UB Receives $4.5 Million to Bring Newest Technologies to Manufacture of Assistive Devices

By Lois Baker

Release Date: October 9, 1998 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The Center for Assistive Technology at the University at Buffalo has received a five-year, $4.5 million grant from U.S. Department of Education's National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research to establish a Rehabilitation Engineering Research Center (RERC) for technology transfer.

The new center is the only one of its kind in the U.S. Housed in the Department of Occupational Therapy in the UB School of Health Related Professions, it replaces and builds on UB's RERC for Technology Evaluation and Transfer, established five years ago with a grant from the same agency. That funding expired in August 1998.

The Research Triangle Institute in North Carolina is a partner with UB in the new RERC, along with the Western New York Independent Living Center and AZTech, Inc., the local non-profit company founded under the previous grant to license device prototypes to manufacturers.

Joseph Lane, director of the new RERC and associate director of the Center for Assistive Technology, defines technology transfer as "the process by which ideas become prototypes, which are then transformed into products for the marketplace.

"We will look at the unmet needs of end-users and the assistive-technology industry, and search the scientific and technology infrastructure to find the technology to meet those needs," Lane said.

Center staff will concentrate on one specific aspect of assistive technology each year. The first year will be devoted to finding new technologies for improving mobility devices, with a particular emphasis on wheelchairs. Lane said staff members will investigate possible new materials, controllers and power cells.

Other areas to be investigated in subsequent years of the grant are augmentative communications, vision and hearing devices, prostheses and orthotics, and telecommunication and information systems.

In each of these areas, the new RERC for technology transfer will work with RERCs around the U.S. that conduct research in each specialty area, including UB's RERC on Aging.