As researchers work to develop innovations to help people with disabilities, the result is often publications and patents, but not assistive technologies for those who need them most.
Dr. Jon Pearlman, chair of the Department of Rehabilitation Science and Technology (RST) at the University of Pittsburgh School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, and Dr. Mary Goldberg, assistant professor, will receive more than $4 million in grant funding over the next five years from the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research to fund IMPACT, or the Initiative to Mobilize Partnerships for Successful Assistive Technology Transfer.
The program will create resources to help innovators break the existing cycle and move their products further and faster through the development pipeline.
“In the field of assistive technology, there is not one straight path to market for new products, which puts the industry behind in terms of technology transfer,” said Pearlman. “This funding will allow us to create materials that empower developers to take the next steps with their innovations, ultimately getting them into the hands of those who need them sooner.”
The project consists of two main initiatives: The first, led by Pearlman, is to better understand the barriers and facilitators to technology transfer. The second, led by Goldberg, is to develop a series of online trainings and in-person seminars for those who are looking to advance their assistive technology innovations, which could range from a new wheelchair design to a prosthetic limb.
This program will build on the success of the University of Pittsburgh Innovation Institute, which has successfully facilitated the technology transfer of local innovations for more than 10 years. The materials will focus on creating awareness of the technology transfer tools that are available to startups while providing support and mentorship to the research teams.
“Pitt has a strong history of innovation, and we are in a position to share our knowledge and resources with those who are seeking to help the same groups of people we want to help,” said Pearlman.
The IMPACT team expects to enroll its first cohort of innovators later this year.