60 UK and French firms drafted in to develop new high tech powerchairs

A project aimed at developing new technologies to improve powered wheelchairs used by health services in the UK and France has received a £8m cash boost which will be used to fund driving assistance technologies in the chairs.  

It is estimated that around 60 UK and French companies will benefit from the manufacture of components for the smart wheelchair and simulator.

15 UK and French partners are taking part in the project alongside the Graduate School of Engineering (ESIGELEC) to develop “enhanced powerchairs” which will feature autonomous driving, route selection and obstacle avoidance.

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The chairs will also emit wireless information in real time so that healthcare professionals can monitor data and changes in patient health so that they can optimise care.

The project will be producing a VR simulator and provide training sessions on the new systems so that users and industry professionals can familiarise themselves with the technology.

Nicolas Ragot, researcher at ESIGELEC and the project’s lead partner said that the project has allowed the engineering school to use its expertise to make a “substantial impact on communities across the Channel area”.

He told BQ: “The benefits will not only improve the lives of those suffering with mobility issues, but will also allow healthcare professionals to improve the care they offer to patients.”

It is thought that the powerchairs will benefit around 300,000 wheelchair users in the Channel area and will help to train more than 15,000 healthcare professionals. In spite of Brexit the project has already been guaranteed funding.

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