A recently launched scheme is hoping to make it easier and quicker for innovative mobility aids to enter the market by helping developers to overcome barriers like funding, tight regulations and small and fragmented markets,
The Mobility Unlimited Challenge, co-run by charity Nesta, is supporting “radical improvements” in the mobility of people with lower-limb paralysis through smarter assistive technology and is offering millions of pounds to entrants.
The scheme, which launched last year alongside the Toyota Mobility Foundation, is now accepting submissions from innovators from around the world who can come up with assistive mobility devices that incorporate intelligent systems
To be eligible, innovators will have to commit to co-creating their devices with end users, people with lower-limb paralysis. Finalists will be announced in November and each finalist will receive £360,000 to develop their prototypes.
To help break down financial barriers to entry, the challenge will also be running Discovery Awards during the entry period where 10 potential entrants will each receive £36,000 to develop and submit their entries. The overall winner will be announced in 2020 and will gain a £720,000 prize.
Nesta said that mobility is a fundamental part of being independent and free to participate in society. But it added that globally, society is not fully inclusive to millions of people with paralysis.
“While there is no single experience, people with lower-limb paralysis face barriers to their mobility, and therefore their independence, because of inaccessible environments and inadequate technology,” the charity says.
“Mobility devices can be life changing, but the pace of innovation is frustratingly slow. Disincentives such as small and fragmented markets, regulatory burdens, and difficulties getting new technology paid for by healthcare systems and insurers are all impeding progress.”