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Assistive Technology Transfer Update


Title: Strategic goal 6: strategic partnerships
Author: Joseph P Lane
Published: 2000
Publication: Assistive Technology Transfer Update: Vol. 2 Issue 1 (Spring) Annual Report, 1998-1999


In order to succeed as a Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on Technology Transfer (T2RERC), strategic partnerships must be established so that there is someone to transfer technology to. Partnerships were established by the T2RERC with the RERC on Prosthetics and Orthotics, the RERC for Sensory Aids, and the RERC on Telerehabilitation. This article shows how these partnerships were established and what the outcomes have been.

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Establish strategic partnerships to accomplish our Mission, which requires intensive cooperation and commitment from the various stakeholders. Project Leader: Joseph Lane.


Establishing collaborative activities with partners is essential to accomplishing our mission as the Technology Transfer RERC. We function as an intermediary in a process that involves other stakeholders. Many of these stakeholders are individual enterprises (i.e., inventors, companies, universities), so those partnerships are viewed as tactical -- they accomplish a specific objective within a defined scope of work. We consider other partnerships as strategic if the stakeholder is affiliated with broader programs, government agencies or on-going resource streams. The strategic partnerships do not have a limited scope or a defined timeframe. Strategic partnerships require more intensive cooperation and the commitment from the management or resource providers of these stakeholder groups.


Our highest priority partnerships are with NIDRR-sponsored programs, including the RERCs, RRTCs and State Tech Act projects. Prior sections described collaborations with six RERCs: Communication Enhancement, Wheeled Mobility, Aging, Universal Design, Children with Orthopedic Disabilities, and Hearing Enhancement. We interacted with three other RERCs at a strategic level during this past year.

  • RERC on Prosthetics and Orthotics. They have a well established process and network of collaboration for development and commercialization, with particularly close relationships with the Department of Veteran's Affairs. Dr. Dudley Childress accepted our invitation to participate in our advisory board, to ensure that his expertise is available to our program. We hope to provide technology transfer assistance in the future for activities that fall outside their current network. Their team also renders expert opinions on prototype prosthetic devices submitted to us for evaluation.
  • RERC for Sensory Aids. This RERC also has a long history of product development and commercialization. Dr. Deborah Gilden, who has published on the technology transfer process, accepted our invitation to join our advisory board. We hope to partner with the Smith-Kettlewell RERC on a demand pull technology transfer project for the vision technology industry in some future year of this five year cycle.
  • RERC on Telerehabilitation. Three of our staff participated in a series of problem solving and future planning sessions, at an April forum sponsored by National Science Foundation, on "Health Care Technology in the 21st Century." This gave us an opportunity to learn about technology developments anticipated by people working for, and sponsored by, other federal agencies. It also increased our understanding of the technology-related issues involved in the future of telerehabilitation.

We also worked with various State Tech Act programs during this past year. We supported an application from Montana (Peter Leech) and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory to develop a personal emergency locator/messaging system, but the proposal was not funded. Deborah Buck, New York's program director, is on our advisory board. Pennsylvania's program director, Amy Goldman, and Virginia's funding specialist, Joey Wallace, both participated in the Wheeled Mobility Stakeholder Forum in Pittsburgh. Pennsylvania's Southwest Regional Center helped recruit local consumers to participate in this same forum.

To be truly strategic, our partnerships must extend beyond the NIDRR/ United States Department of Education (USDE) network. We are working with several other federal agencies. Saleem Sheredos of the Department of Veterans Affairs is on our advisory board. He invited Joe Lane to participate in the Disabled Veterans of America's (DVA) Merit Review Board, which involves semi-annual proposal review sessions. Dinah Cohen also participates on our advisory board, representing the Department of Defense. We have worked closely with the Department of Commerce on their Assistive Technology Industry survey, which we know will yield important data to help us support the private sector's technology transfer activities. Dan Brand, Chair of the Federal Laboratory Consortium, represents another strategic partner, with existing collaborations described elsewhere in this report.

Other strategic partners on our advisory board include Jim Geletka, Executive Director of RESNA, and Morris (Mickey) Milner, Executive Director of the Ontario Rehabilitation Technology Consortium. We view strong links to our primary professional society and to relevant work in Canada as strategic in nature.

We must also mention our most critical strategic partner, the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research. The NIDRR operates at the intersection of many programs and activities that are of vital importance to our mission. We rely on information from NIDRR to ensure our work is relevant and timely. Conversely, we are privileged to have opportunities to support NIDRR's mission, by providing information, documentation and commentary at their request.

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