Further efforts to disseminate problem statements, and solicit and screen proposals will continue until such time that appropriate technology solutions are identified. The Project has been described in FLC NewsLink (the newsletter of the Federal Laboratory Consortium), Paraplegia News, and Paralysis Society of America's Newswheels.

In September 1999, a second project, the "Demand Pull Project on Hearing Technology" was started in partnership with the RERC on Hearing Enhancement and Assistive Technology. As of December 1999, the first steps (Select Industry Segment) has been completed. We are actively engaged in the completion of the second project step (Identify Technology Needs).

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