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Assistive Technology Transfer Update


Title: Message from the editor
Author: Joseph P Lane
Published: 2000
Publication: Assistive Technology Transfer Update: Vol. 2 Issue 2 (Fall)


The Rehabilitation Engineering Research Training Center on Technology Transfer (T2RERC) focuses their work on six Strategic Goals and two lead projects of technology transfer, that of Supply-Push and Demand Pull. This article draws attention to the key people involved in these projects as well as to the project steps. Also mentioned are highlights from other important projects.

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Welcome to our mid-year-two update on the work of the RERC on Technology Transfer, sponsored by the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR), U.S. Department of Education. Our work remains focused on progressing along our six Strategic Goals, which are designed to conduct, study or support technology transfer activities.

The subsequent articles in this issue describe our on-going work in the lead projects of Supply-Push and Demand-Pull technology transfer. Jim Leahy updates information on the Supply-Push program, which assesses the market potential of submitted inventions and works to commercialize those with promise through manufacturers. As our program matures, we are collaborating with a larger number of Fortune 500 companies, while still working with the small firms traditionally involved in assistive technology.

Dr. Steve Bauer describes our progress in the Demand-Pull program, which identifies high priority needs of a selected industry, then seeks technologies that address those needs and delivers them to manufacturers. The private sector is our customer for these technology transfer programs, because they alone are positioned and equipped to produce, distribute and support new or improved assistive devices in the marketplace. We continue to receive technology submissions in response to the problem statements on Wheeled Mobility published last Fall, and we are about to disseminate the problem statements from our recent Stakeholders Forum on Hearing Enhancement (described in detail beginning on page 6).

Dr. Vathsala Stone reports on our progress in Research and Evaluation of the technology transfer process itself. We are monitoring our own work to assess its efficiency and effectiveness. This also helps us identify the critical factors that dictate success or failure in the technology transfer process. Government agencies, researchers and technology transfer practitioners are our audience for this work, because they are most concerned with developing and supporting the models, methods and metrics of technology transfer.

Doug Usiak reviews our Dissemination activities that include everything from press releases about new products, through our conference papers, and articles written about our program activity by others. We are pleased that the problem statements developed through our Demand-Pull project, are now appearing in the Reader's Forum of NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) "Tech Briefs" magazine, because they are generating a whole new range of technology submissions that we expect to be helpful to our manufacturing partners. Our website has undergone additional revisions, based on a thorough review by Doug — who is blind — to ensure its accessibility exceeds the established parameters.

I will mention several highlights of our final two Strategic Objectives: Technical Assistance and Strategic Partnerships. Our on-going Technical Assistance activities demonstrate that the entire process of technology transfer — from invention through intellectual property to commercialization — is not well understood. This means we still need a training program that people engaged in this field can readily access. To this end, we allocated time in this second year to develop a series of twelve training modules, each addressing a different component of the overall technology transfer process. We presented elements of these modules at the RESNA (Rehabilitation Engineering and Assistive Technology Society of North America) conference in Orlando, Florida, and at the Technology Transfer Society conference in Austin, Texas. We plan to complete these modules during this project year. Once completed, we will post them on our website, so that people can either download them for their own reference, or can determine if they wish us to provide additional elaboration through a formal training workshop. These modules are designed so that various sets can be combined to tailor training to meet the audience's needs.

Strategic Partnership activity continues to be a critical link in the technology transfer activity chain. We are engaged in collaborative projects with most of the other Rehabilitation Engineering Research Centers, with new projects planned for those currently undergoing competitive review. We have working relationships with several Rehabilitation Research and Training Centers that are involved in product evaluation and development, and conduct cross-referrals with State Tech Act projects, and the information and referral projects that support all NIDRR projects, such as ABLEDATA, the National Rehabilitative Information Center, and the National Center for Dissemination of Disability Research.

Outside of our field, the Federal Laboratory Consortium and its regional entities are following through on their commitment to assistive devices as a strategic technology focus area. The regions are supporting and participating in our Demand-Pull projects, and federal laboratory scientists are submitting technology solutions and prototype devices for our consideration. The Technology Transfer Society has agreed to co-sponsor our State-of-the-Science conference, which all RERC's must conduct in their third year of operation. This partnership gives us access to the leading academics and practitioners who are developing technology transfer as a discipline, by exploring appropriate models, methods and metrics. These links permit us to introduce our field to people working in other fields and related industries.

As many of you know, technology transfer is called a "contact sport" because it relies on communication and collaboration between individuals. Our training programs and strategic partnerships are two mechanisms that support the direct contact necessary to achieve success through Demand-Pull and Supply-Push technology transfer. You will find evidence in this newsletter supporting the value of collaborative partnerships both within and outside our field of assistive technology.

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