Developers of an electric wheelchair designed to enable social distancing and built with COVID-19 resistant materials have been awarded a UK government grant of £175,000.
The two-wheeled, self-balancing Centaur is a personal electric vehicle which, it is hoped, will help protect users and staff in the care industry from diseases like coronavirus.
Centaur Robotics hopes the chair’s collision-avoidance software will help enhance social distancing, particularly by reducing contact between carers and residents.
The company said the money will fund research to further identify and develop plastics and other materials which viruses find it difficult to live on.
These will then be used to make the Centaur easier to decontaminate than existing chairs.
The seat is height adjustable and can raise occupants to eye-level. This can help prevent transmission as the lower a person is, the greater the risk of infection from aerosol spread disease.
Chris Hay, chief executive officer of Centaur Robotics, said: “It’s really important that people move independently of staff. If they eat in a dining room for example, they move on their own and don’t have to be helped in and out of another chair.
“They stay in the Centaur, reducing contact and the likelihood of infection, but increasing socialisation which is so important for mental health.”
Innovate UK, the government’s innovation agency, made the award to Centaur Robotics as part of an initiative to help businesses recover in a sustainable way from the economic effects of Covid-19.
The £175,000 grant is the maximum amount payable from the £10m Sustainable Innovation Fund, run by UK Research and Innovation. Centaur Robotics will contribute an additional £87,500 to the project.