Published October 10, 2013
The UB Center for Assistive Technology (CAT) has received a $4.7 million competitive award from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitative Research (NIDRR).
The 2013-18 award was announced as CAT celebrates its 25th anniversary and brings the total amount of extramural support generated by the center to about $100 million since its founding in 1988.
The new grant will fund a new five-year cycle of CAT’s Center on Knowledge Translation for Technology Transfer (KT4TT), initially funded by the NIDRR in 2008.
The NIDRR sponsors the research and development of projects in the field of rehabilitation and assistive technology for persons with disabilities.
The CAT, an interdisciplinary research center in the School of Public Health and Health Professions, has as its mission the improvement, dissemination, transfer and commercialization of products developed by NIDRR grant recipients and, internally, the demonstration of best practices in the field.
“The school and UB are very proud of the sustained accomplishments of CAT over the past quarter century,” says Lynn Kozlowski, dean of the School of Public Health and Health Professions.
“In the case of the work funded by this grant,” Kozlowski says, “the difficulty of moving valuable new products into the marketplace has long been recognized. CAT’s team has taken up this challenge and is working to address and resolve obstacles to the production and marketing of important new inventions that will assist disabled persons.”
Joseph Lane, director of CAT, notes that NIDRR sponsors research and development intended to generate socioeconomic benefits, “but like so many domestic and international programs, the projects fail to bridge the gap from laboratory to marketplace.”
“University scientists and engineers who design and test state-of-the-art products for the disabled often are understandably focused more on their research than on the eventual commercialization process,” Lane says.
“That, however, does not prevent them from applying the due diligence necessary to align their work with the interests and requirements of corporations that have the required capacity and expertise to bring the products of their research to market,” he says.
Lane explains that as recipients of public funding, the sponsors and grantees share an obligation to apply methods and metrics to ensure the investment generates the intended beneficial results for individuals with disabilities. He says their activity must be both rigorous and relevant because the goals of specific projects are practical, not theoretical.
“Overall, the goal is to improve the performance of government programs that are challenged to deliver the promises inherent in public policies related to science, technology and innovation public policies,” he says.
“We pursue this by the study and demonstration of the technology transfer and the commercialization process within our focused field of assistive technology, and then generalizing the results.”
Lane points out that the center’s project team has 20 years of experience in the evaluation and commercialization of such innovations and, collaboratively, has introduced nearly 60 new devices to the marketplace. The latest—the Morph Wheel by Maddak Inc.—is a convenient, easy-to-store chair with foldable wheels that has won many industry tradeshow awards.
The NIDRR’s funding specifically requires the Center on KT4TT to contribute to three outcomes for NIDRR’s technology-based grantees: